When police charged a 52-year-old man over the sexual abuse of two children, who were kidnapped at a school holiday program, he was already in custody on another matter.
Police Commander Kylie Whiteley announced the charges on Thursday, 48 hours after the horrific crimes occurred and with detectives under intense pressure to solve a crime that shocked Perth and was being described as a parent’s worst nightmare.
The North Perth man is accused of luring a four-year-old girl and five-year-old boy from the centre on Tuesday, sexually assaulting them at a house and leaving them at nearby Hyde Park, where a woman found them.
He has been charged with three counts of sexual penetration of a child under 13 and two counts of deprivation of liberty. Cdr Whiteley would not say why he had already been arrested late on Wednesday on a separate matter.
The children might have been taken to a house in a quiet North Perth suburban street that police had raided, seizing items.
Neighbours told AAP an elderly couple lived there but they were away, suggesting the man who was charged could be their middle-aged son.
Information from the public given to Crime Stoppers, along with CCTV footage showing a man leading the children, without coercion, down the street, and an identikit image helped solve the case, Cdr Whiteley said.
“The family are really pleased, they have been working with us daily, it is comforting for us and community to know someone has been charged with these offences,” she said. Questions are being asked about how the holiday program staff never noticed the children missing.
Parents with children there were also not notified until the next day and found out the extent of the gruesome abuse from media reports. Cdr Whiteley said the welfare of the traumatised children was the first priority, along with public safety and discovering what had actually happened through proper forensic processes. The events will have ramifications for the holiday care industry and the WA government is investigating.
David Gribble, chief executive of Constable Care Child Safety Foundation, told AAP vacation care programs tended to be more chaotic than school and childcare and were located at less secure places where anyone could walk in.