Belfast Telegraph

Former priest denies series of historical sex offences

Retired priest Fr John Murray at Belfast Crown Court yesterday
Retired priest Fr John Murray at Belfast Crown Court yesterday

By John Cassidy

A retired priest was yesterday ordered to stand trial accused of historical sex offences dating back more than 40 years.

Fr John Joseph Murray appeared at Belfast Crown Court in a wheelchair for an arraignment on two separate cases.

The 78-year-old, of Marguerite Avenue, Newcastle, Co Down, pleaded not guilty to a first set of charges that he indecently assaulted two females on dates between December 31, 1976 and January 1, 1983.

Fr Murray, who was formerly a priest in the St Matthew's Parish in Short Strand in east Belfast, further pleaded not guilty to a third separate charge of indecently assaulting another female on a date between December 31, 1987 and April 1, 1988.

Asked by Judge Stephen Fowler QC if there was an application to join both cases, prosecution barrister Kate McKay said there would be two separate trials on the charges.

Defence counsel Eilis McDermott QC said the trial on the first two charges could take up to two weeks.

Judge Fowler set the date for the first trial on Monday, November 18 this year.

At the request of Murray's defence counsel, the judge agreed to release the accused on continuing bail.

He urged prosecution and defence to continue preparations for the second trial Murray will face on a future date.

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