The 7-year-old girl, kidnapped from Kmart’s toy trail and harassed in bushland, returned to baby talk
Kmart predator Sterling Free lured a little girl from the Kmart toy path and sexually assaulted her in bushland
A seven-year-old girl kidnapped from a Kmart by a stranger who sexually assaulted her in bushland, curled into fetal position and returned to baby talk when police tried to speak to her.
Details of the attack on the girl were revealed in a Queensland Court of Appeal judgment that overturned a sentence that allowed Sterling Mervyn Free to run conditionally in less than two years.
Free, a father of two, kidnapped the girl from the Westfield North Lakes Shopping Center about 25 km north of Brisbane on December 8, 2018.
The girl was shopping with her mother in Kmart’s toy department, looking for something to buy with her pocket money.
Free, then 26, drove the girl to bushland about half an hour away at Pumicestone Passage and molested her before returning the child to the mall.
Free, now 28, was sentenced in October for eight years for crimes described by the Julie Julie District Court as “repugnant” and “every parent’s worst nightmare.”
He was guilty of taking a child for immoral purposes, deprivation of liberty and indecent treatment of a child under 12 years of age.
The Queensland Attorney General appealed the “apparently inadequate” sentence that Free offered as early as possible on August 10, 2021.
Free, who worked at Fantastic Furniture and is the father of twins, originally qualified for parole on August 10, 2021. The Court of Appeal overturned every parole
Free leads the little girl away from the Westfield North Lakes shopping center, in images shown to the court. Free said he was acting on an “urge” to sexually abuse the child
On Tuesday, the appeals court upheld Free’s eight-year sentence, but removed any recommendation about his parole.
It is still unclear exactly what Free did to the girl, outside of his confessions, as she was unable to describe her ordeal.
Court judges described the girl as “reluctant or unable to give real details of what happened during the time she went missing.”
“Sometimes, when the police tried to talk to her, she avoided eye contact, curled up in the fetal position, hid or turned back to talking in baby talk and sounds,” said the judges.
The girl told the police that Free approached her at Kmart and told her to come with him.
“He told her his name and she told him her name,” said the judges. “She went with the respondent and got into his car. They talked about Christmas and passed tall trees.
“When they got out of the car, there were a lot of bushes and trees. He told the child to follow him into the forest. ‘
The girl remembered lying on the floor, but did not describe the sexual offense. She said she wasn’t talking to Free while they were in the bush.
When he finished, Free told the girl to get into his car and drove her back to the mall, court judges said.
The little girl searched Kmart’s toy trails in Westfield North Lakes for a present while her mother was nearby when the predator led her away
In a letter to the court that was later read aloud to journalists, sex lover Free said, “I can only say sorry. I know this is not good enough ‘
A few days after the incident, the child told her mother that she knew she should not have gone with the respondent, but he told her that he was a good friend of her mother’s and that she said it was okay to child went with him. “
Free told police that he was shopping for Christmas presents when he saw the child alone in Kmart and “the urge had just begun.”
“He asked her to go with him and to his surprise she started following,” said the court judges.
Some of his conscience said to him, “Don’t do this” and “go crazy,” but the “urge” told him to do it.
“He admitted that he always had sexual thoughts and fantasies about young girls, but had never acted on them to this day.”
Free told police once he was on the highway “the dark urge had taken over” and sexually assaulted her in bushland where he could not be seen from the road.
Sterling Free lured the girl out of this shopping center in North Lakes, north of Brisbane
“He described the child as confused and scared,” the verdict said. Then he told the child to get dressed, lifted her up and carried her back to the car.
After putting her in the car, he smoked a cigarette before driving back to the mall.
“Once there, he parked outside the parking garage, then helped her cross the road and walked her to the path leading to the mall so she could go in alone.”
Free told the police that his actions made him nauseous and disgusting. He knew what he had done was wrong, but his sexual arousal was overwhelming and “he had a demon in his control.”
According to the court’s judgment, the girl’s behavior has changed considerably since the attack.
“She became affectionate, anxious and easily upset,” said the judges. She was also often angry and aggressive, especially to her mother.
The material before the judge indicated that the child appears to have blocked this incident for her and refuses to speak about it.
Anatomy of a crime: Sterling Free (left) kidnapped the girl walking the toy path at Kmart North Lakes on December 8, 2018, while shopping
Obviously, and unsurprisingly, the incident had a very traumatizing impact on her; that impact is likely to be long lasting.
‘The impact on her mother is also great; and it has also affected wider family and friends.
“As the learned criminal judge has described, the offense is every parent’s nightmare; it is also a nightmare for every child. ‘
In a statement read in court on the day of the conviction of Free by his lawyer Shaune Irving, the predator admitted, “I took away her innocence and frightened her family.”
“I hope my punishment today gives her and her family some hope for the future,” he said. “I can only say sorry.”
Before Free’s conviction, the girl’s mother said that no punishment would ever fit the crimes he committed against her daughter.
“My little innocent girl was well aware of the danger of a stranger, but this person was kind to her and tempted her to follow him,” she said.
“No child should ever go through this kind of trauma, and no punishment will ever be long enough to make up for the ongoing effects it will have on her.”
“We remain positive as a family and try to move forward. We would like to thank the Queensland Police, Queensland DPP and the Australian public for their support during this ordeal. ‘
CHILD PREDATOR WHO STERLES FREE LETTER TO THE COURT
Child predator Sterling Free wrote a letter to the court, which was read by his out-of-court attorney
“I accept full responsibility for my actions against the young girl. I know the tremendous pain I have caused her, her family, my own family and children.
“Today I unreservedly accept the punishment imposed by the judiciary today.
“I don’t want to hurt the young victim or her family or postpone justice any further.
“I can’t understand the pain I caused her. I took away her innocence and frightened her family.
“I hope my punishment today gives her and her family some hope for the future.
“I can only say sorry. I know this is not good enough.
“I’m not looking for forgiveness, just to let you know what damage I did, the damage I did.
“I can’t imagine the pain and anxiety I’ve caused. I can’t take that back.
“For my family, the shock you faced was public control, my children deserve better.
“They will grow up without a father now and I can only blame me. I cannot contain the damage I caused. I will seek treatment to stop this from happening.
“I’m committed to using my incarceration to find the professional help I need.”