‘I LOVE CHATTING TO PEDOS’: Tip that led to Ben’s downfall
BEN McCormack did his best to conceal his identity when he embarked on revolting "fantasy" talk about sex with boys and boasted of being a "proud ped proud b lover".
He used a fake name - others on the sickening online conversations knew him as 'Oz4skinboi'. He also lied by his age, saying he was 28 when he was actually in his 40s, as he discussed his fantasies online, in texts and over Skype.
But the mystery man who McCormack was caught speaking about their shared sexual interest with may have led sex crimes detectives to the celebrated journalist.
McCormack, 43, yesterday pleaded guilty to two child pornography offences when his case was called at the Downing Centre Local Court. His bail was continued until he faces a sentencing hearing next week.
He was taken into custody at Moore Park in April by officers from the NSW Sex Crime Squad Child Exploitation Squad about 7.30am after being intercepted driving to work at the Nine Network's headquarters in Sydney's north.
In an unusual move, police released footage of the arrest. Startling video showed McCormack, with his face blurred, standing with his hands in his pockets alongside plainclothes officers. When he is placed in the back of a police vehicle he sits with his hands in his lap and stared straight ahead.
The police statement of facts, which McCormack pleaded guilty to, reveals what led investigators to him.
The man who he was talking with told police he knew 'Oz4skinboi' by his real name of Ben. And he also revealed Ben had an "affiliation" with Channel 9 and A Current Affair.
From there, it was only a matter of time until McCormack was in their sights.
Police in NSW and other states have been working on busting paedophile rings that have their tentacles in communities throughout the country.
It's believed the arrest of an alleged child rapist in WA led to the arrests of McCormack and other professionals, including school teachers.
WA Police launched an investigation after the alleged child rapist in February. That arrest gave police access to phone records, computer files and websites that the alleged child rapist had used to communicate with other like minded men, The West Australian reported in May.
That also lead to the arrest in March of a WA primary school teacher who is facing child pornography charges.
West Australian investigators then shared that information with State and Federal colleagues who target apparent online predators - including those belonging to Strike Force Trawler, a successful NSW operation within the Sex Crimes Squad.
McCormack's shock guilty plea came after weeks of legal wrangling over the police facts. His lawyer Sam Macedone told reporters they made clear there was never any images traded by his client.
" ... It is nothing more than fantasy talk," he said.
That fantasy included extremely explicit talk about sex with young boys and McCormack's declaration that "I love chatting to pedos". In July 2015 when asked if he would "always be a p" he said: "I'll always have the attraction ... They are beautiful".
Police confirmed there was no evidence of any images of children to the men he was discussing child abuse with - but the statement of facts reveals he did send the unidentified male 10 images. While it is not clear what the images were, he included comments about boys in speedos.
McCormack's arrest and the disturbing nature of the allegations he has admitted to are a long way from the reputation he forged over two decades in the media.
It was McCormack who famously chased Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes to Singapore in 2010 to confront him over sex abuse allegations. A Current Affair's reporting on the scandal helped lead to Hughes being sentenced to six years' jail on 10 charges related to sexually abusing young girls.
While that was undoubtedly a scoop, he came under fire from the media watchdog for a report on a Western Sydney shopping mall being taken over by Asian retailers with Australian businesses being "kicked out".
It was later found to be inaccurate and the show was forced to read an on-air apology.
But that was nothing compared to the media scrum he found himself in yesterday. He said nothing as he walked from the Sydney courthouse to a waiting car pursued by people he once considered colleagues.
He remains on bail ahead of sentencing proceedings that begin on October 6.