Man, 90, charged with child rape

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The Independent Online

A 90-year-old Australian man has been arrested in Thailand and charged with raping and sexually abusing four young sisters, one of them as young as five, police said today.

Officers said Karl Joseph Kraus allegedly lured the children, now aged seven to 14, to his home with imported chocolates and English lessons. The alleged abuse started two years ago.

A district police chief, Kritapol Yeesakorn, said Kraus was arrested yesterday at his home near the northern city of Chiang Mai, where police confiscated photographs of about 100 naked children and a variety of sex toys.

Police said today that they were investigating whether Kraus was part of a larger paedophilia network.

Some of the seized photos showed Kraus posing naked with other children, and police are trying to identify them and contact their families, Mr Kritapol said, adding that many of the pictures were emailed overseas.

Kraus, who has lived in Thailand for more than a decade, approached the girls' family in 2008 with an offer to teach the sisters English, said the police chief.

"He would lure them into his house with sweets, usually chocolate from abroad or luxury sweets, and he would ask them to perform sexual acts with him," said Mr Kritapol. "For the eldest of the four sisters, he recently gave her 4,000 baht instead of sweets." The sum is about £81.50.

The girls' parents recently noticed that they had lost interest in playing outside and asked them what was wrong, and then took them to police who immediately sought an arrest warrant, the police chief said.

Kraus was charged with rape and sexual abuse.

His Australian passport says he was born in Berlin.

The Australian Embassy in Bangkok was not available for comment.

Mr Kritapol said Kraus does not yet have a lawyer and has refused to talk to police until he has one.

Neighbours described Kraus as an active 90-year-old who still drove his own car, police said. But when officers arrested him he acted weak, walked with a cane and complained of diabetes and high blood pressure. Police took him to a Chiang Mai hospital where he remained under surveillance.

The date of his next court appearance is not yet known.

Several South East Asian countries - including Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam - are magnets for paedophiles because of lax law enforcement, corruption in the justice system and poverty which forces children into prostitution.

A number of high-profile suspects have been caught in Thailand, including a Canadian arrested in 2007 after an Interpol manhunt sparked by some 200 internet photos showing him allegedly abusing Vietnamese and Cambodian boys. He was sentenced to eight years and three months in jail.