One of South Australia’s most notorious paedophiles, who sexually abused children in state care, has told a royal commission he was trying to be on his best behaviour and wrongly thought he could control his sick fantasies.
- Shannon McCoole told an inquiry he thought he could control his paedophilic urges
- He says he did not seek employment with children to abuse them
- Claims he only received basic training before starting work at Families SA
Shannon McCoole, now 33, gave evidence in person for about five hours on Friday at a royal commission triggered by his arrest in June 2014 for sexually abusing children as young as 18 months old.
He denied seeking employment at an out-of-school-hours care service, Nanny SA and Families SA, with the intention of offending against children.
But the inquiry was told that before starting work at Nanny SA and Families SA, McCoole discussed an intention to offend against children in online chat rooms.
He outlined how to gain access to children through his employment and strategies to avoid detection.
McCoole described those chats as “just fantasy”.
He is currently serving 35 years’ jail for child sexual abuse and operating a global child pornography website between January 2011 and June 2014.
The Child Protection Systems Royal Commission previously heard serious red flags were not acted on during his employment as a government carer.
About a year before his arrest, a fellow worker reported the suspected rape of a six-year-old girl by McCoole.
He told the inquiry that a Families SA supervisor supported him by saying “he thought it was a complete load of shit” and McCoole later returned from suspension.
Nanny SA had ‘little idea what they were doing’
McCoole said he only received basic training before starting work at Nanny SA in January 2011 and the organisation’s staff had “very little idea what they were doing”.
He said he learnt how to care for children by “watching other people” on the job and developing his own style.
He said when he began working for Families SA in May 2011, most of the guidelines were about working with children over the age of 12.
The red flags that were missed
The Child Protection Systems Royal Commission is examining a series of red flags that were noticed during Shannon McCoole’s employment as a government carer. We look back at significant events during his employment.
McCoole said he could not recall having a formal interview before beginning at an out-of-school-hours care service in 2010.
The inquiry heard that before Families SA hired McCoole he had become more active in child abuse chat rooms, as well as viewing and sharing child pornography.
He said while he had been attracted to children since about the age of 15, he never intended to abuse children when he started work for Nanny SA, Families SA and the out-of-school-hours care service.
“I didn’t want to be this way — I had quite a lot of self loathing, I still do,” he said.
“It’s hard to describe how much you hate yourself. For quite a few years I guess I denied it to myself, I didn’t want it to be true.
“I thought it was a passing thing that would go away.”
McCoole said he had previously controlled his paedophilic urges while working at summer camp in the USA and thought he could do the same at work in Adelaide.
He said he sought support from online chat rooms because he did not think a psychiatrist or psychologist would keep his paedophilic thoughts confidential.
“I was actually looking for help online and I wasn’t really able to find help and just stumbled across chats,” McCoole said.
He said he was scared that his thoughts could lead to legal proceedings.
“I thought I would lose my family and friends, everything I held dear. There was an ongoing fear of being persecuted for my thoughts.”
The inquiry heard McCoole brought a hard drive into a care home containing an R-rated movie titled Young People F***ing.
He denied knowing the video was on the hard drive and said a friend had loaded movies onto it.
McCoole said he was “relieved” that a discussion with bosses about the movie led to no further action.
McCoole abused first victim in his car
The inquiry was told McCoole’s first victim was a boy in residential care and the offending took place in his car in February 2011.
McCoole had picked up the boy from childcare, stopped his car to inappropriately touch him and captured the offending on camera.
He could not explain what caused him to act on his paedophilic thoughts.
“I’ve asked myself a lot why I changed or what changed and I have no idea,” he said.
Counsel assisting the royal commission, Emily Telfer, suggested McCoole did not offend against children at the out-of-school-hours care service because the children were older and went home to their parents.
But McCoole rejected that, saying: “I don’t think that crossed my mind.”
He said he did not really consider the risk of getting caught.
“It would have been in my mind, I guess, to not get caught,” he said.
“I wasn’t really considering risk; I was well beyond the risk.”
McCoole declined to answer questions on some topics for fear of further incriminating himself.
He was due to return to the royal Commission on Monday but finished his evidence yesterday.