August 2023

Blackmailer guilty of abusing women and children online

An online predator who targeted women around the world, blackmailing them into sexual acts and child abuse, has admitted a string of offences.

Anthony Burns of Suffolk controlled and coerced 27 females, leaving them “severely traumatised”, between 2018 and 2020.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the 39-year-old was a “pupil” of jailed sexual blackmailer Abdul Elhai.

Burns was charged with 46 counts including blackmail, attempted blackmail, causing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, arranging the commission of a child sex offence, making and distributing indecent images of children, possessing extreme pornography, malicious communications offences and failure to comply with notification requirements.

He admitted 39 counts and was found guilty of a further two. The remaining five charges will lie on file.

It can also now be revealed Burns had previous child abuse convictions.

The NCA, which believes Burns tried to target 600 people in total, said he showed “remorseless cruelty”.

Burns, formerly of Lowestoft, Suffolk, admitted 39 counts and was found guilty at a trial of two counts of causing a girl under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity.

Judge Sarah Buckingham said he would be sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court in January and was facing a “significant” custodial sentence.

Burns followed a pattern of engaging with women online, usually via “sugar daddy” websites or dating sites, the court previously heard.

In one case in August 2020, for which he was put on trial, the court heard he directed a woman in the US to perform sexual acts on herself and then abuse a young girl.

Prosecutors said Burns had directed the woman, who has also been jailed for her part in the abuse, to carry out the acts.

To carry out his abuse, he would use different identities and phone numbers, as well as fake profile photos.

Occasionally he would pose as a modelling agent and, after making contact with a woman, would move their conversations to WhatsApp, before asking them to send sexual photos or videos in exchange for cash, which he never paid.

During video calls, Burns would keep his camera off but “direct and control” the women and persuade them to carry out increasingly explicit acts, the court heard.

He would screen-record the calls and then threaten to share the images with the victims’ families and friends unless they sent increasingly depraved material.

He was arrested and his devices were seized after an investigation by the NCA, with help from the FBI.

Investigators believed he tried to target about 600 people, including in the UK, US and Australia. The majority were in England, including Wiltshire, and some were also in the Channel Islands.

Work was ongoing to identify further victims, the NCA said.

Operations manager, Robert Slater, said Burns showed “remorseless cruelty in controlling and coercing his victims”.