ARTICLE TEXT – STORY BY HUGH JORDAN
“A Catholic cleric wanted by police over a string of alleged child sex crimes has returned from his Spanish bolthole, The Sunday World can reveal.
Fr. John Murray (78) a parish priest in the Diocese of Down and Connor – flew into Dublin from Tenerife on Thursday evening.
It is understood he completed the rest of the journey north to Belfast by road.
Detectives from the PSNI Care Unit are keen to speak with concerning three separate complaints of child sex abuse relating to his time as curate in St. Matthew’s Parish in the Short Strand district of Belfast.
Three years ago Fr. Murray was forced to step down from his post as parish priest of St. Mary’s, Rasharkin, following a complaint of sexual abuse by a middle aged mother of three grown up children.
Since then two other female complaints have come forward with similar allegations.
All of the cases are historic and relate to Murray’s time in the east Belfast parish.
A spokesman from the church later confirmed the matter had also been referred to the appropriate authorities and that an investigation was pending.
Following the personal intervention by Bishop Noel Treanor Fr. Murray moved out of the Parochial House in Rasharkin and briefly stayed at a Catholic Church-owned care home at Newcastle Co. Down.
But before the police had an opportunity to quiz him about the allegations he upped sticks and fled to the Canary Islands where he stayed until a few days ago.
In response to police pressure Fr Murray’s solicitor speaking on his behalf claimed that on the advice of a medical expert at a clinic he attended in Spain Fr Murray was deemed too ill to travel.
The Sunday World investigations revealed that Fr Murray was in fact living in considerable luxury at an upmarket resort in the North of Tenerife where he played golf most days.
Last September we were told that the veteran priest was making arrangements to return to Belfast to face police questions and that he expected in the city by early November.But the plans fell through without any proper explanation.
Yesterday. Father Murray’s solicitor Denis Maloney of Donnelly and Wall in Belfast confirmed his client was back on Northern Irish soil for the first time in nearly three years.
“Fr Murray arrived back on Thursday night. He is the company of his family who are acting as his carers”, he said.
“Father Murray will now undergo a thorough medical examination. When that is complete he will be happy to make himself available for questioning to the appropriate authorities”.
Last night, Sinead Gorman, one of the complainants – who waived her right to anonymity in an effort to move the case forward – said she was glad to see movement in the case.
Yesterday, head of PSNI Public Protection Branch, Chief Superintendent Paula Hillman said: “Detectives are continuing to investigate allegations of historical sexual abuse made against a member of the clergy in east Belfast”.
ADDED BY PAT
On Saturday, in an unexpected development, Father Murray was arrested and detained at Musgrave Street police station in Belfast.
He is expected to be before the courts today.
Now that Father Murray has appeared before the court the matter becomes sub-judice – “under judicial consideration and prohibited from discussion elsewhere”.
That means, that neither I or comment makers can comment about the case.
Now, the course of justice must be allowed to take place.
Anybody with anything to say about these matters should now contact the PSNI Public Protection Branch by calling the PSNI exchange on 02890 650222.