Chilling footage has been released showing the horrific moment a young father lured a seven-year-old girl out of a busy Kmart store before sexually assaulting her.
According to multiple reports, Sterling Free, now 27, has pleaded guilty to three charges of taking a child under 12 for immoral purposes, deprivation of liberty and indecent treatment, after appearing in Brisbane District Court on Wednesday.
The incident happened at Westfield North Lakes in Brisbane last December and Free, who is a young father of twins, was arrested two days later after being caught leading the girl out on CCTV footage.
Now videos and photos, shared online by Seven’s morning show Sunrise, show the moment he walks outside with the girl just two steps behind him.
Despite being surrounded by people, and passing several more, neither of them are stopped at any point.
More footage shared by Nine News also shows him stalking the toy aisles of the busy Kmart store, without the girl at this point.
#EXCLUSIVE: A child predator has pleaded guilty to abducting a 7-year-old girl from inside a busy Kmart store and sexually assaulting her in a random attack. @TessaHardy9 #9News pic.twitter.com/yM76iakMhv
— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) July 17, 2019
The Courier Mail reported that Free, who works as an insulation installer, took the girl from her mother on December 8, 2018, before returning her around an hour later.
The court reportedly heard how he found the girl in the toy aisle of the store while he was Christmas shopping and told her: “Follow me.”
After leaving the store, the court heard he drove her to bushland near Pumicestone Passage where she was sexually assaulted.
By the time he returned her to the car park, police had been called as she’d been missing long enough to raise major concerns. He was arrested two days later.
The mother reportedly became suspicious that harm had come to her daughter when she noticed a scratch on her back later, the news outlet reports.
“Mr Free’s actions and his instructions to us have demonstrated a level of remorse,” his lawyer Shaune Irving told reporters outside court on Wednesday.
“He’s somewhat relieved that we have an end in sight and that the matter will be dealt with.”
He reportedly added: “He’s given us pretty detailed instructions that he wants to resolve the matter… and obviously have his punishment delivered and he wants to do that as quickly as possible.”
Free has been remanded in custody until sentencing on October 8.