Australian arrested on sex abuse charges in Philippines

Australian Gerard Peter Scully (above) - charged with multiple child sex offences in the Philippines - is also suspected of killing a 12-year-old girl and burying her under his rented apartment, police said Thursday. -- PHOTO: INQUIRER
Australian Gerard Peter Scully (above) - charged with multiple child sex offences in the Philippines - is also suspected of killing a 12-year-old girl and burying her under his rented apartment, police said Thursday. -- PHOTO: INQUIRER MINDANAO/ANN

MANILA (AFP) - An Australian man charged with multiple child sex offences in the Philippines is also suspected of killing a 12-year-old girl and burying her under his rented apartment, police said Thursday.

Gerard Peter Scully was arrested in the southern Philippine city of Malaybalay on Feb 20 after a three-week stake-out, Angelito Magno, head of that region's National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), told AFP.

A local court ordered the 51-year-old's arrest in November last year on charges of rape and human trafficking after two teenage girls were found naked, chained in the bedroom of an apartment he rented, Magno said.

Scully is also under criminal investigation in the Netherlands, where his alleged Internet activities selling online pornography were discovered, Magno said. Dutch, Australian and Interpol police had helped track him down.

Magno said the skeleton of a girl he allegedly killed two years ago, when she was 12, was dug up on Wednesday in the kitchen of an apartment he had rented in Surigao, another city on the vast southern island of Mindanao.

A former girlfriend tipped off authorities that the body was buried there, Magno said, adding that authorities believed he had abused other girls.

"Our investigation led us to at least seven other girls that he had abused. His racket has been active for around three years," Magno said.

"He preyed on girls in depressed areas and lured them with the promise of food and clothes."

Scully would film the girls while using sex toys or while performing oral sex on him, according to Magno.

He said some of his alleged victims were as young as 12, while the eldest was 18.

Scully first arrived in Manila as a tourist in 2011, then moved to urban centres in the country's impoverished south where he lured girls into his sex dens hidden in rented apartments, according to Magno.

The head of the national police anti-cybercrime unit last year warned that the Philippines had become a key hub of a billion-dollar, global child cybersex industry, with operators aided by widespread poverty and legal loopholes that allow them to remain anonymous.

Most people who pay to view the activity are from the United States and Europe, with potentially thousands of children being abused, often with the connivance of their parents, authorities said then.

In January last year, Australian, British and Philippine police dismantled a cybersex ring where similar footage was being streamed to paedophiles overseas.

When asked about Scully, a spokesperson at the Australian embassy in Manila said it would not comment on "individual cases".