Episode 53 - Jailhouse Justice? - The Murder Of Richard Huckle

There is an expectation that the criminal justice system is there to protect society and to punish offenders for the crimes they have committed. But what about when their crimes are so horrendous, so damaging and so perverse that you can barely stand to hear about them. Is a term of imprisonment really enough? Does the safety offered by concrete walls and three-square meals a day protect society or does it shield the offender from those who feel like they deserve a taste of their own medicine?  

In today’s episode we cover the life and crimes of Richard Huckle, one of the UKs worst known child sex offenders. But Richard’s story doesn’t belong only to him. It is also the tale of Paul Fitzgerald – a man whose name might never have been known had he not served up his own form of jailhouse justice. His actions were wrong by the standard of the law, but when you learn about Richard’s history – will you still feel the same way?  


Richard Huckle was born on the 1st of April 1986 to a middle-class family in Ashford Kent, England. He had a stable childhood with both of his parents giving him care, love, and encouragement. He attended Folkestone primary school where he did not appear to have any trouble making new friends. These friends described Richard as a quiet and ordinary boy with no signs of the monster he would become later in life. He was dedicated to his Christian faith and was a regular attendee at his local Baptist church.  

Richard was a bright and intelligent boy who was successful at anything he tried his hand at. He went on to become one of the only students from his school to score a place at the prestigious Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone. However, after his transition into secondary school, Richard’s life took a surprising turn. Where he was once enthusiastic and ambitious, he became withdrawn and disinterested in his studies. He struggled to make friends and his quiet nature led others to describe him as a loner. As the months went by Richard became the target of bullies who made fun of him for many things including his appearance. They particularly enjoyed referring to him as a “rat.”  

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At the age of sixteen, Richard was given the opportunity to visit a school in Namibia for a month. He seemed to enjoy the trip and his parents hoped it would help him to form some stronger friendships. While it didn’t have the intended effect Richard came home with a newfound passion for international travel. When he returned from the trip to Namibia, he completed his GCSE exams with positive grades and began studying for his A levels. 

On Richard’s 17th birthday his parents gifted him a brand-new camera. He had begun to show an interest in photography, and they hoped a new hobby would help to increase his confidence. Richard took to photography right away and the camera went with him everywhere, so much so, that he became known as “the boy with the camera.” It was at around this time that Richard began to demonstrate some strange behaviours. As a teenager his attendance at church had dropped off. For many teens who are trying to understand themselves and find their way in the world this withdrawal wasn’t so unusual. But Richard’s pastor noticed how he would only visit the church when they were having events related to children. He would often be asked to take photographs of religious events such as baptism which he would gladly agree to do for free. At the time, this behaviour was considered innocent enough, but with later revelations about the man behind the lens, his true intentions would come to light. The camera which had been gifted to Richard to express his creativity, was about to become a weapon he used to fulfill his sick desires.  

As he moved through his teenage years, Richard progressively struggled with school. He was uncertain about his future and what he wanted to do with is life. Once again, a fairly typical teenage experience. Richard changed jobs frequently – from working at local supermarkets to mobile factories as he tried to figure out which direction to head towards. On his social media accounts, he would share this dilemma with posts like “hope god guides me along the right route.”  

It was around this time that Richard decided once and for all that his true calling was photography. He dropped out of school before completing his A levels and signed up for a course in IT and photography at South Kent College.   

He reassured his parents that after the course he would enrol in further education at university but first he wanted to take a gap year to travel. Between 2005 to 2006 Richard was a member of an organization called “World Challenge” which organized international volunteer missions which were mainly focused on animal conservation. With his eagerness to travel, Richard and his parents agreed that it would be a wonderful way to see the world whilst doing something good. For his first mission, Richard was chosen to travel to Malaysia. He took part in some of the animal conservation programs that were being run there but he quickly realized that it wasn’t to his liking. He didn’t want to give up on the opportunity completely, he just wanted to change his focus from animals to people. He took it upon himself to visit the World Challenge head office in Malaysia and asked for other opportunities in Malaysia. He suggested that he could offer services like teaching English and taking photographs in local orphanages or schools. 

Whilst there was an opening available as soon as he requested it, the placement didn’t go ahead so Richard continued to work at the animal conservation programs while he awaited a school assignment. Before long, he was advised there was an opening for an assistant English teacher at a local school. He was sent to the school along with another World Challenge member named Sammy. The pair shared an apartment while they taught at the school together.  

Sammy recalled that Richard as a nervous character. Despite having requested the placement personally, Richard seemed very withdrawn and reserved rather than excited and enthusiastic. He would barely talk to the adults, let alone the children. Sammy remembered that Richard avoided eye contact and would only speak when spoken to. But despite his quirkiness, he did a decent job of teaching English and there were no concerns with his behaviour while at the school, so everyone put it down to Richard having a quirky personality.  

But behind closed doors, Richard was far from the quiet and humble person he presented himself as.  

Throughout his placement, Richard was regularly posting on his personal blog where would write insulting commentary on the other British gap year students, members of the school including the children, and even the organization itself. When his superiors were made aware of the posts, Richard was immediately removed from the school. But instead of World Challenge ending their relationship with Richard, they simply moved him to a different location.  

This is when everything changed for Richard.  

In October 2005, he was assigned as a Sunday school teacher to the community of a congregation named “Praise church”. The position gave Richard access to many children, often without any other adults around. At this new location, he was the only World Challenge member and most importantly, the only foreigner. 

This marked the beginning of Richard’s sexual abuse towards children. The Sunday school would later be referred to as Richard’s “hunting ground.” 

When he started his new job at Praise church, Richard decided that rather than post about his experiences on his blog, he would keep a journal. In the journal he wrote detailed descriptions of his paedophilic acts against the students. One of the very first entries reads “I had some of the children sit down with me for a cuddle. We took out the mattress and had a relax session.” 

It wasn’t long before Richard was in hot water again but unfortunately it wasn’t because of his ongoing sexual abuse against the children in his care. Rather, a parent had complained that he was hitting the children. This time the World Challenge organization took the accusations seriously and ultimately Richard was fired both from Praise Church and the World Challenge organization itself. But in a troublesome twist, just a week after Richard was fired, Praise Church themselves hired Richard privately and he was once again given unmitigated access to the vulnerable children living in the community.  

While working at the church, Richard grew particularly fond of a 3-year-old girl. This young victim would become an object of his sick fantasies for many years. He raped and abused her repeatedly and he made sure to film every vile act using the camera he had been gifted. Later, he would force the child to sit and watch the videos he had made of her own abuse. Devastatingly, the little girl told her parents what was happening to her but just as Richard had thought would happen, no one believed her.  

In his journal he wrote “I’d hit the jackpot, a 3-year-old girl as loyal to me as my dog and nobody seems to care.” “The three yo I can have so much sex with that it’s just so boring. Well, at least she is now ready for business with peado funding.”  

You will soon begin to understand that there was a pattern to Richard’s targets. They were not merely children who had the misfortune to cross his path randomly. They were specifically selected because they were from vulnerable families. He knew that their parents would trust him because he presented himself as a foreigner who was helping the community out of the goodness of his heart. To them, he was a wealthy and bright British student with many skills to offer. In addition to the quiet and humble mask that he wore, Richard also went out of his way to do things to impress them such as learning the basics of their local languages. This gave him an edge to gaining their trust and many times it even led to him being invited into their homes to share a meal next to a child he was victimising.  

In one such instance, a local family offered to let him stay over at their house in exchange for a small amount of cash. What they didn’t know was that they had just invited a paedophile to live in their house alongside their three children. Their 2-year-old daughter was the first to fall prey to Richard, but he quickly added her four- and six-year-old sisters to his list.  

Despite travelling in and out of the country frequently, Richard would often return to the same places where he was already known and trusted. For this family, he stayed at their house again over the years and continued to victimise their children.  

One of Richard’s other long-term victims was a 7-year-old who he journaled that he wanted to marry. He wrote about how he was toying with the idea of having children with the child and then abusing their children. However, he later went on to write about not being a huge fan of incest.  

After gaining trust and connections at Praise church, Richard moved on to a nearby village in Malaysia. Once again, it was full of poor and disadvantaged families. He advertised himself as a freelancing photographer who wanted to help the community in any way that he could. It wasn’t long before he was given access to his next lot of victims. It would later be reported that a total of thirty-two children ranging from ages 4 to 7 from this one village fell prey to Richard’s abuse. 

It began with him forcing them to pose for pictures in specific poses which would then escalate into inappropriate touching. Some parents raised concerns with the village chiefs, but no action was taken, and Richard continued to abuse the children for almost 9 years during his frequent trips back to the country.  

In 2010, Richard concluded that because of how easy it was for him to find new targets and to get away with committing his crimes in Malaysia he should live there permanently. By then, he had completed a CELTA course offered by the British Council of Malaysia which certifies English language teaching to adults, and he applied for a student visa. He told authorities that he was going to study IT and he advertised himself as a freelance photographer in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Using the CELTA English teaching certificate, he also advertised himself on websites as an English tutor. It was his plan all along to use these qualifications to give him instant legitimacy and access to endless victims. Richard was smart and his plan paid off. He gained access to orphanages, schools and even worked as a private tutor.  

Throughout these years, his trusted camera was never far from his hands, and he began to employ a new tactic to gain trust and access. He would hang around Port Dickson, a coastal area just outside of the capital city which is a popular spot for families to visit or holiday. Richard would take pictures of the children at the beach and present them to their parents as if to prove they could trust him. When they struck up a conversation with him, he would casually mention that he was an English teacher, and he would be more than happy to give the child free English lessons. 

Richard had a specific journal entry depicting one of these exchanges “I am back again at port dickson and staying around the house of my 12th family. I spent time with the baby, trying to get her to sleep in a hammock.”  

During his time living in Malaysia, Richard also made four trips to India where he stuck to his regular technique for finding victims and organised visits to multiple orphanages. His visits to India were not as fruitful as he had hoped, and it was more difficult for him to get the easy access he was used to in Malaysia. For example, in 2013, he was keen on visiting an orphanage called “New Hopes for Children” run by Pastor George Fernandez. Prior to visiting the orphanage, Richard sent many emails to the pastor to plan what he could do for them. In those emails, Richard repeatedly mentioned how he spoke Tamil and therefore could use his photography and video editing skills to make promotional material. Richard was used to people trusting him, but Pastor George was one of the few who got a bad vibe even before they met face to face. He limited Richard’s visit to two days and never allowed him to be alone with any of the children.  

As disturbing as his actions were to so many kids over so many years, the level of depravity Richard reached wasn’t limited to face-to-face abuse. Right back in 2005 when his offending is believed to have begun on that first mission trip to Malaysia, he decided to share his experiences with other paedophiles online. He began uploading the pictures and videos he had taken of his victims to the dark web through a site called The Love Zone. On this site, other paedophiles could pay Richard to access his photo and video collection. The site is shut down now but at the time of its discovery, the website had more than forty-five thousand active members all with the same despicable intentions as Richard. The website gave its users access to millions of videos classified into categories based on what type of abuse a user would like to view. For years, the site’s existence was undetected because of the strict protocols and regulations which it imposed on each user. It required them to upload at least one video per month, or their account would be banned. This meant that law enforcement officers who might be trying to infiltrate the site to catch paedophiles would have to interact and upload new footage to avoid termination of the account they were hiding behind. Uploading videos helped users to get higher rankings and the top-ranked users who were uploading content daily were given extra benefits on the site and became known as producers.  

By October 2010, Project Spade was initiated by the authorities in Canada as a steppingstone to take these websites down. Undercover officers from Toronto police station posed as regular users on another website called www.Azoffilms.com. On this site, users could purchase movies and videos and have them physically shipped to their doorstep. The website used its revenue of more than four million dollars annually to pay people to make more and more videos. They preferred to target children from Eastern European countries like Spain and Romania as well as children in Australia. A total of 386 children aged between 5 and 12 years old were abused in the videos which the website had commissioned.  

Project Spade lured in the users of the site by sharing a child pornography video link on the site. While the user was viewing the video, their IP address was being recorded and shared to the undercover officers. After a 7-month investigation, Toronto police used the trap to arrest a 42-year-old Canadian man named Brian Way. Over the course of the next 3 years, Project Spade aided in finding 348 paedophiles worldwide. Using their connections with law enforcement agencies around the world they were able to identify and arrest these individuals and bring them to justice. One of the convicted men was an Australian man that was an active member of The Love Zone website where Richard promoted his heinous offences against children. Using this person’s logins details the Australian task force known as Argos were able to gain access to the site. Once they had set up their profile, they reviewed pictures which had been posted on the site to identify who was behind the page. They believed the owner was an Australian man, so they set up another trap to entice the man to give away his identity.  

Initially the agents began by focusing on the word “Hiya’s” which is what the person running the site would almost always start his messages with. Even though it was a tiny clue it was all they had to go on. So, they searched common websites for the word and found somebody posting on a four-wheel vehicle forum. The individual was using a similar username to the person they believed was running The Love Zone website. On the forum, the user posted that they were looking for parts for a Delta 4 x 4, and over on Facebook the same person was listed as selling a Volkswagen Amarok vehicle. When the task force contacted this man under the guise of wanting to buy the Volkswagen, he was foolish enough to send a picture of the vehicle complete with its license plate in full view. The license plate identified the owner as Shannon McCoole, a man who was employed by the government to take care of children. In October 2014, Shannon was arrested in Adelaide Australia for owning and operating The Love Zone website. He was initially sentenced to 35 years in prison, but his term was reduced to 26 years after he assisted the police in tracking down other fellow paedophiles from his site.  

