THE man who once dubbed Gympie "Helltown," accusing it of a "dark and sinister" culture of illicit sex, murder and drug use, has been committed for trial on sex charges involving under-age girls.
Leading Queensland criminologist Paul Wilson, 73, quoted statistics over a police region area that extends up to 130kms away to ridicule Gympie in an article published in the August 1997 issue of Australian Penthouse magazine.
The article did incalculable damage to Gympie and its people.
Now, the man who accused us of harbouring a culture of condoned sex offences, including fathers abusing daughters, has been accused of indecently touching girls under.
Prof Wilson is charged with the indecent treatment of two girls under 17, over a number of years in the 1970s at Indooroopilly, in Brisbane's west.
His "Helltown" article prompted a Gympie rebellion, with sports teams and a band taking the name and one resident writing a song ridiculing Wilson.
As The Gympie Times now deputy editor Shelley Strachan reported in a front page story on July 9, 1997, Wilson's article depicted Gympie as "the most undesirable place to live in all of Australia, full of hypocrisy, sexual violence, fear, drugs, murder, incest, pack rape, economic stagnation and rabid right-wing gun fanatics".
He claimed "fathers who rape their daughters are let off with a warning," the article said.
Such was the lingering stigma it created that some young Gympie people told me they have been embarrassed to say where they come from when they go elsewhere to study or work; many say they are from the Sunshine Coast.
An editorial that day did not deny that these problems exist, but pointed out that they were not unique to Gympie, especially as many of the figures related to areas many kilometres away.
Police district inspector Veronica Kane commented at the time that the Gympie police district, from which the figures were gathered, included Cherbourg, Murgon, Blackbutt, Nanango, Kingaroy, Proston, Wondai, Kumbia, Tin Can Bay, Rainbow Beach, Imbil, Goomeri and Kilkivan and involved populations of tens of thousands of people.
All this was implicitly attributed to one "quiet country town with 12,300 inhabitants (as Gympie was then)," she said.
Prof Wilson has been committed for Brisbane District Court trial on a date to be fixed.
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