The lead suspect in an international pedophile investigation was a substitute teacher at a high school in Port Coquitlam, B.C.,six months ago, had volunteered at another school in Maple Ridge and was a chaplain with the air cadets in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

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Interpol released this photograph of Christopher Paul Neil, which was taken at the Bangkok International Airport last Thursday. ((Interpol/Thai immigration authorities/Associated Press))

But now Christopher Paul Neil, 32,of Maple Ridge, is being sought by international police.

His family said he visited home from April to August and "nothing seemed out of the ordinary to me," saidhis younger brother, Matthew Neil.

"We had a few beers and watched the hockey game," Matthew said Tuesday.

International police believe they are closing in on Christopher Neil, who was recently working as an English teacher in South Korea.

They allege he is the man that police have been seeking worldwide for three years, since photos first surfaced on the internet showing a man — his face disguised by a digital swirl — sexually abusing underage Asian boys. Some of those photos were released to the public last week.

Authorities said Tuesday he flew to Bangkok last Thursday using a one-way ticket.

Neil taught students at the Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary School in Port Coquitlam six months ago, the office of the archdiocese in Vancouver told CBC News.

In 2000 and 2001, Neil volunteered at Saint Patrick's School in Maple Ridge, as part of his training at the Seminary of Christ the King,where he was studying to become a priest, said Anne Kully, principal of Saint Patrick's.

He also applied for a teaching position at the school, which teaches kindergarten through Grade 7, Kully said.

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Matthew Neil, brother of the alleged pedophile, says his family is shocked at discovering the allegations against him. ((CBC))

Matthew Neil, who lives in a basement suite in Maple Ridge, said the family is devastated and shocked by the allegations.

"You know, you get anger too as well because, you know, one person can bring the whole family into … uh, a situation that's very uncomfortable for everybody," the younger brother said.

He said his mother has left British Columbia.

"Chris, turn yourself in. Get back into Canada." Matthew Neil pleaded.

The younger brother said Neil went straight to South Korea after studying at the Seminary of Christ the King.

"Once he gets set up in where he is teaching he will generally call and let us know where he is and how to contact him; however, he has not done that yet. I don't know what he is going to do," he said.

Matthew Neil saidthe family has had no contact with him since he left for South Korea on Aug. 15.

Before leaving Canada and spending five years living in Asia,Neilworked as a chaplain and counsellor in the cadets, according to Capt. Hope Carr, a public affairs officer for the Canadian military.

Neil served with the cadets at Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask., during the summer of 1997, then at HMCS Acadia in Cornwallis Park,N.S., during the summer of 1998 and 1999, and at the air cadets summer training centre in Greenwood, N.S.,in the summer of 2000, the Department of National Defence says.

Not recommended for priesthood

Christopher Neil attended the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, B.C., said Rev. Nicholas Ruh, the school's rector. But he said Neil was not recommended for the priesthood, and he instead chose to go into teaching.

"He just did not have the qualifications as a person," said Ruh, who said he could not confirm when Neil attended the school, but estimated it was more than five years ago.

'He seemed a little awkward, but certainly not reclusive. He did make a lot of friends when he was here, andhe remaineda constant part of our social circle.'—Amy Bowler, who met Neil through a website used by English teachers in South Korea

Amy Bowler, who met Neil through a website used by her and other English teachers in South Korea, told CBC News she believed Neil was teaching at a public middle school or high school near the city of Yongin.

"He seemed a little awkward, but certainly not reclusive. He did make a lot of friends when he was here, andhe remaineda constant part of our social circle," said Bowler.

When the photographs were released by police, several of his friends in South Korea contacted Interpol, said Bowler, but she believed Neil was not actually the man police were seeking, only someone who looks like the suspect.

Interpol investigation leads to Thailand

Ron Noble, Interpol's secretary general, confirmed Tuesday that police believe Neil is the man in the photographs, which were unscrambled by police computer experts in Germany. They recreated the man's image, then released four photos last week.

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This photo, which was posted on the internet, was one of a number that had been digitally swirled to hide the identity of a man shown sexually assaulting young boys. ((Interpol))

Interpol alleges that the man was pictured in Vietnam and Cambodia sexually abusing 12 young boys, ranging in age from six to their early teens, in about 200 photos posted on the internet.

Security cameras showed Neil arriving last Thursday afternoon at the Bangkok International Airport on a flight from Seoul and he is believed to still be there, Thai police said.

"I have no doubt that he left Korea when he saw himself on the internet," said Mick Moran, the Interpol agent in charge of the case.

Moran, who arrived in Bangkok over the weekend to co-ordinate the search, appealed to the suspect to surrender "to have the matter sorted out in a reasonable and adult manner."

In neighbouring Vietnam and Cambodia, all officers at international border crossings are on the lookout for the suspect.

"I know the Thai authorities, that all the countries in this region — Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand — I know they have all been alerted, they're all on alert and they all have border controls in place in an effort to spot the movements of this man," said Moran in Bangkok.

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Police computer experts in Germany unscrambled the photo and recreated the image of the man, which Interpol alleges is Christopher Paul Neil, formerly of Maple Ridge, B.C. ((Interpol))

No official arrest warrant has been issued for the man, Moran told CBC News, adding that the agency is working with several countries — including Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Canada. "For the moment, we simply wish to speak to him," he said.

Det. Sgt. Kim Scanlan of the Toronto police child exploitation unit said Neil will be extradited to Canada once he's arrested.

"The paperwork has been put inplace for that to happen," Scanlan said. "We have travel and sex offender offences so he'll be prosecuted in Canada."

Photos got 'extraordinary' response: Interpol

The photos released by police show a Caucasian man with short brown hair. In one photo, he is wearing glasses.

The rare global appeal to try to find a suspected pedophile netted more than 350 tips from around the world, Interpol's secretary general said.

Five of those tips identified the suspect as Neil, Noble said.

He called it "extraordinary" that within a week, the international police agency went from releasing unscrambled photos of an unidentified suspect to releasing his believed name and nationality.

He said prosecuting the suspect would be a complex process.

Corrections

  • Christopher Neil attended Christ the King Seminary but did not receive a BA there, as originally reported.
    Oct 16, 2007 2:30 PM ET
With files from the Associated Press and the Canadian Press