Over the next few years, officers continued to use The Love Zone to track down users who were ranked as producers. This is how they came to find the profile of none other than Richard Huckle himself. But Richard wasn’t as reckless as Shannon. He ensured that he didn’t provide any more detail on the site than he absolutely needed to ensure he never got caught. He blurred faces and backgrounds and even erased metadata from the pictures and videos. Officers using the site to track down paedophiles had managed to narrow down his location to Malaysia, but they had nothing else to go on. They were relying on Richard to slip up so they could identify him and put an end to his horrendous actions.  

Luckily for them, Richard made one fatal mistake.   

Richard hadn’t removed the make and model of his camera from the metadata. The agents spent hours and hours going through websites such as Flickr to look at legal pictures of children from southeast Asia and matching them against the same make and model of camera the user from The Love Zone was producing his pornographic material on. During this part of the investigation, they came across Richard’s email address. This email was linked to multiple accounts on various sites including on the Love Zone as well as the Facebook page linked to Richard’s studio which he called Huckole Photography Production. On his company page, Richard posted pictures of many children clothed and unharmed. Many of these children would later be identified as his victims. Despite the Australian task force identifying Richard and handing over his information to the UK authorities, Malaysian Law Enforcement claimed that there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him, and he was able to go on abusing children.  

But UK authorities weren’t so lenient. They put a flag against his name and waited for him to return to the UK. On December the 19th 2014, Richard arrived in the UK for the Christmas holidays. But before he set foot in the country, he was arrested at London’s Gatwick airport.  

However, the investigation hit a roadblock when Richard denied any illegal activities and refused to disclose the passwords for any of his devices. With no prior criminal background, he was released on bail under the condition that he resided at his parent’s house. 

During this stay, his mother questioned him about the arrest. She begged her son to come clean, but he continued to deny any involvement. But one night when he got drunk, he admitted to his mother that he had raped and abused many children ranging in age from ages 6 months old to 13 years old. After his revelation, Richard’s parents called law enforcement and begged them to take him away. They simply couldn’t look their own child in the eyes without thinking of all the children he had harmed.  

Richard was re-arrested, and the initial hearing was set for January 2016 at the Old Bailey court. The prosecution was unique in that it was conducted across three separate trials. The prosecution believed that the evidence of what Richard had done was so traumatic and damaging that no juror should have to view its entirety for the sake of their own wellbeing. In fact, each juror was assigned a personal counsellor who attend the trials alongside their patient.  

Richard initially pleaded not guilty to all ninety-one counts brought against him but in April 2016, during the preliminary hearing, he changed his plea to guilty for seventy-one of the ninety-one counts. This was because of the overwhelming and graphic evidence which was presented against him. The remaining twenty counts were put aside as the court felt it was unnecessary to put the jury through more horror and his guilty pleas would be enough to grant a life sentence.  

Data specialists were able to recover more than 20,000 videos and pictures of Richard’s crimes though investigators believe this was only a fraction of what he possessed. The files depicted horrific and graphic images of him sexually abusing twenty-three boys and girls. Twenty-two of the victims were from Malaysia and one child was from Cambodia. Richard was also charged with advertising child pornography and facilitating sex offenses by writing a paedophile manual titled “Pedophiles and Poverty: Child Lover Guide” which he sold through The Love Zone. This book was sixty pages long with intricate details on how to achieve a paedophile’s desires including the many strategies he used to trick parents into trusting him. He wrote about learning Tamil, offering free services, picking families with siblings, and most importantly how he targeted poor communities with uneducated adults. Richard even mentioned how he would take children out for their birthdays as their parents didn’t have the means to provide parties for their kids. As if things couldn’t be any worse, in November 2013, Richard had established a ranking system for his abuse which called the “pedo points chart”. It consisted of fifteen categories with different points for each category and the highest points of fifteen were granted for rape. In just one year after setting up his ranking system he accumulated 1305 points. By using the detailed journal entries that Richard had written, police assume that he was responsible for the abuse of more than two hundred children, many of whom may never be identified. However, they could only charge him based on the videos they had access to as he refused to reveal the passwords of his phone, laptop, hard drive, and dark web logins.  

