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Priest faces jail over sex abuse


Father Anthony McSweeney will be sentenced next month for child sex abuse

Father Anthony McSweeney will be sentenced next month for child sex abuse

Father Anthony McSweeney will be sentenced next month for child sex abuse

A Catholic priest dubbed the "fat vicar" is facing jail after he was found guilty of sexually abusing a teenage boy at a children's home.

Father Anthony McSweeney, 68, preyed on the vulnerable youngster while working at Grafton Close Children's Home in Hounslow, west London, between 1979 and 1981. Morbidly obese McSweeney was also found guilty of making indecent images of children.

He preyed on the boy with his close friend John Stingemore, 72, who managed the care home and was found dead in January - weeks before his trial.

Wearing a black suit and red tie and carrying a walking stick, McSweeney stared straight ahead as the jury of six men and five women returned their verdicts at London's Southwark Crown Court. He was cleared of three indecent assaults on two other boys at the care home and taking a pornographic photo of one of these boys.

The 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 allegations a VIP paedophile ring existed at Grafton Close and Elms Guest House in Barnes, west London.

Jurors heard the priest got sexual kicks out of watching children shower, and he collected child porn.

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

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

McSweeney confessed to watching a child porn film featuring boys as young as ten on a home cinema with Stingemore - but claimed he turned it off.

And he denied molesting boys as they sat on his lap - claiming he was too fat to fit a teen on him. Stingemore was sacked from Grafton Close in 1981 and McSweeney's visits abruptly stopped as he continued with his career in the priesthood.

In 1998 McSweeney nearly lost his career 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. He was originally threatened 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.

McSweeney, of Old Brighton Road, Pease Pottage, West Sussex, was found guilty of one indecent assault on a male between 1979 and 1981.

And he was found guilty of three counts of making indecent images of children.

He was released on bail and sentence was adjourned until March 27.

Judge Alistair McCreath warned McSweeney that he faces prison.

Bailing him, the judge 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, chief executive 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. Most looked-after children are in foster homes. Only those children needing very specialist services are placed in children's homes.

"All placements are subject to rigorous checks and controls within a statutory regulatory framework and this includes senior social workers who are independent of the child's worker.

"The system today puts much greater emphasis on the views of children and staff are employed specifically to help children to give their views."

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