FEAR THAT HAUNTS EVERY PARENT
THE tragic outcome of two abductions in Florida this week has
prompted authorities to warn
parents the profile of a child predator no longer just includes images of an old
man "with an enticing bag of lollies".
After huge searches which attempted to
turn every stone in two separate communities, five-year-old Quatisha Maycock and
eight-year-old Maddie Clifton appear to
have been killed by males they trusted.
Tiny Quatisha was bashed and left to
drown in a swamp by the spurned man who
bad been dating her mother, Miami police
suspect. Her pyjama-clad body was found
floating in waist-deep water by two fisherman who at first
thought she was a discarded dolL
"It's a hurtin' feelin' to see a baby in the
water like that. We initially thought it was
a baby doll because she was so cute." says
C.W, Cox, a fisherman who found the body
in a section of the Everglades known as
The body of fun-loving Maddie was found
hidden under the waterbed of a 14-year-old
boy, Joshua Phillips, who lived across the
road from her home in Jacksonville.
She was found three days after she disappeared.
Yesterday, the boy was charged
The gruesome discovery followed a weekend of tears in which Maddie's parents made
an emotional plea for her safe return and
offered a $50,000 reward.
When police finally searched the room of
Maddie's suspected killer, they found the
girl's feet protruding from under a water-
filled mattress. The boy is believed to have
had a fixation with his younger playmate.
Recent statistics show a child is abducted
every six minutes in the United States. While
the majority relate to custody battles and
no harm is intended, about 100 a year are
In most cases, the child is raped before
being killed, according to the Florida-based
Jimmy Ryce Centre for Victims of Predatory
Police are yet to release autopsy details
about whether the latest victims were
sexually molested, but the killing of the two
litile girls has sparked a new campaign to
make parents more aware of when and
where their children may be in danger.
A detailed study of more than 600 child
abduction cases across the US in recent
years confirmed the majority of victims knew
or trusted their attacker.
The study found most abductions occur
within less than 1km from the child's home
and the targeted victim is usually dead
within three hours of disappearing.
The targets tend to be pre-pubescent and
from stable middle-class homes.
"The public thinks the typical victim is five
or six years old who is snatched by some
old man skulking around a park saying 'You
want some candy?'. That's just not the
case," says Washington homicide detective
Ken Hanfland, who helped write a report for
the US Department of Justice after studying
hundreds of abduction cases.
Detective Hanfland's study found the typical child abductor
was in his late-2Os, unmarried and with a record of sexual assault
or child violence (a separate study found 20
per cent of child abductors were repeat
The abductor often lives or works in the
area and is usually known to the victim. The
attacker is unlikely to be a loner, with 83
per cent of offenders found to be occupying
a residence with someone else.
After the slaying, 21 per cent of child
attackers left town. Ten per cent stayed
around and Injected themselves into the
hunt for the missing child.
Girls aged 12 and older are common
targets, experts say, because parents sometimes assume they are old enough to take
care of themselves or want to give them
their own space".
Julia Cartwright, from the National Centre
for Missing and Exploited Children, believes
parents still must offer the age-old advice
not to speak to strangers.
But, she says, they also should make their
children aware of how to recognise any
dangerous situation and what to do when
CHILDREN should be encouraged
to stay in groups or in the
company of several adults.
They should avoid situations
where they are alone with an adult other
than one of their parents," she says.
Concerned groups in the US have started
two programs to help parents in the fight
against child abductors and paedophiles.
More than a dozen web sites have been
established which list the names of known
sex offenders and the districts in which they
live - a public advisory made legal by the
so-called Megan's law, which resulted from
a campaign sparked by the kidnap, rape and
murder of seven-year-old New Jersey girl
Megan Kanka. A neighbor was convicted for
the crime and sentenced to death.
In Florida, nearly 600 convenience stores
have signed up to a program in which pictures
of missing children and composite pictures of
suspects are displayed on TV monitors inside the shops.
Police estimate the images will be
viewed by more than 1000 people a day in each store.
The program was launched by Claudine Ryce,
whose 9yr old son, Jimmy, was abducted in September, 1995.
His mutilated and raped body was found three months later.
A 31yr old cuban immigrant was convicted last month of the murder
and sentenced to death in the electric chair.
By Geoff Stead