The mother of a seven-year-old girl who was kidnapped from a Kmart and sexually assaulted has revealed her daughter is ‘coping fairly well’.
Sterling Mervyn Free, a 27-year-old father-of-two, was jailed last week for a minimum of two and a half years after abducting the Brisbane girl in December 2018.
She was lured away from her mother’s side in Westfield North Lakes and taken to nearby bushland before being dropped back more than an hour later.
Sterling Mervyn Free (pictured), a 27-year-old father-of-two was jailed last week for a minimum of two and a half years after abducting and sexually assaulting the Brisbane girl in December 2018
Now the little girl’s mother has revealed the youngster has shown resilience since the brazen attack, 9News reports.
‘Having been shielded from the court proceedings and media attention about the case, she is coping fairly well despite the horrific ordeal she went through,’ the mother told the publication.
‘She is surrounded by the love and care of her family and friends, and for now, normal psychological defense mechanisms are helping her.’
The mother added that her daughter has some understanding of the seriousness of the crime but is still too young to process it.
Her parents fear the effects of what happened will impact her as she ages.
‘Day to day she is still mainly positive, however there are obvious negative effects that we see, and our real worry is for her future,’ the mother said.
She was lured away from her mother’s side in Westfield North Lakes and taken to nearby bushland before being dropped back hours later (pictured)
Free, the father of twin-daughters, will be eligible for parole from August 10, 2021, just two-and-a-half years after he was first locked up.
He took the little girl from a toy isle to remote Pumicestone Passage about 30 minutes away and sexually assaulted her before returning her to the centre.
The court heard while driving back to the shops Free ‘snapped out of it’ and broke down in tears — ‘feeling horrible’ about what he had done and how the girl’s mother would react.
The woman said attack was planned, brazen, shocking, disgusting and despicable.
She said the family were still in a state of disbelief their child had been the victim, but if it hadn’t of been her they believe it would have been someone else.
Free, the father of twin-daughters (pictured), will be eligible for parole from August 10, 2021, just two-and-a-half years after he was first locked up
It comes after an anonymous family member launched a GoFundMe appeal to raise funds for the little girl’s psychological treatment in the future.
Donations have already reached $2000 of the $20,000 goal, which will be placed into a trust for her to access later.
‘This is so that when she is older, she will have the financial means to continue treatment for the physical and psychological trauma she has suffered and will continue to suffer.
‘It is in her later years that child psychology experts tell us she will need extensive professional care and support as she may begin to experience PTSD, anxiety and depression stemming from this trauma,’ the fundraiser reads.
The family say they are grateful for the outpouring of support from the community after the ‘highly inadequate’ sentence handed to Free.
He took the little girl from a toy isle (pictured) to remote Pumicestone Passage about 30 minutes away and sexually assaulted her before returning her to the centre
‘The sentence the perpetrator received was highly inadequate and showed little regard for the little girl’s well being, now and in the future,’ they wrote.
‘Thank you very much for your messages of care and for your support – it means the world to us.’
Free’s lenient sentence was condemned around the nation, with petitions created demanding the state appeal receiving thousands of signatures in a matter of days.
Queensland Attorney General Yvette D’Ath has been called upon to appeal the sentence.
‘It is yet another pathetic example of how our legal system has very little to do with justice for survivors of crime and even less to do with protecting our children from known threats,’ one of the petitions read.
The appeal must be sought within 30 days.