An AFP investigation has led to a former childcare worker being charged with 1,623 offenses of mistreating 91 children – including 136 counts of rape and 110 counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10 – in Brisbane, Sydney and abroad between 2007 and 2022.
The Gold Coast man, 45, has been in custody in Queensland since August 2022, when the AFP arrested him and initially charged him with two counts of producing child exploitation material and of one count of using a service to transport child pornography.
The matter is expected to be mentioned in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on August 21, 2023.
After the man was charged last year, the AFP will claim further self-produced child abuse material was identified on electronic devices believed to belong to the man. The AFP launched Operation Tenterfield immediately after the man’s arrest on August 21.
Operation Tenterfield focused in part on identifying children in alleged child abuse documents recorded at childcare centers in Queensland (10) and NSW (one), as well as an early learning center attached to a school abroad.
The AFP says the man recorded his offenses with phones and cameras while working at 10 childcare centers in Brisbane between 2007 and 2013 and between 2018 and 2022; an establishment abroad in 2013 and 2014; and a center in Sydney between 2014 and 2017. All of the children allegedly offended were prepubescent girls. The man worked in other crèches, but the AFP is convinced that he would not have committed an offense in these crèches.
The AFP is also 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 of his alleged offences.
The parents of all Australian children mentioned in the alleged child abuse material have been informed of the investigation. Some of the people identified in the alleged child abuse material are now over the age of 18 and have been notified. Support services have been and continue to be provided.
The AFP is working with international authorities to help identify four children mentioned in alleged child pornography materials created abroad.
The AFP’s Joint Queensland Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET) and victim identification specialists from the AFP and Queensland Police Service (QPS) have been working tirelessly since the arrest of the man last year to identify all the children in the alleged child abuse material.
In November 2022, the AFP provided evidence to the New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) to enable an investigation into the alleged offenses in NSW. NSWPF has launched Strike Force Boorong to investigate alleged offenses in Sydney. With the assistance of the AFP, the NSWPF informed families and individuals identified as part of Operation Tenterfield.
Operation Tenterfield, with the assistance of Strike Force Boorong, has undertaken detailed forensic investigations into more than 4,000 images and videos containing suspected child abuse material, believed to be man-made.
In July 2023, the AFP laid further charges against the man (in addition to the original three charges) for the alleged offense against 64 children in Queensland and four children overseas.
These costs include:
In June 2023, the NSWPF filed charges of alleged offenses against 23 children in New South Wales. Fees include:
NSWPF has issued a Magistrate’s Warrant for the future extradition of this man.
Operation Tenterfield was complex and involved highly trained victim identification specialists. Up to 35 members of the AFP 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 relates to QPS locating images and videos of alleged child abuse on the dark web in 2014.
QPS published them on an international victim identification database, seeking help from the global victim identification community.
The AFP and other agencies reviewed the footage, but it contained few distinguishing clues that investigators could follow.
But in August 2022, AFP was able to trace objects identified in the background of alleged images and videos published on the dark web between 2013 and 2014 to a Brisbane nursery.
Following an investigation at the nursery, the AFP executed a search warrant on August 20, 2022 in Brisbane and arrested the man in the southwest suburbs of Brisbane. He was accused of creating and distributing child pornography 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 home on the Gold Coast, and seized electronic devices allegedly containing child pornography material created by the man.
In September 2022, the AFP coordinated a joint task force with QPS from the Australian Center for Combating Child Exploitation (ACCCE) to review almost 4,000 seized images and videos the man allegedly created.
Victim identification specialists helped identify 91 children who were allegedly offended by this man.
The daycares will not be named to help protect the identities of the alleged victims.
AFP Deputy Commissioner for the North Justine Gough said the AFP and other agencies were providing ongoing support to parents and children.
“The AFP, working with support services, have ensured that parents and carers receive as much information as possible while this investigation continues,” Assistant Commissioner Gough said.
“I can assure the Australian public that if you have not been contacted by law enforcement, it is extremely unlikely that your child would have been offended by this man.”
“The AFP is satisfied that all Australian children who were recorded in the alleged child abuse documents have been identified.
“The AFP and our partners have never given up trying to identify the alleged attacker and the children present in the images of alleged abuse.
“Given that there were so many alleged images and videos of children recorded over 15 years on the alleged offender’s devices, the identification process took time, skill and determination.
“While I am extremely proud of law enforcement’s perseverance and unwavering dedication to identifying this alleged offender and stopping further abuse, this is frightening news.
“It is with a heavy heart that the AFP and other law enforcement agencies devote so much time and resources to preventing and taking action against individuals who commit heinous crimes against children.
“I cannot offer much comfort to the parents and children who were identified as part of Operation Tenterfield, but I can tell you that we have never given up and we never will when it comes is about protecting children.
“This is a distressing time for families, caregivers and the community as a whole.
“We know that this type of news can re-traumatize survivors of sexual abuse and, please, I urge these survivors to seek help or speak to a trusted network, if the news d ‘today have caused distress.’
Queensland Police Service Acting Assistant Commissioner Colonel Briggs said this outcome was the culmination of years of dedicated and complex investigations across all jurisdictions.
“From the moment Argos discovered images of child victims being shared on the dark web in 2014, a comprehensive review was launched to identify the children in the images,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Briggs said.
“The challenges posed by an investigation of this type were significant and the police never gave up on identifying the alleged perpetrator, remembering that everything you do online leaves a trace.
“In recent years, investigators have enlisted the support of a Joint Victim Identification Task Force within ACCCE, with multiple agencies working together to ensure victims and their families are located.
“These allegations are horrific and confronting, but I commend all investigators in every jurisdiction in their tireless efforts to ensure our community is made safer with the arrest of the alleged perpetrator.”
NSWPF State Crime Command Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald confirmed the man will also face charges relating to child sexual abuse in NSW.
“Today we are announcing that New South Wales Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of this man in our home state, where he faces 180 charges of child sexual abuse against 23 victims aged between one and five years,” Assistant Commissioner Fitzgerald said.
“Once this man has been charged by the AFP in Queensland, we will seek to extradite him to Sydney to face the full rigor of the law in New South Wales.”
“This is one of the most horrific cases of child abuse our detectives have seen, and we will continue to relentlessly pursue this case on behalf of the 23 NSW victims, who remain our number one priority.”
“Alongside our partner agencies, we are absolutely determined to bring to justice anyone who preys on the most vulnerable people in our community.
The AFP urges all community members needing support to visit the ACCCE website – www.accce.gov.au – for a full list of support services available with contact details.
Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know that abuse is happening at this time or that a child is in danger, call the police immediately on 000.
Research conducted by ACCCE in 2020 found that only around half of parents talk to their children about online safety.
If you or someone you know is affected by child sexual abuse and online exploitation, support services are available at www.accce.gov.au/support.
Advice and support for parents and carers on how they can help protect children online is available at www.thinkuknow.org.au, an AFP-led educational program designed to prevent sexual exploitation children online.