Accused paedophile Charles Batham who fled the country after being charged with 31 child sex offences, has been captured in Italy.
An accused paedophile from Australia has been arrested amid the coronavirus lockdowns in Italy, nine years after being charged, and following an ABC investigation that discovered him living in a seaside resort town.
Charles Batham left the country in 2011 after West Australian police charged him with 31 child sex offences, which he has always denied.
An ABC story published in February resulted in a flurry of fresh information and sightings, prompting police to restart their efforts to find him.
The ABC story prompted more than a dozen people from across Australia and Europe to provide details of Mr Batham’s life before and after his decade running a tourism business in Broome. It was during this time that he allegedly raped and made indecent recordings of young girls and was charged by police.
The charges included 11 counts of indecently recording a child under 13, and six counts of sexual penetration of a child under 13. These are very serious charges, we are not talking about a shoplifting charge.
Mr Batham broke bail and took a commercial flight to Malaysia without being detained by authorities, a situation slammed by victims’ advocates.
Mr Batham was this month found living in the picturesque town of Caorle, north-east of Venice, with Italian police this week arresting the 75-year-old at the request of Australian authorities. In a statement, the Australian Attorney-General’s Department confirmed the arrest but would not comment on the timeline for Mr Batham to be extradited.
“We understand that Mr Batham is in custody in Italy in response to an Australian request … he is wanted for prosecution in Western Australia for alleged child sexual offences,” the statement said.
“As the matter is ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
One of Mr Batham’s alleged victims, who claims she was molested as a young girl while living in Broome, said she was shocked to hear of the arrest.
“The police phoned me and I was really surprised,” she said.
“There’s still a long way to go, but it’s better than the limbo I was living in before.
“It sounds like it could take quite a while to get him back to Australia, especially with everything going down with coronavirus over there, but I’m really hoping that it will happen.
“To be honest, I thought he’d die from coronavirus before [an arrest].”
Mr Batham is yet to face the charges in court and has denied the allegations to friends and colleagues.
Australian authorities now face a lengthy and involved court process to bring Mr Batham to Australia, a process complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Travel bans mean WA police cannot travel to Italy to oversee the process, nor can Mr Batham be brought into the country.
It will take a long time to get Mr Batham back to face the charges however we have no doubt the news he has been arrested will bring some sense of peace to those awaiting their day in court.
Thank you to the ABC for running the story that resulted in Batham being found and to the members of the public who gave information which resulted in his capture and the police.
Now it’s up to the courts.