Sydney: An Australian former childcare worker has been charged with abusing 91 children in what police described Tuesday as one of the country's "most horrific" child sex abuse cases.
He has been charged with 1,623 separate crimes, including 136 counts of rape and 110 counts of sexual intercourse with a child younger than 10, officers added.
Investigators arrested the 45-year-old man after discovering graphic child pornography posted on the dark web, using visual clues in the background to eventually trace them to a childcare centre in Brisbane.
But it was only when they started sifting through his phone and computer that they realised the gravity of his "heinous" alleged offences, which were depicted on more than 4,000 seized images and videos.
There is not much solace I can give parents and children who have been identified. This is a distressing time for families, carers and the community broadly.
Police said the crimes happened at 10 different childcare centres between 2007 and 2022 and exclusively targeted "prepubescent girls".
Some of his alleged victims were as young as one, police said.
While 87 of the 91 victims were from Australia, police believe four other unidentified children were abused while the man worked overseas for a brief spell between 2013 and 2014.
Police said they were working with international crime agencies to find those children, without revealing which country they were targeting.
"There is not much solace I can give parents and children who have been identified," assistant federal police commissioner Justine Gough said.
"This is a distressing time for families, carers and the community broadly."
New South Wales assistant police commissioner Michael Fitzgerald said it was one of the most horrific cases he had ever seen.
"It's beyond the realms of anyone's imagination what this person did to these children," he said.
"I can only say, you try not to be shocked after a long period of time in the police, but this is a horrific case."
Some 35 detectives and investigators across the states of Queensland and New South Wales were called in to work on a task force dedicated to sifting through the sheer volume of child abuse material police had discovered.
Police said the man had passed the stringent series of background checks needed to work at childcare centres in Australia.
He is scheduled to face court in Queensland on August 21.
Once those proceedings are finished, he will be extradited to New South Wales to face further charges.