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They are expected, however, to contact the police forces in the individuals’ own countries, including the gardaí in Ireland.

The investigation, said Mr van Santbrink, gave concrete proof for the first time that webcam child sex abuse was “spreading like an epidemic” - as a result of endemic poverty, and especially child poverty, in developing countries, and also as a result of greater access to the internet.

“If we were able to identify 1,000 individuals in just over two months, think how many of these people could be identified if governments took a more active approach to this new and worsening problem. This amounts to long-range rape.” The investigation, which was run from a warehouse on the outskirts of Amsterdam, was unique in that is used a virtual 10-year-old Filipino girl named “Sweetie”, created using the most up-to-date animation and movie technology, to prove that the men were willing to pay for sex with children.

Once the “10-year-old” had identified herself in various public online chat rooms, a team of four researchers began tracing the “swarm” of more than 20,000 men who made contact initially, to gather as much online data as possible about their identifies. “We were not interested in individual countries”, said Terre des Hommes Director of Campaigns, Hans Guyt.

The charity’s director, Albert Jaap van Santbrink, said “tens of thousands” of child victims of “webcam child sex tourism” had been identified in the Philippines and other developing countries, traumatised by being forced to perform sex acts on camera for hours at a time every day.