A SECRETIVE pair of North-East paedophile hunters will be unmasked in a new documentary to be filmed next year.

Tyneside-based duo Dark Justice have so far caught 40 men in sting operations by posing as underage girls in online chatrooms.

Since they began just over a year ago, 13 men have been before the courts and 10 have been jailed. Others are going through the judicial process.

The worst case they investigated was tree surgeon Paul Middleton, 54, of Stamford, Lincolnshire, who in November was jailed for six years at Lincoln Crown Court. He believed he was talking to a 13-year-old girl, rather than Dark Justice, when he was chatting online and the conversation became sexual.

He admitted a string of offences including making and distributing indecent images of children.

Others who admitted sexual grooming offences after being lured to the Millennium Bridge across the Tyne, where they expected to meet a 14-year-old girl include: Roger Lee, 45, of Basingstoke, who was jailed for two years; John Rudd, 57, of Stockton, jailed for a year; Colin Patterson, 51,of Newcastle, jailed for two years and Barry Scott, 50 of Wallsend, jailed for 12 months.

Last December Nawaz Zada, 24, of Middlesbrough, was given a 16 month suspended prison sentence and ordered to go on a sex offender treatment programme after admitting trying to meet a child following sexual grooming.

Dark Justice's work has won the unemployed pair an army of online supporters, including 38,000 Facebook "likes", and they have appeared on numerous TV programmes and in newspapers.

Up until now, they have kept their identities secret, although close friends and family know about their activities.

But that will change when documentary-makers follow the pair next year and they will lose their anonymity.

One of the group, Callum, originally from Darlington, said: "It will let us build a better relationship with the public.

"People get sceptical if we are still unmasked and we were bound to have someone do it anyway, it is inevitable.

"We might as well do it on our own terms."

Callum said paedophiles were already more "cagey" about their online dealings with them, and they have been asked "Is this Dark Justice?" in chatrooms.

He said: "Sometimes it takes a bit longer to gain their trust, but there's still plenty of people out there to catch and we will catch more."

Callum said losing his anonymity will not make stings, where the paedophile turns up to meet a girl only to be met by two 20-something men with a video camera, more difficult as he explained they will keep well hidden at the rendezvous until the suspect has arrived.

He said: "We are still determined to make the internet a safe place and our focus is child protection and bringing perpetrators to face justice."