Alison Tomasko (pictured) was abused by her neighbour from the ages of seven to 11
A lone entry written in glitter gel ink by a nine-year-old girl was the key to jailing a serial paedophile who molested countless children.
Alison Tomasko, a 25-year-old pole dance instructor from Sydney’s west, was sexually abused by a man she trusted for four years from the age of seven.
James Duncan Smith, now 65, was a neighbour, friend of her family and the father of one of Alison’s best friends. He was also a paedophile.
Smith moved from Scotland into a quiet cul-de-sac in St Clair, in Sydney’s west, two doors from the Tomasko family home.
The family didn’t know at the time that he had previous convictions for serious sex-related crimes.
Alison told Daily Mail Australia that Smith abused her ‘countless times’ from the ages of seven to 11.
Four years after the final attack, a chance encounter at a party convinced Alison it was time to come forward and share her story.
By doing so, she helped jail Smith for six years – but he only served an additional few months for what he did to her because he was already behind bars for charges against other children.
Court documents reveal Smith befriended adults with children and preyed on girls his daughter was friends with.
On multiple occasions, children in his care would sleep at his house.
Once the children were asleep, he woke his victim up and forced her to touch him before digitally penetrating her.
On another occasion, a victim said ‘please stop, it hurts,’ but her pleas were ignored, the agreed facts state.
Prosecutors could only get Smith on a single charge against Alison – one count of indecent assault on a child under 10 – despite her allegations the abuse lasted four years.
And it was a fluke that they got him at all. Alison needed to provide specific dates for each assault – dates which she didn’t think to keep as a child – to have him convicted.
She was worried he’d never be punished for what he did to her, until she remembered a single diary entry she kept detailing her trip to the Smith household on September 4, 2004.
Groomed by a man she trusted
Alison’s family and the Smith family lived on the same street for years.
They were friendly long before Alison was born, and as she grew up, she developed a close friendship with James’ daughter, Sarah*.
The girls were two years apart and joined at the hip. Alison often played at the Smith house or in the front yard, and was about seven years old when she first noticed something strange about Sarah’s dad.
‘He was drinking a lot. Whenever he’d come back from the pub he’d continue to drink, wearing a dressing robe with nothing underneath and flashing us,’ she said.
He told me that’s just how families are.
While she thought it was weird, she didn’t question anything, both out of respect and because nobody in the family seemed to find the behaviour strange.
Alison told Daily Mail Australia Smith eventually felt confident enough to abuse her basically every time she was at the home after he’d had a few drinks.
She later learned all of Smith’s victims had the same story.
But after years of grooming, she didn’t feel like she could tell anybody what was happening to her.
‘He told me that was how families are,’ she said.
‘My family aren’t affectionate. We don’t hug, we don’t kiss, we don’t do any of that stuff. We just make jokes.
‘I assumed, being naive, that he was right when he told me that’s how normal families are.
‘He was a really good manipulator. He definitely knew what he was doing, like he was weirdly really good at what he did,’ she said.
Alison claims her childhood (left and right) was forever tainted by what Smith did to her. She hates being asked about her life as a kid because of the dark memories, her Victim Impact Statement read
A life-changing encounter
During the abuse and in the years after, Alison didn’t tell anybody what happened to her.
She hoped that by doing so, she could try to forget herself.
It wasn’t until she was 15 that the truth came out. She was at a house party, drunk and with friends, when she met a girl in the bathroom who looked familiar.
‘I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew her from somewhere, and then I remembered I had seen her at James’ house. We were both friends with his daughter,’ Alison said.
When Alison mentioned it to her, the girl said, ‘Yep, I’m the girl who put him in jail.’
‘I just froze, I was honestly so shocked,’ Alison said.
Up until that point, Alison hadn’t known where James was. She knew he had disappeared years earlier, but said all the pieces suddenly came together.
Drunk, confused and with a secret she was desperate to share, Alison asked the girl why he was sent to prison. When the girl refused to tell her, Alison confessed that she already knew, and shared her story for the first time.
‘I said to her, ”I think I know because it happened to me too”,’ she explained.
