SYDNEY - Australia on Tuesday suspended a government programme designed to reunite family members after a notorious paedophile used it to contact his jailed accomplice in three child rapes.
Federal welfare agency Centrelink said the "In Touch" programme had been temporarily stopped while they investigated how convicted paedophile Dennis Ferguson used it to obtain contact details for Alexandria Brookes.
The pair were jailed in 1988 for abducting and raping three children in Queensland state. Ferguson was released in 2002 after serving 14 years.
Centrelink general manager Hank Jorgen said the programme was set up to reunite missing persons with their families and its use by paedophiles was unacceptable.
"I have to say that I was as shocked by this as anybody, and we are extremely concerned," he told public broadcaster ABC.
Centrelink said it would consider cross-referencing contact requests with criminal records in future to ensure the mistake was not repeated.
A spokesman for prisoner support group Justice Action, which has been representing Ferguson, said the paedophile briefly phoned Brookes in jail about an upcoming court case and there was not an "ulterior motive" behind the call.
Ferguson, 61, who has been run out of several towns in Queensland by angry locals since his release, was the centre of controversy last week when it emerged he was living in public housing in Sydney.
One of his neighbours left a replica coffin outside his home after Ferguson said the only way he would leave was in a pine box and a man was stabbed when a fight erupted outside the residence.
Ferguson was eventually temporarily relocated while authorities attempt to find him long-term accommodation.