Unmasked: The NHS psychiatrist and Cheshire tyre fitter who ran massive global paedophile ring called ‘The Annex’ for ‘King Paedo’ mastermind
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March 11, 2024 Monday 3:14 PM GMT

Copyright 2024 Associated Newspapers Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Section: NEWS; Version:1

Length: 2237 words

Byline: Beth Hale

The operational structure of the sprawling international ‘enterprise’ known as The Annex was much akin to that one might find in any business.

There was a clearly defined ‘promotion’ scheme allowing, encouraging even, staff to climb the ranks. Targets and working were hours all set out, holidays had to be flagged to line managers.

And there were rules – lots of rules.

A quick glance at some of those rules, however, will tell you that The Annex was – for it is now, mercifully, defunct – no legitimate business.

‘Stay anonymous, never umask yourself!’ says one.

‘Never, ever share personal data,’ warns another.

‘Always download and watch videos offline,’ orders one more.

The Annex was a vast website where 100,000 paedophiles worldwide would ‘meet’ to share millions of videos and pictures of child sex abuse, on the dark web – a shadowy place, where sickening criminality was free to burgeon under the cover of anonymity.

Unknown to users, however, its twisted operations had been under the scrutiny of international crime agencies since 2019, but only now, following the sentencing of three men in British courts, can the full extent of the global criminal enterprise be laid bare.

Those men, as you will see, didn’t just participate in the sinister underground network, but helped to run it – fitting in their nefarious ‘duties’ around days jobs, which included, in the case of one, tending to the needs of elderly patients as a psychiatrist within the NHS.

Tyre fitter Nathan Bake, a 28-year-old loner, described by an ex colleague talking to the Mail as ‘awkward’, ‘nerdy’ and a ‘cat obsessed computer whizz’, was sentenced to 16 years in prison last month.

An Asperger’s sufferer, he’d risen to become second-in-command of the global operation, prior to his arrest in November 2022.

He would conduct his duties after work, from his modest home in Cheshire, spending hours sitting in front of a laptop on a desk in his bedroom.

Then there is William Yates, 45, a divorced stepfather to two children, who ranked just below Bake as assistant moderator.

He was jailed for five years and four months for his part in the vile exchange of images of some of the very worst kinds of abuse.

Unemployed, Yates had plenty of time to devote to his ‘work’.

NHS psychiatrist Kabir Garg, meanwhile, didn’t. He habitually used to get up early to fit in a shift on The Annex, before heading off to his actual job, for South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, just walking distance from his south London flat.

Garg, whose father is a prominent psychiatrist in India, was sentenced to six years in prison last June, having been umasked as a ‘gateway moderator’ on the site.

Three men, all very different, each unknown to each other in the real world, shared a depraved common interest online, swapping and facilitating the sharing of thousands of sick images and video content.

That one of the ‘rooms’ users could access was called Tots-R-Us is probably sufficient explanation as to what was available in there.

‘Nothing on this site was off limits. Everything was encouraged,’ says National Crime Agency branch commander Adam Priestley, who was part of the investigation team who brought the men to justice.

‘The men that we’re talking about here were very much part of a team – a staff that you would expect to see within any business – that provide a platform and facilitate a community of paedophiles to encourage the abuse of children all over the world.’

So just how did The Annex manage to extend its twisted tentacles across the globe to become one of the biggest networks of its kind, and, more importantly, how did the combined forces of cross-border crime detection agencies bring it crashing down?

It was investigators in Germany, in 2019, who first turned their attention to the shadowy dark web entity, known as Tor, short for The Onion Router, in 2019. They managed to seize servers in Romania and Moldova that set off a ripple effect to other agencies around the globe, including the FBI and, in the UK, the National Crime Agency.

Yates was the first of the British contingent to be arrested, in a low-budget hotel room in the Sussex seaside town of Eastbourne, in May 2022.

No longer active on the site, he admitted being an Annex user since 2019, having first been offered a role as a low ranking staff member and then working his way up to become an assistant moderator by first posting indecent content himself, then encouraging others to do the same.

One of the site’s various ways of rewarding users was the sharing of colours, then hearts, as a reward system as they worked their way up the sordid ladder. In this world status and contribution was valued higher than cash; investigators do not think rewards extended to actual payments, although it is thought that money, in the shape of crypto-currency was exchanged between some users and managers of the site.

Yates, apparently a churchgoing Christian who was described in court as ‘vulnerable’, had been unmasked after ignoring one of the site’s rules, and using his own surname as his user name – yates704.

At the time of his arrest, investigators found 6,000 private messages between yates704 and other users, involving everything from fantasy role play involving abuse of children to advice on how to post indecent images – and how to evade law enforcement.

The next British arrests were simultaneous, in November 2022 – unfolding, the Mail has learned, on the very same day the FBI swooped on the US-based kingpin of the entire operation.

As we can reveal, the international nerve centre of the forum was in a cluttered garage in a suburban street in Madison, Alabama where a father-of-three, a US Army veteran named William (Bill) Spearman, going by the user name ‘King Pedo’ presided (remotely) over a team of 30 loyal staff members around the globe and a dizzying array of members and ‘visitors’.

King Pedo’s lair is, as you will see, not some slick office, but rather a rubbish-strewn corner of a garage, with no fewer than eight laptop computers scattered around three desks.

There’s a child’s bike lying a short distance away and a picture in a frame of a little girl under the word ‘Princess’; there’s also a sign on the wall reading, ‘I’d rather have a gun in my hand than a cop on the phone.’

Spearman, 58, had three guns on his desk from where he managed, as the US authorities put it, ‘one of the largest child pornography websites in the world’.

