July 2021

Former monk Denis Alexander to be deported after child abuse sentencing

A former monk at a Catholic boarding school has been sentenced to four years and five months in prison for child sexual abuse.

Fr Denis Alexander, 85, pleaded guilty last month to two charges of lewd, indecent and libidinous practices against two boys between 1973 and 1976.

The offences took place at the Fort Augustus Abbey school in the Highlands.

The Australian national’s sentence was backdated to January 2017, so is spent, and he is due to be deported.

Sentencing him at the High Court in Edinburgh, judge Lord Burns said the abuse of vulnerable young boys was in “flagrant disregard” of the principles and beliefs which Alexander was duty bound to follow as a Benedictine monk.

Alexander was first named as a paedophile by a BBC Scotland documentary in 2013.

One of his victims was Hugh Kennedy, now aged 58, who later told the BBC how he was beaten, groomed and sexually abused by Alexander.

Fort Augustus Abbey, at the southern end of Loch Ness, had been a monastery for more than 100 years.

The Benedictine monks who lived there operated a prestigious fee-paying Catholic boarding school, thought of one of the best in the country.

Alexander preyed on the children while teaching history and during yoga classes at the school.

Lord Burns told him: “You have brought lasting shame on the order of which you were a member.

“You plead guilty to the sexual abuse of two young boys who were between 12 and 14 in 1973 until 1976. You were 37 to 40 years of age at the time.”

“That abuse is aggravated by the age of your victims and position of trust and authority resulting from your status as a teacher and as a monk.”

The judge added: “These vulnerable young boys were entrusted to your care and what you did was a gross abuse of the trust placed in you as a teacher.”

The sentencing of Denis “Chrysostom” Alexander brings to an end a long-running search for justice for his victims.

He had firmly denied abuse allegations when I confronted him in Sydney more than eight years ago.

But our BBC Scotland documentary in 2013 sparked a chain of events which led eventually to the Scottish authorities launching a complicated, disputed extradition process.

Alexander fought his extradition every step of the way, dragging out the process for as long as he possibly could.

One of his victims, Hugh Kennedy, who waived his anonymity, had said all he ever wanted was to face his abuser in court.

He finally got his wish earlier his year, when Alexander pleaded guilty to abusing him and one other boy.

The BBC is aware of other former Fort Augustus pupils allegedly abused by Alexander who did not get their day in court.

Observers of this case are clear that had it not been for the fortitude and determination of Hugh Kennedy, bearing the brunt of the public campaign to bring Alexander to justice, it may never have happened.

Today, Hugh told me he felt “empty, all in,” and hopes to start rebuilding his life.

“He hasn’t really shown any genuine remorse for what he did to me and the others. He remains the arrogant man I remember him as.

“He could have saved me and the others years of turmoil if he’d only accepted his guilt at the first opportunity.”

Alexander was a symbol of the toxic culture at the prestigious Catholic boarding school where he and other monks preyed on children, wrecking lives and abusing their position of trust.

For some former pupils, simply surviving Fort Augustus has been hard enough.

Now there is proper justice for at least a few.

Lord Burns backdated the sentence to 23 January 2017, when Alexander was placed in custody. The judge told him he would be subject to deportation.

Advocate depute Jane Farquharson QC told the court offences committed by Alexander were “a snapshot of what is believed to be wider, systemic abuse of children” within the school and its preparatory school, Carlekemp, also run by the Benedictine Order.

The prosecutor said the school was a subject of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry during 2019 and the English Benedictine Congregation accepted physical and sexual abuse of children took place. A sincere apology was tendered.

The court heard that one of Alexander’s victims had told the headteacher, but the police did not become involved.

Alexander left the school during the 1970s and stopped being a practising Benedictine monk, but remained a priest and moved to Australia.

Ms Farquharson said: “He came to the attention of the police as a result of a BBC documentary screened in the summer of 2013 called Sins of Our Fathers that focused on life within both institutions.”

‘Significant delays’
The Crown Office requested his extradition in August 2016 and a warrant was issued by an Australian court in January the following year. But Alexander did not consent to his return to Scotland to face justice.

After further legal proceedings, he did not continue to fight the move and came back to the UK in January 2020.

Ms Farquharson said: “Significant delays were occasioned in bringing the accused to Scotland as a result of his opposition to the extradition process.”

Defence solicitor advocate Shahid Latif said: “He is sorry and he can do no more than he has done and that is to have pled guilty.”

He said that Alexander had been in “a stressful working environment” at the time of the offending and worked long hours, seven days a week.

Alexander watched the sentencing proceedings via a video link to prison. He was placed on the sex offenders register indefinitely.

June 2021

‘Depraved’ pervert pleads guilty to sexually abusing boys at Scots school

A sick sex attacker has pleaded guilty to abusing boys at a school in the Highlands.

Denis Alexander attacked children in his care at Fort Augustus Abbey School ‘over the course of many years’.

The 85-year-old’s guilty plea was in relation to sexual offences.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard today how Alexander targeted the young males in his study and during Yoga classes.

