Relief at news of child rapist's death

Paedophile Dennis Ferguson inspired a level of hatred, revulsion and fear rarely seen in Australia.

The child rapist's lonely death at his Sydney flat on Sunday is being mourned by very few and marked with palpable relief by many.

The crime that put him at the heart of a vigilante-style movement that spanned two states was heinous indeed.

In 1987 Ferguson and his male lover Alexandria George Brookes abducted three children - aged six, seven, and eight - from NSW and took them to a motel in suburban Brisbane.

There the children were repeatedly raped and subjected to vile and indecent acts, sentencing them all to a life of torment.

But in committing those heinous acts, Ferguson guaranteed himself the same fate.

After his 2003 release from a Queensland jail, having serving 15 years and nine months for raping the children, he was hounded from place to place by fearful mothers, fathers and grandparents.

As Ferguson moved from town to town in Queensland and from place to place in Sydney, the chaos and protests followed him.

Effigies of the sexual predator were burned in the street.

A replica coffin was left outside his door, along with a molotov cocktail.

As Ferguson was subjected to death threats, leaders, including then prime minister Kevin Rudd, publicly warned Australians not to take the law into their own hands.

It was an extraordinary outpouring of fear and anger for a man whose pinched face and odd mannerisms came to symbolise the scourge of paedophilia, child protection advocate Hetty Johnston says.

"He was easy to dislike and he acted as a lightning rod for community fears and hatred for paedophiles," Ms Johnston told reporters yesterday.

The Bravehearts founder believes Ferguson's legacy, if it can be called that, is a renewed community focus on keeping children safe and a fresh debate about the way serious child sex offenders are dealt with in the courts. AAP

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