Richard Huckle’s sentencing began in June 2016. Although it was widely predicted that he would be sentenced to life in prison, the defence presented several claims for a shorter sentence. They blamed Richard’s actions on his immaturity and youthful age, and his lack of sexual relationships with women. A psychiatric report determined that Richard suffered from depression during his teen years due to bullying. It also commented how his lack of encounters with women affected his self-esteem. Despite Richard’s attempts to gain sympathy and provide an excuse for his despicable actions, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on 22 counts with a minimum prison term of 25 years before being eligible to apply for parole. 

At age 30, he walked into prison in Full Sutton in East Yorkshire to begin his sentence.  

Serving his time at the same prison as Richard was 30-year-old Paul Fitzgerald. Paul was imprisoned for his own sexual crimes and therefore the two men were placed in the delta wing which is designed specifically for inmates who commit sex offenses.   

Paul’s early life was vastly different to Richard’s, but their crimes followed a disturbingly similar pattern. However, Paul showed far less ability to avoid detection and by the time the two crossed paths, Paul had already been convicted of multiple sex offences. Whereas Richard started offending when he was in his late teens, Paul committed his first sex offense at the age of twelve when he sexually attacked a 4-year-old girl. He was convicted of this crime at the age of thirteen. But due to his age, social services moved him to Wales and to aid in the fresh start they provided him with a new identity. But just two years after the move, when he was 15 years old, Paul attacked another woman. He was then sent to a juvenile hostel in West Yorkshire. A year later when he was sixteen, he was charged with battery after attacking another woman. 

It seemed there was no stopping Paul and in 2009 when he was eighteen, he assaulted a 50-year-old woman who was walking her dog. He held her against her will by pointing a fork to her face and threatening her unless she did exactly as he told her. Thankfully, she was able to escape, and Paul was arrested and convicted of false imprisonment with the intent to commit a sexual act.  

While their crimes appear to be different in nature, there is one unusual commonality which ties them together. Just like Richard, Paul also kept a journal where he wrote a detailed record of his crimes and thoughts. As disturbing as Richards’s journal was, Paul also made some disgusting comments regarding his deepest darkest desires. He wrote how he wanted to anally rape women and about the molestation of a 4-year-old boy along with other paedophilic urges. During his remand, he underwent psychiatric evaluation where he revealed another fantasy of his was to kill and eat people. The journal and psychiatric evaluations sealed his fate as Paul was sentenced to indefinite prison time.  

But imprisonment didn’t stop Paul’s propensity for violence. Not long after beginning his sentence he restrained a female officer and threatened to stab her if she didn’t hand over her keys. Thankfully, she was able to escape. Then in 2019, Paul decided he wanted to kill several of his fellow inmates.  

And his first target would be none other than Richard Huckle. On October the 13th Paul gathered the equipment he needed and made his way into Richard’s cell – number 43. He was able to subdue Richard and using cable ties, Paul tied Richard’s wrists and legs, gagged him, and proceeded to bash his head against the floor which caused his jaw to break. When he was done beating the man, he anally raped Richard and forced the handle of a spoon through his anus perforating his insides. Paul continued to beat him and cut him with a self-made blade. To round off his attack, he forced a pen with a blade at the end of it up Richard’s nose and into his brain before strangling Richard with an electrical cable sheath. It was reported that the attack went on for more than 80 minutes before prison guards finally found Paul surrounded by a pool of blood, straddling the bloodied and dead body of Richard Huckle.  

Paul Fitzgerald was convicted and found guilty of the murder of Richard Huckle in November 2020. It took the jury just one hour to deliberate the verdict and he was sentenced to serve a minimum of 34 years before he can apply for parole. Paul showed no remorse for the murder and in fact, he admitted how he was planning to kill more than one inmate but got carried away with Richard as he was “having too much fun.” Paul also revealed that after he was done, he wanted to cook and eat Richard’s body. He was later diagnosed with a multiple personality disorder and a gender identity disorder after he claimed he also had a female identity named “Kiara.” In his sentencing remarks the judge commented “You are a psychopath and derive pleasure from imagining torturing, raping, killing, and even eating others.” 

While both Paul and Richard’s stories are remarkably disturbing there is some justice in the knowledge that at least one of them will never be free to irreversibly harm more innocent children. As for Paul, he will be over 65 years of age before he is able to apply for parole and given his actions in prison it seems unlikely that it would be granted the first time if at all.  


As members of a civilised society, we expect the criminal justice system to provide just that – justice. And as taboo as it may sound, there is a small part of us which feels like maybe Richard’s murder was somewhat justified. I doubt there is even one parent of his many victims who hasn’t thought of what they would do to Richard if they had the chance. That’s not condoning Paul’s actions but maybe acknowledging that there are some crime’s which are so despicable that even the best of us agree that maybe the justice system isn’t quite just enough.