The girl’s mother calmed Alison down and explained that she couldn’t talk about it to her daughter anymore, because it could jeopardise future legal proceedings if Alison ever decided to press charges.
The 25-year-old married pole dance instructor hopes to help other women who have been through traumatic experiences
‘I was just so shocked. Press charges? Courts? What does that even mean? I hadn’t even thought of that and in my head I was just like, oh my God.’
Alison said she called her middle brother, Alex, after speaking with the family.
‘I called and said where I was and blurted out what happened to me and told him everything.
‘I was crying, he asked if I’d been drinking and if I wanted to come home. I told him I just wasn’t ready.’
For the next four days, both she and her brother pretended the conversation never happened until Alison decided she was finally ready to tell her parents.
She called the one woman who knew her secret – the girl’s mum from the party – and asked if she would come to the house to support her through the conversation.
Alison told her mother everything, expecting her to go into ‘mum mode’ and break down.
‘But she was so strong,’ she recalled. ‘She just said ”what do you need me to do, do you want to go to the police? How can I help?”’
They decided to tell Alison’s father Mick, a project manager. It was the ‘hardest thing ever’ for her to do.
‘He just said ”I’m so sorry this happened, I didn’t know, if I’d known I would’ve stopped it”.’
Coming face to face with a monster
James Duncan Smith was charged with one count of indecent assault on a child under 10 for what he did to Alison, and it was the September 4 diary entry – written in glitter gel pen in a Harry Potter journal – which brought him unstuck.
After an arduous reporting process in which Alison was forced to repeat what had happened to her to two male police officers in excruciating detail in front of her father – she was eventually told there wouldn’t be a case unless she could provide dates to match each of her allegations.
‘Of course I didn’t have exact dates. I was seven years old. It went on for so long, how am I meant to remember the dates at 15? I was just a kid,’ she said.
I remember the entry was written in glitter gel pen in a Harry Potter diary
After months of feeling dejected and wracking her brain, she remembered an entry she wrote in her childhood diary on the day her dog, Pepsi, had to be put down.
She was on the way home from the vet and was crying when her dad offered to drop her at Sarah’s house for a play date to cheer her up.
‘After it happened, I went home still crying and wrote a diary entry because I was really upset,’ Alison said. Her mum kept all of Alison’s things and after some digging, they found the diary stashed away in a box.
‘I remember the entry was written in glitter gel pen in a Harry Potter diary, and it was given to the joint investigations team when we found it.’
The police were then able to get Smith on that single charge, to which he initially pleaded not guilty.
Pictured: Paedophile James Duncan Smith. In total, he spent 11 years behind bars for serious sex crimes against children
ALISON’S VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT IN FULL
At 15, Alison was required to read her Victim Impact Statement to the court.
‘Victim is not a word I use to describe myself… In preparation for a trial and sentencing, I was asked by the prosecuting attorney to put into words my statement about the impact of this incident. Victim I was not. Impacted I am. Impact barely describes my experiences.
‘But there was something much deeper. Now, years later, I am faced with the task of explaining this impact; and it has not been easily put into words. To this day I struggle with the realisation that my childhood was not typical, that the things that happened were not something that a child has to do, but because of the period of the abuse, it really was hard to see it as anything other than normal.
‘For many years my mind has been in turmoil over all of this. I hated what he chose to do to me, but he on countless occasions told me that I was like a daughter to him… For some reason that I cannot understand, I believed him.
‘Unfortunately, there is still part of me that thinks it was my fault and responsibility. Now I am starting to recognise that he was the adult, and through his conscious choices, he used me for his own pleasure. So what impact has all of this had on my life? To be honest I don’t know the full extent, I am still discovering the full impact.
‘For example I hate being asked about my childhood, I don’t know what it is like to be a child, he took that from me, he also took away my ability to be a normal person, carefree and open to new experiences, my years where socialising, building lasting relationships and having fun is important, was something I had, and still have difficulty living with.
‘I find it exceedingly hard to trust anyone, I have always believed that anyone that wanted to have any sort of relationship with me, will hurt me.
