OPINION: The murder of Stacey-Ann Tracy should be a lesson for NSW's parole board as it considers freeing the man who killed Samantha Knight, writes SHERELE MOODY.
ALMOST 27 years ago, my stepfather killed a little girl. His name was Barry Gordon Hadlow. His victim was nine-year-old Stacey-Ann Tracy.
I don't often speak about Hadlow because the story of Stacey-Ann's death absolutely breaks my heart.
But as the killer of nine-year-old Samantha Knight pushes for parole, there is a lesson to be learned from Hadlow and the two little girls lost at his hands.
Hadlow married my mother when I was about 15 years old. Maybe she knew the truth about his past. Or maybe she didn't.
My siblings and I had no idea this man who suddenly entered our lives was carrying a horrifying secret.
He never lied about being in jail - just the reason for it. He would often recount proudly how he was a boxer in his youth and that he was locked up for manslaughter after accidentally killing a bloke in a fight.
Why would he tell us that he was a convicted pedophile and a child killer when he could romanticise about being a mean, lean fighting machine?
My mother and Hadlow were together for about five years when they moved from Toowoomba to Roma.
They settled into a unit neighbouring the home of Stacey-Ann, her little sister and her mum, Janet.
My twin sisters were not much older than Stacey-Ann, they all went to the same school and there's no doubt they played together a lot.
On May 23, 1990, Hadlow enticed Stacey-Ann into his car as she headed to school.
He returned to the home he shared with my mother and sisters, where he raped and suffocated the blonde-haired girl.
He then put her little lifeless body in his car and drove around for hours looking for a suitable dumping site.
He eventually left her naked body, partially wrapped in a garbage bag, by a creek bed.
Later that day he announced to my family that a little girl had disappeared and he was going to help find her.
And that is exactly what he did.
He joined hundreds of community members, police and emergency services volunteers as they searched for Stacey-Ann - a bearded, jovial giant with a massive heart of gold helping his community during its darkest hour.
Three days later Stacey-Ann's body was found and then the police arrived on our doorstep.
That's when my sisters and I began to get an inkling that Hadlow's prison story was a lie.
We soon found out he murdered Stacey-Ann while he was on parole for killing five-year-old Townsville girl Sandra Bacon in 1962.
Sandra was walking past Hadlow's home when he came out to talk to her. He tricked her into coming inside by offering her some books.
It wasn't long before he raped Sandra, then killed her.
He placed her body, partially wrapped in a corn sack, into the boot of his car and walked away.
Then he joined the community's search for the little girl.
Police eventually arrested him for Sandra's murder and he served 23 years in jail. The parole board released Hadlow despite being warned he would kill again.
If the justice system had kept Hadlow locked up for killing Sandra, Stacey-Ann would now be a grown woman probably raising kids of her own.
Like Stacey-Ann, Samantha Knight was nine years old when convicted sex offender Michael Guider drugged, raped and murdered her in Sydney in 1996.
And like Hadlow, Guider - who was serving time for 75 child sex offences when he confessed to Samantha's murder - wants to be set free.
But there is no guarantee this depraved sex monster won't kill again.
We don't know our children will be safe but what we do know is these vile creatures cannot contain themselves.
They see little girls like Sandra, Stacey-Ann and Samantha as vessels for their own morbid gratification.
These children were nothing more than a means to a sick end for these men and we as a community, our justice system, parole boards and governments must never lose sight of that.
That's why today, I am joining Samantha's family and Guider's living victims in begging the New South Wales parole board to keep this monster locked up.
Forget about his civil liberties. Forget about his rights.
The day he murdered Samantha Knight is the day Guider lost any right to be free.
If there's one thing we can take away from Stacey-Ann's story, it's that the only way to keep monsters like Hadlow and Guider from harming more children is to throw away the key.
Hadlow died in prison in 2007 and that is where Guider must also die, because our children's lives are more valuable than the lives of these monsters.
Sherele Moody is a News Corp journalist and the founder of The RED HEART Campaign, which shines a light on violence against women and children in Australia.
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