Oamaru man involved in online child-porn ring imprisoned

John Ritchie Hellewell. Photo: ODT
John Ritchie Hellewell. Photo: ODT
An Oamaru man who ran an international online child-pornography ring has been jailed for four years.

John Ritchie Hellewell (49) was locked up for 20 months for almost identical crimes at the end of 2016 and Judge Kevin Phillips said he showed a disturbing lack of remorse.

“When you were released, you really just got back into it,” he said.

“You didn't, in any way or in any manner, take into account the children that were being sexually abused to provide you and your 'friends' their sexual release.”

The defendant explained it: “The further down the rabbit hole, the easier it is to shift the boundaries and to fully remove them.”

Hellewell's latest offences came to light in June last year when United States authorities discovered images of young boys engaged in sex acts had been uploaded using a messenger application.

A report was filed at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children which contacted New Zealand Customs a couple of months later.

The objectionable files were traced back to a New Zealand internet service provider and a particular Samsung cell phone.

Hellewell's username on the account? “Friendlyfriendlynice”.

He was anything but.

On November 5, Customs staff raided the defendant's Farnham St home and seized the phone.

Forensic analysis of the device found Hellewell was deeply involved in a web of depraved online offending which was ongoing until the morning the search warrant was executed.

Investigators focused on two accounts run by the defendant, on one of which he went by the name “Man BOSS”.

Other iterations of the account had been previously shut down, the Dunedin District Court heard.

When asked by another user what he was into Hellewell said: “Ultimately depends on the boy and situation, but especially like boys 4-14.”

The man had been active in several chat groups, all of which had the common interest in the sexual abuse of children.

Two of them were defined by law as “organised criminal groups”, a charge usually laid against gang members.

Chief Customs Officer – CEOT Simon Peterson said in a press release it was possibly the first time someone had been charged with being a part of an organised crime group in this context, in relation to child exploitation material.

Hellewell, the court heard, was a co-administrator, which meant he could invite new members, ban people, change the chat name or profile picture.

Anyone who wanted to join had to send him a child-abuse image to prove they were legitimate.

“Each group's objective was to obtain objectionable publications depicting the sexual exploitation of children, from the groups members including members based overseas,” court documents said.

One of the child-porn rings run by Hellewell, involving 27 people, was called “BoyCentral Private”.

What happened in the group stayed in the group, he told his mates.

During one exchange, a user expressed feelings of shame about his involvement – but Hellewell stepped in to reassure him.

“Yeah it's a hard one . . . how to accept urself and ur desires . . . but here you're among friends,” (sic) he said.

In total, 608 illegal files were associated with the defendant.

Defence counsel Rhona Daysh said though her client was a group admin he was not a “king pin”.

“A lot was social banter, communicating with other people,” she said.

Hellewell, Ms Daysh told the court, had lived in a “fantasy world” from an early age.

“This is not fantasy, this is actual young children,” said Judge Phillips.

The defendant told Probation he no longer felt pity or sadness for the abused children and had to ignore the harm being inflicted to enjoy them.

“That's an extremely frightening comment,” said the judge.

 

drivesouth-pow-generic-1.png

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter

Dunedin