A South Australian man faces up to 30 years in prison after allegedly watching and directing live online child abuse material made in the Philippines.
Andrew Donald Steele, aged 65, appeared in Adelaide Magistrates Court via videolink on Thursday, the same morning the Australian Federal Police announced two of his alleged victims had been rescued from child sex abuse in the Philippines.
It’s alleged he paid $50,000 to watch the children’s abuse online.
The international investigation was triggered in May when officers from the Australian Border Force allegedly discovered child abuse material on Steele’s phone at Adelaide Airport when he returned from a Bali trip.
Australian Federal Police were notified about the alleged material and executed a search warrant at Steele’s Yankalilla home, 70km south of Adelaide, on May 24.
Police allege forensic searches of electronic devices seized at the property contained ‘additional child abuse material involving live online child sexual abuse’.
Andrew Donald Steele, aged 65, was arrested in May for allegedly possessing child abuse material (pictured, the man, pictured wearing a grey tracksuit and ugg boots, being arrested)
The 65-year-old was arrested on May 31 and his case was adjourned until 2024 as AFP officers declared ‘further disclosures’ were found in the case.
He was expected to enter a plea to nine charges, which include the persistent abuse of a child outside of Australia and the possession of child abuse material, but it is now expected further charges will be added.
Footage shows officers leading Steele, dressed in a grey tracksuit and ugg boots, to a police car in May, and video of police arriving at the home in Bohol.
He was charged with one count of persistent sexual abuse of a child outside Australia, one count of using a carriage service to transmit child abuse material, one count of producing and distributing child abuse material outside Australia, five counts of possessing or controlling child abuse material obtained or accessed using a carriage service and one count of importing tier two goods.
The maximum penalty for persistent sexual abuse of a child is 30 years behind bars.
South Australia’s Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team contacted AFP international Liaison Officers in Manila about its investigation and the matter was passed onto the Philippines Internet Crimes Against Children Center.
PICACC’s investigation led to the identification of the two girls in Bohol and they were rescued from the home to be placed into the care of child protection services.
Two girls (above) were rescued from a home on Bohol island after Australian Federal Police alerted Filipino authorities
Police alleged found (pictured, a woman outside the Bohol home) ‘child abuse material involving live online child sexual abuse’ on Steele’s electronic devices
AFP Sergeant Joe Barry said this case highlighted the strength of the AFP’s network and the commitment of all agencies to protect children around the world.
‘The ability to share intelligence and resources with international partners is vital so that law enforcement can target and arrest those who prey on children,’ he said.
‘Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime and victims are re-victimised every time images or videos of the crimes are accessed and shared.’
AFP Manila Liaison Officer Detective Sergeant Daisie Beckensall said international partnerships are critical in fighting online child exploitation.
‘The close partnerships between the AFP Manila office and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Anti Human Trafficking Division during this investigation highlights the importance of working together to remove children from harm.’
ABF Inspector Mel Duncan reminded anyone entering Australia, their electronic devices can be searched at the border as part of the effort to detect and disrupt illegal activity.
Steele (above) faced nine charges relating to child abuse material in Adelaide Magistrates Court on Thursday
Mr Steele will answer the charges against him on February 6, 2024. Picture: Facebook
‘While we of course wish our officers never had to come across this type of abhorrent material, it is results like this that underline the critical importance of our role in carefully inspecting digital devices at the border,’ she said.
‘Through the use of sharp intelligence, targeting and profiling techniques, ABF officers helped trigger an investigation that has removed two vulnerable children from harm’s way.’
Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse are urged to contact the ACCCE at www.accce.gov.au/report.
If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.