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LYON, France - Interpol on Tuesday urged investigators to share evidence in child pornography cases after Dutch police identified an offender thanks to a stuffed bunny in an image seized in the United States.
The global policing body said the identification of the bunny as Miffy -- a familiar character in a series of Dutch children's books -- helped police to track down a multiple offender and led to nearly 40 arrests worldwide.
The decision by US authorities to add the images to Interpol's database "resulted in global consequences, putting these child rapists behind bars and rescuing the victims from future sexual abuse," Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said in a statement.
The picture of the toy, taken from images showing abuse of an 18-month-old, was spotted by Dutch police only days after it was included in the database.
The toy and other elements from the images were broadcast in a television appeal for information, leading to the arrest and subsequent conviction of Robert Mikelsons, a 28-year-old Dutch citizen.
Mikelsons was sentenced to 18 years in prison in May for sexually assaulting 67 young children while working in nurseries and at babysitting jobs in Amsterdam, as well as for making and distributing child pornography.
Police identified some 1,100 of his Internet contacts, sparking a crackdown that led to arrests around the world, including in the United States, The Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Britain.
"This is a classic example of what can be accomplished when law enforcement consult international databases," Noble said.
Interpol, based in Lyon, France, manages the International Child Sexual Exploitation database, which includes images related to nearly 2,500 victims of child sexual abuse in 41 countries.
As well as being available to investigators, the database uses image comparison software to find possible connections between victims and locations.