Pedophile suspect nabbed in Thailand

BANGKOK, THAILAND (AP) -- Police say a Canadian schoolteacher who became the world's most wanted suspected pedophile was arrested by police Friday in northeastern Thailand.

"Bingo! We've got him," police Maj. Gen. Wimol Powintara told The Associated Press.

Authorities say the suspect, 32-year-old Christopher Paul Neil, was arrested in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima and is expected to be brought to the capital, Bangkok.

Thai police said earlier this week that Neil was identified as a suspect by investigators based on images of a man seen with individuals police believe are his victims. The images, which had been digitally scrambled, were unscrambled and then made public by Interpol.

Thai authorities issued an arrest warrant for Neil on Thursday, saying that he may have sexually abused boys in the kingdom, in addition to at least a dozen boys in Cambodia and Vietnam, some as young as 6, whom Interpol suspects he abused.

At Thailand's request, Interpol issued an international wanted persons notice for Neil. The so-called "Red Notice" from the France-based international police agency was be circulated worldwide requesting the subject's arrest in order to be extradited.

Neil, 32, has taught at various schools in Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam since at least 2000.

He flew to Thailand last week from South Korea, where he suddenly abandoned a teaching job. Cameras at the immigration counter captured his image as he arrived at Bangkok's international airport.

Police say Neil lived in Thailand for nearly two years in 2002-2003 and is believed to have a wide network of friends and acquaintances in the country.

Authorities said the arrest warrant for Neil was based on the testimony of one boy, describing being lured from an Internet cafe by a Thai man who took him to Neil's apartment in Bangkok.

Hotels and tourism agencies were asked to help in the search for Neil.

Police said one of the focuses of their search was the resort town of Pattaya, which is known for its beaches, thriving sex industry and high crime rate.

Thai authorities say the investigation got a boost on Wednesday when three boys who had seen a photo of Neil on TV in connection with the manhunt came forward and told police that Neil, in 2003, showed them porn on his Bangkok computer and paid them for sex.

The hunt for Neil began three years ago when German police discovered about 200 online photographs of a man sexually abusing children. His face was digitally obscured, but German police were able to reconstruct a recognizable image of the man who has eluded police for years, and Interpol circulated those images last week.

The suspect was identified with the help of hundreds of tips from people who responded to an unprecedented appeal by Interpol for public assistance.

More clues about the suspect's background emerged with the discovery of a page on the social networking Web site MySpace apparently created by Neil. Interpol officials said they believe the page was kept by Neil.

"Been kicking around Asia for the past five years, teaching mainly and finding other forms of mischief," read the profile, which also described him as "5 feet, 11 inches tall, slim and slender."

"I love teaching, can't get enough of it really," the entry says, going on to describe his passion for drama, musicals and karaoke.

Friends have described Neil as outgoing and fun to be around. Co-workers at international schools gave mixed reviews of his teaching skills, but all described a man they had believed to be harmless.

Before teaching in Asia, Neil worked as a chaplain in Canada, counseling teens.

Canadian authorities have said they will seek his extradition. Canadian laws against "sex tourism" allow prosecutors in that country to file charges and try suspects wanted in crimes committed abroad.

Posted by KO

The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report.