If you are a parent of a young child or children, I would encourage you to read this. Then again, maybe you shouldn’t….
This week the state government announced a one million AUD reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for the murder of a 13 year old Thai girl adducted whilst on her way to school in an outer Melbourne suburb in 2011. Police have a suspect, who at present has an explanation of sorts, an explanation he’s sticking to. The problem is the body of Bung Siriboon has yet to be found. Until then, the living man owns the crime scene.
Some say “knowledge is power”, and arm themselves with as much information as possible before attempting anything significant. Maybe it’s a job interview, an exam, travelling overseas, throwing a party, or having a baby. No doubt there are many benefits for this, like being prepared and ready, content that you have insulated yourself as much as possible against problems or danger. Then again, knowing too much can mean you may not have as much fun as others.
And knowing too much, in some instances or places, can be dangerous.
The other group in this scenario are those who are happy to go with the flow and learn as they go. They would fall into the “ignorance is bliss” category. Don’t think too much or worry about things unless they are directly in your face. Life is less stressful and you end up more relaxed and carefree.
Ask yourself what side you would fit into?
You probably know already, and will probably carry on like that, which is fine. Nobody should judge how another lives or goes about their life, unless of course they hurt or infringe upon others. And this is where the discussion takes a turn that might well change your view on things. Or not…
Fellow crime writer Vikki Petretis has written numerous books based on real cases that have inspired some of my novels and assisted in my research. One of her books was co-written with a highly experienced detective and subject matter expert on child sexual abuse. The book is called ‘Rock Spider’, slang for paedophile, and aims to empower parents with knowledge of how paedophiles operate, what societies common misconceptions are and how to protect children against such predators.
‘Rockspider’ is a book written for parents and those interested in protecting children from sexual assault, before it occurs. It does this through a series of real life case studies and profiling, including in depth accounts of how:
- the way paedophiles operate;
- clergy who use their position to abuse young children;
- paedophile groups are organised;
- a ‘therapist’ who introduced under-age girls to drugs, Satanism and prostitution;
- adolescent offenders;
- teachers who sexually abuse boys under his control;
- the use of the Internet to seduce children and transmit child pornography;
- a scout master who wormed his way into the heart of a community to facilitate the seduction of his friends’ children; and
- examples of professional therapy available to adult and adolescent offenders;
At the end of each chapter the authors put the offenders in context and advise families how to protect their children from these types of paedophiles. The book concludes with a statistical analysis of offenders and victims, and advice for parents and guardians. So surely one would expect such a book to be on the shelf of almost every parent?
Yet at the time of release, the book (and both authors) were heavily criticised by mainstream media and reviewers for publishing something “like this”. Comments were made about the content and why parents needed to know about it. Put bluntly, one ‘shock jock’ radio host even said that this sort of information was best kept hidden from the public.
Sorry, I am not a parent, so I can’t begin to imagine the pain and anger I would feel if I were a parent and somebody sexually abused my child. But neither can I imagine how any reasonable parent would NOT want to now this sort of information?
Ignorance may be bliss, but at what cost?
Knowing too much can be painful, and it can make you worry about things you may not need to, but again I wonder where one draws a line in the sand.
Surely even happy-go-lucky people would want to know how to protect their own children. Yet many at the time claimed they would rather not know. Like the proverbial ostrich, they stuck their heads in the sand because the reality shocked them too much. It made them realise that everything they knew (or believed) to be true, was actually wrong. What they believed, in essence, was the “troll under the bridge” scenario, or the high profile cases, such as that of Sheree Beasley, a young girl kidnapped, murdered by Robert Lowe and dumped in a drain pipe in Rosebud, Victoria in 1991.
Another case is that of Daniel Morcombe, a young boy who disappeared whilst waiting for a bus in Queensland in 2003. The bus he was supposed to catch had broken down a few kilometres before his stop, and was behind schedule. When a replacement bus eventually arrived, Morcombe hailed the bus, but it carried on without stopping. The driver of the bus radioed the depot for another bus to go and pick up Morcombe. The bus driver and other witnesses later reported seeing a man standing a distance behind Morcombe and another man slightly further away at the time. When the second bus arrived a couple of minutes later, Morcombe and the man were gone.
By early 2009, the investigation had seemingly run out of leads, but in May a full-size clay model of the man believed to be involved in Morcombe’s abduction was placed at the spot where Morcombe disappeared. Within a few days there were more than 300 tip-offs. In August 2011, Brett Peter Cowan, a former Sunshine Coast resident, was charged with Morcombe’s murder. In the same month, DNA tests confirmed bones found were Morcombe’s.
