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Often married and with children themselves, they can be well-educated and highly successful in their field.
Passing them in the street - and it could easily be street - you wouldn't give them a second glance.
Twenty years ago, a predatory paedophile would have had to loiter around parks, funfairs and swimming pools to gain access to children, where his suspicious behaviour - in full public view - would often have raised the alarm before he could cause any real harm.
But he's not booking cinema tickets or tracing his family tree or doing any of the things that have made the internet such a valuable tool of modern life.It's very real, it's very nasty indeed and the connection between those internet chats and images of paedophilia are all too common.I've spent the past 18 months shadowing the officers of Scotland Yard's Paedophile Unit and, despite being a former detective with more than 12 years of experience in child protection, I've been horrified by what I've seen.Often, it is the investigation which follows the suspect's arrest on one of these charges that unearths evidence of even more serious crimes.Such is the burden of proof that Paedophile Unit investigators are able to assemble that, more often than not, the defendants plead guilty.