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‘Don’t be mad. Mum doesn’t know’: Catching an accused predator

ABOUT 11.30am on August 7, in a rainy McDonald's car park, a silver car approaches.

The driver, who has allegedly been planning this visit for weeks, months, even up to two years, has no idea he's being watched.

On this day, police believe Richard Palmer plans to meet up with a 15-year-old girl who he's convinced to meet with him after allegedly grooming her - sending sexually explicit messages and even pictures - for two years.

What he doesn't know is that for most of that time, the conversations he's been having over Facebook have actually been with detectives from the NSW Police child protection unit - the very same officers who are inside unmarked cars, poised to arrest him as he approaches the western Sydney family restaurant.

The married father after being arrested by police. Picture: Channel 7
The married father after being arrested by police. Picture: Channel 7

When they spot Palmer's car, see him get out and walk towards the entrance, officers positioned around the Parramatta fast food outlet spring into action, as does the Channel 7 crew who captured the incident broadcast on Sunday Night.

After being informed everything he's saying is being recorded and may be used in court, Palmer begins to explain his intentions.

"I was just going to meet the young lady," he said while handcuffed and surrounded by police.

"Yes, I did say things that were out of character, especially for someone who's under 16."

Palmer insisted he would have just come and "had a feed" with the girl, but agreed his messages suggested more.

"I understand that. That's why I said it's out of character for me to even think of meeting up with somebody," he said.

Asked by Sunday Night reporter Denham Hitchcock how he planned to explain the incident to his wife and child, Palmer simply said he couldn't.

"I can't, I wouldn't be able to," he said. "I'd prefer to just disappear to be honest."

Asked if he has any last words, Palmer says, referring to himself: "Stupid idiot."

Detectives took over a teenager’s Facebook profile after she was targeted by a paedophile. Picture: Channel 7
Detectives took over a teenager’s Facebook profile after she was targeted by a paedophile. Picture: Channel 7

Police were originally tipped off to Palmer's alleged online activity after the mother of the then 14-year-old he targeted discovered disturbing messages he had sent to her daughter, Seven reported.

With the family's permission, detectives took over the girls' Facebook account and continued conversations with Palmer, posing as the girl.

The conversations went on for close to two years and at times became "very sexual", police told Sunday Night.

Officers are very careful to use language that a teenager would when posing as children. Picture: Channel 7
Officers are very careful to use language that a teenager would when posing as children. Picture: Channel 7

The recorded arrest offers a rare insight into the process that detectives around Australia are going through more and more frequently to catch paedophiles targeting young girls and boys.

Speaking on the program, head of NSW Police Strike Force Trawler, Detective Inspector Mick Haddow, said the unit was conducting more investigations and making more arrests than ever before.

"It concerns me that after all these years, after all the media we've done, after all the safety measures we've done, that this crime type is only increasing," he said.

"It's pure evil to be sexually attracted to children and it's pure evil to leave your home and attend a location to meet with a young child for sex. I don't know how you can describe it any other way."

Richard Palmer is led away by detectives in the Parramatta McDonald’s car park. Picture: Channel 7
Richard Palmer is led away by detectives in the Parramatta McDonald’s car park. Picture: Channel 7

Back in the Maccas' car park, when asked if he believed he had a problem, Palmer said he did.

"For me to be here today, obviously I do," he said.

Trying to explain his intentions, he said he didn't know if he would have tried anything and he was "curious to see what she would have today, what she would do".

"I can't explain it," he said.

As he's driven off in the police car, he makes one incongruous remark: "I hate paedophiles. So, go figure."

A spokeswoman for NSW Police confirmed Palmer was taken from the restaurant to Parramatta Police Station in western Sydney where he was charged with using a carriage service to procure a child under 16. His case remains before the courts.

‘Stupid idiot’: Palmer is taken away in a police car. Picture: Channel 7
‘Stupid idiot’: Palmer is taken away in a police car. Picture: Channel 7
Officers eyed off Richard Palmer as his vehicle approached Parramatta McDonald’s. Picture: Channel 7
Officers eyed off Richard Palmer as his vehicle approached Parramatta McDonald’s. Picture: Channel 7
Police have a ‘wall of shame’ where they pin pictures of paedophiles, and they’re adding to it at a higher rate than ever before. Picture: Channel 7
Police have a ‘wall of shame’ where they pin pictures of paedophiles, and they’re adding to it at a higher rate than ever before. Picture: Channel 7

Topics:  child abuse court crime



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