Alleged sex assault of girl, 7, leads to 9 arrests

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HAMILTON – An investigation into the alleged sexual assault of a seven-year-old girl in Hamilton has led to the arrest of nine people across the province, including the child’s mother and her boyfriend.

Hamilton police say the investigation, named Project Links, was launched in early May after the force received a tip from the Hamilton Catholic Children’s Aid Society.

Det. Sgt. David Dunbar with the Hamilton police victims of crime branch says officers interviewed the girl on May 3 and she told them she was being sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend.

Dunbar says a 34-year-old man, who has not been identified, was arrested the same day and charged with 40 counts that include sexual assault, sexual interference, making and possessing child pornography.

Police say a number of electronic devices seized during the search of the man’s home led them to believe that the girl’s sister — aged between seven and 16 — was also a victim of sexual assault. They say the investigation into that case is ongoing.

Dunbar says investigators found advertisements on the U.S.-based classified website Craigslist that offered the seven-year-old girl “to be sexually assaulted.”

Police say further investigation found the seven-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted by more than one person.

They say four other people were arrested, including two men from Hamilton aged 36 and 50, and two people from Waterloo — a 38-year-old man and a 48-year-old woman.

They face charges related to sexual assault, sexual interference and making and possessing child pornography.

The seven-year-old girl’s mother — a 39-year-old woman from Hamilton — was also arrested and charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to a child.

A 52-year-old man from St. Catharines, Ont., and a 35-year-old from Waterloo, Ont., were also arrested and charged with child pornography-related offences.

The investigation also led to the arrest of a ninth person — Geoffrey Burnet, 48, of Kitchener, Ont., who police said is a former elementary school teacher in several boards in southern Ontario.

Burnet has been charged with making and distributing child pornography.