Protests that he did not enjoy violent child pornography and that he did not run the site, were belied by the huge a collection of material devices, including infamous videos depicting the sexual torture and rape of toddlers and the fact other users and staff called him ‘boss’.

Using online aliases ‘Enforcer’ and ‘King Pedo’, Spearman ruled his team of staff with a rod of steel, putting rules in place that encouraged lower-ranking users to rise through the hierarchy by posting more child sexual abuse material and demoted those who didn’t.

US court documents reveal that such was Spearman’s grip on proceedings, that he even erupted when administrators took time off.

Take this remark to one administrator: ‘wtf?’ ‘didn’t u say on [date] that will be your last vacation days?’

Or this to another: ‘I’ll be honest with you that I was really pissed off that you took that little vacation last month …I can’t really remember the last time I’ve had any vacation at all, plus I’ve even stopped going out on Friday nights because of my responsibility here. I’m not trying to guilt-trip you either. Like I said, I need to know I’ve got a partner here.’

Could he be talking about one of his British lieutenants? Perhaps.

The veteran, whose youngest son is eight, was sentenced to life in federal prison when he appeared in court last month.

In court, the prosecution said: ‘The defendant is before this court because he chose to run a massive, sprawling empire dedicated to images and videos of children being raped and abused. He did not do this because he is “broken”. He did not do this because of PTSD. Nor did he do it because of depression, opioids, or any of the other myriad excuses he puts forth in his papers. He did it because he wanted to.

‘In fact, the defendant’s papers present a bizarre, alternate world in which the defendant decided to run – not join, not visit, but run – an enormous child sexual abuse material website, despite harbouring little to no sexual interest in children or in child pornography.

‘This, simply put, is not even remotely believable. Through his egregious criminal conduct, this defendant exploited a literally uncountable number of children. He presided as the leader of a community of pedophiles, allowed them to commit non-stop criminal activity, fostered an environment where users could revel in discussions of child sexual abuse, and provided advice on how not to be caught by law enforcement.’

On the very same day, last November, as Spearman erupted with rage as his empire collapsed (court documents notes Spearman ‘physically resisted’ when the FBI arrived at his door) Garg and Bake were arrested on this side of the Atlantic.

Psychiatrist Garg, I am told, tried to slam his laptop shut when investigators arrived at his flat in Lewisham. Single and going through a divorce from his wife, a hospital doctor working in his home city of Agra, India, who knew nothing about his other ‘career’, he’d initially ‘tried to distance himself’ from his crimes, according to National Crime Agency branch commander Adam Priestley.

‘He was in a bad place, he was depressed and this is what he ended up doing,’ says Priestley. ‘Speaking in broader terms, that’s not an unusual explanation.’

However, there was abundant evidence on his MacBook laptop and memory card that he had accumulated thousands of indecent images.

Gateway moderator for the site, his responsibility was judging who could be allowed to progress from the ‘gateway’ into the ‘lobby’ – the first steps in the sites chain.

That he took his job seriously is evidenced in this ‘chastisement’ to one visitor: ‘You were dropped today for not following the rule despite warning. Please ensure to greet rooms when you enter in future.’

At his sentencing hearing in June at Wooldwich Crown Court, the prosecution drew attention to the numerous medical journals and articles on his devices discussing the impact of child sexual abuse on a child; evidence he ignored.

The same day, but 235 miles north, Bake was arrested too.

A Lego and computer game enthusiast, the youngest of five brothers, he grew up in Runcorn, in Cheshire, where schoolmates recall him as something of a loner.

After leaving school he completed a diploma in vehicle maintenance and worked briefly on the production line for Vauxhall, before becoming a tyre fitter.

A former colleague told the Mail: ‘He came across as awkward and a bit nerdy and he didn’t associate with colleagues after work. He would occasionally fix computers for workmates.

‘He also said he liked building websites but of course he never mentioned what these websites were. When I found out what he’d done, I felt totally sick.’

On the evening of November 2, 2022, investigators on the trail of a user named ‘Pink’ followed an IP (Internet Protocol) address leading to Bake’s two-bedroom home on a quiet street in Runcorn, a property he’d purchased with the help of an inheritance .

When they arrived the Muslim convert – it is not known when he converted, but Chester Crown Court was told he had been learning Arabic – was at home, and his silver Apple MacBook was sitting, lid closed, but switched on, on the desk in his bedroom. There was an encryption device plugged in that, if removed, would have wiped all data; but it wasn’t removed.

He had been on the site for two-and-a half years, working his way up through the ranks.

A vocal cheerleader for the site, records were found of him encouraging users to take part in a sick twist on ‘happy hour’ and to boost the number of posts made.

Investigators seized 60 electronic devices and examined several hard drives, finding a dizzying mountain of indecent images of children. Children’s underwear, tights and sandals were also recovered from his computer desk, along with a number of adult sex aids.

Unlike Spearman, who initially denied being a paedophile but who admitted engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, Bake admitted 12 offences, including facilitating sexual exploitation of children and participating in an organised crime group (the latter a charge used because, shockingly, there is no charge in the UK that applies to moderating a site of this nature).

Bake’s neighbours are still reeling from the knowledge that the bearded, pallid young man who, until he was sentenced, lived so close, had been at the heart of an international paedophile network.

‘I always thought there was something odd about him, something creepy,’ says one neighbour. ‘We just thought he must have lost his job because he wasn’t going out to work anymore.

‘Now to hear what he’d actually been doing in there makes me feel sick.

‘We have our young grandchildren round to see us and the thought of him looking out at them is horrific.’

While the three British men, hiding behind the anonymity of the dark web and their quiet, suburban lives, is most definitely a battle won in the fight against child exploitation, the war goes on.

Yet like with the mythical Hydra, sadly one suspects that as soon as one head is cut off, another will grow back – and find a new place to hide.