Mum’s nightmares over sickening task
The devastated mother of Bondi schoolgirl Samantha Knight, who was killed by convicted paedophile Michael Guider, has told a court she is haunted by the thousands of scenarios about what may have happened to her daughter.
The judge, Justice Richard Button, started the hearing today by saying: "It can be seen that the defendant is not present by way of audio visual link. These are civil proceedings and he's not required to be present."
Yesterday marked 33 years since the nine-year-old disappeared. Her family has since been racked with terror, grief and desolation.
"Did she wonder where I was and why I wasn't there to help her?" Tess Knight asked through tears in the NSW Supreme Court today.
"Did she call out for me? And what did she say? And was she so scared that she used the words of a younger child?
"Did she ever say 'I want my mummy'? Did she tell him 'I want to go home'?"
She is also tortured by flashbacks of viewing Guider's child pornography, which she was asked to scrutinise in a bid to find her daughter.
"Images of Samantha might still be in circulation. Sometimes I think about that," she said.
"I had to scrutinise them in detail. This is how I tried to help, this is how I tried to find my daughter.
"Because of the (lack of) detail provided by Guider, imagination fills the gaps."
Ms Knight said 12,000 days have passed since she waved goodbye to her daughter as she left for school. She never saw her again.
She said it was unlikely Samantha had recognised Guider who they knew when they lived in Manly but thought it possible he had stalked her years later in Bondi.
Guider, 68, pleaded guilty in 2002 to the manslaughter of Samantha and was jailed for a maximum of 17 years. He has since backflipped on his confession.
His confident and outgoing young victim, who became the face of missing children in Australia, vanished from Sydney's eastern suburbs in August 1986.
The green-eyed, blond-haired primary school student was last seen talking to an adult male on Bondi Rd in the seaside suburb of Bondi.
Her body has never been found.
Guider was sentenced on the agreed basis that he had "adopted his well-established method" of dosing a child victim with a sedative but Samantha died unexpectedly as a result.
His prison term expired on June 6 this year but he has remained behind bars - as a result of multiple interim detention orders - after NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman applied to halt his release.
Mr Speakman is seeking a one-year detention order and a subsequent five-year extended supervision order when Guider is eventually released.
Ms Knight said she wants the conditions imposed on Guider when he is released to include travel restrictions and areas of absolute exclusion.
This includes "bushland of any kind" and day care centres, preschools, schools and amusement parks of any kind, she said.
Ms Knight was one of three people to read a victim impact statement today, joined by Samantha's uncle Michael Knight and another of Guider's victims, Lisa Giles.
Almost 33 years ago, Ms Giles first disclosed to her mother that she was being sexually abused by Guider.
She told the court today he "developed a fastidious matrix of groomed families" and infiltrated and manipulated her very own.
"His tentacles have such insidious reach," Ms Giles said, reading from her 13-page statement and seated next to her mother.
"His master stroke ... his long-term project was me."
She viewed him as "the guy who breaks up the boring school holidays" but he was really "just waiting and hunting in plain sight".
Ms Giles said careful and considered plans must be made for when Guider is freed from jail.
"We are not physically safe if he is released, our children are not safe and our minds are not safe," she said.
She said Guider "is not a one-trick pony" and is not finished.
"This is not a man who will fade into obscurity and potter humbly around his garden," Ms Giles said.
"I know he looks dishevelled ... but that does not mean his brain is tiring"
The child sexual abuse survivor said it was imperative to restrict and remove "physical tools" from Guider's reach such as a camera and access to social media and the internet among the conditions of his release.
The decision on Guider's future in or out of custody could be made later this afternoon.
As Michael Knight prepared to read his statement, he presented a weathered card Samantha had given to her grandfather.
"To Bill, love from Samantha. I hope you have a nice day and a nice day for the rest of the week," Mr Knight read aloud.
Holding the card reminds him of Samantha "as a living, breathing person" and the seemingly endless future of a child, he said.
"Today she would have been here, at this moment in time, 42 years of age."
Mr Knight said Samantha's great grandmother recently died at the age of 101.
"She (Samantha) had a lot of life ahead of her … she just didn't get a chance."
The uncle pleaded for Guider to reveal where the nine-year-old's remains are.
"Samantha Knight should be resting in consecrated ground. This can never be forgiven," Mr Knight said.
The civil hearing continues.
CONSIDERING A CONVICTED PAEDOPHILE'S FREEDOM
Reports from a psychiatrist and a psychologist, tendered in court today, were ordered by Justice Button in June who said community safety was his paramount consideration at the preliminary stage of considering Guider's release.
"The record of convictions speaks for itself about the chronicity and intensity of the sexual attraction of the defendant to children, and his readiness to act upon it," the judge said.
When Guider was sentenced for killing Samantha, he was already serving time for over 60 sex offences committed against more than a dozen children.
His crimes spanned years, from 1980 to 1996, and his victims were aged as young as two.
Many of the children had come into contact with Guider after he befriended their mothers.
A number of them were sexually or indecently assaulted while affected by "stupefying" drugs, according to court documents.
"His sexual attraction to children was so profound that the death of a child at his hands did not deter him from continuing to offend in the same way, and using the same self-evidently potentially fatal method of doing so," Justice Button said in June.
He noted Guider now firmly denies he "had anything to do" with the young girl's death, "despite all of the evidence to the contrary" and his guilty plea more than 17 years ago.
The judge described the change as "a significant backward step" and "concerning indeed".
He accepted that Guider had "confronted his grossly distorted sexuality" over many years, and made a real effort to overcome it, but said he was "by no means sure that the chronic, intense, longstanding sexual attraction to children of the defendant had dissipated entirely".
CHILD KILLER'S EXCUSES YEARS BEFORE CONFESSION
Guider, a gardener and part-time babysitter, told police when he was interviewed in 1996 that he was obsessed with photographing children and also collected children's underwear.
Officers searched his home and shed and found pornographic books and thousands of photographs and slides depicting children in indecent poses and being sexually assaulted.
He was interviewed multiple times that year in relation to Samantha's disappearance, offering what three judges later considered "extraordinary suggestions" including that she could have been kidnapped by aliens, or white slave traders or Satanists had been involved.
Guider also volunteered the idea that her remains could be at Cooper Park in Bellevue Hill.
Police later searched the area but they were unable to find any trace of Samantha's body.
A brief of evidence was eventually established and Guider was charged in February 2001.
"He appears to have always been something of an introverted, avoidant loner unable to commit to any long term relationships, regularly moving between various hostels, boarding houses or similar accommodation in the Sydney region," his court sentence in 2002 states.
"It was in the course of these moves that he came into contact with the various families whose trust he then abused."
The judges said if Guider had truly felt remorse or contrition for killing Samantha, it was inconceivable that he would have exposed other children to the danger that led to her death.