The former boss of a truck driver involved in an international paedophile ring has said staff thought he was "odd" but had no idea he was capable of the "disgusting" crimes he has admitted.
Aaron Ellmers, 41, of Hastings, walked out of his job with trucking company Everfresh in September. A few weeks later, he was arrested while trying to pay $500 to have sex with a toddler.
Everfresh managing director John Agnew said Ellmers worked for the company for about two years before failing to turn up one day.
Mr Agnew said he had been contacted by police shortly after Ellmers' disappearance and knew the nature of the allegations, "but when we heard the whole story the other day we couldn't believe it".
"I was gobsmacked. He's one sick boy."
Ellmers appeared in the Hastings District Court on Tuesday to plead guilty to 60 charges, including sexual violation of children, stupefaction, and making intimate visual recordings.
Mr Agnew said Ellmers was unusual, did not socialise with staff outside work and was known to "fly off his handle".
"I had to go out and simmer things down a few times when he was out on jobs.
"We used to see him with a boy in his truck every now and then. We just thought he was a nephew. We had no reason to think otherwise."
There was a rumour that Ellmers had been involved in an accident in Australia that claimed another person's life, but no-one knew he had been in prison there, Mr Agnew said. Ellmers had signed a form when he joined Everfresh, saying he had no previous convictions.
In fact he was deported from Australia in 2008 after serving a prison sentence for abusing an 8-year-old boy. He was also convicted of perjury in Australia for lying about the man who started a fire that killed 15 people in a backpackers near Brisbane.
While in Hastings, he lived across Omahu Rd from Everfresh in a cabin on a property sharing its driveway with Britton Housemovers.
Ellmers will be sentenced in the High Court at Napier in May.
NO MENTION OF CONVICTIONS
When Aaron Ellmers was deported from Australia after serving 2 and a half years of a five-year jail term for raping a boy, there was no mention of the conviction on his criminal record in New Zealand.
He had another conviction in Australia for perjury, but when he arrived at Auckland Airport on June 2, 2008, none of his Australian convictions were recorded on his police records, or the criminal records held by the Justice Ministry.
A spokesman said police would not comment on Ellmers' case while he was still to be sentenced.
He said it was possible for New Zealand Police's Interpol office to access Australian records when someone was deported. The information had to be requested, and was not passed on as a matter of course.
Police assessed criminals' risk when they were deported to New Zealand, but the spokesman could not say what happened in Ellmers' case.
The ministry said convictions from abroad were not listed on an individual's criminal records and "this is why employers working with children or vulnerable people undertake a vetting process with New Zealand Police".
The vetting process was available only to approved organisations.
Parole conditions that would have applied if Ellmers had been convicted in New Zealand did not apply here because it was an Australian conviction. Such conditions may have required supervision, or barred contact with children.
The Dominion Post understands Ellmers had minor convictions before he left for Australia in 1999.
The New Zealand and Australian governments signed an agreement last year for a six-month trial that allowed employers to access background checks in either country. In Australia it was limited to Queensland.
Before his arrest, Ellmers was heard telling another man that he had learnt from his mistakes during his offending in Australia, and a sex offenders course he attended in an Australian prison had taught him how to offend more successfully. He outlined how to find children, and gain their and their parents' trust.
- The Dominion Post