With another relationship foundering, Jim Allen realised ‘it was time’ to deal with the sexual abuse by a ‘monster’ he learned nearly 40 years later was already a convicted paedophile.
So, several years ago, he made a report to police about Dave Holden, who was ‘absolutely’ a Jekyll and Hyde character, well-known in the community for decades and believed by Jim’s parents to be an ‘affable, charismatic man’ who was happy to involve young boys in community activities.
It would later emerge that Holden had abused other boys, who were grateful to Jim for taking the first step, going to police and naming Holden – then in his 80s – as a paedophile operating in plain sight, shunted between volunteer organisations that involved the participation of children. Holden, Jim said, was ‘just an awful person hiding behind the veneer of a rock-solid citizen’, which made it hard for others to believe he would abuse children.
What has angered Jim most is that Holden had served time in Pentridge Prison over the abduction and sexual abuse of a boy in the 1950s, and that the state government department that owned the property where Holden abused him had re-employed Holden on his release from jail after successful lobbying by a local politician friend of Holden’s family.
Jim was 12 when he met Holden at a promotional day for a community organisation. Soon after, Holden brought some promotional material to Jim’s home. Months later, after enjoying a four-hour excursion to a historical site, Jim was dropped home by Holden who spoke to his mother for 10 minutes.
The following year, Jim was excited to be invited on an overnight excursion with Holden. While his parents had been told there was guest accommodation at the historical site, ‘there was nothing’, Jim said. He was forced to sleep with Holden on the floor after hours of abuse that was ‘beyond a nightmare’.
On the way to the site, Holden told Jim he must take part in a nude ‘initiation ceremony’. On arrival, Holden locked them in a building and conducted the ‘ceremony’ – a procedure that involved pricking Jim’s skin. Holden also took nude photos of Jim while questioning him about masturbation and girls.
After molestation by a naked Holden, Jim then thought he was going to be killed when ‘in, like, a trance-like state’ Holden left him tied up in one of the rooms.
Jim described Holden as having ‘four different personality changes’ during the ordeal.
Afterwards, they slept on a rug. The next day Jim had to run along part of the site while Holden cupped his genitals from behind. Later he was forced to masturbate Holden. Jim was warned not to tell anyone their ‘secret’ before he was taken home.
Jim thought he could ‘deal’ with the situation by rebuffing further invitations from Holden.
He did not want to ‘hurt’ his parents by disclosing the abuse, in particular not ‘ruin’ his mother who had given permission for him to go away that night. Jim reluctantly agreed to one last excursion at which other people would be around.
But Holden took a detour to another site and locked Jim in a room to ‘continue’ the initiation. Jim ‘banged on the door and started crying’, knowing another adult was within hearing. Holden immediately apologised and let him go.
The 1970s, Jim said, was ‘a different era’ and no one was warned about paedophiles. Not being homosexual, ‘I was probably very embarrassed that my first sexual experience was with a male’.
‘You try to bury it … it was like an out-of-body experience when I was going through the abuse … I thought I was going to die. I mean, I was tied up for 90 minutes, I was trapped, couldn’t get out of the [site]. He’d locked the doors and I was only just turned 13. He was very scary: he was making growling noises and he was just like a beast – like something evil.’
Afterwards, during exams when students were told ‘to be quiet for 90 minutes’ it took Jim straight back to the abuse when, left tied up, Holden had ordered him to not say a word.
Unable to cope with exams, Jim left school early, ended a promising athletic future, and missed out on the career, family and children that all his friends have.
‘It ruined a lot of my life.’
Over the years Jim experienced ‘flashbacks’, nightmares, several nervous breakdowns and resorted to binge drinking to block memories. All his relationships had ‘fallen apart’ during periods of pressure and he had ‘probably sabotaged relationships’, worried that ‘the same thing would happen’ if he had children of his own.
He was motivated to contact police – a very positive experience – by anger at stories of ‘protected’ paedophiles, including Rolf Harris and Catholic priests.
‘[Holden] told the police in interviews he wanted to have a relationship with me and stuff like that. It was really weird. He was then in his 40s and wanted to go out with a 13-year-old boy.’
Jim was also told by police that despite other complaints in the 1980s nothing eventuated. This was because of Holden’s denials and no obvious record of his historical paedophile conviction because his police file had been ‘missing’ for years.
Jim is ‘glad’ he came forward. While some ‘chaps’ were fearful of going to police, a number had become involved by the time Holden pleaded guilty to multiple charges before Jim’s private session. All were relieved ‘Holden was going inside’, ‘hopefully’ to end his days in prison ‘because he’d got away with it for far too long … If I hadn’t come forward he’d still be in his nursing home’.
It was ‘fantastic to see the Royal Commission operating as it is’, according to Jim, who has a victim of crime compensation claim underway. He is also considering suing the state government that owned the entity that gave Holden his job back after his paedophile conviction as well as the properties Holden used to prey on boys.
‘Holden’s whole life has been destroyed now. It was good to see fear in his eyes when he left court, when the judge said, “Take the prisoner away”… It was very empowering and very satisfying.’