British detectives said on Monday an investigation into Internet child pornography had uncovered a woman in the United States suspected of using a webcam to broadcast live sexual abuse of her young child.

British police launched the investigation last Thursday when officers arrested an 18-year-old man in central England, who was later charged with possessing and distributing abusive images of children.

The following day, detectives contacted Britain's Child Exploitation Online Protection agency and the U.S. Embassy, leading to the arrest of the woman in Maine.

West Midlands Police said the woman's four children, aged between 18 months and five years, had been taken into protective custody and she had been charged with gross sexual assault and was being held on a $20,000 bail.

Our officers worked through the night on Thursday and Friday to ensure the identification and safety of these children across the other side of the world, said Detective Chief Inspector Dave McCrone of West Midlands Police.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alison Williams)