A FORMER high-ranking army officer from Hampshire who paid thousands of pounds to watch live streamed child sex abuse on the internet has been jailed.

Andrew Whiddett, a former lieutenant colonel in the British Army, watched Filipino children as young as nine being abused in real-time via Skype.

The 70-year-old has today been jailed for 38 months for the offences, described as "sickening and heinous" by those behind the investigation.

Whiddett, who was also once head of security for the British Embassy in Iraq, was said to have made 31 payments totalling £3,315 to a woman in Manilla, in the Philippines, between January 2015 and January 2016.

NCA investigators were able to show that on 21 November 2015, Whiddett paid £31.41 to watch a nine-year-old girl abused.

In conversations with one woman between September and October 2016, Whiddett made it clear he wanted to sexually abuse a child when he visited the Philippines that October.

Travel records show he flew to Manila, Philippines, in October 2016.

National Crime Agency investigators were able to prove that a further 18 payments were made to her totalling £2,158 between April 2016 and July 2017.

The NCA passed intelligence to Filipino counterparts who arrested one facilitator and safeguarded six children aged between three and 14.

Officers discovered other messages between Whiddett and abuse facilitators.

In one he said “nice pics” and another states “do you think I bad asking for them”.

He also asked: “If I visit would you let me see daughter?” and “If I visit what you allow me to do?”.

Whiddett paid a total of £158 for 11 indecent images.

Whiddett, who has no previous convictions, was arrested on 31 October 2017 at Heathrow Airport.

In interview he admitted sending 158 payments to the Philippines, but claimed they were for live adult sex shows.

Whiddett, from Portsmouth, was interviewed again in March 2018 and declined to answer any questions.

He admitted six charges at Croydon Crown Court and was jailed today.

They include inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, facilitating the commission of a child sex offence and three counts of making indecent photographs of a child.

National Crime Agency senior investigating officer Gary Fennelly said: “Andrew Whiddett admitted live-streaming offences and making 11 indecent images of children.

“He believed he could carry out those sickening offences from the comfort of his own home and get away with it.

“He was directly responsible for the most heinous abuse of children thousands of miles away from him.

“Live-streaming sex crimes exploits the vulnerable; he was helped in this case by facilitators whose motive is to make money.

“Live-streaming is a key threat to the UK, and one of the main forms of financially-driven offending, for which the Philippines remains a key hub.

“The NCA does important work with international law enforcement partners in the Philippines to combat these sorts of crimes.

“Anyone like Whiddett should realise that the NCA and UK police will never give up our pursuit of offenders who commit these horrific crimes.”

Whiddett, who after leaving the Army was employed as a private contractor as head of security at the British Embassy in Baghdad, committed his offending after he retired from the Army and private security work.