A woman who was at the centre of a paedophile ring which subjected five children to sickening abuse at sex parties was today jailed for life.
Kerry Susan Bromhead, 68, of Mosman, and other seemingly ‘respectable’ adults raped and attacked the twenty-seven boys and three girls for more than a decade.
A Sydney court heard that Bromhead played an instrumental part in abusing the terrified youngsters in and around the location of Killarney Heights High school, were she was formerly principal.
Ten people stood trial accused of being members of the paedophile ring – which forced the children to have sex with each other.
Bromhead and two men were convicted of carrying out sex attacks, while another woman was found guilty of ABH.
At Downing Centre Court today, Bromhead was sentenced to life in prison. A judge told her she will serve a minimum of 24 years.
Sentencing her, Judge Nicholas Coleman said: “The case is the most harrowing it has been my misfortune to try.
“I and the jurors had to listen to the truly gruesome detail of what took place.
“Your conduct towards these children can only be described as utterly depraved – the children were subjected to sexual abuse of the worst kind.
“They were simply passed around like toys.
Six other people, including four women, were cleared of all charges after a three-month trial.
The paedophile ring’s members threw parties and played card games to decide who would abuse which child, Downing Centre Court heard.
The young victims were rewarded with certificates carrying slogans such as ‘secrets are good’ and ‘do not tell anyone’.
They were sexually assaulted in front of one another – and children’s toys, including Barbie dolls, were also used in sex acts.
The abuse became so routine that the victims, who were all aged under 13, came to accept it as normal.
Bromhead had denied 26 offences and jurors convicted her of all but three counts after 19 hours of deliberations.
She sobbed as she was found guilty of offences including rape, conspiracy to rape and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.
Bromhead was given a harsher sentence due to the fact that she had once been a principal of high school in Sydney.
Afterwards she was overheard in the dock saying: “I’ve been stitched up.”
During the trial, prosecutor Angela Rafferty QC said Bromhead played an instrumental role in the paedophile ring.
She told jurors: “Many of the defendants have become good at appearing normal and respectable.
“This is what you would have to do in order to be child abusers to the extent alleged here.
“Their victims were very young and had been treated dreadfully throughout their lives.
“One of the children did not realise that sexual contact between adults and children wasn’t normal.
“Children cannot endure the level of abuse you will hear about without consequences.”
One of youngsters told detectives he had been abused by members of the paedophile ring since he was two.
He said: “They would do some games where the boys were in one room with the men and girls were in another with the women.
“The adults would have a card game. The winner would get to choose a boy to start touching their private parts and then hurt them afterwards.
“They used to make us stand naked and tell us what to do.”
Asked about Bromhead, he said: “She would stand there laughing. I just thought it was usual and that everybody did it.”
Bromhead claimed the allegations were false and concocted by Forestville’s Council’s children’s services department.
The trial was delayed last year when prosecutors raised concerns over changes made by social workers to statements taken from the children.
This resulted in Chatswood Police launching an investigation into alleged misconduct, although no charges were ever brought.
Harvey Rose, 71, from Avalon Sydney, was found guilty of 14 counts including cruelty, rape and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. He was jailed for 24 years.
Julie Martz, 59, from Manly, was found guilty of 13 similar counts and also sentenced to 24 years behind bars.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Pete Hornby said that, as the “one common denominator”, Bromhead was at the centre of all of the abuse.
In each case she introduced the children to their abusers.
He added it was particularly unusual for a woman to play a lead role in abuse which was “beyond most people’s imagination”.
“She simply denies that this abuse happened so it is very difficult to offer any explanation for her behaviour,” Mr Hornby said.
“She played an active part in the abuse and facilitated abuse by others.
“She was at the centre of the spider’s web of abuse.”