‘I’m sorry to my parents, who didn’t know what I’m about to say. He took my relationship with my parents away. My most valued people in my entire life. Fathers aren’t meant to do what he had done. It broke all trust I have for adults. You don’t know what it’s like to listen to my friends talk to their parents so openly, to watch them hug and to kiss them on the cheek, to let their mothers brush their hair.
‘You don’t understand the pain in my mother’s eyes when I cringe at her touch, or the way my heart feels when I cry and I have to watch my mother confused about what to do – rather than her intuition to hold me and take the pain away with a single cuddle because she knows I’m not comfortable.
‘My parents are the most beautiful people in the world. They didn’t deserve to have their only daughter to be hurt in the way I was. But thanks to him, they’ve been just as hurt as I have. My parents love me in the normal way parents should. Of all of the emotional impact this has had on me, this has been my most painful to deal with.’
Alison had to be prepared to take the stand in court, and her team practised cross examinations to imitate what could happen at trial.
Just three days before the trial was meant to begin, Smith changed his plea to guilty.
Alison was told he did so because there was too much evidence against him compared to previous cases.
‘Everyone else went through trials,’ she said. ‘I was the first person he pleaded guilty to. I want to ask him, why me?’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘They told me the plea was a huge deal, because everyone else, they got absolutely nothing out of him.’
The two-year process from first reporting in 2009 to his sentencing date in 2011 culminated in Alison standing up, looking James in the eye and reading her victim impact statement in court.
She had the choice to film it and have it streamed into the courtroom, but chose to attend to ‘take back some of her power’.
After building up the courage to face him, she was bitterly disappointed when James didn’t walk through the doors.
‘They actually brought the wrong person to the courts that day so we had to suspend and come back another day.
I couldn’t believe someone I trusted could do this.
‘He came up and I was sitting there and I was like, ”Why’s he got hair?” and they were like, there’s been some miscommunication… we’ll have to adjudicate.’
When she arrived on the new date, Alison realised none of Smith’s family attended. The room was full of her supporters as she read her statement.
‘I was telling him how much he hurt me, how he scarred me for life and how I couldn’t believe someone I trusted could do this,’ she said.
‘You know, I thought of him like a dad, how could you hurt someone like that? And choose to do it multiple times, knowing what it would do.
‘He sat there, leaned back smirking this smug smile and I just thought ‘f**k you’. That’s what made me the sickest, I think.’
In total, Smith spent 11 years behind bars for serious sex crimes.
Alison said her relationship with her mother (pictured together) is closer than ever after confiding in her about the abuse
JAMES STILL HAD A HOLD OF ALISON FROM HIS CELL
Even from his prison cell and four years after he last abused her, James still had a hold over then 15-year-old Alison.
‘Looking back, I know this is so dramatic but when we used to play out the front he had these weird games.
‘One of them was testing our weight. He would pick up Sarah and he would say ”yep, you’re really light, a good size” and then he would pick me up and say ”oh, you’re a bit heavy”.
‘It was the weirdest thing, he’d guess how much we’d weigh and I’d say but Sarah is taller so she’s got to be heavier, but he’d say ”no no she does a lot of sport she’s really fit”. I’d just say oh okay and be upset.
‘Flash forward to the trial, I stopped eating. I was so skinny… I thought, ”when he sees me he’s going to be so impressed that I’m so small and little”.
‘In my head I was still trying to impress him and I don’t know why. It was the hardest thing because everything all together, it explains why I did all of that. He had this weird control over me even behind bars.’
A stolen childhood
Alison believes her childhood trauma has impacted almost every aspect of her life.
She said it wasn’t until she started getting treatment that she realised just how much it had shaped who she was as a person.
‘I hate touching, or any form of affection, really,’ she said. ‘I hate people touching my hair or sitting on people’s laps. I could never go to swimming carnivals … for a while I just stopped going to school, which was massive.’
Her relationships and self-worth also plummeted. She always felt deep down as though she wasn’t really ‘worthy’ of a healthy relationship.
‘It kind of sets a precedent for how you expect to be treated and set thought processes in motion in my brain that were pretty hard to stop.’
