Australian with Sri Lankan links sentenced to jail for sexually abusing young girls

An Australian man with Sri Lankan links has been sentenced to jail for sexually abusing young girls.

The man was reportedly born in Sri Lanka before moving to Australia.

The Daily Mail reported that the Gold Coast grandfather who paid impoverished Filipino girls as young as 14 to have sex with him and groomed others on Facebook will spend six-and-a-half years behind bars.

Rex George Harrison was nabbed by Australian Federal Police at Brisbane Airport in 2017 just as he was about to fly to the Philippines.

Harrison pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a foreign child via the internet between October 2016 and August 2017 in Brisbane Supreme Court on Monday.

The disgraced former chef, who has worked in five-star hotels in Australia, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka, also pleaded guilty to possessing child exploitation material and using a carriage service to transmit child exploitation material.

He was granted bail to appear in court on Wednesday for sentencing.

On Wednesday, the court heard Harrison travelled several times between Australia and the Philippines to engage in sex with girls as young as 14.

He paid them as little as $14 and up to $43 for digital, oral and penile sex, and on one occasion asked one of his victims to ‘bring a friend with her’ next time for additional payment.

Harrison told her he wanted a girl who was not yet developed, a virgin and about 13 or 14 years old, the prosecution said.

The court heard Harrison told the girl ‘you have plenty of friends who need that money’, which the prosecution argued demonstrated the highly predatory nature of his offending.

‘There is a large power imbalance between him and the children, there is a great level of vulnerability in the children because they all come from impoverished and disadvantaged conditions,’ the prosecution said.

Police found sexually explicit images of three separate underage girls from the Philippines on his phone when he was arrested, though he initially tried to deny their existence.

In relation to one victim, Harrison told her to urinate and defecate in some of the photographs, and asked for other photos of her while she was bleeding, the court heard.

The prosecution described his requests as ‘depraved’.

Harrison stared at the judge without any emotion as the facts were tendered to the court.

Justice John Bond said Harrison ‘has a pattern of sexual interest in female children, particularly in taking the virginity of girls as young as 13’.

‘You’re persistent, repeated and predatory in your offending… and your victims were particularly vulnerable.’

The court heard Harrison used emotional manipulation and threats to get one victim, aged about 17, to send up to 19 nude or partially nude photographs to him over the course of six weeks.

Other photographs on his phone were images he took of a child, aged between 14 and 15, after they had sex in July of 2017.

The victim offered the court a Victim Impact Statement, where she revealed she still hadn’t told her family or live-in partner of the abuse.

She said she knew it would hurt and embarrass them if they were to know the truth, and she often questions ‘why she let this happen to her’.

The convicted paedophile offered no emotion as the sentence was handed down, and was led from the court into custody.

Harrison moved to Australia with his family in his 30s on a skilled migrant visa after working internationally in five-star hotels as a chef.

He separated from his wife and family in 2006, and the breakdown of his marriage was characterised by his ‘alcoholism and bad behaviour’, by his own admission.

Following the separation, Harrison took up a fly-in-fly-out job in Papua New Guinea, and began spending his off weeks in south east Asia, the Philippines in particular.

The court heard he has maintained a good relationship with his ex wife, three children and four grandchildren.

No members of his family supported him in court as the sentence was handed down.

AFP Commander Lesa Gale previously said the then-63-year-old was talking a girl aged under 16 on Facebook ‘in an attempt to engage in sexual activity with her and other children’.

‘There are offenders who seek to use the anonymity of the internet to identify and target vulnerable children,’ she said.

He originally told officers he believed his alleged victim was ’18 or 19′, despite her referring to being in school in their online conversations, the court previously heard.

Commonwealth prosecutor Sophie Harburg said the father-of-three was an Australian citizen but did not live in the country.

Harrison will be eligible for parole in May, 2023, just two-and-a-half years away. (Colombo Gazette/Daily Mail)