How “Mother Goose” ducked paedophile net

This version of the report has been prepared by: Dr Robert N Moles.  [Underlining where it occurs is for editorial emphasis]

On 5 April 2008 Jamie Walker of The Australian reported “How Mother Goose ducked pedophile net”.

He said Brad Shannon knows Adelaide's dirtiest secret. It involves a man called Mother Goose and what happens at night in Veale Gardens, out of sight and out of mind. At 39, with a loving partner at home and his life on track, Shannon counts himself lucky. He survived the sexual abuse he suffered as a child in state care, and being a teenage rent boy in Veale Gardens, where he encountered Mother Goose and the pedophiles who lurk in its shadows. Shannon knows Mother Goose's real name. So do the South Australian police: it was forwarded to them on Shannon's behalf by former Supreme Court judge Ted Mullighan, whose commission of inquiry this week laid bare the "foul undercurrent" that reached into South Australia's child-protection system.

Yet nearly three years after he gave evidence to Mullighan detailing his alleged rape in 1984 at Mother Goose's north Adelaide home, Shannon is still waiting for his day in court. The police investigation was suspended in mid-2005, barely three months after Shannon came forward, in circumstances sharply questioned by Mullighan.

"I am not aware of any reason why the investigation had to be brought to an end promptly," Mullighan complained in a letter to South Australian Police Commissioner Mal Hyde, obtained by this newspaper. The Weekend Australian understands that Mullighan has continued to press the police to reopen the case, which to date they have refused to do.

Shannon, for his part, says he is willing to co-operate fully with the police to bring Mother Goose to trial. Speaking yesterday from his new home in Whyalla, 380km northwest of Adelaide, he said: "Look, I'm no angel, but what happened to me is real, and I want that man held accountable for it." The case tugs at raw nerves because the policing of pedophile activity in South Australia is not just a law-and-order issue, but one of acute political sensitivity. Belief endures in Adelaide that the city has been stalked by a clique of homosexual sex killers known as the "Family", linked to a series of gruesome murders in the 1970s and 80s. For years, the local rumour mill has ground out claims that the purported group's members have had protection from on high.

In the course of his three-year inquiry into the sexual abuse of children in care, Mullighan investigated allegations that two police operations in the 1990s targeting Adelaide's sex beats were shut down to protect prominently placed pedophiles. Mullighan found no evidence to substantiate this. He reported, however, that "close police scrutiny" of beats such as Veale Gardens, on the southern fringe of the Adelaide CBD, had ended a decade ago. "It is known by the state the sexual exploitation of children, including children in state care, at Veale Gardens and other beats, continues," Mullighan wrote. "The inquiry asks ... why this conduct is permitted to occur? Young people continue to be sexually exploited at these beats, they provide sexual favours in exchange for money, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and other benefits. They are collected from those beats and taken elsewhere for sexual offences." It's a good question, but one surprisingly that seems to have had little resonance in South Australia since Premier Mike Rann tabled Mullighan's voluminous report in state parliament on Tuesday.

The state Opposition has run dead on the issue, which was speedily relegated to the inside pages of Adelaide's daily paper, The Advertiser (published by News Limited, also publisher of The Weekend Australian.) Citing evidence to the inquiry by senior police, Mullighan seemed to suggest that the force may have backed off operations in the sex beats for political reasons. "In summary, the view (from police officers) was that 'we are sort of walking a fine line'," the former judge and veteran barrister reported. "The officers did not want the police to be perceived in any way to be targeting or harassing members of the homosexual community who meet at those areas for legitimate purposes."

South Australia's assistant police commissioner for crime, Tony Harrison, emphatically denied yesterday that the police would put the sensibilities of any group ahead of protecting children. Since 2004, various police operations targeting pedophiles in Adelaide's CBD had resulted in a total of 23 arrests and numerous citations of individuals for loitering near known beats, he said, defending the police approach. "In no way whatsoever have we suggested that we are going to quarantine those areas from policing because we don't want to upset the gay and lesbian community," Harrison said. "That is just not the case." But that leaves Shannon wondering if he'll ever get his day in court. He can't understand why detectives so readily dismissed his allegations against Mother Goose, when Mullighan gave him a long and courteous hearing at the inquiry and then took up the cudgels with the police top brass. "I have given them a statement, I have been taken by the police to Mother Goose's house to confirm that was ... where the attack happened," Shannon said yesterday. "I am willing to stand up in court to swear to all this. I want that man punished for what happened to me, and I have said that all along."

