Kmart Predator Gets Eight Years In Jail For Indecent Assault Of Seven-Year-Old Girl
A man who kidnapped a seven-year-old girl from a Kmart store in Brisbane and then indecently assaulted her has been given an eight-year jail term.
Sterling Mervyn Free, 27, lured the girl from Kmart at Westfield North Lakes in December 2018 and sexually assaulted her in bushland.
Free pleaded guilty to deprivation of liberty, taking a child for immoral purposes and indecent treatment of a child under 12 and was sentenced at Brisbane District Court on Friday morning.
Now, he will spend eight years behind bars for the crime and will be eligible for parole in 2021.
Some members of the public gallery were in tears on Tuesday as CCTV footage of the moment Free lured the seven-year-old out of the Kmart store was played in court.
The footage showed Free loitering around the toy section of the shop for about 20 minutes, meanwhile, the girl is seen going from aisle to aisle and then returning to her mother a number of times.
The little girl's interaction with Free was not played, but the CCTV did show her following Free out of the store and from the shopping centre. Free took the girl to some bushland about 30 minutes from the shops, where he molested her and then returned her to the centre about an hour later.
CCTV footage showed the girl in her mother's arms at a service desk.
Semen was later found on the girl's dress.
Crown prosecutor Judy Geary labelled Free's offending brazen, deliberate and predatory.
"He used her for his own sexual gratification," she said.
Child safety advocate Denise Morcombe released a statement on behalf of the little girl's family on Twitter. Morcombe said she met with the family as they managed the awful situation they'd found themselves in.
She also shared the shock she and husband Bruce experienced when learning the nature of Free's crimes.
"Bruce and I are shocked at the brazen nature of this frightening Kmart abduction," Denise tweeted on Friday morning.
The family's statement expressed their grief at the crime and the fears they hold for the impacts of Free's actions on their daughter's future.
"My tiny, innocent girl was well aware of stranger danger, however this person was friendly to her and tricked her into following him," the family statement said.
"No child should ever have to go through this type of trauma and no sentence will ever be long enough to make up for the ongoing effects this will have on her.
"We, as a family, remain positive and are trying to move forward. We would like to thank the QPS, the QDPP and the Australian public for theit support throughout this ordeal."
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