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Online sex blackmailer jailed for 24 years for ‘callous and depraved’ offences

Online sex blackmailer jailed for 24 years for ‘callous and depraved’ offences

A prolific online sex blackmailer has been jailed for 24 years for a sickening string of offences against a seven-year-old girl and dozens of women using dating and sugar daddy websites.

Anthony Burns was told that he had caused immense distress throughout his offending, which included two offences jointly committed with online predator Abdul Elahi, who received a 32-year sentence in 2021.

Convicted child sex offender Burns, whose was sentenced for sexual grooming in 2010 and inciting child prostitution in 2013, admitted or was found guilty of 43 offences committed between 2018 and 2021.

The 39-year-old sat with his head bowed in the dock as Judge Sarah Buckingham said the offences of blackmail, malicious communications, making indecent images of children, possessing extreme pornography and causing sexual activity with a child showed he was a dangerous offender.

Burns had shown no remorse despite directing a woman in the United States to perform sex acts, before the woman was ordered to sexually abuse a seven-year-old girl as he recorded a 25-minute video, the judge said.

She told Burns, some of whose victims in the UK, US and Australia had self-harmed or attempted to take their own lives: “Your offending took place over a two-and-a-half-year period.

“You did not care about the anguish you caused and had complete disregard for your victims’ suffering.”

Abdul Hasib Elahi court case
Accomplice Abdul Elahi, who was jailed in 2021 (NCA/PA)

Burns, originally from Lowestoft in Suffolk, had displayed “depravity and callousness” throughout his offending, the judge said, telling him: “You needed no encouragement (from Elahi).

“You were no junior partner – you encouraged him. You were someone who held no respect for any court orders intended to restrict your activities.”

No one who heard the victims impact statement in the case could have failed to have been moved, the judge said.

The judge added: “You were arrested three times and interviewed five times. After you had been released on bail and later on court bail you continued to offend.”

Crown court stock
Burns’ sentencing hearing at Birmingham Crown Court took two days (Chris Radburn/PA)

Burns was told he was someone who was “arrogant with a deep-seated cruel streak” and had caused “immense harm and distress”.

The judge said one offence in which Burns posed as a National Crime Agency investigator to torment the mother of one of Elahi’s victims had been particularly unpleasant.

“You raised her hopes that images of her daughter might be able to be traced and destroyed, and then you cruelly dashed them,” the judge said.

None of the victims can be identified because of a court order.

Elahi, from Sparkhill, Birmingham, admitted 158 charges committed against 72 complainants, after also using dating and other websites to target victims.

Investigators believe Elahi, who posed as a modelling agent or businessman, targeted around 2,000 victims globally, also blackmailing women after tricking them into sending him sexual material online.

Addressing Birmingham Crown Court on Thursday, prosecutor Kate Temple-Mabe said Burns’ 2010 conviction involved sexual grooming of a 14-year-old schoolgirl when he was aged 25.

Judge Buckingham also ordered the confiscation of devices seized from Burns during an investigation by the National Crime Agency.

Offering mitigation, defence barrister Hugh Forgan said Burns, who was addicted to pornography, had experienced traumatic events earlier in his life, including the death of a partner in a car crash.

Seeking to distinguish Burns’ offending from that of Elahi, Mr Forgan said: “These images (obtained by blackmail by Burns) were not being sold on or distributed.

“It wasn’t a business, no matter how distressing or depraved.”

Commenting after the sentencing, National Crime Agency operations manager Robert Slater described Burns, also known as Danny, as “a revolting sexual offender”.

Mr Slater said: “My first thoughts go out to his victims, many of whom showed immense courage by providing vital evidence to secure his conviction.

“The control he sought over them, some of whom were young children, was sinister, manipulative and heartless.”

In a message to anyone who falls victim to similar crimes, Mr Slater added: “Anyone being pressured or threatened into sending sexual images or videos online should try to remove themselves immediately from the conversation, not respond further to any contact, and report the matter to police.

“You are not alone, you are not to blame and help is always available.”

Bethany Raine, specialist prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Burns belittled and humiliated women.

“They became trapped in a web of fear where their own images became tools of manipulation and extortion, leaving them vulnerable to his depraved demands.

“His conviction sends a clear message that the CPS is committed in bringing offenders like Burns, who sexually abuse and exploit victims, to justice, wherever that abuse takes place.”