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Master predator sustained by the state
Bill Clare, like many pedophiles, is remorseful - at having been caught out, writes Christine Jackman
July 15, 2006
PEDOPHILE Bill Clare had spent years preying on the young, the naive and the intellectually impaired, before he finally raped and killed a three-year-old boy following three weeks of sustained depravity in September 2003.
Still, the unkempt and overweight 32-year-old was having difficulty understanding why he was facing jail.
Sitting before a psychiatrist enlisted to assess whether Clare was mentally fit in 2004 to stand trial for the repeated rape of the boy's six-year-old sister, Clare spared few thoughts for his victims, complaining instead of his own fears of being bashed and raped in jail.
He denied any knowledge of the charges he was facing, but also revealed to doctor Dong Tran that he had been having dreams about a young girl he had "played with".
"It's wrong to do that to a child," Clare said, before qualifying, "sometimes it's wrong". "It's not wrong to a certain degree," he insisted, if your assault targeted "only mouth ... no penetration of backside or vagina".
Stalking, grooming and preying on children - of either sex and of any age from infancy to late teens - was simply what Clare did. And he had become frighteningly good at it.
Two years after that psychiatric interview, the serial predator is finally being held to full account for his perversions.
Sentenced to 16 years' jail in late 2004 for the repeated rape of the little boy's six-year-old sister, "Bianca", Clare was convicted last month for the manslaughter of "Jeremy", having already pleaded guilty to anally raping the toddler (the children's real names cannot be used).
The children's paternal grandmother, Judith Graham, gazes at a picture of Jeremy and his sister, taken just months before the little boy's death, and insists we, as a community, have not done enough to protect our children.
Those seeking to protect young children have the odds firmly stacked against them - the sophisticated tactics of many pedophile rings often thwart a community services sector with a record of failing to intervene to protect at-risk children, a police service so overwhelmed it is reluctant to pursue such complex and legally tenuous investigations, and a welfare system that allows men like Clare to indulge their sick obsessions full-time.
Pedophilia is slow, painstaking work; there is a reason these offenders are called rock spiders, lurking as they do in unexpected places, weaving their webs in anticipation of the right quarry chancing their way.
Bill Clare could afford to be patient. Apart from an 18-month stint working in a bottle shop, he had existed at the expense of the taxpayer most of his adult life. Claiming a disability pension for a range of amorphous complaints - in one police interview he listed "short-term memory loss, stress, trauma and depression" - Clare shared a squalid one-bedroom Housing Commission flat with another pensioner, former council worker Keith Coles, described by Clare as a "father figure".
By the men's own account, their taxpayer-subsidised days were mainly spent smoking, drinking - "I just love drinking," Clare told Dr Tran. "Nothing will stop me drinking." - and watching an endless stream of television and videos.
Regularly drinking more than a carton of beer a day, Clare's status as a disability pensioner also allowed him to develop a cheap habit of "dropping" anti-depressants. By the time he encountered Bianca and Jeremy, the man was regularly taking up to eight times his prescribed daily dose of 50mg of Zoloft, subsidised again by the public purse.
Nobody, it seems, was in a hurry to encourage Clare to work. When bored at home, he and Coles would amble down the main street of Croydon, in Sydney's inner west. There, Clare would often sit outside the video store or hang around the train station, making conversation with random passers-by.
"They look for vulnerable mums, usually single mums, who aren't coping, who have issues like gambling or drugs or prostitution," says one police officer.
"Generally the kids are vulnerable too - obviously because mum is struggling or neglecting them - but often they are also developmentally delayed ... That's the ones Clare targeted, the DDs."
Clare didn't give a resume or frank personal history when he saw a woman and two fractious children trudging from the station on a wintry afternoon in 2003, and offered his services as a babysitter because she "looked like she needed a break".
With a stated preference for girls between three and 10 years old - "I'm always fantasising about having sex with young girls," he told one doctor - Clare was thrown out of his foster home at the age of 15 for interfering with his seven-year-old sister. Three years later, he was sentenced to a minimum of three months' jail for having sexual intercourse with an intellectually impaired young woman.
During the next few years he honed his grooming technique to what would become his standard modus operandi: targeting harried mothers and offering to babysit for them.
In 1994, Clare befriended and moved in with a woman living in Woolloomooloo, offering soon afterwards to babysit her five-year-old daughter two nights a week so she could play bingo. It gave him the perfect opportunity to groom, then abuse, the young girl, touching and blowing on the five-year-old girl's vagina. In what would become a familiar excuse, he claimed to have suffered short-term memory loss about the incident, but was convicted of the indecent assault of a child under 10.
Far from being rehabilitated, jail simply offered Clare the opportunity to network with other pedophiles. Clare has spent much time in protective custody to shield him from attacks - so child sex offenders get plenty of time to swap information among themselves and share tricks of the trade.
