7 November 2021

Father's years of repeated abuse of his children revealed when daughter spoke out

| Albert McKnight
ACT Law Courts

The Canberra father has been jailed until 2034 for sexually abusing three of his children and a stepchild. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

WARNING: This article contains descriptions of childhood sexual abuse.

Only when a father’s daughter, barely into her teens, decided to speak up was the horrendous harm and evil he unleashed on his children revealed.

Heart-wrenching statements handed to the ACT Supreme Court describe the devastation he brought to his family after continuously raping or sexually abusing three of his children and a stepdaughter over a decade, starting when they were between the ages of nine and 12 and ending by the time they turned 16.

“I hate my life now. I hardly ever feel happy, and when I do, it isn’t for very long,” the girl who first spoke up said.

“I get so confused because I get mad and upset because my Dad did bad things to me and the memories keep coming into my head, but then I get sad because my Dad is in jail and I can’t see him.”

Her sister said as time went on and what he did to her physically hurt her more, she began squeezing her hands “really tightly” and would either “pray or sing a song” in her head to distract herself from the pain.

“I did all I could to block everything out,” she said.

“I felt more and more unsafe at home though, and even though I began to tell him I didn’t want him to do it anymore, it still continued, though lessening in severity.”

The girl had been visibly upset when she approached her stepmother to tell her what had been happening.

The stepmother talked to the other daughters who admitted they had been abused as well. The girls said they had not wanted to tell anyone because they did not want to destroy their family.

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When their father arrived home that day, the stepmother confronted him.

“The girls told me you’ve been touching them,” she said.

“I thought that’s what you were going to say. It’s true and I’m relieved it’s out in the open,” he replied.

She drove him to a police station soon afterwards, to which he returned the day after, where he admitted in an interview that he knew what he was doing was wrong.

“At every point, I’ve felt that what I was doing was destroying lives,” he said.

“It’s made me sick to the stomach knowing what I was doing to them, but somehow beyond my control of being able to stop it.”

The father tried to give another excuse for his behaviour for a court report, which Justice David Mossop said he found “difficult to accept”.

Crown prosecutor Tamzin Lee said the father only moved on from abusing each child when they were old enough to stop his actions themselves.

Justice Mossop had strong words for the father when sentencing him, calling the case an “absolute tragedy”.

“He has left such a trail of misery in his wake,” he said.

“He had an opportunity to be a hero for his children; instead, he committed gross betrayals of their trust.”

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The father has had no contact with his children since he was taken into the Alexander Maconochie Centre and they remain in the care of their stepmother, who told the court she was mother to the girls “in all but blood”.

She said many people told her it was only a matter of time before her family imploded because of the trauma they faced, but she “will not allow this to happen”.

“The children and I will do everything within our power to support and accept each other’s process of healing and to stand together as one,” she said.

“I choose as the matriarch of my family to speak only words of life over our future.

“Our agreed mandate as a family … is ‘and still we rise’.”

The father was sentenced to 13 years and three months’ jail ending in 2034. He was given a non-parole period of eight-and-a-half years and is eligible to be released from custody in July 2029.

When told what his sentence would be, he looked down, appearing on the verge of tears.

He had pleaded guilty to three counts of engaging in a sexual relationship with a child under special care and performing an act of indecency on a child.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT on 6280 0900 and Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000.

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