The long-time school administration manager at the Moree Secondary College has told a court this afternoon that there was “a change” in the demeanor of a child who is alleged to be the victim of a sexual assault by the school’s principal.
But the timing of that change remains unclear.
Kerrie Duffell, the School Administration Manager at Moree Secondary College appeared in the Moree Local Court at lunchtime. She was giving evidence today in the hearing of Hilton Humphries, the principal of school.
Mr Humphries is accused of two counts of sexually assaulting the young girl, aged around 10 at the time of the alleged offences. The court has previously been told Mr Humphries penis was exposed when he hugged the girl tightly, and ran his hand down her back from her head to her bottom.
It allegedly occurred after the young girl brought a flower to the school, which she had been given by a young boy, prompting Mr Humphries to tell her ‘I’m the only one allowed to give you flowers’.
Ms Duffell told the court that the young girl – who was a family friend of Mr Humphries – would regularly visit her and Mr Humphries in the afternoons, while waiting for her mother to pick her up after work.
At the start of 2013, the young girl would visit every day, but sometime around the second half of the year, the visits had started to drift off, and then stopped completely.
“[The young girl] used to walk up from Moree Public School and either sit with [Mr Humphries] or me in the afternoons. She calls me Aunty Kerrie.”
Ms Duffell told the court that the young girl was “close” to Mr Humphreys: “It was like [the relationship of]a grandfather and granddaughter.
“She would play on [Mr Humphries] computer [in his office]of an afternoon. They would talk together. She was just a normal, bubbly little girl.”
But Ms Duffell told the court at some point – possibly in the first half of the year – the young girls’ demeanor changed.
“I can’t be sure of the times. All I can say is there was a change in this child,” Ms Duffell told the court.
At one point in the year, Ms Duffell noticed that the young girl was out the front of the school, and Mr Humphries was sitting on the step about seven feet from her. There was obviously no contact between the two.
“She wouldn’t go anywhere near Hilton. I said to her, ‘Have you two had a fight?’ She answered me but I couldn’t hear what she said.”
Under cross examination, the defence for Mr Humphries asked Ms Duffell to recall the afternoon that the young girl burst into tears after being given a flower by a young boy. It’s this day that the Crown alleges the sexual assaults occurred.
Ms Duffell told the court she could not recall ever seeing a flower, but that she remembered she was very upset.
“She seemed happy about [receiving the flower]. A little embarrassed maybe. But towards the afternoon she got a bit emotional. I put it down to teasing.
“She didn’t say a lot. I think we were all [getting ready to leave]. She burst into tears. I’ve never seen her upset before.
“I just said, ‘Something must be wrong. It’s not like this little girl to burst into tears.’”
Ms Duffell told the court she could recall the young girl at one time in the year telling her she’d fallen over, but was unclear around the timing.
The court had earlier heard that Mr Humphries threatened the young girl after the alleged assault, telling her her mother would lose her job if she told anyone what had occurred.
The court was told the young girl was seen crying by Ms Duffell, and made up a story that she had “tripped over”. She only disclosed to her mother the alleged assaults at least six months later, after the family had moved from Moree.
Mr Humphries denies the allegations. The case is expected to be finalized later this afternoon, before Magistrate Greg Grogan.
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