These cases are sickening and demand attention, but they are rare and can sometimes throw the issue of child sexual abuse out of context for the mainstream community, who for the most part will not fall victim to these horrific crimes. The reality is that most paedophiles will not fit this profile.
Although well intended, publicity campaigns such as “stranger danger”, which teach children (rightly so) that they shouldn’t talk to strangers, can exaggerate the risk of “abductions” and blur the reality of how most child sex offenders operate.
What the book “Rock Spider” did was to challenge these messages and the impact on the public mindset. The book terrified people by documenting the facts and debunking urban myths that paedophiles are a separate, monster-like entity that you would never allow your children around and that you can easily protect your child by knowing where they are all the time. Unfortunately that isn’t enough when it comes to the reality of protecting your children.
The Lovely Bones was another book based on a similar theme, and turned into a blockbuster film starring Mark Walberg, who plays the role of a grieving father who realises that the person who murdered his little girl had been his neighbour for many years.
The killer was, if you like, hiding in plain sight. And that is typical of most paedophiles, especially in the grooming phase.
Many knowledgeable people will be aware that paedophiles spend a lot of time ‘grooming’ their victims, but the facts are that many paedophiles go to extreme lengths to groom their victims’ parents. Some befriend vulnerable parents and offer a helping hand many years before the abuse begins. This way by the time the abuse actually starts the parents are so close to the offender that they can not fathom the idea that their child is being abused. Some even go as far as managing programs and information nights for parents at local schools on how to protect their kids against paedophiles, when they are in fact paedophiles themselves.
This was the real strength of the book Rock Spider, but the authors were continuously accused of fear mongering, and required to justify why the public ought to have access to this information.
Excuse me for asking, but who has the right to determine what information we are entitled to?
If you want to put your head in the sand, rather than draw a line in it, then that is your prerogative, but last time I checked, we lived in Australia, home for the young and free… So you’d assume protecting it’s young people would be paramount.
Thankfully, things have settled and anyone who reads this book now will find themselves far more comfortable, armed with the right knowledge, able to sleep at night under a blanket of security that protects not just parents from the “bliss” of ignorance, but also their children.
Below is a short story of how one paedophile operates at Luna Park, a popular theme park for families in St Kilda, Melbourne. Told from the point of view of a previous victim, she watches him and documents his movements… those who have read Blood Sunset might recognise it as a prequel to the book.
THE PREDATOR SMILE….
Children are everywhere. Boys run from ride to ride. Girls straddle ponies in the merry-go-round. Parents mind show bags and fluffy toys. The screams of uninhibited abandonment are infectious, and a broad smile plays across his face. For a moment he looks like Mr Moon himself, the mighty face beneath which he walks to enter to Luna Park. He likes it here and he visits often, but not for the rides or the beachside location. Nor is it the history of the iconic amusement park that brings him back every week. It’s the children. He comes to watch them play, be close to them. Touch them.
Daylight is fading, but still light enough for his mirrored glasses, the scenic railway and park boundary painted bright orange by a brilliant sunset. Right now he is watching a young girl, maybe five or six years old. He prefers girls. The warm weather means that many of them are dressed lightly. This one wears a tiny white singlet and short pink dress. The hem rides high on her leg, exposes her thigh as she squats over a show bag.
A woman stands beside the girl, watching. Her blonde hair matches the little girl’s. The mother, I figure. The girl digs out a set of white wings and tares open the plastic wrapper. ‘Look Mummy. I’m an angel!’
The girl is very much like me, when I was her age. With his head tilted, pretending to watch the ferris wheel, the Predator edges sideways for a better look. Ah, yes. He can see her panties now. Beads of sweat dot his forehead. After a moment he forces himself to look away. This is the discipline. You have to know when to move on. Years of prejudice and intolerance have taught him this. At least, that’s how he sees it. It’s how all of them see it.
Strolling past, I watch him buy a Cadbury show bag from a chocolate stall, tie it to the side of the pram he’s pushing. No baby or toddler occupies the pram. It’s merely a prop. It gives him a place here, helps him blend in. Around his neck the digital camera weighs heavily, reminds him that he’s not here to look. There’s work to be done and I watch as he sets about finding his spot for the night. First, he queues for a hotdog and coke. Then he pushes the pram past the carousel and baby rides to a bench seat between the mini roller coaster and spinning aeroplanes. This is a good spot. He has used it before, but not for a few months. Rule number two. Always move around. In all the years I’ve been watching him, he has never drawn attention to himself.
The Predator is built low and wide, and he walks with the lazy aloofness of a bear. But, like a bear, he can be just as fast and vicious. Today he wears a hideous Hawaiian shirt and beige shorts with brown sandals. The hotdog is a nice touch. A navy blue Yankees cap completes the look. Just another overweight, fast-food-loving tourist from the U-S of A. Setting the hotdog aside, the Predator studies the other parents in the park. He especially watches the fathers. I do too. I wonder how many are like him. How many have the same urges and desires? How many actually act upon them?
