Child grooming: Young girl found in back of Dalby man’s van
After losing his young daughter in a crowded marketplace, a father made a terrifying discovery when he spotted his little girl in the back of a van with a man.
It was a hot September day at the bustling Rocklea Markets in 2019 when a Dalby-born man groomed a six-year-old girl in a gutwrenching four-hour ordeal that would strike fear in any parent's heart.
Although Douglas Colin Cunningham, 68, pleaded not guilty at The District Court of Queensland on June 19 2020, he was convicted of "intent to facilitate the procurement" of a young girl "to engage in a sexual act".
The court heard Cunningham lived out of a custom black van and had setup a market stall on the Sunday when he became fixated on a six-year-old girl who was getting her face painted, repeatedly calling her beautiful and pretty.
CCTV footage showed Cunningham repeatedly visited the little girl and lured her to his stall by offering her a free toy - the grown man is also seen playing a chasing game with the girl and giving her money for treats.
Most concerningly, the court heard the little girl was in the van with Cunningham on five occasions, one of which he closed the door to 'change his pants,' which lasted for several minutes.
District Court Judge Administrator Paul Smith found while no sexual contact happened, it was still a serious incident, especially considering he lied to police about taking is pants off while in the van.
"I consider (the) compliments (from Cunningham) show a sexual interest in her," Judge Smith said.
"This conduct was designed to get her into the van.
"It ultimately got to the point that he actually took his tracksuit pants off when the two of them were alone together in the van.
"He told her he was going to change and did tell her to look away, but of course she may not have.
"There was no reason for him to do this there. He could have gone elsewhere…. I consider this was part of intentional grooming behaviour to win the trust of the girl. It was at the end of some hours' deliberate contact with her."
Judge Smith said it is likely that sexual contact didn't happen because of "the fortunate intervention of the father."