8 Jul 2016

Child abductor had attacked before

1:16 pm on 8 July 2016

A 47-year-old farm hand who abducted and indecently assaulted a five-year-old girl in Palmerston North had previous convictions in Australia, from more than two decades ago, for attacking a girl of the same age.

Brendan Henson

Brendan Henson in court in March. Photo: David Unwin

Brendan Paul Henson was jailed for eight years in the High Court in Palmerston North today, for a minimum period of five years, after snatching a girl from the side of the road in February.

Henson admitted in March to abducting the girl while she walked to school with her older sister and indecently assaulting her at a secluded location.

He dropped her off on the other side of the city a few hours later, where she was later found by a member of the public.

He has also admitted indecently assaulting her two days earlier in a public park.

The police summary of facts show the family did not know Henson.

It was also revealed in court that Henson had been jailed for one year and three months for attacking another five-year-old girl while she slept in Western Australia in 1991.

Defence lawyer Fergus Steedman told the court Henson "thought he had buried his demons".

When questioned by police earlier this year, he did not offer any explanation for his actions.

During sentencing, the girl's mother read an emotional victim impact statement, which was suppressed by Justice Collins.

Mr Steedman said Henson reacted "appropriately" when he was allowed to read the mother's statement in advance of the sentencing.

"He has known for months that he had hurt a girl terribly, but the full impact of the suffering he had caused were hidden until he read what the mother had to say," said Mr Steedman.

When it became clear Henson would not be given an open-ended sentence, a member of the public gallery swore and had to be forcibly removed from the court by police.

Members of the girl's family yelled abuse as he was later led away.

In the first attack, the police summary of facts, which RNZ has seen, show on February 10 Henson watched the girl and her sister playing at Takaro Park from a nearby bench after school, before telling her to come over.

He put his hand on her leg before the girl's sister intervened and the two girls ran home.

On February 12, he pulled up beside the girls, who were walking to school along Shamrock Street, and picked up the five-year-old and put her in his car.

He fought off the girl's two older sisters, who were hitting and kicking him in an attempt to save the girl, and he drove off at speed. DNA tests later showed his involvement.

Defence lawyer Mr Steedman told the court Henson has since not been able to justify his actions.

He said Henson was a private person who did not make friends easily.

Before his offending, he had been working as a farm hand in Cheltenham.

Mr Steedman said Henson suffered from depression after a serious relationship, during which he helped care for a young girl, ended in 2012.

"He thought he was able to be a good father and enjoyed being a good father to her... he's never had the treatment that we know he should have had."

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