Sexual abuse of 12 girls admitted

School signA Christchurch school caretaker and bus driver who spent years sexually abusing girls as young as five including some who were physically and mentally disabled has admitted 21 charges and is in custody for sentencing in April.

Robert Selwyn Burrett, 64, installed curtains and a lock in his school caretaker’s shed where sexual abuse of girls would take place.

The abuse involving 12 girls included rape, sodomy, forced oral sex, indecent assaults, video-taping of the offending, and watching pornography. The girls ranged in age from five to 12 years.

Burrett has been in custody since his arrest last year, when his name was published but a suppression order covered details of the charges except for the fact they related to sexual offending.

Those details emerged and could be published after Burrett’s guilty pleas in the High Court at Christchurch before Justice Cameron Mander today.

The judge continued the suppression orders on the name of the school and the bus company, but the suppression issue will be considered again at Burrett’s sentencing. The school and bus company may make submissions at that hearing.

Justice Mander remanded Burrett in custody for sentencing on April 12. A pre-sentence report will be prepared.

Prosecutor Deirdre Elsmore sought permission to withdraw some charges and amend others, and then Burrett pleaded guilty to the remaining 21 including indecent assaults, sexual violations including rape, and possession of objectionable publications.

She said Burrett was employed as a school caretaker from the beginning of 2013. From 2013 until last year he was employed as a bus driver transporting special needs pupils from their homes to primary school each day.

All of the pupils he transported suffered from some form of disability which made communication difficult, or impaired their physical or mental functioning.

Burrett repeatedly invited one girl aged between eight and 10 years into his underground shed on the school grounds where he would talk to her about “adult stuff” and told her not to tell anybody. When she walked up the steps from his shed, he would touch her bottom.

When he met her as she walked to school one day, Burrett hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, and told her to be good in class. The girl thought it was “weird and gross”.

Many times, Burrett took two girls into the shed where he committed indecencies, by touching, or doing indecent acts, or forcing oral sex to take place. The girls were aged nine and 10.

He used a vibrator on one girl and showed two girls pornographic videos during the school intervals.

He raped one of the girls, an act she described as “painful and gross”.

He committed indecencies during a “dice game” with two girls, and recorded them on video before playing the recording to them.

Objectionable images and animations involving children were found on his computer.

A girl aged 10 to 12 was the victim of repeated anal sex which she described as “really, really uncomfortable”. She said it happened “most days, at morning tea and lunch time during school”.

He indecently touched one girl after asking her to help him pick up rubbish.

After digitally penentrating a girl aged five to seven, he told her not to tell anyone or he would “smash her”, Mrs Elsmore said.

She detailed other offences including sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and indecent assault which Burrett had committed while bus driving. He told one girl “about sexual matters, and what sexual things he did with his wife”. Children saw him abusing other children. One of the girls involved was strapped into a specialised chair and could only communicate through an electronic device.

When spoken to, Burrett admitted some hugging and touching involving three girls, but then said nothing more.


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