March 2015

Paedophile priest jailed for sexually abusing young boy

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A Catholic priest dubbed the ‘fat vicar’ has been given three years in jail for sexually assaulting a teenage boy at a children’s home in west London between 1979 and 1981.

Anthony McSweeney, 68, abused the 15-year-old between 1979 and 1981 while working at Grafton Close Children’s Home in Hounslow.

The priest was investigated as part of a police probe into allegations of a paedophile ring at the home.

The probe included Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London.

Earlier in the trial, the priest confessed to jurors he had watched children in the shower and collected indecent videos of children.

The priest said he watched footage featuring boys as young as 10 on a home cinema with his friend John Stingemore, who died before the trial.

But but he denied molesting boys when they sat on his lap, claiming he was too fat to fit a teenager on him.

His sentencing, at Southwark Crown Court by Judge Alistair McCreath, also included a sexual harm prevention order.

February 2015

Priest jailed for sexually abusing boy at children’s home where he worked as ‘helper’

Anthony McSweeney

A priest has been jailed more than 30 years after sexually abusing a boy under 16 at a children’s home.

Father Anthony McSweeney was found guilty of indecent assault of a boy, between January 1979 and July 1981, and three counts of making indecent photographs/pseudo photographs of children on or before January 15 2013.

Southwark Crown Court heard the incident was committed during his time working at Grafton Close Children’s Home in Hanworth.

The 68-year-old, of Crawley in Sussex, was convicted as part of Operation Fernbridge, part of the wider Operation Fairbank which was launched in 2012 to investigate allegations of child abuse at the home in the late 1970s and early 1980s

Denial: The Catholic priest insisted he had no sexual interest in children but was found guilty by a jury

Denial: The Catholic priest insisted he had no sexual interest in children but was found guilty by a jury

In the late ’70s, McSweeney was offered a role at Grafton Close by John Stingemore, who worked at the home as the officer in charge, reports Get West London.

Also charged with a number of offences in connection with the investigation, and due to stand trial alongside McSweeney, he died at his home in East Sussex on January 14.

McSweeney worked at the children’s home on an ad-hoc basis as a ‘helper’ – he was never formally employed by The Royal Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames – and the role brought him into contact with the young boys who resided at the home.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Keith Braithwaite, from the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command, said: “McSweeney was an abuser who used his role in a position of trust.

“I would like to pay tribute to the courage of the victim in speaking out against McSweeney.

“It was that testimonial that secured the charges and enabled this case to be brought to court.

“I would also like to thank those witnesses who provided key evidence that ensured the court could hear what sort of man McSweeney really is.

“I am only sorry that McSweeney in denying his offences has forced the victim to relive the experience in court.

“I hope however that today’s result will give the victim some sense of closure.”

McSweeney will be sentenced on March 27 at Southwark Crown Court.

The jury found him not guilty on three counts of indecent assault on a boy under the age of 16 years between January 1979 and July 1981; and one indecent assault on a boy under the age of 16 years between January 1979 and July 1981.

February 2015

Catholic priest known as ‘The Fat Vicar’ convicted of sexually abusing a vulnerable boy at a care home run by his paedophile friend

A Catholic priest dubbed the ‘fat vicar’ was today found guilty of sexually abusing a boy in a care home and downloading child abuse images onto his computer.

Father Anthony McSweeney, 68, faces jail after he was convicted of preying on the vulnerable boy while he was working at Grafton Close Children’s Home in Hounslow, west London, more than 30 years ago.

The care home was run by McSweeney’s friend John Stingemore, who was found dead in January weeks before he was due to stand trial alongside the priest.

Southwark Crown Court heard that McSweeney watched young boys shower for his own sexual gratification, and kept a collection of child abuse images at home.

He denied being a paedophile – but today a jury of six men and five women found him guilty of indecent assault and three counts of making indecent images of children.

The attack on the young boy took place between 1979 and 1981, while the child abuse images was found on his laptop after he was arrested in 2013.

McSweeney was cleared of three indecent assaults on two other boys at the care home and taking a indecent/sexual photo of one of these boys.

The 20st priest was once enlisted by TV cook Delia Smith to hold a special football service at Norwich City.

And he officiated at the 1990 wedding of boxing star Frank Bruno and his now ex-wife Laura.

McSweeney was investigated as part of Operation Fernbridge, the police probe into an alleged VIP paedophile ring at Grafton Close and Elms Guest House in Barnes, west London.

Stingemore used his connections to help get his close friend a job at Grafton Close, where they molested vulnerable boys together, the court heard.

McSweeney watched as a teenage boy was abused by Stingemore in the care home shower.

Three years earlier, McSweeney was seen ogling a Boy Scout as he washed at a retreat.

When the boy reported him to a warden he was told not to be ‘stupid and make trouble’, and his mother slapped him because a ‘priest would not do anything like that’.

A schoolboy from Grafton Close told the court that McSweeney was ‘touchy feely’ and referred to him as a ‘fat vicar’.

He said that the priest went into his bedroom and told him he had to take his clothes off for a ‘medical’, before taking photographs of him on a Polaroid camera.

The priest confessed to watching a porn film featuring boys as young as ten on a home cinema with Stingemore – but claimed he turned it off in disgust.

And he denied molesting boys as they sat on his lap, claiming he was too fat to do so.

Stingemore was sacked from Grafton Close in mysterious circumstances in 1981, and McSweeney’s visits abruptly stopped as he continued with his career in the priesthood.

John-Stingemore

Friend: John Stingemore was set to face a string of charges alongside Sweeney but was found dead in January this year

In 1998 McSweeney nearly lost his job when his cleaner discovered his stash of sex toys, truncheons and pornographic videos at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.

She played one of the tapes and saw it featured two boys between 14 and 16 years old having sex, the court heard.

McSweeney was originally told that he would be ‘banished’ from the priesthood, but after around six months was quietly moved to a new parish, St George’s in Norwich.

The defendant, who now lives in Pease Pottage, West Sussex, was told he could be jailed when he is sentenced in a month’s time.

Judge Alistair McCreath said: ‘You are not to come to court in four weeks thinking to yourself that the judge gave me bail and therefore I’m not to go to prison, because that would be a false hope.’

Responding to today’s verdict, Gillian Norton of Richmond Council said: ‘The council is sorry that a child in its care was indecently assaulted.

‘The assault happened 35 years ago and clearly the service leadership and management laid bare in court were totally unacceptable. The situation today is completely different.’

Detective Chief Inspector Keith Braithwaite of Metropolitan Police said: ‘McSweeney was an abuser who used his role in a position of trust.

‘I would like to pay tribute to the courage of the victim in speaking out against McSweeney. It was that testimonial that secured the charges and enabled this case to be brought to court.

‘I would also like to thank those witnesses who provided key evidence that ensured the court could hear what sort of man McSweeney really is.’

The Bishop of East Anglia, Alan Hopes, said that McSweeney had been barred from the ministry since his arrest and will now face disciplinary action.

He said: ‘These are grave crimes, and I wish to reassure firstly the victims and all of those affected that I take the matter very seriously.

‘As a bishop and as an ordinary member of society, I share the experience of great sorrow and regret that such offences take place.

‘The later offences of accessing indecent images of children whilst serving as a priest have both served to compound the abuse already committed on the children themselves, and breached the trust that was placed in him as a minister in the Church and those who held him in high regard.

‘I wish to assure the victims and their families that their suffering is taken seriously by the Church.