IBNS: The Australian Federal Police (AFP) on Monday said its investigation has led to a former childcare worker being charged with 1623 child abuse offences against 91 children – including 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 Gold Coast man, 45, has been in custody in Queensland since August 2022 when the AFP arrested and charged him initially with two counts of making child exploitation material and one count of using a carriage service for child pornography material.
The case is scheduled for a mention in Brisbane Magistrates Court on 21 August, 2023.
After the man was charged last year, the AFP will allege further self-produced child abuse material was identified on electronic devices allegedly owned by the man. The AFP launched Operation Tenterfield immediately after arresting the man on 21 August last year.
Operation Tenterfield has in part focussed on identifying the children in the alleged child abuse material recorded at childcare centres in Queensland (10) and NSW (one), and an early learning centre attached to a school overseas.
The AFP alleges the man recorded his offending on phones and cameras while working in 10 childcare centres in Brisbane between 2007 to 2013, and 2018 to 2022; an overseas location in 2013 and 2014; and one centre in Sydney between 2014 and 2017. All the children allegedly offended against were pre-pubescent girls. The man worked at other childcare centres but the AFP is highly-confident the man did not allegedly offend at those centres.
The AFP is also highly-confident that all 87 Australian children who were recorded in the alleged child abuse material have been identified. The AFP believes the man recorded all his alleged offending.
The parents of all 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 over 18 years and have been informed. Support services have been offered and continue to be provided.
The AFP is working with international authorities to help identify four children recorded in alleged child abuse material created overseas.
The AFP Queensland Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET) and victim identification specialists from the AFP and Queensland Police Service (QPS) have been working tirelessly since the man’s arrest last year to identify all children in the alleged child abuse material.
In November, 2022, the AFP provided evidence to NSW Police Force (NSWPF) to enable an investigation for the alleged offending in NSW. NSWPF launched Strike Force Boorong to investigate alleged offending in Sydney. With the assistance of the AFP, NSWPF notified families and individuals identified under Operation Tenterfield.
Operation Tenterfield with the assistance of Strike Force Boorong has undertaken detailed forensic investigations of more than 4000 images and videos containing alleged child abuse material, which was allegedly created by the man.
In July, 2023, the AFP laid further charges against the man (on top of the three original charges) for the alleged offending against 64 children in Queensland and four children overseas.
Those charges include:
136 counts of rape contrary to section 349 of the Criminal Code 1899 (QLD), which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment;
604 counts of indecent treatment of a child under 16 contrary to section 210 of the Criminal Code 1899 (QLD), which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment;
613 counts of making child exploitation material, contrary to section 228B of the Criminal Code 1899 (QLD), which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment;
83 counts of possessing, controlling, producing, distributing or obtaining child pornography material outside Australia, contrary to section 273.5 of the Criminal Code (Cth), which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment;
One count of possessing, controlling, distributing or obtaining child pornography material contrary to section 474.19 of the Criminal Code (Cth), which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment; and
Six counts of possessing child exploitation material, contrary to section 228D of the Criminal Code (QLD), which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.
In June, 2023, NSWPF laid charges for alleged offending against 23 children in NSW. Charges include:
68 counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10 contrary to section 66A(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment;
42 counts of aggravated sexual intercourse with a child under 10 under authority contrary to section 66A(2) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment;
69 counts of aggravated indecent assault contrary to section 61M(2) of Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment; and
One count of producing child abuse material contrary to section 91H(2) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
NSWPF has issued a first instance warrant for the man’s future extradition.
Operation Tenterfield has been complex and has involved highly-skilled victim identification specialists. Up to 35 AFP members have been involved in the investigation since August 2022.
The AFP thanks QPS and NSWPF for dedicating resources to the investigation.
The genesis of Operation Tenterfield is linked to QPS locating alleged child abuse images and videos on the dark web in 2014.
QPS posted them on an international victim identification database, seeking assistance from the global victim-identification community.
The AFP and other agencies examined the 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.
Following inquiries with the childcare centre, the AFP executed a search warrant on 20 August, 2022, in Brisbane, and arrested the man in Brisbane’s southwestern suburbs. He was charged with making and distributing child abuse material that was allegedly posted on the dark web.
In the next 48 hours, the AFP executed two further search warrants including at the man’s Gold Coast home and seized electronic devices allegedly containing child abuse material created by the man.
In September 2022, the AFP coordinated a joint-agency taskforce with QPS at the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) to review nearly 4000 seized images and videos the man had allegedly created.
Victim identification specialists helped identify 91 children who had allegedly been offended against by the man.
The childcare centres will not be named to help protect the identity of alleged victims.
AFP Northern Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough said the AFP and other agencies were providing ongoing support to parents and children.
“The AFP, working with support services, has ensured parents and carers have received as much information as possible as this investigation continues,” Assistant Commissioner Gough said.
“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.
“The AFP is highly-confident that all the Australian children who were recorded in the alleged child abuse material have been identified.
“The AFP and our partners never gave up trying to identify the alleged offender and the children in the alleged abuse material.
“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.
“While I am extremely proud of law enforcements’ persistence and their unwavering dedication to identify this alleged offender, and stop further abuse, this is chilling news.
“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 that we never gave up, and we never will when it comes to protecting children.
“This is a distressing time for families, carers and the community broadly.
“We know this type of news can re-traumatise survivors of sexual abuse, and, please, I urge those survivors to seek support, or talk to a trusted network, if today’s news has caused distress.”
Queensland Police Service Acting Assistant Commissioner Col Briggs said this outcome was the culmination of years of dedicated and complex investigation across jurisdictions.
“From the moment Argos located images of victim children being shared on the dark web in 2014 an extensive examination was launched to identify the children in the pictures,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Briggs said.
“The challenges posed by an investigation of this type were significant and officers never gave up on identifying this alleged offender, reminding themselves that everything you do online leaves a trace.
“In recent years investigators engaged the support of a joint-agency Victim Identification Taskforce at the ACCCE, with several agencies working together to ensure the victims and their families were located.
“These allegations are horrific and confronting, but I commend all investigators from each jurisdiction in their relentless efforts to ensure that our community is made safer as a result of the arrest of the alleged perpetrator.
Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald from the NSWPF State Crime Command confirmed the man would also be facing child sex abuse related charges in NSW.
“Today we announce that the NSW Police Force have issued a warrant for this man’s arrest in our home state, where he faces 180 child sex abuse charges against 23 victims aged one to five,” Assistant Commissioner Fitzgerald said.
“Once this man faces the AFP charges in Queensland, we will be seeking to extradite him to Sydney to face the full force of the law in New South Wales.
“This is one of the most horrific cases of alleged child abuse our detectives have seen, and we will continue to relentlessly pursue this matter on behalf of the 23 victims of NSW, who remain our number one priority.
“Alongside our partner agencies, we are absolutely committed to prosecuting anyone who goes after our community’s most vulnerable.”