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A Victorian government employee who was allowed to work with children for many years despite warnings he was a paedophile has pleaded guilty to multiple child sex abuse charges.
Former senior Victorian Railways official and Puffing Billy volunteer Robert Kingsley Whitehead, 84, will be sentenced in the County Court as one of Victoria's longest-offending paedophiles after pleading guilty to 20 charges of indecent assault, two of sexual penetration of a child aged between 10 and 16, and one count of false imprisonment.
The prosecution outlined how Whitehead performed sickening initiations on his victims, including making them complete questionnaires on their sexual attitudes, signing blood oaths, and tying them up with rope in a crucifix position.
Whitehead has admitted to sexually abusing six victims when they were boys or adolescents between the 1960s and the 1980s while he worked as a government railway officer and volunteer in historical train societies.
County Court Judge Michael Tinney heard from the prosecution how Whitehead preyed upon adolescent boys, telling them how they needed to be "initiated" into the railways, before abusing them.
In one case, Whitehead told a 15-year-old victim his initiation would involve him having to "strip naked and put you in the firebox" of a train at a museum.
This did not happen, but the court heard graphic details of Whitehead's sexual degradation of the boy.
In another case in 1975, Whitehead abused a 13-year-old boy at a disused railway station near Bendigo called Taradale, which he leased from the state government.
Whitehead asked the victim to complete a form listing his sexual experiences. He then masturbated the boy and performed oral sex on him. He later tied him to a ladder with rope, telling him he "looked like Jesus". The boy feared for his life, the court heard.
At Upwey, in the Dandenongs, in 1983 and 1984, Whitehead also repeatedly sexually abused a 13-year-old Puffing Billy volunteer.
The prosecution stated Whitehead warned victims they would be in trouble with police if they told anyone what had happened, and that he could ensure they lose their place in various railway societies.
Fairfax Media can reveal that Whitehead was first convicted of a child sexual abuse offence and false imprisonment in 1959. Aged 28, he spent seven months inside Pentridge prison before being released on parole.
Despite his 1959 sentencing, and judge Trevor Rapke requesting he never be allowed near young boys, Whitehead returned to his job as a Victorian government railway official employed in various roles, which gave him regular contact with children.
Fairfax Media understands police records of Whitehead's 1959 conviction remained missing until last year. Without those records, a previous police investigation into Whitehead in the mid-1980s was substantially weakened, resulting in no charges being laid.
Whitehead's case is likely to be referred to the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, with victims and their families telling Fairfax Media that former senior Victorian transport officials and past management of historical railway groups were warned of Whitehead's offending but failed to act.
Whitehead rose to become a controller at Spencer Street Station and held senior positions in historic rail societies at North Williamstown, Puffing Billy in the Dandenongs, and in his later years, at the Seymour Heritage Rail Centre.
He was a member of the North Williamstown-based Australian Railways Historical Society between the early 1960s until he was expelled in 1976. The society's records give no reason for his expulsion, but Fairfax Media believes it relates to his predatory behaviour.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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