April 2017

Paedophile priest jailed after telling boy, 10, he’d be ‘innocent like the angels’ if he stripped

A paedophile priest is back behind bars after telling a 10-year-old boy he would become “innocent like the angels and cherubs” if he stripped off.

Depraved Father Adrian McLeish took advantage of the boy’s vulnerability after his dad died unexpectedly.

The then-parish priest offered support and advice and even conducted the funeral of the youngster’s dad.

McLeish then invited the boy to his accommodation at a Tyneside church, sat him on his knee, showed him pictures on his computer and persuaded him to remove his lower clothing before trying to take an indecent image of him.

When the victim became distressed, McLeish told him not to tell anyone, particularly his bereaved mother “as she has been through a lot”, he said.

The victim, who kept quiet about the abuse for years, eventually confided in a work colleague after reading about celebrity sex abuse cases in the press.

McLeish was jailed in 1996 for 22 sex offences including indecently assaulting boys and being part of a worldwide child abuse images network.

Now the 65-year-old is back in prison after the latest victim came forward to report what happened to him.

We can reveal McLeish was also caught with more indecent images of children, some of which he was involved in distributing, between 2006 and 2016, and was locked up for those offences in February.

Sentencing him at Newcastle Crown Court for the offence against the ten-year-old, a judge branded it a “gross breach of trust”.

Judge Paul Sloan QC told McLeish, who was on a video-link to prison: “At the time you were his parish priest.

“His father had died unexpectedly and you provided support and advice for the family.

“On one occasion he visited you in your accommodation, you sat him on your knee and showed him images of cherubs and angels on your computer.

“You suggested he took off clothing to become innocent like the cherubs and angels.

“His lower clothing was removed, whereupon you tried to take a picture.

“He became distressed and you told him not to tell anyone what had happened, fearing for your position.”

The judge said the ordeal had done “real harm” and haunted the victim for decades.

He told McLeish: “At that time he felt scared, ashamed, disgusted and confused.

“The incident has had a long term effect, it’s effected his confidence, relationships, his health and led to him undergoing counselling.

“In other words what you did all those years ago has haunted him during the course of the decades since the offence was committed.

“Your offending involved a gross breach of trust as a parish priest.”

The victim, who is now an adult, said in a statement to the court he had trusted McLeish due to his position.

He said: “Immediately after this incident I felt scared, ashamed and disgusted and I was also confused as he was a trusted priest and welcomed in our home.

“I didn’t even know if it was normal.

“I stopped attending church.

“I was angry about this man’s actions.

“Recently, due to matters about celebrities in the press, all this started flooding back to me.”

McLeish, 65, latterly of Hillfield Square, Chalfont St Peter, Gerrard’s Cross, Buckinghamshire, pleaded guilty to attempting to make an indecent photograph of a child and was given a 16 month prison sentence.

The sentence will run alongside a two-year jail term imposed in February in the south of England for possessing, making and distributing indecent images between 2006 and 2016.

McLeish was jailed for five years in 1996 for 22 offences, including 12 indecent assaults on boys and eight charges of possessing and distributing indecent images.

As we reported at the time, a routine probe in the USA sparked an international search which led to the unmasking of McLeish.

It uncovered a trail through the internet which criss-crossed the globe, eventually leading to Germany – where checks pointed police back to Durham City and St Joseph’s Presbytery.

It was in the modern building which should have offered hope and comfort that the Catholic priest hid his sickening secret. Armed with a warrant, a team of detectives uncovered his stash of indecent images which horrified all the officers.

Through seven months of checks the hardened team were sickened again and again as they uncovered new depths to his depravity. They found how McLeish, then 45, used three powerful computers to keep in regular contact with hundreds of other paedophiles and send messages describing his depraved acts.

And as they downloaded more information from the computers – some of which music-loving McLeish had built himself – they discovered thousands of photographic images of children, many pornographic, and countless sickening stories – enough to fill the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The names of youngsters mentioned in his messages opened up a second investigation – and discovered children he had abused on Tyneside and in Durham City.

April 2001

Sick Paedophile Priest Adrian Mcleish’s child abuse Network – Timeline

He is not on the sex offenders’ register because his crimes pre-date its launch in 1997.

April 1990 – McLeish, working as a priest in Wallsend, carries out first known assault on a young boy.

August 1991 – McLeish moved to St Joseph’s in Gilesgate, Durham. (pic below)

This follows a break-in at the presbytery of the church in Wallsend where a video is stolen and used in a blackmail attempt on him.

From this incident he alleges concerns were first raised to Bishop Owen Swindlehurst about his involvement in child porn.

December 1995 – Police swoop on St Joseph’s presbytery and unearth 6,000 obscene photographs – the biggest collection of child sexual abuse images ever found and enough to fill the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

It follows the arrest of two men in the USA in connection with child porn that unearthed an underground paedophile ring also spanning Sweden, New Zealand and the Continent.

During the investigation an E-mail address for McLeish is uncovered at a suspect’s house in Germany.

January 1996 – McLeish is arrested after an investigation by child protection police and a social worker.

April 1996 – McLeish admitted 12 indecent assault charges at Newcastle Crown Court. They relate to four different boys and cover from April 1990 to January 1996.

May 1996 – McLeish is accused of importing child porn videos from the Netherlands by Customs and Excise. Durham City magistrates were told the tapes were obscene and featured young children.

September 1996 – McLeish admitted possessing and distributing sordid photographs of youngsters on the Internet.

The charges followed the seizure by police of four powerful computers which McLeish had in his presbytery to store 6,000 photographs and images of children. He admitted six sample charges of distributing indecent photographs or pseudo photographs, one of possessing material with a view to it being distributed or shown by him, one of possessing obscene photographs, and two charges of importing child pornography videos from the continent.

November 1996 – McLeish is jailed for six years at Newcastle Crown Court.

October 1999 – Families of the three boys assaulted by McLeish make legal history by suing the church, claiming senior officials were negligent.

August 2000 – North East families join demonstration in London calling for the church to sack paedophile priests.

February 2001 – The church pays McLeish’s victims £10,000 compensation in the first case of its kind in the North East. Under the terms of the settlement the Church admitted no liability for the priest’s actions.

April 18 2001 – Leader of the Catholic church, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, issues new anti-paedophile guidelines for priests.

April 25 2001 – Chronicle reveals letter from McLeish alleging a senior church official knew about his child porn