During one prison stint, Clare met Daniel O'Sullivan, currently serving time behind bars for other child sex offences, who would become another of Clare's "father figures" and a key member of a tightknit pedophile ring that has ruined the lives of countless children in NSW.
For Clare, and the four other known members of his network meeting Renae Lennon and her two gorgeous blond children on a cold winter's day in 2003 was like hitting the jackpot, a pay-off for much patience and plotting.
Renae had a history of leaving Bianca and Jeremy unsupervised, or in houses so filthy the authorities considered them unfit for habitation by children, or with unsuitable carers, including one, and possibly two, previous boyfriends who had sexually assaulted Bianca.
And while the welfare system had supported Clare, apparently without question, as he pursued his twisted obsessions, the Department of Community Services had comprehensively failed Bianca and Jeremy.
During the three short years of Jeremy's life, no fewer than three police officers, a teacher, a childcare worker, a nurse, two or three doctors, a hospital social worker, ambulance officers and at least one neighbour had contacted DOCS with concerns about the children's wellbeing.
The tiny, closeknit pair had been the subject of seven formal DOCS notifications, but their files were repeatedly closed without further investigation and despite assurances by caseworkers that they were working with the mother.
A damning review by NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour said the case highlighted a "lack of rigour within DOCS".
It appears Clare raped her on the "first night" she spent in his care, although it is not certain whether the little girl meant the first night Clare spent babysitting at Renae's apartment, or the first night the children moved in with Clare and Coles.
According to his victim, Clare then said: "Bianca, Bianca, I'm really sorry."
But not sorry enough. Clare went on to rape the little girl five times between September 7 and 14. In August, 2004, he pleaded guilty to eight charges related to those offences.
But not even this could satiate his perverted appetite. In the pedophile's world, a conquest is often not complete until it is shared by the rest of the "ring".
The first is that Daniel O'Sullivan, enjoying a stint out of jail, caught the train down from Lithgow to spend the night in Sydney. The convicted child sex offender - who has not been charged with any matter relating to the Clare case - said he could not recall where Bianca slept. He left "probably around 10am the next morning".
O'Sullivan testified he saw nothing unusual that night.
But at some time on the same day, Friday, September 12, in the lounge room of the same crowded flat, Clare made a pornographic home video of himself assaulting Bianca.
Throughout the video, there are shots of Jeremy, apparently sleeping on the floor in the background. The sordid tape was to be Clare's undoing. Three days later, police investigating Jeremy's death would find it, in Clare's VCR.
How it came to be made without Coles's or O'Sullivan's knowledge, which they both have claimed, remains a mystery. Who had watched it on playback later in the same crowded loungeroom is also unknown.
For his part, Clare adopted a fairly typical tactic when questioned about the video: he blamed the victim.
Bianca took her clothes off without his encouragement, he told police, "cos she wanted to see what her thingybob looks like on the ... screen".
Later in the same interview, however, he changed his story slightly, conceding he asked Bianca if he could film the act.
"(It) felt nice, but it was wrong," he said. "I think I said don't tell anyone."
The video also includes footage shot later, featuring a tousled blond boy laughing and tussling with his sister. In court, medical experts would agree that there was no indication that this healthy, boisterous child would die the next night.
The same experts would battle to explain why any adult - even one who, like Clare, had admitted to anally raping the boy - would deliberately administer several 240-volt electrical shocks from the exposed wires of a power cord to the body of a child. "That's clearly enough to kill an adult, let alone a child," forensic pathologist Allan Cala told the court.
According to Clare, he was trying to "jump-start" the boy's heart after the toddler ate too many party pies at dinner and subsequently choked on vomit in his sleep.
Ultimately, however, the jury would not be convinced that Clare was responsible for murdering the child, finding him guilty instead of manslaughter.
After determinedly sitting through the gruesome trial, only leaving the courtroom when the video footage of her grandchildren playing on the day of Jeremy's death was played, his grandmother Judith Graham says the verdict is a mere "slap on the wrist".
"They must be put away," she says. "But even so, they get into jail, meet others like them and just come out the other end wiser and more dangerous. That's why I think they should be put away forever."
At the end of a police interview conducted five days after Jeremy's death, Clare was asked if he had anything to say. "The only thing I want to say is that I shouldn't have done it," he said with the remorse of one whose regret is that he has been caught out. "I'm an idiot. I'm always f..king my life up."
Like so many pedophiles, it remained all about him. Apparently, it didn't occur to Clare to express pity for anyone but himself.
To the end, this week in court, there was no acknowledgement at all of a little boy who would never again have his say, nor of a little girl who cannot find the words to describe the horror that changed her life forever.