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WARNING: Disturbing content

A South Australian man allegedly paid international pedophiles more than $50,000 to abuse little girls while he watched and directed the vicious acts over the internet.

Andrew Donald Steele, 65, appeared in Adelaide Magistrates Court via videolink on the same morning the Australian Federal Police announced two of his alleged victims had been rescued from child sex abuse in the Philippines.

The two girls were found on the island of Bohol and have been removed from harm and placed in the care of child protection services.

Mr Steele’s case has been adjourned to 2024 after AFP prosecutors declared “further disclosures” had been discovered in the heinous case.

He was due to enter pleas to a string of serious child abuse charges, including the persistent abuse of a child outside of Australia and the possession of child abuse material, but now more charges will be added.

Prosecutors have alleged Mr Steele abused his victims up to 300 times in 24 days.

The AFP, Australian Border Force and Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) rescued the girls about five months after the investigation into Mr Steele kicked off in May when he was arrested on his return to Australia via Bali.

ABF officers at Adelaide International Airport allegedly discovered child abuse material on Mr Steele’s mobile device during a baggage examination.

The AFP was notified and launched an investigation with South Australia’s elite child protection unit, SA Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET).

SA JACET executed a search warrant at Mr Steele’s Yankalilla home on May, 24, 2023 and located and seized electronic devices.

Further forensic examination of the devices allegedly identified additional child abuse material involving live online child sexual abuse, the AFP stated on Wednesday.

Australian investigators linked up with officers in Manila from the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Centre and subsequently identified the two girls.

AFP Sergeant Joe Barry said the case illustrated the importance of international relationships in combating serious crime.

“The ability to share intelligence and resources with international partners is vital so that law enforcement can target and arrest those who prey on children,” Sergeant Barry said.

“Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime and victims are re-victimised every time images or videos of the crimes are accessed and shared.”

NBI lawyer Catherine Nolsasco said Mr Steele’s arrest in Australia and the removal of the alleged victims in the Philippines was a demonstration of how law enforcement authorities could effectively collaborate.

“The NBI, with its strong partnership with the AFP, will continue to be relentless in fighting online sexual exploitation of children,” she said.

ABF Inspector Mel Duncan said officers could examine a passenger’s electronic devices at the border as part of their role to detect and disrupt illegal activity, which includes the storage and dissemination of child abuse material.

“While we of course wish our officers never had to come across this type of abhorrent material, it is results like this that underline the critical importance of our role in carefully inspecting digital devices at the border,” Inspector Duncan said.

“Through the use of sharp intelligence, targeting and profiling techniques, ABF officers helped trigger an investigation that has removed two vulnerable children from harm’s way.”

Magistrate Karim Soetratma remanded Mr Steele in custody until his next appearance on February 6, 2024.

Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse are urged to contact the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation at www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on triple-0.

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By Rahul

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