A convicted paedophile could die in prison after being handed a 20-year term for the sustained sexual abuse of children in state care more than 35 years ago.
Martin James Cooper, 66, was sentenced in Perth’s District Court on Friday after a jury found him guilty of 30 child sex charges late last month.
Cooper and his wife Nancy ran the hostel in Perth, which accommodated girls and boys ranging in age from 11-14, into the mid-80s.
The horrific offences happened between 1978 and 1983 at Warminda Hostel in East Victoria Park and related to eight victims, one of whom was just 11 at the time Cooper raped her.
Cooper spent several years in Wauchope where he was involved in community organisations. He was a member of the Wauchope Lions Club and supported his wife Nancy who was a driving force for Daffodil Day activities.
The couple left Wauchope in late 2012.
In 2016, the former cottage parent was extradited from New South Wales to face 43 charges - including multiple counts of rape - relating to children who had been under his care.
The charges were laid following investigations prompted by responses to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Cooper pleaded not guilty to each charge.
Harrowing testimony provided to the court by victims detailed the prolonged abuse suffered by the children at the hands of Cooper, who was working as a ‘cottage parent’ at the time the offending took place.
In what was called a “gross breach of trust” by District Court Judge Mark Herron, Cooper spent his five years at Warminda degrading and humiliating the young residents with his “terrifying” repeated and persistent abuse.
Among the 30 offences for which Cooper was convicted were six rapes involving three different girls, aged 11, 12 and 13 at the time, and multiple incidents of indecent dealings with both girls and boys.
Violent rapes which left his female victims bleeding and crying were recounted in court, as were Cooper’s abuses of boys which included forcing them to perform oral sex on him.
“This is going to be good for you,” Cooper told one of his victims.
“You’re really going to like this.”
Another victim was warned Cooper could make him “disappear” if he told anyone about the abuse.
Each of the victims had been warned by Cooper to “shut up”, and while some tried to alert authorities to what was happening at Warminda, none were believed.
Victim impact statements provided to the court detailed the devastating effects Cooper’s abuse had on the children, with several saying they had tried to take their own lives and now suffered post traumatic stress disorder.
One described Warminda under Cooper’s charge as a “place of many horrors”, while another said “we were just absolutely scared shitless”.
“You preyed upon them,” Judge Herron said.
“You took advantage of their vulnerability. You taunted them and humiliated them.”
Judge Herron said Cooper’s victims had been failed not only by him, but by the state, the police force, and the Uniting Church which operated Warminda during the time of the abuse.
He referred to Cooper’s abuse of the children as “the most serious class of offending of this kind”.
During sentencing Judge Herron noted Cooper’s lack of remorse or empathy for his victims, and several times during the hearing Cooper was seen shaking his head and mouthing the word “bullshit” to members of his family in the gallery.
The court heard Cooper, who was described as being in poor health, had previously had a heart attack and had a pacemaker implanted, had diabetes and bladder control problems.
“His time in prison will be harder than most,” Cooper’s lawyer said.
“There is the possibility he won’t make it out of custody.”
Cooper will be 84 before he can be considered for parole.