An arrest has been made in the Netherlands in the case of a Canadian teenager who was blackmailed to expose herself in front of a webcam.
The 15-year-old later committed suicide after detailing her harassment on a YouTube video watched by millions around the world.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Paulette Freill said on Thursday a suspect had been arrested in the Netherlands and charged with extortion, luring and criminal harassment and possession of child pornography for the purpose of distribution.
Police did not release the name of the 35-year-old man and declined to release specifics of the case. Dutch prosecutors said the man was suspected of blackmailing girls in the US, Britain and the Netherlands.
Amanda Todd brought the problem of cyber-bullying to mainstream attention in Canada after she posted a video on YouTube in which she told her story with handwritten signs, describing how she was lured by a stranger to expose her breasts on a webcam.
The picture ended up on a Facebook page made by the stranger, to which her friends were added.
She was repeatedly bullied, despite changing schools, before finally killing herself weeks after posting the video. It has now been viewed more than 17 million times.
“This is truly a day we have been waiting for,” said Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother. She wiped away tears as she thanked police.
Dutch prosecutors said they filed indecent assault and child pornography charges against the man. Lawyer Christian van Dijk earlier confirmed to the Associated Press that one of the charges involved a 15-year-old girl from British Columbia.
The suspect, who has dual Dutch and Turkish nationality, has been in detention since he was arrested in January at a holiday house in the town of Oisterwijk. He lived alone, and has no wife or children.
Prosecutors first publicised his case after a preliminary hearing on Wednesday at which his detention was extended for three months.
“The suspicions against the man are that he approached underage girls via the internet and then seduced them into performing sexual acts in front of a webcam,” prosecutors said in a statement.
“He is suspected of subsequently pressurising them to participate in making new material.”
They noted the suspect was also thought to have blackmailed adult men in a somewhat similar way, by convincing them he was an underage boy, convincing them to perform sexual acts on camera, and then threatening to turn the images over to the police.
Van Dijk said he doesn’t believe prosecutors have sufficient evidence to convict his client, and said even if there was evidence of unlawful activity on his computer, it might have been hacked.