Paedophile posed as model scout to blackmail girls as young as nine into sending abuse images

Paedophile: Ishmael Duncan (National Crime Agency)
Paedophile: Ishmael Duncan (National Crime Agency)

A paedophile blackmailed girls as young as nine into sending indecent photos and videos of themselves by posing as a model agency scout.

Ishmael Duncan, 24, used Snapchat to coerce children across the UK, US, Canada and Australia into sending explicit photographs of themselves, in one case targeting a teenager with learning difficulties.

On Wednesday, Inner London Crown Court heard that Duncan, of Walnut Tree Walk, Lambeth, had confessed to 50 child sex abuse and blackmail offences relating to 28 female victims.

However, prosecutors believe the predator may have contacted close to 10,000 children using Snapchat accounts he set up under different aliases.

The court heard how Duncan targeted victims by asking if they were interested in becoming a model for top fashion brands, and built up trust using a fake interview process and forged contracts featuring the brands’ logos.

He would then request topless photos on the pretext of assessing the victims’ body shape for modelling. Girls were threatened with being ‘blacklisted’ from modelling if they didn’t comply.

Duncan contacted victims from multiple accounts under different personas, pretending to be the agency’s photographer ‘Callum’, or ‘Mark’, the general manager of the agency’s preteen models division.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

He then created another account to contact the same victims threatening to share the images on social media unless the children sent more.

He sent his victims a “warning”, reading: “We have your nudes, and unless you reply to this message saying ‘I understand’, they will be sent out to expose accounts on Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.

“If you reply with anything else other than ‘I understand’, or if you block or unfriend this account, your nudes will be sent out. This is your first and only warning.”

On other occasions, the predator posed as a teenage boy on Snapchat, requesting sexual images and videos.

He blackmailed a 14-year-old girl with learning difficulties who sent him images, even offering her $1,000 (£804) to engage in a sex act with her brother.

Duncan was caught after two sisters in the US reported being threatened after sending images to one of the accounts.

When National Crime Agency officers arrested Duncan at his home in July 2021, they found 19,120 abuse images on his computer and phone, some of which was ranked as the most severe possible.

The agency’s operations manager Martin Ludlow said: “Ishmael Duncan cruelly preyed on young girls who had dreams of becoming models.

“The threatening messages he sent were chilling and showed his callous disregard for the victims he exploited for his own sexual gratification in this case.”

Duncan is due to be sentenced at the same court on December 1.