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A paedophile who groomed an Auckland teenager online then tried to lure her overseas is back behind bars after contacting the girl again in breach of his release conditions.
But the victim’s mother fears the man has targeted other children on social media, saying there is nothing to stop him creating multiple profiles under different aliases.
“He could stalk my daughter under a different name, so that really worries me.
“The problem is these guys don’t come with ‘danger’ stamped on their head.”
Tony Steven Atkins, 31, was jailed several years ago on three counts of failing to comply with reporting obligations, two of possessing child abuse files, and four of producing child exploitation material.
He was arrested in South Australia by detectives from an anti child abuse police taskforce after a desperate Kiwi mum turned amateur detective to protect her vulnerable 16-year-old daughter and bring Atkins to justice.
The Herald on Sunday revealed that the mother obtained an emergency court order to prevent her daughter travelling to Australia to live with Atkins. She also loaded spyware on the girl’s phone to record the pair’s online conversations and helped international police secure the sex offender’s arrest.
She claimed Oranga Tamariki (OT), which had custody of the girl at the time, failed to act despite being warned the girl had been targeted by an online predator.
Atkins – who was also jailed in 2011 for sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl – was eventually released after serving his second lag. He is on an extended supervision order which imposes certain conditions he must comply with or risk being recalled to prison.
The Herald can reveal that just days before the newspaper published a story last month about Atkins’ predatory grooming of the Auckland teen, he contacted her again on Facebook.
A Facebook message to the girl said: “Your looking better I just want you to know I never blamed you any way bye [sic].”
The mother told the Herald the message had retraumatised her daughter, triggering painful memories of being sexually exploited.
“She was quite panicked that he was reaching out to her. The wording was quite ominous because he’s all over her photos.
“It’s awful really. I had hoped there were strict limitations and monitoring in place regarding his activities.”
The mother immediately contacted the same South Australian detectives who had previously prosecuted Atkins in connection with his communications with the girl.
The next day they swooped on the child sex offender, searching his property.
A detective emailed the mother two weeks ago to confirm Atkins was back behind bars for allegedly creating an online social media account in breach of his conditions. He is also charged with possessing and producing child sexual exploitation material.
He was remanded in custody and is due to reappear in a South Australian magistrates court in September.
The detective confirmed that in addition to Atkins’ extended supervision order, he was now subject to a non-contact condition relating to the Auckland teen “to provide further protection”.
The mother told the Herald she appreciated South Australian police acting so swiftly. But she doubted Atkins could be rehabilitated and feared he could make further online contact with her daughter.
Mum turned private investigator
The Herald on Sunday earlier revealed that the mother’s tenacious actions had prevented her daughter travelling overseas on a one-way ticket bought for her by strangers to meet a much older man she had only ever met online.
Her daughter had been in OT care at the time because of serious behavioural problems, violence and suicide attempts stemming from post traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, suspected fetal alcohol syndrome effects, anxiety and depression.
After learning of the girl’s travel plans the mother loaded spyware on the child’s phone, which captured sexualised messages with Atkins.
She also convinced her daughter to hand over the password to her phone, then went to police who were able to clone the device and gain access to Atkins’ bank account details. This showed he had purchased a one-way airfare in the girl’s name – leading to his arrest.
The mother says that despite reporting her fears about Atkins to OT and begging for the child welfare agency to seek a court order preventing her leaving the country, officials refused to intervene because ofthe girl’s age and fledgling independence.
“I would have thought they would have been legally and morally obliged to act.”
A court eventually granted an emergency order after the mother lodged her own application and the girl is now back in the mother’s custody.
OT said it takes concerns about child welfare seriously but the mother as the girl’s guardian had “legal ability” to make the Family Court application.
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