The headline on the ABC News site on 14 April 2021 read:
“Man who abducted 5yo from campground wanted to eat her, court hears”
Cecil Maurice Mabb, 41, pleaded guilty to assaulting and abducting the girl from Montagu Campground, in Tasmania’s north west, on January 24.
The Prosecutor told the Burnie Supreme Court that the girl went on a bike ride with her four-year-old male friend while her family was pitching their tent at the site.
She said Mabb had parked his ute in isolated bushland near the campground before he grabbed the girl by her legs, threw her over his shoulder and then threw her in his car as she screamed.
The court was told Mabb also strangled the child, who later said she was not able to breathe or speak while his hands were around her neck.
The family was alerted by her young friend, who had been screaming at Mabb to let her go and told them “the man scared me … he got her.”
Another camper found the girl on the beach alone, about one kilometre from the family’s campsite.
Mabb called police shortly after the incident, telling them “it’s all bad … it’s a real emergency … I just tried to kidnap a child”.
Mabb has denied there was ever any intention of doing anything sexual with the girl, and the prosecution did not argue otherwise.
The court has heard he told police he “just needed company, someone to listen to me, someone to give me a cuddle”, and that the child reminded him of his granddaughter.
While in maximum security at Risdon Prison, Ms Prence said Mabb told prison staff his motivation for the abduction was to eat her, and that he had wanted to eat people since he was a child.
His solicitor told the court while he did say that, it was on the advice of fellow inmates, who told him to make his circumstances “as bad as possible” so he had greater access to medication and therapeutic help.
The court was told that between 1995 and 2003, Mabb had been sexually offending, in behaviour he described as “exploring his sexuality with behaviour that had been normalised”.
The headline in The Mercury was more direct:
“Paedophile snatches little girl so he ‘could eat her’”
They paint a different picture of the evidence, with the prosecutor saying:
“intelligence from Risdon Prison indicated Mabb had told staff he told police he was a paedophile because that was better than “what he really was”. He told staff he had taken the little girl so he could eat her.”
Defence counsel Hannah Phillips told the court was no evidence Mabb said those words in jail.
“My client told me he had been instructed by other inmates to make up stories and to make them as bad as possible to get better access to medication.”
Mabb will be sentenced next month for his admitted crimes of assault and attempted abduction. Meanwhile, the locals have decided their own sentence.
Mabb had bought land and set up a caravan and shed at Rosebery in 2019. Those structures have been burnt down since Mabb has been in custody following the attempted abduction.
The interesting point about this story is that the offender has pleaded guilty to what he did and will be sentenced accordingly. But the prurient media interest is not in what he did but in what he said: he said he had grabbed a little girl for a cuddle (?) and that he wanted to eat her. Neither was true, apparently – he wanted to get caught so he would get medicated by the state. Yet the headlines offered another charge: “Paedophile snatches little girl so he ‘could eat her’”. Someone who read that promptly burnt down his shed and caravan, in a form of rough justice.
Wikipedia tells us that paedophilia was first formally recognized and named in the late 19th century. Sigmund Freud was writing then, and knew all about the subject, but wrote in a letter to Marie Bonaparte in 1932 that incest and cannibalism are the two original prohibitions of mankind. If he read the papers today, he might scratch out incest (and decades of work) and substitute paedophilia.
But cannibalism is still right up there, in the top two headline grabbers, the gold medal for salacious scandal.