It sets a precedent for how you expect to be treated
As a teenager she drank excessively, took drugs and smoked to cope with her emotions.
After reporting, she was assessed by a specialist psychologist whose job is to award victims compensation based on their trauma.
She was graded a scale three – the highest of the tiers – and awarded $15,000, which was revised to $35,000 after an amendment to compensation laws.
Alison received both one-on-one counselling and group therapy, which she said helped the most.
‘I was the youngest in the group, most of the girls were between 17 and 28, but it was inspiring to me to hear their stories and see how they were surviving.
‘I just thought, if they can do it, I can do it too.’
Alison said her experiences have shaped her, and speaking about her ordeal has helped other women feel more comfortable talking about their own experiences.
Alison is now happily married to Sam, and said finding somebody who supports her was so important to her recovery
ALISON’S MESSAGE TO PARENTS
‘I’m not sure if I ever will have kids, but if I do, I’d want to stress not only stranger danger but about boundaries with people you know,’ she said.
‘There needs to be boundaries with friends and family too. If you don’t want to kiss or hug someone, then you don’t have to do it.
‘Your private parts aren’t a secret or anything like that, but a child needs to understand if they’re not comfortable and don’t want somebody to touch them then they don’t have to let them.
‘My mum always stressed stranger danger to me. I was told not to talk to people I don’t know, to keep away from cars and all that important stuff, but she never thought she had to talk to me about people we knew and trusted.’
Alison said she also hopes people will be more open to discussing sex offenders and the consequences of their crimes.
She said sentences currently don’t reflect the evil of the crimes – nor are they an accurate representation of societal expectations.
The aftermath of reporting
At first, Alison thought pretending nothing happened was her best chance at moving on, but in 2015 James was almost released on parole.
She started a change.org petition begging the state to keep him behind bars, and decided to share her story with extended friends and family for the first time.
Shortly after, another victim came forward and James’ sentence was extended.
He was officially released in January 2018.
‘When he was considered for parole, I was notified and I was able to send through a list of my conditions… They’d include him staying away from children, not coming near me, and not being able to work or join any local community groups,’ she said.
Alison (pictured as a toddler) felt she couldn’t live a normal childhood after what happened to her
After his sentence had expired, she no longer had that right.
As far as Alison was aware, James entered Australia illegally from Scotland and had no paperwork.
He was released into the custody of the Department of Immigration, and was supposed to be deported.
But Alison has since been told he died in custody, and has also heard he died once he made it back to the UK.
Because she is no longer a registered victim in the eyes of the law, she isn’t entitled to the truth, and lives with the fear that he is roaming the streets.
‘I just want to know for my own sense of closure, I think,’ she said.
Court documents reveal Smith was assessed as a ‘high risk person to re-offend’ back in 2006, when he was released on parole for separate charges.
His wife, the mother of his four children, left him during his time in jail and he reportedly had limited contact with his kids.
*James’ daughter’s name has been changed
THE CHARGES AGAINST JAMES DUNCAN SMITH
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
James Duncan Smith was found guilty of nine charges of sexual offences on May 11, 2009. Shortly after he was sentenced, Alison came forward and he was charged with more crimes in 2011. More victims came forward after Alison.
Daily Mail Australia below lists some of Smith’s offences. At the time of sentencing, he was 55 years old.
Smith was found guilty of committing an indecent assault on a victim under 10 years old between May 1st, 2001 and December 1st, 2002. He was found guilty of having sexual intercourse with the same person, then a child aged under ten, during the same period.
Four offences were committed between 1 November 2002 and 31 July 2003. Three of the offences were indecent assaults on a person under ten. She was nine. The fourth offence was sexual intercourse with the victim, who was then under ten.
Another of the crimes, the most serious, was having sexual intercourse with the victim without her consent, knowing that she was not consenting and in circumstances of aggravation. She was under sixteen.
The victim’s father and Smith were friends. He often took his two daughters to Smith’s house to play with his children. It was during these visits, all of which involved overnight stays, that Mr Smith committed the crimes.
‘It is recorded in the agreed facts, that Mr Smith touched the victim in a sexual manner whenever she stayed at his house,’ the judge found.