Posted Tue 1 Aug 2023 at 11:06amTuesday 1 Aug 2023 at 11:06am, updated Thu 3 Aug 2023 at 10:14amThursday 3 Aug 2023 at 10:14am
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A former childcare worker has been charged with 1,623 child abuse offences against 91 children, police have revealed.
- The AFP says the offences occurred at childcare centres in Brisbane, Sydney and overseas
- Police will allege all offences were against pre-pubescent girls
- The AFP is “highly confident” all 87 Australian children involved have been identified
A Gold Coast man, 45, has been charged with 136 counts of rape and 110 counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10.
An investigation involving the Australian Federal Police (AFP) as well as Queensland and New South Wales police led to the arrest of the man for offences committed in Brisbane, Sydney and overseas between 2007 and 2022.
He has been in custody in Queensland since August 2022 when the AFP arrested and charged him with two counts of making child exploitation material and one count of using a carriage service for child abuse material.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough said the man recorded all offences on his phone and cameras and authorities are “highly confident” all children recorded in Australia have been identified.
“The process of identification took time, skill and determination,” she said.
Assistant Commissioner Gough said a search warrant was executed at a Brisbane childcare centre on August 20 last year and the man was arrested the next day.
Police seized devices at the man’s Gold Coast home that contained a large amount of child abuse material.
Assistant Commissioner Gough said the details of investigation Operation Tenterfield would be “deeply distressing” for the community.
“I am cognisant investigations like these can be re-traumatising for survivors of sexual abuse and loved ones,” she said.
The AFP alleges the abuse occurred at 10 childcare centres in Brisbane between 2007 and 2013 and also between 2018 to 2022, at an overseas location between 2013 and 2014, and at one centre in Sydney between 2014 and 2017.
Assistant Commissioner Gough said the AFP alleges that all the children offended against were pre-pubescent girls.
“We allege the 45-year-old man from the Gold Coast recorded all his alleged offending on his phone and cameras. The AFP is highly confident that all 87 Australian children who were recorded in the alleged child abuse material have been identified.
“The Australian children recorded in the alleged child abuse material have been informed of the investigation. Some of the individuals identified in the alleged child abuse material are now aged 18 years and have been informed.”
The AFP is working with an overseas law enforcement jurisdiction to determine the identity of four children who were allegedly offended against at an overseas location, Assistant Commissioner Gough said.
Within hours of the man’s initial arrest last year, further alleged child abuse material was identified on the man’s electronic devices, she said.
Children identified from thousands of images
The operation focused in part on identifying the children in the alleged child abuse material.
“In September 2022, the AFP coordinated a joint agency task force with the Queensland Police Service at the AFP led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation to review nearly 4,000 images and videos the man had allegedly created,” she said.
“The man worked at other childcare centres but the AFP is highly confident the man did not allegedly offend at those centres.
“Law enforcement has been working very closely with all the relevant childcare centres for the past year, and we thank them for their cooperation.”
Assistant Commissioner Gough said up to 35 members had been involved in Operation Tenterfield since August 2022. She said the operation was “complex” and required “highly skilled victim identification specialists”.
The operation commenced after the Queensland Police Service located alleged child abuse images and videos on the dark web in 2014.
Queensland police posted them on an international victim identification database seeking assistance from the global victim identification community.
Assistant Commissioner Gough described the alleged offending over 15 years as “chilling news”.
Sexual assault support services:
- Queensland Sexual Assault Helpline Queensland: 1800 010 120
- 1800RESPECT national helpline: 1800 737 732
- Sexual Assault Counselling Australia: 1800 211 028
- Bravehearts (support for child sexual abuse survivors): 1800 272 831
- Centre Against Sexual Violence: (07) 3808 3299
- MARS Australia (for men affected by rape and sexual abuse): (07) 3857 1222
She said the AFP and other agencies examined about 4,000 images, but they contained few distinguishable clues for investigators to follow.
“But in August 2022, 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,” Assistant Commissioner Gough said.
“Following inquiries with the childcare centre, the AFP executed a search warrant on the 20th of August 2022 in Brisbane, and arrested the man in Brisbane’s south-western suburbs about 1am on the 21st of August.
“He was charged with making and distributing child abuse material that was allegedly posted on the dark web.”
The AFP then searched the man’s Gold Coast home and seized electronic devices allegedly containing child abuse material created by the man.
“Given there was so many alleged images and videos of children that were recorded over 15 years … on the alleged offenders devices, the process of identification took time, skill and determination.
“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.”
NSW Police will seek the alleged offender’s extradition to NSW in relation to 180 charges of child sexual abuse against 23 children.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald said those charges carried life imprisonment.
“Once this man faces the AFP charges here in Queensland, we will be seeking his extradition back to New South Wales.”
The man’s case is scheduled for a mention in Brisbane Magistrates Court on August 21.
Posted 1 Aug 20231 Aug 2023, updated 3 Aug 2023