Robert Hughes: Former TV star, convicted pedophile.
Last month, the 73-year-old was released on parole from Long Bay prison in Sydney.
Eight years behind bars seems to have taken its toll.
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He looks every one of his 73 years.
After renouncing his Australian citizenship, Hughes was detained by immigration before being deported to the UK.
It was there A current matter tracked him down last week.
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For the first time in over 10 years, the face of the man who was a TV favorite was revealed as I approached Hughes in the busy shopping center in Southampton, southwest London.
“Robert Hughes,” I said as I approached him and his wife, actor’s agent Robyn Gardiner.
For a moment I saw a small smile appear on his face.
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I was under the impression that maybe he thought I was an adoring fan from his past life.
“Simon Bouda, from A current matter,” I continued.
With those words, the smile vanished as quickly as it appeared.
“Mr. Hughes, how does it feel to be free today?” I held on.
A current matter Hughes located in the historic English port town of Southampton.
“Are you enjoying your new-found freedom?” I asked.
Hughes stared ahead and remained silent as he continued, ignoring my questions and the camera in front of him.
Hughes was the star of the Australian family sitcom Hey daddy!
One of his victims was his on-screen daughter, Sarah Monahan.
“You were just a kid…when this all started,” I asked Monahan before Hughes was paroled.
“Yes,” she replied.
“What long-term impact do you think it had on you, being just a kid? You were what — I think you were old…” I continued.
Monahan finished my sentence: “I was six when I started – when I auditioned – and because of him I left television.”
For the past 12 years, Monahan has been the public face of the child abuse case against Hughes.
Hey daddy! was a highly regarded family comedy in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Behind the scenes was a terrible and dark secret.
The star was a pedophile who preyed on his on-screen daughter, targeted her and abused her.
“He’d do it in front of a live audience… he was that ball,” Monahan told me.
A photograph proved invaluable: Hughes’ hand hidden by a script, resting on Monahan’s lap.
The look on her face said it all.
“That was a Polaroid,” Monahan explained.
“People kept saying it was photoshopped.
“You can’t photoshop a Polaroid.
“So he got away with a lot, was clearly visible.”
In Singapore – in 2010 – A current matter Hughes first confronted the allegations.
It would be the start of our ten-year investigation.
“I am absolutely shocked by the allegations and I deny – absolutely deny – everything,” Hughes said. A current matter at the time.
It was the last time Hughes spoke publicly about the allegations.
In 2012, he was arrested in London, extradited to Australia, charged and convicted of sexually and indecently assaulting four girls.
“What about the women you were accused of assaulting, do you have anything you want to say to them?” I asked Hughes when we confronted him last week.
He remained silent – no acceptance, no denial.
On June 14, after serving eight years of his 10-year sentence, Hughes was removed from prison by the Australian Border Forces before being housed in the Villawood Detention Centre.
On June 28, he flew out of Sydney and somehow managed to avoid any scrutiny from the media.
He was in the wind.
A current case search for Hughes began the day he was released from prison.
Over the following weeks, we tracked down his long-term wife, Gardiner – a one-time agent for movie stars, including Cate Blanchett.
Gardiner lives in a modest apartment in the medieval cathedral city of Salisbury – not far from Stonehenge – and 40 minutes’ drive from Southampton.
She eventually led us to a serviced apartment complex in Southampton.
We were there when the reunited couple arrived.
The unit they occupy is a far cry from the four-by-two-metre cell Hughes was used to—almost regal, you might say.
Websites claim the apartment complex has: “Everything guests need for a comfortable stay…Southampton Common, a popular park, is a short distance from the property…this is the perfect place for guests to go for a walk, run , or enjoy a picnic.”
It couldn’t be further from the prison training ground.
But the serviced apartments are just a few hundred yards from St Michael’s Pre School and a few blocks from Cantell Secondary School.
The New South Wales State Parole Authority announced its decision to release Hughes in a 13-page verdict.
Under his parole, Hughes was ordered to report to the police in the United Kingdom within three days of his arrival.
He is also registered on the UK Sex Offenders Register and must report any change of address or if he plans to go on holiday.
He must also inform the police if he intends to stay longer than 12 hours at an address where a child is present.
Before his release, Monahan said: A current matter she was afraid that Hughes wouldn’t be watched closely enough.
“I feel sorry for the kids in the UK,” Monahan told me before Hughes was released.
“It’s a little scary that there’s a situation where he could be completely uncontrolled.”
“What’s your biggest fear if he gets paroled?” I asked her.
“That he will hurt more children… that he will go there (the UK) and that he will hurt more children.”
When we confronted Hughes, I told him that Monahan still believes he is a threat – again, stony silence.
Hughes has never admitted his crimes.
Gardiner has promised to seek treatment from a clinical psychologist who specializes in convicted sex offenders who deny their crimes.
The couple spent their early days in Southampton using public transport – buses and trains – ostensibly to run errands.
Hand in hand – their marriage was revived.
They often seemed lost and confused as they explored their new surroundings and visited the nearby town of Basingstoke.
But it was clear that they felt as if they had slipped into anonymity – they all watched the elderly couple as they walked through the park, ran errands – arm in arm as they shared an umbrella in a sudden British downpour.
‘Mr Hughes, you’ve always maintained that you were the victim of all this – do you still maintain that?’ I held on.
“This is your chance to talk to us.”
With that, the pedophile former TV favorite ran off.
The cloak of secrecy surrounding his new life dissolved; Robert Hughes was visible to the whole world.
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