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Youth worker facing child sex charges dies while on bail

Date

Louis Andrews

A youth worker accused of molesting a 12-year-old boy has died just weeks after being released on bail, and a week before his next court date.

And now the mother of the boy Michael David Watt was accused of abusing says she is ready to move on and try to reclaim some of her son's lost innocence.

Watt, 25, was released on bail from the ACT Magistrates Court on April 18 facing a string of child molestation charges.

He was pronounced dead at his Conder home last Wednesday night, according to a statement of life extinct tendered in court yesterday.

The circumstances surrounding Watt's death remain unclear, but ACT Policing yesterday said they are not treating it as suspicious.

Watt had been due to face court again tomorrow over allegations he abused the boy, who was in the care of ACT child protection authorities.

The child's mother, who cannot be named, yesterday told The Canberra Times she was relieved her son would not have to endure cross-examination in a criminal trial.

''It's a hard thing to go through, I just want to regroup our little family and go forward,'' the woman said.

''It's over for us now, and now I need to ASAP move my son forward into his future and somehow reclaim his lost childhood.''

But the woman remains angry Watt was granted bail, and called for legislation to be changed so accused child abusers faced a presumption against bail. The accused man had been employed as a youth worker at the time, working with vulnerable children, but the court has suppressed the name of his then-employer.

The allegations came to light in February after the boy came forward.

In April Watt was arrested and brought before the court.

He was charged with offences including having sexual intercourse with a child younger than 16, committing acts of indecency on a child younger than 16 and using electronic means to deprave a child.

At the time of his death, Watt had yet to enter pleas to the charges.

But police had alleged Watt repeatedly molested the boy while caring for him between November last year and February. On one occasion the victim allegedly woke in the night to find Watt in bed with him, touching his genitals. It was also alleged he showed the child a pornographic video on a laptop.

In April police opposed bail, raising concerns Watt might pose a risk to other children. Detective Sergeant Tony Crocker said at the time police feared there were more victims after a search of Watt's home uncovered a list of children he had worked with. The alleged victim was the last name on the list.

The court heard Watt, who held dual citizenship, had been under investigation in New Zealand for similar offences - although there was no evidence he was charged.

And Sergeant Crocker said police were concerned Watt might have been planning a child sex tourism trip to the Philippines. But Magistrate David Mossop agreed to grant bail on strict conditions, warning Watt to make ''absolutely every effort'' to comply.

The matter was back before the same magistrate yesterday afternoon, when the office of the Director of Prosecutions sought an order of abatement - putting an end to the criminal proceedings. Mr Mossop is expected to make the order this morning.

Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling SANE Helpline 1800 18 7263; Lifeline 131 114; Salvo Crisis Line 9331 2000; beyondblue 1300 22 46 36.

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