By Gary Hughes
The Age, April 19, 2004
Police files on a suspect who claimed sexual abuse by men dressed as police are said to have "disappeared".
A deputy principal who reported a student's claim of the abuse says detectives later told him that Victoria Police computer files on one of the alleged pedophiles were tampered with.
He was also told his initial report to the Department of Human Services under the mandatory reporting system disappeared.
The 13-year-old boy told staff at the school he had been repeatedly sexually abused by a number of men on the Mornington Peninsula. He said some of the men wore police uniforms and warned him that they would know if he reported the abuse because they were policemen. The boy had also been used to produce child pornography later published overseas.
The deputy principal said it was clear from a detailed 12-page statement made by the boy that the abuse was conducted by an organised and "well-connected" pedophile ring.
No charges were laid because police said the boy had been "too well groomed" by the pedophiles and it was doubtful he would testify in court.
The deputy principal contacted The Age after it revealed this month that the Ombudsman was investigating the alleged mishandling of a number of child sexual abuse cases by Victoria Police. The Age advised him to contact the Ombudsman, which he has since done.
One case being reviewed by the Ombudsman involves children at a child-care centre in Mornington. Investigators have been told that a house where the alleged abuse took place possibly belonged to a policeman and that a videotape existed of children from the centre being abused by men dressed as police.
The deputy principal from the college in Melbourne's outer east has asked that neither he nor the college be named to protect the identity of the abused boy.
The deputy principal, who has since become principal of another school, lodged an initial report with what was then Community Services Victoria in July 1995. He telephoned about two weeks later and was told the report was being investigated.
The deputy principal said it was clear from a statement made by the boy that the abuse was conducted by an organised pedophile ring.
After the boy made more detailed disclosures and began displaying disturbing behaviour, the school lodged a second mandatory report in December 1995 through the Education Department's regional office. The complaint was taken "very seriously" and police were called.
The deputy principal said police told him there was no record of the original report to community services or his follow-up phone call. A senior child protection manager told him it was not the first time reports had disappeared.
Detectives from a community policing unit said the main alleged offender in the ring was well known to police, the deputy principal said. But the police said a previous case against him had been abandoned after information on police files had disappeared. "I started to pinch myself and think is this real or not? It seemed quite bizarre and I was very frustrated..." he said.
After police dropped the investigation in 1996 the boy "totally clammed up" and staff at the school did not know whether the abuse continued.
A Victoria Police spokesman said the original allegation had been investigated, including a search of the main suspect's home that found no incriminating evidence. The boy involved had refused to repeat to police the disclosures he had earlier made to school staff. The spokesman said he was not aware that files had disappeared.
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