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Child sex abuse inquiry: 'Crystal clear' evidence to support charges against Don Henderson

Children of Stolen Generation to recall abuse at inquiry

The inquiry in Darwin has been focusing on abuse of children at the Retta Dixon home, which mainly housed Aboriginal children between 1946 until it closed in 1980.


Chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse,
Justice Peter McClellan (Image: Perth Now)

Xavier La Canna 25 September 2014

There was clearly evidence to support charges against convicted sex offender Donald Bruce Henderson, who had numerous claims of child abuse against him dropped in 1976 and again in 2002, the head of an inquiry says.

Left: Donald Bruce Henderson, who worked as a house parent at the Retta Dixon home in the Northern Territory is alleged as being "something of a sexual monster" with children in his care.

Right: The NT Director of Public Prosecutions Jack Karczewski QC is grilled at the royal commission.

(Images ABC)

The chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Justice Peter McClellan, on Thursday challenged the NT Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Jack Karczewski QC, who in 2002 was a deputy DPP.

The inquiry was shown an email from former crown prosecutor Glen Dooley, who handled the early part of the case against Mr Henderson.

Mr Dooley described Mr Henderson, who is now aged 78, as allegedly being "something of a sexual monster" with children in his care.

A witness said he once saw Mr Henderson having sex with a chicken, according to the email.

The letter indicated the matter should proceed to trial in 2002 and given a "decent go" even if it did not culminate in convictions.

"In these cases from what you have read there was plainly evidence to support the charges," Justice McClellan said to Mr Karczewski on Thursday.

Lawyer John Lawrence (left) questions former police detective Roger Newman about a sex assault investigation.

(Images ABC)

"There was evidence to support some charges," Mr Karczewski responded.

"That is crystal clear," Justice McClellan said before adjourning the proceedings until Friday.

The inquiry heard earlier there were several reasons why 15 charges that passed the committal phase of proceedings were dropped before the case was due to go to trial.

Initially there were more than 80 charges levelled at Mr Henderson, including for indecent assault and buggery.

A document tendered to the commission showed that Michael Carey, who at the time was the general counsel to the NT DPP, recommended the charges against Mr Henderson be dropped because of inconsistencies with testimony from some witnesses and an inability for some of them to nail a particular alleged offence to a particular time.

Mr Carey is now a sitting NT magistrate.

The commission also heard difficulties because one of the alleged victims of Mr Henderson also had allegations of child sex crimes levelled against them.

Claims Henderson molested children at swimming spots

Earlier, the commission heard historical allegations that Mr Henderson molested children in swimming spots across Darwin between July 1965 and October 1983.

He was convicted of two counts of sexually abusing children at the Casuarina public swimming pool in 1983 and handed a $500 good behaviour bond.

Lawyer John Lawrence SC, who is acting for some of Mr Henderson's alleged victims, questioned former police detective Roger Newman, who ran the investigation into Mr Henderson, as to why he thought Mr Henderson was not prosecuted for crimes other than the 1983 charges.

"It would have alerted you as a detective that he might have felt a lot safer against the authorities if the charges were in relation to young boys and girls from Retta Dixon, as opposed to a couple of young white kids," Mr Lawrence said.

Mr Newman has been critical of the decision not to prosecute Mr Henderson, who had court action withdrawn against him in 1976 and again in 2002.

Henderson connected to YMCA, adopted children

Under questioning from senior counsel assisting the commission, Sophie David, Mr Newman said he had notes that appeared to show Mr Henderson was "with the YMCA World Vision then AMP Life Insurance".

Mr Newman said he was not certain of the connection between Mr Henderson and the YMCA.

The commission also heard that Mr Henderson was either an adoptive or a foster parent to some children.

The inquiry in Darwin has been focusing on abuse of children at the Retta Dixon home, which mainly housed Aboriginal children between 1946 until it closed in 1980.

Graphic evidence of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Mr Henderson, who worked as a "house parent" at Retta Dixon, and other workers at Retta Dixon has been aired.

Royal Commission hears shocking claims of abuse at Christian mission

Children were "chained like dogs" and sexually assaulted at a government-run home for Aboriginal children in Darwin, a child sex abuse inquiry has heard. A former resident of the Retta Dixon home in Darwin told the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

First Nations girls were chained to their beds, starved and flogged with leather belts until they bled, as punishment at the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin. READ MORE