The mother of a child sexually abused and filmed by Christchurch businessman Wayne Smith has spoken about her family’s harrowing journey. Photo / 123RF file
On the surface, Wayne Smith was a normal man, a nice man, a good father and friend, a successful businessman.
But it was all a facade.
Beneath the “normal” was an ugly truth – Smith was one of the country’s worst child sex offenders.
Beneath the “nice” was a depraved manipulator with a penchant for vile images of babies and young people being exploited and bestiality.
He engaged with paedophiles online and connected with children overseas who he groomed and instructed to perform lewd acts.
He set up cameras in his house to capture his rapes and abuses of a young girl whose mother trusted him.
After a gruelling journey through the justice system, the little girl’s mother is finally able to share her story.
She spoke to senior journalist Anna Leask about her “superstar” daughter and their journey from horror to healing.
“He’s scum, I hope he rots in hell,” says the mother.
“I hope he gets what’s coming to him … but also I literally try to spend as little time as I possibly can thinking about him – he doesn’t deserve any energy at all, he’s not worth it.
“This has been a big thing to get through, really hard – and it’s not an easy thing to talk about, but if doing so helps somebody else, just one other person, then it’s worth it, that’s what this is all about.”
When the mother first met Smith, he wasn’t around much – at the time he was the CEO of Christchurch transport technology company Connexionz and he travelled frequently.
And then Covid-19 took over the world and Smith was around a lot more.
“It didn’t even remotely occur to me that there could be any issues,” said the mother.
“He had a good job, they had a nice house, they had been married for 20-odd years – they just seemed so normal.
“I did have a moment, a few weeks before it came out – you have a ‘mummy radar’ or a gut feeling something a little bit weird … but my daughter hadn’t been scared of him, she hadn’t not wanted to go to their place … then your rational brain says ‘no, they’re a normal family’.
“When it all came out, the mum guilty kicked in big-time – how could I not have seen that?”
It was a normal Friday when the bomb dropped.
Her little girl had been at Smith’s earlier in the day and nothing was amiss.
Until bath time.
“She didn’t have any underwear on and I asked her about it – I thought she must have forgotten it or had a little accident,” she recalled.
“She said she must have left it at [Smith’s] place and then she said ‘but I can’t tell you why mummy, it’s a secret with Wayne’.
“My stomach just dropped, I felt physically sick, I was like, what the f*** – but I knew right then that I needed to keep her talking to me.
“I took a moment outside to catch my breath, I gave an excuse about taking her clothes to the laundry basket, then I went back and just tried to carry on as normal – I just didn’t want her to freak out.”
The woman said the next few moments were “like autopilot” as she gently questioned her child. Her baby girl.
“I can’t tell you mummy,” she said.
“You can tell me anything, I am your mother,” the woman replied.
“You won’t tell him, will you?”
“No, no, I won’t tell Wayne.”
The things the woman heard that night will haunt her forever. But the offences her child described were just the tip of the iceberg.
“I was literally somewhere between absolute rage, wanting to drive over there and pulverise the shit out of Wayne – and utter disbelief, like, ‘did I really just hear what I just heard’.”
The woman called police and was transferred to the child protection team.
On Monday she and her daughter gave formal statements and the child underwent testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
“Before we went the police said to tell her why she was coming, that was hard … I told her that what Wayne did was really wrong and she had to go and talk to the police lady about it, that it was really important and that she must tell them everything and tell the truth.”
By Tuesday Smith had been arrested and charged with 13 counts – a mix of various sexual violations and indecent acts.
But there was more, much more.
Police called the woman to tell her they had found video evidence at Smith’s house and there would be further charges of rape.
“That’s when I was like ‘oh f***’ and the reality started to hit,” she said.
The child had to undergo a medical examination and the woman said it was heartbreaking to have to explain what it was – and why.
“She was a bit tearful … she was also upset when I told her Wayne had been arrested – she said ‘is he in jail mummy?’ and when I said yes she was even more upset.
“To some degree, and still, she thinks he was a nice man – he made it playful, he made it fun.
“She said ‘he won’t like that in jail mummy, that will be really bad’ and I said ‘but what he did was really bad’.”
It emerged that Smith had set up cameras round his house to capture the little girl – and his offending.
He made multiple videos, including one nearly six minutes long which showed him raping her.
The police summary of Smith’s offending stated that “almost immediately” after coming to know the child he began to groom her with “the intention of creating a safe environment for him to offend”.
“[He] regularly engaged in behaviour with sexually motivated intentions,” said police.
“He also engaged in playing board games with the victim … with enticements of reward for sexually gratifying him.
“[He] set up multiple cameras throughout his dwelling which enabled him to covertly film the victim, capturing everything she did. The footage from these cameras included audio.
“The cameras were positioned to capture normal activity involving the victim such as eating breakfast … but were focused to capture her underwear.
“Other cameras were positioned to capture the victim in the toilet and shower.”
All of the offending happened in the man’s home and police said the abuse became so frequent that it “became routine and normalised” for the little girl.
The details of the offending in the summary are extremely specific and graphic and the Herald has chosen not to publish the full detail.
But the offending includes the man touching himself and touching or violating the child in various ways – often while she was playing video games and distracted.
Sometimes the offender’s own child was in the room close by when the abuse occurred.
