“It was clear a lot of them had been into child abuse material for a long time, they started off viewing child abuse material, then more extreme child abuse material then, in these particular situations, some of them then proceeded to abusing children.”
Beyond exchanging videos, the websites had a chat function.
“There were group chats of up to 50 people who were able to discuss horrendous crimes. What they wanted to or had done to children, images of bestiality and self-produced child abuse material,” Veltmeyer said.
One man caught in the sting, western Sydney soccer coach Grant Harden, used the online handle Baddad03 to solicit child abuse material from other men and shared hundreds of videos of himself sexually abusing seven different boys.
“28 pervy dad wanting to chat with under 14, only add if you’re with a boy,” read one of his online solicitations for more child abuse material.
Harden came to the police’s attention on May 7, 2020; investigators worked through the night to arrest him the next day.
“It was a race to find him, we knew he was doing horrendous stuff to the children in his care.”
Harden will remain behind bars until at least 2042.
Other men caught up in the sting include Mid North Coast childcare worker Timothy Doyle, 27, who has pleaded guilty to a raft of charges including sexual intercourse with a person over 14 and under 16 and awaits sentencing.
His partner, 22-year-old Steven Garrad, pleaded guilty earlier this year to more than a dozen charges including sexual intercourse with a child under 10.
Paedophile rings are the focus of the AFP, who warns that child abusers come in many forms.
“It’s no longer the old school days where we have to look out for the man in the trench coat. These offenders are aged 20 to 48, childcare workers, volunteers, soccer coaches, teachers, chefs. It’s your everyday person.”