Suicides reopen paedophile row in New South Wales

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The Independent Online
An apparent suicide pact by three Australian youth workers being investigated over an alleged paedophile ring has reopened an outcry over the sexual abuse of children. Two of the men died after apparently gassing themselves in a car near Brisbane, Queensland. A third man was critically ill and is in hospital.

They worked in northern New South Wales with homeless and destitute children. One worked for the state's department of health in Armidale, in the New England district, where officers from the state's child-protection enforcement agency raided houses last week and seized what was described as child pornography.

Two of the men in the car were arrested during the raids and charged with indecent assault and homosexual intercourse with a child aged between 10 and 16.

Police are believed to be looking for four other men after allegations that a dozen minors in the New England district were sexually abused.

The disclosures come after a year of publicity, allegations and inquiries into paedophile activity. A royal commission of inquiry headed by James Wood, a former judge, covered alleged protection of paedophiles by police. Seven witnesses committed suicide, including a former Supreme Court judge and two policemen. Mr Wood's report led to a police shake-up, and several charges being laid over child sexual abuse.

A fortnight ago Franca Arena, a Labor MP in the New South Wales parliament and campaigner against child abuse, said Bob Carr, the state premier, and Peter Collins, the opposition leader, conspired with Mr Wood to conceal names of people in high places allegedly involved in paedophile activities.

All three denied the allegation. Mr Carr appointed another inquiry into Mrs Arena's charges, before which she declined to appear, and its report next week is expected to condemn her.