Odyssey to help sex victims

By Kathryn Powley

Tracee Knowler will travel down the east coast of India in a customised tuk-tuk.
Tracee Knowler will travel down the east coast of India in a customised tuk-tuk.

A police officer who helped lock up some of New Zealand's most notorious child sex offenders is now driving an unusual campaign to support victims.

Senior Constable Tracee Knowler is hoping a 7-horsepower tuk-tuk will make a difference in the lives of Far North abuse victims.

"It's a hard topic to talk about, but people are excited and are engaging over the event as well as the fact that something's got to be done," she said.

It's been a horror year for Northland with offenders such as paedophile teacher James Parker, Kaitaia businessman Daniel Luke Taylor, and former farmer Allan Titford, all convicted of sex offences.

Knowler, sole charge officer at New Zealand's northernmost police station at Houhora for the past year, was for 12 years a detective in Kaitaia. She was part of the team that investigated Parker and Taylor, but said their offending was just the tip of the iceberg. "A massive percentage of our workload in Kaitaia is sexual abuse," she said.

"Every single day in Kaitaia you have new cases come across your desk. You chip away at them, but they never end. It's just a blur. How horrid is that, when you're talking that sort of number?"

Knowler said abuse occurred across all parts of society, and she had heard all sorts of excuses.

"I've had a 65-year-old man in an interview say to me, 'Well, she was a well-developed 8-year-old'."

Knowler had heard "she came on to me" and "she's my daughter, it's my right to be the first".

"I've heard that more than once."

This week, Knowler launched a fundraising drive to boost support services for Far North victims.

She and Sergeant Marie Stratford of Manukau Police will spend about three weeks driving 3000km through India in the tuk-tuk.

She'd named their entry in the "Rickshaw Run", a rally next August with international entries, the "Chickshaw Blues".

To donate: Go to ChickshawBlues Givealittle page

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 26 Nov 2014 18:40:22 Processing Time: 591ms