One of the UK's most prolific predatory paedophiles has pleaded guilty to 45 charges, including rape, sexual assault, and taking and distributing indecent images of children.
Following his arrest last year, Mark Frost, 70, a former teacher and Scout leader, has admitted to abuse against victims in the UK and Thailand, at the culmination of one of the most complex child sexual exploitation investigations in recent years, which spanned the globe.
The charges include:
– 17 charges involving the abuse of nine young boys in Thailand, including rape and sexual assault, which he admitted on Wednesday at the Old Bailey.
– Six counts of historic abuse against two former pupils, including buggery and gross indecency, to which Frost also pleaded guilty on Wednesday.
– 22 charges related to abuse carried out in Thailand, which, it can now be reported, Frost admitted to in July last year.
He denied another 43 charges, which were left to lie on file.
Frost, who changed his name from Andrew Tracey in 2014, served three prison terms in the 1990s for possessing indecent images of a child, allowing his home to be used for the abuse of a girl aged between 13 and 15, and indecent assault of a male aged under 16.
In relation to the charge of making and possessing indecent images, police found 1,105 images and six videos on his laptop.
Police said that Frost used his status as a relatively wealthy westerner to lure boys from a poor Thai neighbourhood to his house, promising them sweets, gifts, and money, after earlier using his position as a teacher and community leader to abuse children in the UK.
In a police interview released after the guilty pleas were entered, Frost calmly answered "no comment" to several questions about pictures showing him with young boys in Thailand.
In a statement read out in court, one of the British victims of historic abuse, who has since died, said: "Since the rape, I have never felt so lonely. I made no friends due to having no confidence.
"I have carried this burden for a long time and lived in fear. I have found this process incredibly painful."
Andy Brennan, deputy director of the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) command, said after the guilty pleas: "This has been a lengthy and complex investigation into a prolific child sex offender, who over many years believed he could sexually abuse children and evade law enforcement.
"The weight of evidence gathered by the investigating officers in this case was such that Frost pleaded guilty to over 40 charges. Safeguarding work is ongoing with victims we know about already, both in the UK and in Thailand, and we will continue to ensure victims receive the appropriate support as required.
"However, we suspect there could be many more victims of Frost, both male and female, who have never come forward or spoken to anybody about what happened to them."
The case, which saw British police collaborate with several forces around the world, raises questions of whether there may have been potential chances to catch him sooner.
Frost was arrested in Thailand by the Royal Thai Police in 2013 after a victim raised the alarm. However, he was released on bail and fled the country.
He then returned to the UK in 2014, when Sussex police began to investigate him in relation to his previous convictions and tried to place him on a sexual harm prevention order, which can be used to limit the threat a potentially dangerous sexual offender poses.
Because he couldn't be arrested in the UK in relation to the Thailand charges, police considered using legislation that allows Britons to be tried for offences committed abroad, but – again – he fled the country before the evidence could be gathered.
|n November 2015 the National Crime Agency tracked Frost down to Alicante, Spain, where he was found to be living. Using evidence from Dutch police, the NCA successfully obtained a European Arrest Warrant and Spanish police arrested him on 17 March 2016 before he was extradited to the UK.
Speaking at a media briefing at the NCA's London headquarters before Frost's guilty pleas, Brennan said, in response to a question from BuzzFeed News, that the police did everything they could to apprehend Frost.
"We're confident that as and when we received the information we acted on it as soon as could. Unfortunately, with no arrest warrant in place there was nothing we could do to legitimately and legally bring someone into custody.
"I'm not being flippant when I say that – we take how we use these powers very carefully. Yes it has taken time, but this is a man who is very, very adept at avoiding arrest.
"When he realised there was a potential when he was in Sussex to be put in some kind of offender management regime, he knew what was coming. He was very adept at moving from country to country."
Frost began teaching in the 1970s and in 1978 subscribed to the controversial Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) service, a pro-paedophile group that traded obscene information.
At one point he tried to adopt a child through the Catholic Church, but was denied because of his links to PIE. He has one adult son, who has made no allegations against him.
Frost was suspended from schools in Hertfordshire and Worcestershire and was reported to the police for his conduct at another in east London, although there was no arrest.
He was placed on the sex offender register following his most recent conviction in 1998, but this expired after 10 years, meaning he was no longer being monitored or supervised by his local police force. Offenders are put on the register for life only if their prison term is longer than 30 months – Frost was twice sentenced to 12 months.
Frost evaded police in 2003, when he was investigated as part of Operation Ore while living in Guernsey – his laptop was seized but he fled for France before he could be prosecuted.
He was investigated again in 2012 as part of Operation Spade, an international effort to prosecute paedophiles, and detectives from Toronto police flagged Frost's UK address as well as a delivery address in Thailand with NCA officers in the UK, but he had left the UK and no action was taken.
The NCA said at the media briefing last week that it cannot rule out that some of the nine Thai victims were abused after this information was received and before Frost's arrest by Thai police in 2013.
According to the press briefing, the NCA referred its own CEOP unit to the Independent Police Complaints Commission over this; there were no misconduct charges but one officer received "words of advice" from the watchdog.
The true extent of Frost's offending is unclear, and what remains unknown is how many more of his victims have yet to report their abuse to authorities in the UK and elsewhere. Police believe he may have been active in France and Sweden and are in contact with law enforcement agencies in those countries.
Ruona Iguyovwe, senior specialist prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service's International Justice and Organised Crime division, responding to a question from BuzzFeed News at the media briefing, said: "It's fair to say that the harrowing evidence in this case has revealed that Mr Frost has systematically abused vulnerable boys, he's exploited them, their circumstances, and their situation.
"So in terms of seriousness I would certainly say this ranks as one of the most serious that I have dealt with as a prosecutor and I think it ranks as a very, very serious case of sexual abuse and one of the most serious we've come across."
John Cameron, head of NSPCC helplines, said: "Mark Frost is a very dangerous paedophile with a long and vile history of sexually abusing children in Thailand and distributing images of child abuse.
"Frost worked as a teacher in the UK until 1996 and today's guilty plea may encourage further victims to speak out."
Frost will be sentenced on Thursday morning.
Police are urging any victims of Frost or anyone with information about Frost's offences to call a dedicated NSPCC helpline on 0800 328 0904.