The mother of a serial child abuser at the centre of a paedophile ring says his family is shocked by the scale of his crimes.
Aaron Ellmers, 41, pleaded guilty in Hastings District Court yesterday to a raft of child sex offences against four children aged from 13 months to 13 years, in one of the worst cases police have seen.
His mother asked not to be identified because she's scared of revenge attacks for her son's crimes.
"My heart has to go out to the families that he's hurt. We didn't know that he was doing such a thing," she said.
"I asked him why he did it, he just couldn't answer me."
Ellmers lied to his mother about being jailed eight years ago in Australia for trying to rape an eight-year-old boy, telling her instead it was for a traffic offence.
"He never ever told us, he never told us, all I knew from my brother in Australia he had a trucking accident accident. He hid it so well."
Police say Ellmers was in a paedophile ring with at least two other men.
Four children aged between 13 months and 13 years have been rescued from the predators.
The children that were involved in this particular investigation were known to the people who offended against them.
According to a police summary, Ellmers paid a man $500 to experience ''sexual gratification'' with the man's 18-month-old son, which was devastating news to Ellmers own parents.
The father, who has name suppression, was arrested and is facing
charges related to the incident.
Ellmers was arrested before he could offend against the toddler.
"His father cried for the sake of the baby, he couldn't get it out of his system, and that's what's hurt him the most."
His mother says even as a child her son would not communicate with her.
Now she wants to confront him in prison. She said: "I've got some questions for him and he's got to give me some answers."
Ellmers has been remanded in custody. When he appears in the Hastings High Court for sentencing in May, the Crown will be asking for a sentence of preventive detention. If granted that could mean he spends the rest of his life behind bars
And there is precedent for that - Amor Walter was given preventive detention six years ago for abusing at least fifteen children over seven years.
Ellmers is understood to be fearing for his safety in prison as he awaits his sentence.
"I may never see him again and that's the thing that hurts," Ellmers' mother said.
A child protection advocate has labelled the latest paedophile case as despicable.
Alan Bell, director of Ecpat Child Alert, said it's an outrageous case and he is shocked but "not totally surprised".
Ecpat works to prevent sexual exploitation of children and Bell said this sort of thing "can and does happen" including in New Zealand but "not perhaps to this degree".
Bell told TVNZ's Breakfast this morning that it's staggering and really difficult to understand that a father offered up his 18 month old son for $500.
But Bell said if customers were not willing to pay money to view the images there wouldn't be the demand and pressure for people to be interested in "producing this stuff".
And he said portable devices such as mobile phones and iPads are making law enforcement more difficult.
"There's a demonstrated increase in terms of accessing illegal sites from those devices."
Bell said modern devices mean it is more difficult for parents to keep an eye on what children are doing.
Police are warning parents to be vigilant after the paedophile ring, involving Ellmers and two other men, was busted.
Detective Senior Sergeant John Michael said the serious nature of the offending is the most significant they have dealt with and it took six months to gather the evidence against the New Zealanders.
Michael, who heads the online child exploitation unit, urged caregivers to be vigilant and trust their gut feelings.
He said if anyone sees images on a computer that might be suspicious they should report them to police.
Michael told TVNZ's Breakfast this morning that while "it is not a common thing" and there are not paedophiles on every street corner, potentially they can be "anywhere in New Zealand".
The investigation targeting paedophiles in New Zealand and overseas began in July and involved police staff from across the country.
As a result of the investigation police also made 35 referrals to police in other countries, including Australia, the UK, Canada and the United States.
The offending was "like a spider web" and Ellmers' offences were "some of the worst I've seen", said Michael.