An Australian former childcare worker has been charged with abusing 91 children over 15 years in what police described on Tuesday as one of the country’s “most horrific” child sex abuse cases.
Federal police said the offences happened at 10 different childcare centres between 2007 and 2022 and exclusively targeted “prepubescent girls”.
The man has been charged with 1,623 separate crimes, including 136 counts of rape and 110 counts of sexual intercourse with a child younger than 10, officers added.
Detectives sifted through huge amounts of graphic material captured on the 45-year-old man’s phone and said they were confident they had now identified all of his alleged Australian victims. They are working with police in another country, which authorities did not name, to determine the extent of his alleged offending overseas.
The man had passed all of the stringent background checks needed to work with children in Australia, police said.
“This is one of the most horrific child abuse cases that I’ve seen in nearly 40 years of policing,” New South Wales state police Assistant Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald told a news conference.
“It’s beyond the realms of anyone’s imagination what this person did to these children.
“I can only say, you try not to be shocked after a long period of time in the police, but this is a horrific case.”
Queensland Police Service Acting Assistant Commissioner Col Briggs said the charges were the culmination of years of dedicated and complex investigation across jurisdictions, known as Operation Tenterfield.
Police allege the man allegedly recorded his offending on phones and cameras while working in 10 childcare centres in Brisbane between 2007 to 2013, and between 2018 and 2022. Officers also claim the man recording offences at an overseas location in 2013 and 2014, and at a centre in Sydney between 2014 and 2017.
“From the moment [police taskforce] 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.
Police said that the suspect is facing extradition to New South Wales where he is wanted on an additional 180 child sex abuse charges allegedly involving 23 victims.
Justine Gough, the Northern Assistant Commissioner for Australia’s federal police, said: “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.
“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.”