year-old girl who investigators said was being sexually abused and offered to others for abuse on
Craigslist. Hamilton Police Service
Computers, hard drives and other electronic devices seized by police from the home of a seven-year-old girl who investigators said was being sexually abused and offered to others for abuse on Craigslist.
A seven-year-old Ontario girl who was being sexually assaulted, photographed and offered to others for sex in an online Craigslist ad has been rescued, police in Hamilton said as they outlined a disturbing case in which eight men and women — including the girl’s mother and her mom’s boyfriend — were charged.
How is it a child can be advertised for sex on Craigslist? Can someone explain that to me? Why haven't they been sued right out of existence for this kind of stuff? Why haven't they been charged with enabling a crime?
The ongoing investigation rattled seasoned child abuse investigators.
“The sexual assaults of a seven-year-old girl remain a shocking event,” said Hamilton’s Chief of Police Eric Girt. The Ontario Provincial Police’s Frank Goldschmidt said investigators had to watch “horrific images” during the case that highlights how the Internet connects pedophiles for sex abuse and child pornography.
In May, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society in Hamilton alerted police to a possible case of child abuse, said Det. Sgt. Dave Dunbar of Hamilton police’s Victims of Crime Unit.
The seven-year-old girl then told officers her mother’s boyfriend was sexually assaulting her, he said.
A 34-year-old man was arrested that same day.
against eight men and women in Ontario after a seven-year-old Hamilton girl was sexually abused
and sold for sex on Craigslist.
Police searched the home and seized several electronic devices. What officers found revealed the need for a much wider investigation.
Police discovered the girl had been sexually assaulted by more than one person, and was being made available to be sexually assaulted by others through Craigslist, said Dunbar.
Project Links was launched
“Due to the seizure and examination of these electronic devices, more information became available to us confirming that other persons were involved in sexually assaulting this little girl and exchanging child pornography amongst each other,” he said.
Among those arrested was the girl’s mother, a 39-year-old Hamilton woman. She was charged Sept. 21 with failing to provide the necessities of life to a child.
The mom’s boyfriend, a 34-year-old Hamilton man, faces 40 charges, including nine counts of sexual assault, making and possessing child pornography, assault and voyeurism. Most of the accused were not publicly identified to protect the identity of the victims and in accordance with a court-ordered publication ban.
The voyeurism charge involves the seven-year-old girl’s older sister, who is under the age of 16 but police would not specify her age in an effort to protect the victims’ identities.
“Our investigation involved Craigslist being utilized by one of the perpetrators,” said Dunbar. “They were posting information that was communicating to get involved in relationships or communicate for the purpose of exploiting children.”
The Officer saw the ad but would not discuss details of its content.
U.S. Homeland Security used their authority to gain information from the California-based company that runs Craigslist and U.S. officials are now conducting a parallel investigation that could result in charges against others, said Special Agent Aaron Chapman.
Five additional people were arrested in Canada from May 3 through to Nov. 7.
“We believe these arrests have prevented other children from being sexually abused or being exposed to imminent dangers,” Dunbar said.
The additional arrests and more searches brought other suspects to the attention of investigators in a widening pool.
“We developed through the evidence we recovered that other people are involved in communicating with our key offender,” Dunbar said, leading to arrests for sexual assault, sexual interference, making child pornography, distributing child pornography, communicating for the purposes of having sex with a minor, making arrangement to commit sexual interference and other charges.
“We believe we have investigated, arrested and located everyone that has impacted her or assaulted her. Our investigation now from the technology perspective is continuing and we do see further information developing and the investigation is ongoing,” he said.
One of the men charged, linked through communication to another of the accused but not directly in relation to the seven-year-old victim, was Geoffrey Burnet, 48, of Kitchener, a former teacher who taught at a private international school in Hamilton and with the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, the Upper Grand District School Board and the Toronto District School Board.
Burnet is charged with making child pornography and distributing child pornography.
He was previously charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching in another case.