PO­LICE PROBE PELL

TOP-SE­CRET IN­VES­TI­GA­TION INTO SEX ABUSE CLAIMS AGAINST CAR­DI­NAL

Herald Sun - - FRONT PAGE - LU­CIE MOR­RIS-MARR

A VIC­TO­RIA Po­lice task­force has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions that Car­di­nal Ge­orge Pell sex­u­ally abused be­tween five and 10 boys.

De­tec­tives from Sano Task­force have com­piled a dossier con­tain­ing al­le­ga­tions that Car­di­nal Pell com­mit­ted “mul­ti­ple of­fences” when a priest in Bal­larat and when arch­bishop of Mel­bourne.

It has been al­leged the 74-year-old, now in charge of fi­nances at the Vat­i­can in Rome, sex­u­ally abused mi­nors by “both groom­ing and op­por­tu­nity’’.

The al­le­ga­tions span four decades, with the Bal­larat-born car­di­nal ac­cused of abus­ing chil­dren — now adults aged in their late 20s to early 50s — be­tween 1978 and 2001.

Le­gal sources have told the Her­ald Sun that more than a dozen de­tec­tives from Sano Task­force — set up to probe al­le­ga­tions aris­ing from the child abuse royal com­mis­sion — have worked for the past year on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­ter­view­ing “nu­mer­ous” al­leged vic­tims.

Their ev­i­dence has been pre­sented to su­pe­ri­ors at Vic­to­ria Po­lice, sources say.

Last night, the car­di­nal re­leased a state­ment ve­he­mently deny­ing any wrong­do­ing, say­ing al­le­ga­tions were “with­out foun­da­tion and ut­terly false’’.

The task­force has not yet heard from Car­di­nal Pell or con­sid­ered his po­si­tion.

The Her­ald Sun is not sug­gest­ing the car­di­nal is guilty, only that there have been al­le­ga­tions made, which are be­ing taken se­ri­ously enough by po­lice to jus­tify a year-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Vic­to­ria Po­lice was yes­ter­day asked about its in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the al­le­ga­tions against Car­di­nal Pell.

Spokes­woman Sergeant Sharon Darcy said: “Task­force Sano is cur­rently con­duct­ing a large num­ber of in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his­toric sex­ual of­fend­ing.”

“Vic­to­ria Po­lice will not pro­vide a run­ning com­men­tary on th­ese in­ves­ti­ga­tions as it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to do so. Vic­to­ria Po­lice en­cour­ages all vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault and child abuse, and any­one who has knowl­edge of such a crime, to make a re­port.’’

Her­ald­sun.com.au broke the story at 7.45 last night.

Car­di­nal Pell was due to come to Mel­bourne in De­cem­ber, to give ev­i­dence to the Royal Com­mis­sion into In­sti­tu­tional Re­sponses to Child Sex­ual Abuse, but can­celled, say­ing he could not fly due to ill-health.

Sources close to the po­lice probe have spec­u­lated Car­di­nal Pell would want to avoid re­turn­ing for fear of be­ing ques­tioned over al­le­ga­tions.

It is claimed Car­di­nal Pell’s al­leged of­fences oc­curred at two lo­ca­tions in Vic­to­ria.

While work­ing as arch­bishop of Mel­bourne at St Pa­trick’s Cathe­dral, be­tween 1996 and 2001, he is al­leged to have sex­u­ally as­saulted al­tar boys as young as 14.

He is also al­leged to have com­mit­ted of­fences against sev­eral child vic­tims at a swim­ming pool in Bal­larat in 1978.

At that time, he was a priest in Bal­larat East and also serv­ing as the epis­co­pal vicar of education as well as work­ing as the di­rec­tor of the Aquinas cam­pus of the In­sti­tute of Catholic Education.

In re­cent months, the Sano Task­force has ex­e­cuted war­rants at build­ings linked to abuse al­le­ga­tions, in­clud­ing St Pa­trick’s Cathe­dral, Maid­stone and Toorak.

In a rare pub­lic state­ment in De­cem­ber, the task­force made an ap­peal for in­for­ma­tion about as­saults at the cathe­dral, urg­ing peo­ple to come for­ward with “any in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to the al­leged sex­ual as­saults be­ing in­ves­ti­gated’’.

One source close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion told the Her­ald Sun: “Al­leged of­fences by Pell oc­curred as a re­sult of both op­por­tu­nity and groom­ing. They are very se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions re­gard­ing sex­ual as­sault.’’

Sources said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion team was cur­rently wait­ing for the “green light’’ from po­lice su­pe­ri­ors “in terms of what the next move is in terms of ques­tion­ing Pell him­self”.

“There is no ex­tra­di­tion treaty with the Vat­i­can so Pell can­not be ques­tioned un­less he agrees to it,’’ a source said.

“It would be up to him to al­low of­fi­cers into the Vat­i­can or he could de­cide to come to Aus­tralia to be ques­tioned.”

Sano de­tec­tives are also ac­tively in­ves­ti­gat­ing the al­leged abuses of an al­tar boy dur­ing a camp in 1961 at Smiths Beach on Phillip Is­land. At the time, Car­di­nal Pell was a trainee priest aged 20.

The in­ci­dent was not in­ves­ti­gated by po­lice then, but was in­ves­ti­gated by the church in 2002, with Car­di­nal Pell cleared by re­tired Supreme Court judge Alec South­well.

A le­gal source close to the al­leged vic­tim said Sano de­tec­tives had re­quested in­for­ma­tion. It is un­der­stood the vic­tim was too up­set to co-op­er­ate and has re­fused to give a po­lice state­ment. Sano de­tec­tives are seek­ing other po­ten­tial vic­tims.

Sano Task­force was es­tab­lished in 2012 to in­ves­ti­gate his­toric and new al­le­ga­tions em­a­nat­ing from the Vic­to­rian par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into child sex abuse in­volv­ing religious and non-govern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions.

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