US ringleader charged in global monkey torture case

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File image of Michael Macartney at his home in Virginia. He stands in front of a wall decked out with various flagsImage source, Joel Gunter/BBC

A ringleader in a global monkey torture network exposed by the BBC has been charged by US federal prosecutors.

Michael Macartney, 50, who went by the alias “Torture King”, was charged in Virginia with conspiracy to create and distribute animal-crushing videos.

Mr Macartney was one of three key distributors identified by the BBC Eye team during a year-long investigation into sadistic monkey torture groups.

Two women have also been charged in the UK following the investigation.

Warning: This article contains disturbing content

Mr Macartney, a former motorcycle gang member who previously spent time in prison, ran several chat groups for monkey torture enthusiasts from around the world on the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

The groups were used to share ideas for custom-made torture videos, such as setting live monkeys on fire, injuring them with tools and even putting one in a blender.

The ideas were then sent, along with payments, to video-makers in Indonesia who carried them out, sometimes killing the baby long-tailed macaque monkeys in the process.

According to charging documents, Mr Macartney, who lives in the US state of Virginia, is accused by prosecutors of collecting funds from his chat groups and distributing videos depicting the “torture, murder, and sexually sadistic mutilation of animals, specifically juvenile and adult monkeys”.

Mr Macartney has cooperated with investigators from the Department of Homeland Security and agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges. He will formally make a plea later this month and is facing up to five years in prison.

Speaking to the BBC Eye investigations team last year, Mr Macartney confessed to his role in the torture network, describing himself as the “king of this demented world”.

“I was the man,” he said. “You want to see monkeys get messed up? I could bring it to you.”

Mr Macartney also described the moment he joined his first Telegram monkey group.

“They had a poll set up,” he said. “Do you want a hammer involved? Do you want pliers involved? Do you want a screwdriver?”

The resulting videos were “the most grotesque thing I have ever seen”, Mr Macartney said, and yet he went on to become a key player in the monkey torture groups.

The BBC understands that more charges are expected to follow soon for other key players in the monkey torture network. At least 20 people were placed under investigation last year globally, following the BBC’s investigation.

Three participants have already been charged in the US, including Mr Macartney. Two torturers were arrested and jailed in Indonesia, and three women have been arrested in the UK, two of whom have been charged.

Holly LeGresley, 37, of Kidderminster and Adriana Orme, 55, of Upton-upon Severn were charged last month with publishing an obscene article and causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

Ms LeGresley and Ms Orme were high-profile members of the online torture groups. Ms LeGresley, who went by the screen name “The Immolator”, was a moderator in a group run by Mr Macartney and was involved in commissioning some of the most extreme videos.

In the US, two others have been charged with the same counts as Mr Macartney.

David Christopher Noble, 48, a former US Air Force officer who was previously court-martialed and dismissed from the military, and Nicole Devilbiss, 35. They are both facing up to five years in prison.

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