‘Swirl Face’ sentenced, Brian McConaghy remains committed to Cambodian kids

Brian McConaghy created Ratanak International 25 years ago for the good of Cambodian children.

Brian McConaghy created Ratanak International 25 years ago for the good of Cambodian children.

Brian McConaghy played a significant role in the arrest and conviction of Christopher Neil, who was sentenced to five-and-a-half years June 1 in BC Supreme Court after pleading guilty to five child-sex crimes that occurred over a 10-year period in Cambodia, Vancouver and Maple Ridge. Neil, who was nicknamed Swirl Face for the way he obscured his own image in photos, is one of Canada’s most notorious sexual predators.

McConaghy wants Neil to face penal consequences for his actions – but he is even more concerned about the people he has come to know and love in Cambodia through Ratanak International, which he founded 25 years ago. (Ratanak, based in Metro Vancouver, is “a Christian organization that works collaboratively to be a catalyst for transformation in Cambodia through a focus on empowering exploited people and addressing the systems that exploit them.”)
After morning devotions. What was once a scene of destruction is now a home for Christian dorm parents.

After morning devotions. What was once a scene of destruction is now a home for Christian dorm parents.

Joy Kwa, communications manager for Ratanak, recently posted these comments:

Brian’s background as a RCMP Forensics Specialist equipped him to play a key role in this investigation – finding the building where the assaults occurred, forensically processing the crime scene and liaising with the Cambodian police. Additionally, Ratanak staff located a key witness/victim and coordinated RCMP activity in Cambodia.

In 2012 we purchased a building – the very same crime scene building used by Christopher Neil to shatter lives. Owning the building allowed us to freely collect forensic evidence and redeem, even this building, for the blessing of the community. For several years now this building has been used as a home for Cambodian youth at risk and in need of safe accommodation under the care of Christian dorm parents.

Now that the trial [has wound] up we can finally refurbish the crime scene into a building more suited to ministry. It will continue to be a life-giving place of compassion and safety, and a place where God can write new stories.

Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham wrote a good piece about McConaghy, shortly after he took part in Neil’s sentencing hearing. In A Canadian gives hope to Cambodian victims of sex tourists, she said (in part):

McConaghy had expected to feel as if evil had been banished and justice triumphed. But he didn’t.

“All I felt was sadness,” McConaghy said after last month’s sentencing hearing. “There are a lot of lives ruined in Asia as a result of him (Neil). His life is ruined and I often think of his family. … It’s loss, loss, loss.”

That’s why converting the brothel is so important to him. Not only will it give kids a safe place to go, it may also give them hope that change and transformation are possible.

Christopher Neil (Swirl Face) was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail this week.

Christopher Neil (Swirl Face) was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail this week.

Bramham’s article did a good job of putting McConaghy’s work in context, including his role in taking down Canada’s first convicted sex tourist, Donald Bakker. She also wrote a piece on Neil, which provided more a more nuanced view of the man than we usually see: Pedophile Christopher Neil a.k.a. Swirl Face pleads for a chance to change.

Here is a brief portion:

Confessed pedophile, sex tourist and child pornographer Christopher Neil struggled to compose himself before addressing the judge Friday [April 22] at the end of a two-day sentencing hearing.

“I do not believe that sex with a child is acceptable in Thailand or anywhere in the world,” the 41-year-old former teacher from Maple Ridge read from his notes that trembled in his hands. “In fact, I believe the opposite.”

It was the first time Neil has spoken publicly since 2007. That’s when he was dubbed Swirl Face by Interpol in what was then its largest global manhunt. More than 315 images of him with young Asian boys had been found on the Internet.

“I will do everything that I can and it is my full intention to change my life,” Neil told Justice John Harvey. “I know that (Crown prosecutor) Brendan McCabe said, ‘He’s a pedophile. He can’t change.’

“Well, I want to challenge that. I say, yes I can and I will try my best and do everything that I can to not offend again.”

ratanakspaceforhopeA major project for Ratanak now is Space for Hope, a new home for the ministry, which has projects all over Cambodia:

RAP (the Ratanak Achievement Program) is a home for young women in need of care, counseling, job skills and education. Our staff members are there, at every step, to assist them in their journey from exploitation to hope, dignity and freedom. . . .

After 25 years of service to Cambodia, it is time! We are moving from our somewhat nomadic existence to establish our own permanent space, a Space for Hope where we can provide the security, stability and care for these young women so desperately in need. . . .

This Space for Hope will help us increase our reach and empower more Cambodians to be agents of change. It will not just be a building for Ratanak programs, but also a centre of training and excellence for both our staff and the staff of many other organizations. Together, we believe we can change the face of trafficking in real and tangible ways.

This dedicated centre will be the first and only one of its kind in Cambodia, providing space to minister to the exploited while also addressing the systems that exploit them. We are currently working on building plans and anticipate construction of the centre through to 2018.

For more information about Ratanak and its plans go here.

1 comment for “‘Swirl Face’ sentenced, Brian McConaghy remains committed to Cambodian kids

  1. ute carkner
    June 2, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Brian:

    Well done, good and faithful servant. May the heavens open over Cambodia in these next 25 years as they have in the first. We will remember you before the throne this morning as we gather in his Name.

    Know that God goes before you as you and the team fulfill his will on earth as it is in heaven.

    Walk in the age to come,
    Ute

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