A ‘pupil’ of one of the most dangerous internet sexual predators ever investigated by the National Crime Agency has admitted a raft of blackmail and online sex offences against children and adults.
Anthony ‘Danny’ Burns, 39, worked with notorious online child sex offender Adbul Elahi, who was jailed for 32 years in December 2021 after targeting 2,000 people globally to commit sadistic online abuse.
Between May 2018 and March 2021, Burns used ‘sugar daddy’ websites to trap dozens of unsuspecting females into performing sexual and degrading acts under the threat of blackmail.
One of his 39 victims was an eight-year-old girl in the U.S., who was abused by her mother following sustained coercion by Burns.
Burns attempted to contact approximately 600 people around the world with the intention of sexually exploiting them. Work is ongoing by international partners to identify any further victims.
Elahi ‘tutored’ Burns on the psychology of blackmail, including techniques such as scripted wording to help gain the trust of victims, and provided instruction on how they would respond to threats and what to say to them.
Burns, originally from Lowestoft but of no fixed abode, used multiple online personas to ensnare his victims, including posing as the head of a model agency searching for clients. He also pretended to be an NCA officer on one occasion.
Once Burns had gained the trust of his victims, he moved them to WhatsApp which is protected by end to end encryption. Once his messages had been read, Burns was able to delete them from his and his victims’ phones, thereby removing visible evidence.
All the victims were ordered to film themselves carrying out sexual acts in the belief they would be paid £600, but the money was never transferred to them. When he had received enough explicit material, Burns threatened to expose the pictures to the victims’ families and friends unless they sent more increasingly depraved photographs and videos.
The severity and nature of the demands became more degrading at the point that Burns had entrapped the victims through the threat of exposure.
Burns blackmailed the mother of the American girl, who he coerced into sexually assaulting her daughter on two occasions.
NCA officers arrested Burns in February 2019. His mobile phone and computers were seized and forensically examined.
NCA Operations Manager Robert Slater said: “Anthony Burns showed remorseless cruelty in controlling and coercing his victims, including very young children, into acts which have left them severely traumatised.
“The NCA is determined to identify and pursue the most harmful child sexual offenders, including those who exploit technology to hide their activities and target large numbers of victims, no matter where they are.
“Anyone being pressured or threatened into sending sexual images or videos online, should remove themselves immediately from the conversation, not respond further to any contact, and report the matter to police.
“You are not alone, you are not to blame and there is always help available.”
The FBI provided assistance to the investigation and helped locate victims in the United States.
Most of Burns’ other victims lived in England but there were also people in the Channel Islands and Australia.
Burns used a New Zealand-based cloud storage facility to retain all of the illegally gained material so that it would never be found on his phone.
However, incriminating evidence uncovered by NCA investigators from his phone highlighted the scale and propensity of his offending, and that he was blackmailing several victims simultaneously.
The NCA liaised with New Zealand authorities and evidence was recovered which proved Burns had the depraved material he demanded from his victims.
Burns was charged with 46 counts including blackmail, attempted blackmail, causing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, arranging the commission of a child sex offence; making and distributing indecent images of children (IIOC), possessing extreme pornography, malicious communications offences and failure to comply with notification requirements.
He admitted 39 counts and was found guilty of a further two today (30 August), following a two-day trial at Birmingham Crown Court. He is due to be sentenced at the same court on 18 January 2024.
The remaining five charges will lie on file.
All 39 of Burns’ victims on the indictment, aged between eight and 54, have been safeguarded.
Burns was previously jailed for 16 months in 2010 for meeting or communicating with a child under 16 following sexual grooming; causing / inciting a girl under 16 to engage in sexual acts, IIOC offences and possession of extreme pornography.
In December 2013 he was convicted of breaching his Sexual Offences Order, and served a further two years imprisonment.
Bethany Raine, Specialist Prosecutor for the CPS, said: “Anthony Burns had an obsessive interest in controlling women and children into performing increasingly degrading sexual acts online for his own gratification. Burns also had a perverse desire to see others engage in sexual activity with children and animals.
“Burns belittled and humiliated victims. They became trapped in a web of fear where their own images became tools of manipulation and extortion, leaving them vulnerable to his depraved demands.
“This conviction sends a clear message that the CPS is committed in bringing offenders like Burns, who sexually abuse and exploit victims, to justice, wherever that abuse takes place.”
30 Aug 2023