The breakthrough that led to childcare worker being charged with abusing 91 girls
WARNING : THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS DETAILS WHICH ARE HIGHLY DISTURBING.
DISCRETION IS ADVISED!
Several baffling questions remain unanswered after a former childcare worker was charged with hundreds of child abuse offences that allegedly involved 91 young girls over a 15-year period.
Australian Federal Police, along with NSW and Queensland counterparts, have revealed chilling details after a former Gold Coast childcare centre worker was charged with 1,623 child abuse offences against pre-pubescent girls.
They include 136 counts of rape and 110 counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10 in Brisbane, Sydney and overseas between 2007 and 2022.
The 45-year-old man has spent the last year in custody after he was initially charged with two counts of making child exploitation material and one count of using a carriage service for child pornography material.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough warned the alleged details would be ‘deeply distressing’ for the community, while NSW Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald described the matter as ‘one of the most horrific child abuse cases he had seen in his 40-year career.
Some questions remain, including why the alleged abuse went unnoticed for so long and where that alleged abuse may have occurred.
It’s also unclear what roles the man held within the childcare centres he worked.
Here is what we know about the case so far.
How many children were allegedly abused
Police allege there were 91 young victims. All were pre-pubescent aged girls- 87 Australian and four overseas. Police are ‘highly confident’ all alleged Australian victims have been identified and have notified their parents.
Some of the individuals identified in the alleged child abuse material are now adults. Support has been and continues to be offered to alleged victims and their families. The AFP is now working with international authorities to identify the four children allegedly abused overseas.
‘I can assure members of the Australian public that if you have not been contacted by law enforcement, it is extremely unlikely your child was allegedly offended against by the man,’ Assistant Commissioner Gough said.
Where did the alleged offences take place?
Police allege the man recorded all of the offences on phones and cameras while working in 10 childcare centres in Brisbane between 2007 to 2013, and 2018 to 2022; an early learning centre attached to a school overseas in 2013 and 2014; and one centre in Sydney between 2014 and 2017.
Police would not comment on the locations of the alleged abuse in order to protect the identities of victims.
How did alleged abuse go unnoticed for so long?
The alleged abuse occurred over a 15 year period between 2007 and 2022. It’s not known why the alleged abuse went unnoticed for so long.
Today’s announcement follows a seven year investigation which started back in 2014 when Queensland Police allegedly located child abuse images and videos on the dark web.
Police posted images on an international victim identification database seeking help however the images contained few distinguishable clues for investigators to follow.
A breakthrough came in August 2022 when the AFP was able to trace objects identified in the background of the alleged images and videos posted on the dark web between 2013 and 2014 to a Brisbane childcare centre.
Following inquiries with the childcare centre, the AFP executed a search warrant on August 20 2022 on a Brisbane home and arrested the man in city’s south-west.
He was charged with making and distributing child abuse material that was allegedly posted on the dark web.
Why has it taken almost a year for police to reveal alleged details?
Several weeks after the man’s arrest, the AFP set up a joint agency task force with Queensland Police at the Australian Centre to Counter Child exploitation to review nearly 4,000 images and videos the man had allegedly made.
NSW Police launched investigation for the alleged offending in NSW in November 2022.
”Given there were so many alleged images and videos of children recorded over 15 years on the alleged offender’s devices, the process of identification took time, skill and determination,’ Assistant Commissioner Gough said.
‘While I am extremely proud of law enforcement’s persistence and their unwavering dedication to identify this alleged offender and stop further abuse, this is chilling news.
‘More broadly, it is with a heavy heart that the AFP and other law enforcement dedicate so much time and resources to prevent and take action against individuals who commit heinous crimes against children.
There is not much solace I can give parents and children who have been identified under Operation Tenterfield but I can tell you we never gave up and we never will when it comes to protecting children.’
What roles did the man have at the childcare centres where he worked?
It remains unclear what roles the man held within the childcare centres where the alleged offences took place.
Assistant Commissioner Gough said the childcare worker had all the correct qualifications and refused to comment further due to the matter currently before the courts.
She added police had not received any reports relating to the man before his arrest.
‘The man worked at other childcare centres but the AFP is highly confident the man did not allegedly offend at those centres,’ she told reporters on Tuesday.
What happens next?
The man has spent the last 12 months behind bars.
The matter is scheduled to be next mentioned in Brisbane Magistrates Court on August 21.
NSW Police has issued a first instance warrant for the man’s future extradition in relation to 180 charges of child sexual abuse involving 23 alleged victims.
The charges carry a life imprisonment.
‘Once this man faces the AFP charges here in Queensland, we will be seeking his extradition back to NSW,’ NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald said.
If you or someone you know needs support, contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.