Many times when the little girl stayed at his home overnight he would go into her room and abuse or violate her while she slept.
During one rape he told the girl “this is our big secret” and ordered her to say she “loved it”.
When police searched Smith’s house they also found 81 “digital exhibits” including hard drives, laptops, memory cards and other electronic devices.
A full forensic examination was carried out and “significant child sex exploitation material” was found.
“A total of 1834 files were located including 288 movies and 1546 images. Due to the sheer volume and graphic nature of the objectionable material located, only a sample was analysed,” said the police summary.
Alongside his crude collection of footage of the victim he also had in excess of 180,000 images, videos, cartoons and stories containing child exploitation material and bestiality.
He also faced a charge of sexual conduct with a child outside New Zealand after the man joined an online platform in 2018.
Through that platform he communicated with two girls aged 7 and 10 who police believe were in the US.
He groomed them online and then instructed them to perform sexual, explicit and lewd acts on themselves and each other.
Smith eventually pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 17 years in prison with a minimum term of seven years before he is eligible for parole.
The mother of the Christchurch victim said the road to justice was harrowing.
Sentencing was particularly hard.
She and her daughter’s father read victim impact statements and then had to hear from the defence that Smith wanted to meet with them and the child for restorative justice.
And they had to hear details of a pre-sentence report that outlined how Smith effectively blamed the child and her mother for his offending.
“He’s got no sense of reality, clearly he’s got no idea what he’s done – not even remotely,” the mother said.
“The prosecutor met with us before sentencing and told us what was in the report – that he was blaming me and my daughter and even his wife, and I was just blown away.
“I was quite tearful – it was feeling guilty enough, and then that … hearing that was like being stabbed in the heart.
“It was like – what the actual f***, are you serious?”
Judge Raoul Neave said in court that Smith’s offending was “beyond belief”.
“He filmed it – he filmed it all,” he said.
“It’s lengthy … it has the full gambit of indecencies.
“It’s completely devastated a family – and he filmed it … a catalogue of offences the kind of which rarely I have seen.”
He said the facts of the case were “distressing” and the offending was “highly planned and premeditated”.
The offending was “ghastly” and “the greatest breach of trust imaginable”.
“Your behaviour has been truly depraved, no other word suffices,” said Judge Neave.
Just before sentencing was the first time the woman read the full summary of Smith’s offending.
“I knew bits and pieces up until then … it wasn’t an easy read … I can’t believe the police that put that together do their job, they are just phenomenal, I take my hat off to them.”
She was thankful Smith pleaded guilty but was outraged he was granted name suppression and his identity was kept secret until well after he was sentenced.
“That really dragged out, we never thought he should have had it in the first place – it felt like sometimes his rights were deemed more important and that wasn’t right,” she said.
“But we do feel lucky because some children go through this and never tell or speak up and if they do, some are not believed.”
Her focus from the get-go has not been justice or punishment – it has been about making sure her little girl doesn’t lose any more of her childhood.
That the rest of her life is pain-free and happy.
It has been a painstaking road for both mother and daughter.
While the child has proven to be remarkably strong and resilient and does not often talk about Smith or what happened – the ghost of his violations is still there for both of them.
“No matter what people say to me, the guilt will always stay with me,” she said.
“On one side I know that it was his fault, that he groomed me too … but on the other side it will always be my fault, it will always be on me.
“I feel foolish that I didn’t see it … no matter what people tell me it will always stay right with me.
“There’s days where I don’t think about it all the time, but I would say most days it creeps up in my brain in some shape or form.”
So how does she get up each day and help her daughter navigate life?
How does she not drown under the burden of Smith’s revolting offending?
How does she undo the harm he caused her girl?
“For me, it’s about trying to keep things normal – not making too big of a deal of it, letting her come to me.
“I know she felt responsible about the fact that he’s gone to jail but I want to make sure she realises it wasn’t her fault – that she did nothing wrong, that there is not any guilt or shame for her.
“I am immensely proud of her, she is just an absolute superstar and she doesn’t even realise it – after everything she has been through she is amazing.
“Whatever happens, we will get through it … she will be amazing, whatever she does, and I’ll certainly do my best for her, my whole life now is just to look after her.
“She’s my number one.”
The woman said her advice to other parents was simple – trust your instinct and your children.
“There wasn’t a second where I didn’t believe what she was telling me … I just had to keep that communication going.
“Trust your gut, your mum instincts, just listen … and ask for help. There is absolutely no shame in asking people to support you … you have to remember that you as a parent, you’re a victim in this as much as your child is.”
The woman encouraged people to communicate with their children as much as possible and not to ignore any concerns.
“Red flags, or even orange flags … trust your gut,” she said.
“Nobody expects this shit to happen to them, you read about it happening to other people and your heart goes out to them and you think ‘it must be awful’.
“But you never expect it to happen to you … now I am talking about it because if I can help someone else, that’s a good thing.
“I just want to raise awareness – if one other person reads this and thinks ‘oh, I’m not sure about what’s happening in my family’ and gets help – then it’s all worth it.”
SEXUAL HARM – DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact the Safe to Talk confidential crisis helpline on:
• Text 4334 and they will respond
• Email email@example.com
• Visit https://safetotalk.nz/contact-us/ for an online chat
Alternatively contact your local police station – click here for a list.
If you have been abused, remember it’s not your fault.
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