Mother Goose, however, tells a different story. A bespectacled 56-year-old bookmaker, he lives alone in the house he inherited from his family. When approached by The Weekend Australian he admitted that he had been a frequenter of Veale Gardens and other sex beats in the Parklands ringing Adelaide's CBD since 1973. Yes, he was aware that "some people" might refer to him as Mother Goose, though he couldn't say why. He knew Shannon - a "thorough rotter" - but insisted he had never had sex with him. As for Shannon's allegation that Mother Goose had drugged him on that hot summer's night in 1984, taken him to his home, and been present or involved when two other men may have raped the unconscious boy, Mother Goose says derisively: "Absolute nonsense". He nevertheless "volunteered" to be interviewed by detectives in a video-taped session in 2005, which, he said, took place at police headquarters in central Adelaide.

Mother Goose, who would not be otherwise named for this article, admitted Shannon had been to his home, but it was to wash his car, not for sex. "The police comment was 'we are obliged to interview you because you have been named, but we're pretty sure nothing will come of it'," Mother Goose said. "And I said, 'of course nothing would come of it, because I didn't do anything'." Harrison, who headed the taskforce that initially handled the case, said the police had halted the investigation after "comprehensive and extensive inquiries", and at the young man's own request that it be discontinued. Shannon agreed he had signed a "waiver" to this effect, but said he was pressured by police to do so. In the event, he now wants that document rescinded and the investigation revived. Mullighan appears to support this position, telling Hyde in July 2005: "Mr Shannon is dissatisfied with the action taken by police officers which he felt required him to indicate he did not want charges laid against the man ... he can see no reason why this man should not be charged with rape."

The Weekend Australian understands Mullighan had further contact with the police about reviving the investigation into Mother Goose last year, resulting in another approach by detectives to Shannon. That approach was rejected by Shannon, according to Harrison. Shannon disputed the police account, saying: "The only thing they have been interested in is shutting the case down." While conceding he was "not the ideal witness in some respects", Shannon said he had a clear recollection of what happened to him on the night of his alleged rape in 1984, after he met Mother Goose in Veale Gardens. He was 15 at the time.

Originally from Perth, Shannon had been in state care in Western Australia from the age of 7, and was repeatedly sexually abused, according to evidence he gave to Mullighan, just one of the hundreds cases of sickening accounts of heard by the inquiry. "By the time I got to my teens I was running away all the time," he said yesterday. "I had basically made the pragmatic decision that if I was going to be ... screwed every day I might as well get paid for it." Mother Goose said he had been known to the police from the time he began frequenting Adelaide's Parklands beats 35 years ago, but as a source of information, not a sex abuser. He claimed to have known reputed Family killer Bevan Spencer von Einem, who is serving a life sentence for the 1983 murder of 15-year-old Richard Kelvin. The deaths of four other youths and young men have been linked to the group, which is reported to be the subject of renewed police interest, with key suspects said to be in the process of being DNA-tested by Adelaide police.

Asked why Shannon would want to persist in making false allegations about him, Mother Goose said: "Somebody has probably put him up to it ... I've got history ... I've been threatened by Family members". He said he had asked police to charge Shannon with criminal defamation - as was the case in 2005 with two staff members of former state parliamentary speaker, Peter Lewis, and a third man, who peddled false information to journalists purporting to identify an MP, police and a judicial figure as pedophiles. The case is at a pre-trial stage in the Supreme Court.

Shannon, at about the same time, contacted Lewis's office, in the course of which he identified another public figure as a frequenter of gay sex beats. But Mullighan is believed to have emphasised to police that Shannon's rape complaint had nothing to do with this politically sensitive matter. As for Mother Goose, he said he was doing the familiar rounds of Veale Gardens on Monday night. "There was a young one there, called Tom, from Melbourne," he said. "Interesting sort of character."

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