Retired Irish priest in Australia charged with child sex abuse

Wed, May 2, 2012, 01:00

A RETIRED Irish priest has been charged with the rape and indecent assault of children in Sydney and the New South Wales Central Coast between 1972 and 1987.

Fr Finian Egan turned himself in at a police station in the northwestern Sydney suburb of Ryde yesterday morning, accompanied by a lawyer. The 77-year-old was subsequently charged with 17 offences relating to alleged assaults on four children.

The charges include one count of rape and two of indecent assault over an alleged attack on a then 17-year-old girl in 1972. Fr Egan has also been charged with committing indecent assaults on a 14-year-old boy and girls aged 11 and 16.

Two of his alleged victims hugged each other as the priest hobbled into the police station on a walking stick.

Nikki Wells was 11 at the time she was allegedly assaulted by Fr Egan.

“It’s been 33 years in the making,” she said. “It’s been the majority of my life that I’ve been waiting for this day.

“The last four years I’ve been advocating for his arrest. It was such a relief to see him walk into the station.”

Another of his alleged victims is the daughter of Irish immigrants.

The arrest of Fr Egan has come two years after police began investigating complaints from at least five alleged victims.

Detectives say their inquiries are continuing. Fr Egan has already been the subject of an internal Catholic Church investigation.

In 2008 he was allowed to say Mass in Ireland despite the allegations of sexual abuse against him. He was also given exemptions on at least seven other occasions to conduct weddings or funerals in Australia while supposedly banned from doing so.

Bishop David Walker of Sydney’s Broken Bay diocese, who gave Fr Egan the exemptions to conduct Masses, has previously admitted he did not inform the church authorities in Ireland that he was under investigation and was banned from ministry in Australia.

In 2009 the Catholic Church inquiry upheld claims against Fr Egan brought by two sisters who said he repeatedly groped them in the 1980s when he was their parish priest.

Fr Egan, who has previously denied all the allegations, has been released on conditional bail and will face court on May 23rd.