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Wide Web Of Fear
TWO men were found dead yesterday after being caught in a nationwide child pornography swoop that investigators tip will implicate up to 500 people.
A Victorian prison officer is believed to have killed himself after questioning by detectives on Thursday.
The warder worked at Fulham Correctional Centre in Gippsland.
In Western Australia, a man due to face court on one count of possessing child pornography failed to appear and was later found dead at his home in the state's southwest.
In Melbourne, a Catholic primary school teacher and an Anglican minister were stood down and will be charged on summons with possessing child pornography.
The scale of the child porn network has shocked Australians with community and political leaders saying they are sickened.
As fresh police raids were conducted across Melbourne yesterday, childcare centre owner Scott Thompson put his three creches on the market after being charged with possessing child pornography. He has vowed to fight the charges.
The Herald Sun can reveal the 41-year-old father was involved in a failed dot.com company that left debts of more than $25 million. A military doctor at Australia's most prestigious defence academy - the Royal Military College, Duntroon - is also expected to be charged after the nationwide crackdown, codenamed Operation Auxin.
Victorian Assistant Police Commissioner Simon Overland warned pedophiles would be weeded out and dealt with. "Can I make it clear that no form of child abuse will be tolerated in Victoria or anywhere in Australia," he said.
"Hiding behind a computer screen won't protect offenders from detection and prosecution."
The Melbourne Catholic school teacher was stood down after the church became aware of allegations against him.
"At this stage there is no evidence of images involving students from the school he was involved in," said Kevin Loomes, the spokesman for Victoria Police.
The Anglican minister facing charges had been involved in youth groups through the church, police reports said.
It is believed the Duntroon doctor has been summonsed to appear in court after Australian Federal Police seized a computer hard drive at his Canberra home.
The man is a civilian doctor who does not wear an army uniform but is employed full-time by the Department of Defence.
More than 200 people have now been charged in the country's biggest anti-child porn sting.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said police across the country had executed more than 400 search warrants and expected more charges to be laid.
He said police were examining 400 computers and other material.
More than two million images have been found, featuring children as young as two.
"It's almost certain that there will be further arrests," Mr Keelty said.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said teams of police were investigating whether any Victorian children figured in the pornographic images.
She said authorities would move to protect any Victorian children identified and deal with their attackers.
In other developments:
A SYDNEY court heard a school teacher arrested in the operation had set up a video camera behind a changing room mirror to film children undressing.
TWENTY-FOUR men faced court in Perth, including two school teachers and a police officer.
A WEST Australian MP dismissed an electorate officer, who was caught up in the scandal.
In Victoria, 68 people have so far been arrested followed by Queensland (57), NSW (28), Western Australia (24), the Northern Territory (seven), South Australia (six) and one in Tasmania.
Prime Minister John Howard said he was shocked at the unprecedented results of the nationwide swoop.
He said the Government had introduced measures to combat internet child pornography, but would do more if required.
"If arising out of this there are any further legislative changes that the police recommend we'll certainly implement them," he said.
Opposition Leader Mark Latham said he was sickened and disgusted that a childcare centre owner, teachers and police officers were among those linked to the porn.
"I think from both sides of politics we need to be committed to all the law enforcement and processes to ensure that these rackets are cleaned out and people go to jail," he told Sky News Australia.
"We need all the checking arrangements, a national system of checking people who work with children, because you can never be too safe."
Australia's crackdown was based on information uncovered by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents tracking a child porn empire operating from the European republic of Belarus.
The US operation netted more than 4000 offenders.
ICE spokeswoman Jamie Zuieback said hundreds, possibly thousands, more child porn fiends could be arrested in Australia based on her agency's experience.
The West Australian man found dead was Australind electrician Kim Della-Vedova, 46. He was charged with three counts of possessing child pornography on Monday.
When he failed to appear in court yesterday, a warrant was issued for his arrest but before police could act on the warrant, a friend had reported his death.
Police said they had no reason to be concerned for Mr Della-Vedova's welfare during their dealings with him earlier in the week, saying he had fully co-operated.

Herald Sun (2-10-2004)
Mark Buttler, Cameron Smith, Mandi Zonneveldt/ Jeremy Kelly
 

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