A Swindon man admitted to being a ‘Global Moderator’ on a dark website dedicated to child sexual abuse content.

Brett Saunders, of Freshbrook, was snared during an investigation into the hidden site which had over 2,000 members and is only accessible using Tor.

A moderator with the username ‘Wetty’ was heavily involved in running the site.

'Wetty' enforced rules and responded to user enquiries, providing advice about personal security and evading law enforcement detection.

Investigations revealed Saunders, 50, was behind the account.

Further enquiries revealed his previous convictions related to the sexual exploitation of children.

Saunders was arrested at his home in August 2022, where police seized devices he attempted to hide.

They discovered a phone and hard drive concealed in an air vent, and a laptop hidden under a sofa cushion – with the website open, and Saunders logged in to his moderator account.

When interviewed, he confirmed he was a Global Moderator and had uploaded indecent images of children to the site.

Saunders admitted he had a sexual interest in children, particularly girls aged eight to 12.

Swindon Advertiser: Brett SaundersBrett Saunders (Image: NCA)

Investigators found over 3,000 posts by Saunders on the site, as well as private messages to other users, which showed that his contribution was essential to the running of the website.

The messages made it clear that Saunders’ promotion to moderator was largely due to his commitment and encouragement of others to discuss and distribute child sexual abuse content.

When congratulated by another user on his promotion to Global Moderator he said: “Thank you… I must say it came as a bit of a shock to me!

“Not sure what I did to deserve the honour, but whatever it was I will try to keep doing it to the best of my abilities!”

The site’s users gained ‘reputation points’ for adhering to rules and sharing abuse material.

It had an initial guest portal, where new users had to gain at least 10 reputation points before being admitted to the main site.

Saunders monitored the portal, issuing and deducting reputation points and deciding who would become a member.

He uploaded 115 images and videos of child sexual abuse to the site.

These included pictures of a young girl as part of a discussion around child marriage, with the caption: “If only it were possible.

“I would wish for it if I found a magic lamp….and for her to stay about this age (10-12) forever (and me my age)!!”

A further 65,000 files relating to indecent images of children were recovered from his devices.

Saunders was charged with breaching the sexual harm prevention order placed on him when he was released from prison for previous offending.

He was remanded in custody and later sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for the breach.

Last year, he was charged with a further nine counts, including arranging and facilitating the sexual exploitation of a child under 13, participating in the criminal activities of an organised crime group, distributing and making indecent images of children in categories A-C, and possessing a prohibited image of a child.

On Friday, January 19, at Swindon Magistrates Court he pleaded guilty to all nine counts.

He will be sentenced at Swindon Crown Court on March 5, 2024.

Adam Priestley, Branch Commander at the NCA, said: “Brett Saunders was directly responsible for facilitating the sexual abuse of children.

“He became part of a global community of paedophiles to further his own sexual interest in children and his dedication to this platform was such that he was appointed as a moderator.

“It was clear he took this role extremely seriously, investing a significant amount of time to keeping the site up and running, on top of a full-time job.”