Judge Lord Burns heard how Alexander, who was a monk with the Benedictine Order, later left Scotland and became a Priest in Sydney, Australia.

But he was brought to justice after a BBC documentary called the Sins Of Our Father was aired in 2013.

Alexander’s victims saw the show and plucked up the courage to contact police who requested his extradition.

The cleric initially fought attempts to bring him back to Scotland but was returned almost three years after the extradition request was sent to Australia.

Alexander observed proceedings sat in a wheelchair in court with his head bowed. He has poor hearing and his lawyer instructed him to tell him if he couldn’t follow proceedings.

Alexander was known as Father Chrysotum when he was teaching at Fort Augustus school. He also taught bagpipes.

The court heard Alexander’s first victim is now 60 years old and was aged around 13 when Alexander summoned him to his study and ordered him to sit down.

Alexander “pushed” his hand down the man’s trousers and started to touch his penis. After the abuse finished, the man did not tell anybody what happened until he saw the BBC programme.

August 2013

Abuse at the Abbey: How paedophile monks were finally exposed

For a century, children were sent to the exclusive Fort Augustus Abbey and its prep school for what their parents hoped would be a first-class Catholic education. Run by the devout monks of the Benedictine order, this fee-paying school was the jewel in the crown of Catholic education in Scotland.

Yet a six-month investigation into the Abbey and its monks has uncovered five decades of systematic physical and sexual abuse reportedly carried out by a series of sadistic and predatory paedophile monks. Men of God, supposedly.

When BBC journalists started investigating this story, Fort Augustus Abbey, in the Highlands, had been closed for 20 years; its prep school, Carlekemp, in East Lothian, for longer.

But there were whispers about the brutal practices carried out by some of the monks who had lived in the Abbey and taught in the school.

Given that nearly every Benedictine school in England had been involved in a child sex abuse scandal, one had to ask if the boys of Fort Augustus had just had a lucky escape, or if this foreboding old Abbey had closed with its dark secrets intact. The latter would soon emerge to be true.

Courageous men like David and Christopher Walls, brothers who lived through experiences that most readers might have believed were the stuff of nightmares, said that the Old Boys network of the school, who trumpeted the place as a wonderful, character-building boot camp, were in denial, and that the investigation should dig deeper. The omertà, or silence, often associated with abuse claims within the Catholic Church had to be broken, they said.

One by one, men opened up about the horrors of Fort Augustus, and it soon became clear that what was being uncovered was a suspected paedophile ring of monks who were patient, systematic and callous.

For some of these boys, life was torture: daily beatings; blood regularly drawn from the ferocity of birch on bare backside; children as young as seven pulled from their beds in the dead of night of night to be lined up and flogged.

Often, they never knew why. It would be years until they twigged.

“We were being groomed,” said David Walls, who attended Carlekemp in the late 1950s. His brother Christopher, a year younger, was savagely beaten most days for around three years by Father Aidan Duggan, one of the Abbey’s Australian monks, who have all now been exposed as paedophiles.

Suddenly, the beatings stopped.

“The relief was palpable,” said David. “You were just grateful. And that’s when the kissing and cuddling started. It wasn’t until later that it fell into place,” said Christopher. “That was what it was all about, all the beatings.”

Both boys were repeatedly molested by Duggan, who was one of the most prolific of the offenders we learnt about.

Donald MacLeod was raped by Duggan in 1962, when he was 14.

“I always sort of felt it was somehow my fault,” said Donald, who had been sent to the school from Australia.

He, like many of the abused boys tried to raise the alarm, but was told by the headmaster at the time to “stop telling lies” or he would go to hell.

The BBC investigation revealed allegations that headmasters at the school, all monks, had failed to alert police to serious child sex abuse allegations, claiming that they chose either to ignore them, or simply move the offender on.

The last surviving of those headmasters, Father Francis Davidson, stepped down last week from a prestigious role as religious superior of a Benedictine college within Oxford University, St Benet’s Hall, after a series of BBC allegations that he covered up child abuse. Last week, Fr Davidson said that he did “not recall them being reported to me during my time as headmaster of Fort Augustus Abbey School” and that he had “always co-operated fully with the police in their investigations and will continue to do so as they progress and further information is gathered”.

One of the monks, Father Chrysostom Alexander, is the only one accused of sex abuse who remains alive. He was tracked down to Sydney, where he had been working as a priest.

Aged 77, he might he might have taken opportunity to respond to the allegations. Instead, he threatened to call the police, drove his car into mine in a bid to escape questions and was anything but contrite.

He may not have answered any questions, but a dark past that he had been avoiding for 30 years had finally caught up with him.

He is now at the centre of police investigations in both Scotland and Australia.

I salute the men who came forward for our investigation and who were brave enough to speak about the so-called Men of God who have haunted their dreams. There are 10 monks accused of the abuse. Around 50 former pupils who were abused, half of those sexually, have now spoken out.

The victims of the abusive monks of Fort Augustus have decided they will no longer obey the omertà, and will not go quietly.