ESSEX Police has mounted 231 investigations into online images of child sexual abuse in the last year.

The figures, released by the NSPCC, show just how many predatory paedophiles are using the internet.

Det Sgt John Woodley is one of a team of 20 officers on the Police Online Investigation Team who have been tracking the culprits down.

He said: “If you go back three years ago most of the indecent images we were coming across were children from outside the UK, eastern European children whose families would offer to have photographs taken for financial reasons, now what’s happening increasingly is it tends to be UK children going online.

“They talk to people they don’t know and are being encouraged to take their clothes off.”

Since the team was set up in 2009 they have convicted - or cautioned - 195 offenders, with more investigations still ongoing.

They also work to educate children and their parents about using the internet safely.

He finds many children avoid telling their parents about what they see online for fear of being barred from social networking sites.

He said: “I want to get parents to engage with us, listen to us, and change their prespective on stranger danger.”