Kmart sex predator broke down
A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD girl was looking at toys in a shopping centre in Queensland a few weeks before Christmas.
About an hour-and-a-half later, she was safely in the arms of her mother. But in the time between, she was subject to a reprehensible sexual assault by a brazen and predatory paedophile.
Sterling Mervyn Free, a 27-year-old father of two daughters, stalked the girl in the toy section of Kmart at Westfield North Lakes, north of Brisbane, last year.
He lured her from the shopping centre, molested her in bushland and dropped her back to the centre more than an hour later.
Free has faced a sentencing hearing in Brisbane District Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to deprivation of liberty, taking a child for immoral purposes and indecent treatment of a child under 12.
Members of the public gallery were in tears as footage of the abduction was played in court.
The footage shows Free milling around the toy section of Kmart for about 20 minutes around lunchtime.
Meanwhile, the girl goes from aisle to aisle while periodically returning to her mother.
Her and Free's interaction in an aisle is not shown on CCTV, but she follows him closely out of the store and centre.
He took her to bushland about 30 minutes away, into an area not visible from the road.
After molesting her, he carried her back to the car and returned her to the centre, helping her cross a road to the entrance.
Footage shows the girl in the arms of her mother, who had filed a lost child report, at a service desk.
Crown prosecutor Judy Geary labelled Free's offending brazen, determined, deliberate and predatory.
The incident has had a "significant impact" on the girl, Ms Geary said. "He used her for his own sexual gratification," she said.
Free's semen was found on the girl's clothing, the court heard. His defence barrister admitted his offending was appalling but claimed he had shown "genuine remorse" and was cooperative with police.
After his offending, Free claimed he "snapped out of it", broke down in tears and "felt horrible".
He "hated every bit of" his abusive actions.
A porn addict with a pedophilic disorder who was himself abused, Free had trouble controlling his impulses, the court heard.
But Judge Julie Dick said it was "obvious" premeditation.
"There's an aspect of this that doesn't look too impulsive," she said. The prosecution has called for a 10-year jail sentence.
Judge Dick will hand down her sentence on Friday.