Real Life

REAL LIFE: I was raped at 12 years old and he’s still out there

So long as this man is out there, no-one’s safe.
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Sharon Tomlinson, 53, Brisbane, Qld, shares her terrifying true life story;

My sister and I followed the muscular man with the tattoos LOVE and HATE on his knuckles through the door of his shabby house.

The man was a complete stranger to me but he’d told our neighbour to bring us with her to celebrate the birth of his new baby.

The neighbour hadn’t turned up, so my sister and I went alone.

Robert Fardon, who lived down the road from our place in Redcliffe, QLD, had just become a father to a little boy and invited anyone in the neighbourhood to come meet his son.

At 12 years old, I absolutely adored babies and wanted nothing more than to be a wife and a mum. But when we entered, I was surprised that there was no baby.

“I was in Vietnam,” he yelled suddenly.

“I killed children over there. But I couldn’t rape them because the fathers put razor blades inside them.”

I was too young to understand exactly what he meant, but he was clearly a scary man.

My sister looked terrified.

He left the room briefly, then returned quickly with a sawn-off rifle.

Suddenly, Robert grabbed my arm.

I was young and terrified.

I’m going to rape her,” he said, pointing to me. “If anyone moves, I’ll kill her.”

He dragged me into a room and ordered me to take off my clothes.

I slapped feebly at his muscular arms, trying to fight him off and pleading with him to stop.

But I was no match for him; he squeezed my throat until I almost passed out.

“Do what I say and you’ll be fine,” he smirked.

Summoning all my courage, I asked to use the toilet.

He led me there at gunpoint, making me leave the door open.

Then, for a second, he stepped out of sight.

Realising this was my chance, I bolted down the stairs at the back of his house.

I was almost free when his meaty hand clamped on my hair and he jerked me back into the bedroom.

Over the next two hours, he raped me.

The pain was awful and I was bleeding, but he was an animal.

“Help me!” I cried, hoping someone would hear.

“Don’t tell anyone or I’ll kill you,” he said after it was over. “I know where your family lives.”

As I staggered out of the bedroom, my sister grabbed me, and we fled.

Everything after that was a blur.

It was a horrific attack.

I remember a lady on the street scooping me up and hugging me, then I was in an ambulance.

Robert John Fardon was arrested immediately, but incredibly he got bail and did a runner.

Knowing the monster was out there somewhere was horrifying. Life became a nightmare.

Then, a few days later, welfare arrived at my home.

“We’re taking Sharon into care for her safety,” one said.

They didn’t know if Robert would come back for me.

“No!” Mum cried.

I was put into foster care and it felt like I was the one who had done something wrong.

At 13, I sobbed as I gave evidence – he was just metres away from me.

He was given bail again and went on the run. He didn’t face trial until I was 14-and-a-half.

In court, I learned that Robert, 32, already had a record for trying to have sex with a little girl under 10.

For my attack, he was sentenced to 13 years.

I tried my best to get on with life and, at 19, was a mother to two beautiful children.

But I suffered from low self-esteem and crippling panic attacks.

In a cruel twist, Robert was paroled after serving eight years.

Just 20 days after his release, he raped a young woman in Townsville and got 14 years.

Robert Fardon on public transport. Photo credit: Nine News

Giving birth to another daughter, I watched my kids like a hawk.

“You’re so strict,” they whinged, but I vowed to do all I could to protect them.

With Robert’s release approaching, the State government passed a new law to keep dangerous sex offenders like him behind bars indefinitely, or impose strict conditions on their release.

He’d been diagnosed as a sexual sadist and psychopath, which was no surprise to me.

I decided it was time to go public with my torment in the hope of stopping anyone else from becoming his victim.

“I’m so proud of you,” my dad choked.

My story caused such an outcry that the government kept Robert locked up. But he continuously fought the ruling.

In 2006, he was released under strict supervision, only to be arrested again for raping a disabled woman two years later.

But he appealed the conviction and won.

“As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, the rape never happened,” I said to Mum.

Robert was still under his strict supervision order, living in a kind of halfway house for predators like him.

Robert Fardon on public transport. Photo credit: Nine News

Last year that order was due to end, meaning he’d be free.

I campaigned against that.

The State Government tried to extend his supervision.

But Robert won.

The court granted him unsupervised release. I was appalled.

“He’ll offend again,” I said over and over to the media.

The Government appealed. Just hours before he was due to be released in October last year, his unsupervised freedom was cancelled.

I burst into tears of relief and happiness.

But Robert, 70, fought that judgement too.

Last month, Supreme Court Justice Helen Bowskill ruled he wasn’t a serious danger and wasn’t a paedophile.

I begged to differ.

Or would have done if I’d been allowed to speak up.

The judge issued a gagging order for a week to give Robert time to settle without media interest.

I wasn’t even allowed to know where Robert lived.

He could be my neighbour for all I knew!

I still haven’t heard anything from the authorities since after he was released, but I received a call from Opposition Leader Deb Freckleton offering her support.

I felt suicidal.

My life will never be the same.

After the gagging order was lifted, news broke that during his conditions Robert had been allowed to visit prostitutes.

At 70, he still has his urges.

Prisoners who’d been in jail with him said he’d bragged about his crimes.

A leopard doesn’t change its spots.

Robert John Fardon is a depraved monster.

Under new laws rushed in at the end of the year, he’ll have to report to the police four times a year, keep them informed of his social media use, where he lives and who with.

But he won’t be tracked.

Just over 40 years ago he killed the innocent little girl inside me.

My biggest fear now isn’t for myself, it’s for his next victim.

Because next time I know this sexual psychopath will kill.

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