This article contains references to sexual assault and child abuse.
Two men accused of sexually assaulting Australian children and sharing videos of their horrific crimes are allegedly part of one of the country’s largest child sex rings, police say.
At least 14 children have been removed from harmful situations and a total of 40 charges have been laid.
Federal and NSW police arrested the men, aged 21 and 26, at Kendall and Old Bar on the NSW mid-north coast on Thursday.
The men are alleged to have violently raped at least eight boys aged between four and seven.
They are also accused of sharing videos of the attacks via the dark web.
“We expect this is the biggest domestic child exploitation network uncovered in recent times,” Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Northern Command Lesa Gale told reporters on Friday.
“We believe (these) are some of the most horrific cases of child sexual abuse against children in Australia.”
The child sex ring was operating in the same NSW town, Kendall, where William Tyrrell mysteriously disappeared in 2014.
A NSW Police spokesman said the child sex ring arrests are not related to William Tyrell’s disappearance at this stage.
Ms Gale said the cases were not linked, however, she was unable to say if the men were in the town of 1,000 people when William went missing.
The two men, who face child exploitation and child harm charges, appeared in Kempsey Magistrates Court on Friday.
It’s alleged that some of their victims were family members.
Police have uncovered evidence the men’s alleged offending began in 2018, but it may have started earlier.
One of the men previously worked at a child care centre in the Kendall area but left his position in 2018.
Neither had a criminal record before they were arrested.
The arrests are part of a broader national operation with previous arrests in Queensland, NSW and Western Australia.
In total, nine men aged in their 20s have been arrested in relation to the child abuse that was filmed, photographed and shared online.
Six are from NSW, one is from Hervey Bay in Queensland, and one is from Western Australia. They all remain before the courts.
The Hervey Bay man was arrested in April.
Ms Gale said officers have followed the “bread crumbs” since.
Ms Gale said the men’s alleged offending and evidence gathered had shaken some of the AFP’s most seasoned officers.
She said some of the alleged offenders knew each other outside the online child sex ring.
Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at Beyond Blue.org.au and lifeline.org.au.
Anyone seeking information or support relating to sexual abuse can contact Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380.