'Unbelievably appalling': Student jailed

Benjamin Whitcombe
Benjamin Whitcombe
A Dunedin philosophy student who shared bestiality images online and wrote about his desire to rape babies has been jailed for three years.

Benjamin Todd Whitcombe (22) appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to four charges of exporting objectionable publications, one each of importing, making, and possessing objectionable publications for the purpose of supply.

Judge Kevin Phillips said objectionable statements written online about the defendant's predilections were ''unbelievably appalling'' but he stressed he had to put aside his revulsion and deal with the man in a clinical manner.

Whitcombe admitted in a pre-sentence interview he could not control his urges.

He came to Canadian authorities' attention in December through his use of a messaging app, using the name ''Philosophers Stone''.

Later analysis of Whitcombe's phone found he uploaded four publications ''depicting the sexual exploitation of a child''.

An investigation by New Zealand Customs showed the crimes had taken place at a North Dunedin address and at his parents' home.

On April 19, officers executed a search warrant at a Northeast Valley house where the man was living, during which they seized his electronic devices.

Whitcombe was questioned during the raid and admitted he knew the child abuse material was ''bad'' and that he had used the app since he was 14 to communicate with people around the world.

The full extent of the depraved offending, though, only became apparent when the student's seized devices were forensically examined.

Investigators found another app account and traces of child-sex images and videos on a different cellphone.

Further, there was a Tumblr account complete with Whitcombe's photo.

Tumblr is a micro-blogging social-media site on which the defendant went by the name ''wandering philosopher''.

His profile featured the bio: ''Into everything and anything twisted ... Looking forward to conversing with the like minded sick freaks on here. 18+''

Over two years, Whitcombe had messaged 128 other users - but it was 17 exchanges that caught the eye of Customs.

The content of his online statements - in which he expressed a desire to rape babies - was so graphic, court documents had to be redacted.

It emerged Whitcombe had been communicating with a 15-year-old whom he encouraged to engage in sex acts with an animal. At the end of February, he received photos showing such activity. Those images were later distributed by the defendant, using an anonymous file-sharing app.

Crown prosecutor Catherine Ure said Whitcombe's conduct was ''sustained and highly premeditated''.

Counsel Anne Stevens argued her client was suffering from an addiction - ''not something one would wish on one's worst enemy''.

''He could have possibly graduated with a high academic qualification.

Now he's unlikely to ever do so,'' she said.

Whitcombe will automatically be placed on the Child Sex Offender Register.

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