Confusion over paedophile link

Denied involvement: former GAPA president Paul Bickford fronts the media following a court appearance on Wednesday. While police have refused to confirm connections between GAPA and an alleged paedophile ring on the Mid-North Coast, a police source said "things flush out from deep down" when a child goes missing. Pic: NIGEL MCNEIL

Denied involvement: former GAPA president Paul Bickford fronts the media following a court appearance on Wednesday. While police have refused to confirm connections between GAPA and an alleged paedophile ring on the Mid-North Coast, a police source said "things flush out from deep down" when a child goes missing. Pic: NIGEL MCNEIL

CONFUSION continues around a Port Macquarie-based community group with ties to persons of interest in the investigation of missing child William Tyrrell.

Convicted paedophile Paul John Bickford, 70, fronted the media on Wednesday outside Port Macquarie Local Court to deny his involvement in the young boy's disappearance.

Until 2014, Bickford was the president of Grandparents as Parents Again (GAPA), a group established in 2005 by the Country Women's Association and Uniting Care Burnside Hastings Family Support Centre.

This week Bickford said he was "acquaintances" with Anthony 'Tony' Jones, 60, another person of interest in the Tyrrell investigation.

It has previously been reported that Jones, who was imprisoned in September for the indecent assault of a child, was a member of GAPA.

However this was dismissed by the group's secretary Beverley Sharpe in a letter published in the Wauchope Gazette on September 24, 2015, where she wrote, "the person of interest was not in our group".

Bickford said this week the last time he spoke with Jones was in Wauchope prior to the toddler's disappearance on September 12, 2014.

"No," Bickford said when asked if he spoken to or seen Jones on the day of the disappearance or since.

Bickford also said police had interviewed him twice since the disappearance.

"They asked me if I knew William, which I didn't," he said.

"They asked me if I knew the family, which I didn't.

"Did I know William Spedding, which I didn't.

"Did I know Tony Jones, which I did."

In April last year Strike Force Rosann, the team tasked with finding the missing toddler, announced it had recently received information on a local paedophile ring operating on the Mid-North Coast.

The head of the investigation, Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin, described the information as "new" and "solid".

"We've uncovered and received information that leads us to a line of people we suspect of being involved in paedophile activity," Detective Inspector Jubelin said at the time.

When contacted yesterday, Det Insp Jubelin said he was unable to comment on persons of interest in the case.

He also refused to be drawn on any possible link between GAPA and the alleged paedophile ring.

A source within the strike force, however, said "what gets uncovered in this kind of investigation is the type of thing you saw yesterday with Bickford".

"When a child goes missing, things flush out from deep down," the source said.

A spokeswoman for GAPA has previously stated all members are required to have a working with children check.

GAPA has been contacted for comment.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop