South Australian man jailed for ordering and paying for sexual abuse of children in the Philippines

The crimes of Ian Ralph Schapel also led to the rescue of 15 young victims and the arrest of five people in the Philippines following an international investigation.

The 68-year-old former public servant was first detained in February 2020 after Australian Border Force officers examined his bags when he arrived in Melbourne on an overseas flight and allegedly found child abuse material on his mobile phone.

Ian Ralph Schapel
Ian Ralph Schapel has been jailed for 16 years. (Supplied)

He was charged over the content which eventually led to the discovery of more than 50,000 images and videos of child abuse material on a range of electronic devices at his Adelaide home.

Further investigations by SA police found he had communicated with people in the Philippines to procure several children, the youngest aged three, who were forced to perform sexually explicit acts on camera that he watched live from his Adelaide home.

In February last year, Schapel admitted to 50 offences, including viewing, remotely instructing and recording the sexual abuse of children on 55 occasions between March 2018 and January 2020.

Ian Ralph Schapel
Schapel, now 68, pleaded guilty to 50 child sexual offenses including paying for children to be abused while he watched over the internet. (Supplied)

As part of the international investigation, Philippine authorities executed search warrants at multiple locations in Bislig, a remote area in the country’s east, in August 2020.

Thirteen children and two young adults were removed from harm and five women were arrested, accused of facilitating the abuse for profit.

The women were aged between 18 and 29 at the time, and some were mothers of the victims. They remain before the courts in the Philippines.

Australian Federal Police Commander Erica Merrin said the case highlighted the force’s commitment to work with partners to protect children around the world.

Australian Federal Police said Ian Schapel's arrest led to the rescue of 15 victims.
Australian Federal Police said Schapel’s arrest led to the rescue of 15 victims. (Australian Federal Police)

“Children are being forced into the most appalling violence and torment on camera by the people who are meant to love and to protect them,” she said.

“This Adelaide man did not just watch children being hurt, he ordered specific abuse to happen and preyed on the economic vulnerability of the people involved.”

Philippine Police Brigadier General Edgar De Mayo Cacayan said close collaboration with the AFP and other international partners should send a strong message to would-be child sex offenders.

“You will not buy and sell the sexual abuse of children in the Philippines,” he said.

“We will not allow it and we will be their guardians. We will find you and you will have to answer for your actions in a court of law.”

In the South Australian District Court on Wednesday, Schapel was jailed for just over 16 years with a non-parole period of 10 years.

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