Right now the Predator is smiling, but his smile is a well practised fake. I should know. It is what he used on me. Now I see the truth. Underneath he is angry, confused. Why can’t society accept him, he wonders? Don’t people realise his desires are not born out of choice? If they could tolerate homosexuals, why not him? Why did he have to pretend all the time? These are the questions that exist beneath the smile, the same questions that sadden and anger him, that lead him to violence.
I edge closer as the young girl with the angel wings lines up to board the merry-go-round. The Predator is alert now. He switches his camera on and unscrews the lens cap. The mother watches her little girl line up, but there’s a mobile phone against her ear and she’s engaged in deep conversation. The Predator smiles again. He knows she won’t notice him. Lens cap removed, he tucks the sunglasses in his pocket and focuses on the Ferris wheel. Third rule; hide in plain view. He takes several photos of the Ferris wheel, others of the scenic railway. As the Ferris wheel turns, he waves to imaginary family members aboard the gondolas.
‘Way to go, Alice,’ he calls out, the American accent as practised as his smile.
Two girls waiting for the dodgem cars shoot him questioning looks. He smiles at them, but there’s a twitch in his lips. When the girls turn away, the predator examines them from behind. My guess is he finds them unattractive. They are too old. One of them wears a polyester skirt and high heel boots, as though she wants to look like a woman. This repulses him. I can tell by the way his eyebrows, thick and bushy, draw together like two ugly caterpillars. I can almost hear his thoughts. Why would she want to look older? I bet he wishes the girls were not here. Maybe he wants to tell them to leave, go find a brothel if they want to dress like whores. Angry and frustrated now, he goes to stand but something keeps him down. An inner voice, perhaps. Maybe the memory of a distant teacher or mentor, something that calls out to him, tells him to stay calm, ignore the girls and focus on the angel approaching the carousel.
Whatever it is, the Predator is calm now, and he watches the young girl board a red and white striped pony. The music starts and the carousel turns. Lowering the camera, he zooms in, waits patiently. Soon her pony rounds the machine and fills his viewfinder. Excitement floods the veins in his neck as he focuses on getting the money shot. She laughs loudly, perfect little teeth caked in chocolate, blonde pigtails blowing back and forth. There it is. For a split second she faces him, her cheeks flushed red as the pony bobs up and down. He takes the shot but something is wrong. He’s having trouble with the camera. Maybe the lighting is no good. Annoyed, he adjusts the aperture and shutter speed, and when the girl comes around, he has another chance. This time the shot works.
When the ride ends and the girl is led away, he closes his eyes and savours the sounds of the park. Screams and laughter. The rattle of the scenic railway coasting up and down the track. The smell of fairy floss and hot dogs. The beat of pop music thudding through the speakers. He takes several more photos of different targets, but none are as sweet as her. It’s the shot of the night and will sell well on the Internet. More importantly, his brethren will be grateful. He might even add a copy of it to the special collection he has on his laptop computer. As he walks to the exit, he sees the little girl and her mother ahead. I hurry to keep up, see a pause in his step. What’s he doing? Maybe he wants to follow them back to their car, make the girl another victim. Add her to his list. Like he did me?
After a moment’s thought, he decides against it, heads in the opposite direction. Again I follow as he pushes the pram along the pathway to the car park. The rumble of Friday night traffic absorbs his footfalls. The sun is low on the horizon, leaving the sky the colour of ripe pumpkin and the water in the bay like liquid gold. A ribbon of red brake lights stretch along the Lower Esplanade. A warm breeze blows in off the water, fills the air with the sweet smell of salt and sand.
Nearing the car park, he stops, scratches his head. A four-wheel drive is parked where he left his Camry. This is not right. He circles the four-wheel drive, as if it has somehow hidden his car. He definitely parked it here. Always the same spot. For some reason, he even checks the markings on the bitumen, as if it’s been buried or something. But there is no escaping it. No one has buried his car. Somebody has stolen it.
I can’t imagine the panic, the surge of fear and utter doom that he must feel when he remembers the laptop computer is in the boot. But then, I can imagine it. I’ve lived it, as have all his victims. They say karma is a divine force greater than any of us. Do wrong, expect wrong. I was just ten years old when the Predator took my innocence, but now, after all these years, I’m at peace and it’s time for me to leave. So as my stepfather falls to his knees, realising his life is over, this time it’s me who smiles. For now the Predator’s mask shall be removed. No more photographs. No more hiding. No more victims. If only I were still alive it might’ve happened sooner…