How a Roman Catholic paedophile priest who mixed with celebs nearly escaped justice

Father Anthony McSweeney

Father Anthony McSweeney; Nearly escaped justice Pic Credit: BBC


One of the successes of the Met Police investigation into the notorious Elm Guest House in Barnes was the arrest and conviction of a Roman Catholic priest Anthony McSweeney who was jailed for three years  in 2015 for sexually abusing a teenager and making indecent images of children.

The inquiry into Elm Guest House led the police to focus on a Richmond  Council children’s home – long since closed – called Grafton Close which at the time was run by a friend of the priest, John Stingemore, who would have been tried alongside him at Southwark Crown Court if he had not died just before the trial.

The allegation that boys were taken by Stingemore to Elm Guest House were never tested in court – though the CPS agreed a charge should be made – because of Stingemore’s death.

But the court heard that McSweeney and Stingemore did take boys away to a flat in Bexhill on sea where they were sexually assaulted. And when McSweeney was arrested   pornographic pictures of children were found on his computer.

Until then Anthony McSweeney had escaped his crimes that took place between 1979 to 1981 and if it had not been for Operation Fernbridge he would still be a popular priest a director of a  Catholic school in Norwich, helping with Norwich City  football youth team and local boxing clubs.

He  was held in high esteem and mixed with some of the great and good. He married the boxer, Frank Bruno and Delia Smith, the celebrity cook and supporter of Norwich City, once asked to arrange a special football service for the club.

But his secret activities could have been stopped nearly 20 years earlier when it was discovered while he was working as a priest in Harlow and Leigh on Sea, Essex, that had a stash of pornographic videos. His cleaner discovered his stash of sex toys, truncheons and pornographic videos at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Instead in 1998 the Roman Catholic Church quietly transfered him to another parish, St George’s church in Norwich.

Now an independent review undertaken by the Dioceses of East Anglia and Brentwood in the wake of his conviction has revealed serious lapses in the whole way the Church handled the discovery in 1998.

In a statement the two dioceses say:

 The Church should have taken more robust action following the discovery of video tapes in 1998, later referred to in Anthony McSweeney’s trial, and should have ensured that the matter was reported to the police so that a full investigation could have taken place.

 Local priests and parishioners were not adequately supported, their concerns were not taken sufficiently seriously, nor acted upon diligently;

 Anthony McSweeney’s subsequent transfer to East Anglia, as outlined above, was poorly managed, lacked insight and was not adequately documented.

The Church defends it behaviour by saying:

“At the time of these events awareness of the need for child protection was in its infancy. The national safeguarding procedures and processes put in place since 2001 would now ensure that such a matter would immediately be passed on to the police, via the Safeguarding Coordinator. Now over 95% of parishes have at least one Safeguarding Representative whose task it is to ensure that the concerns of the local clergy and parishioners are taken seriously, and to refer those concerns to the Diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator.”

However it is clear that the review is not satisfied even today as it recommends the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service, and the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission:

 To review and clarify the existing policy about priests transferring from one diocese to another to ensure consistency and transparency in the process in all the dioceses in England and Wales, and in particular, to ensure that any issues to do with safeguarding are resolved before any such move can take place;

 To issue clear guidelines for managing cases potentially involving indecent images;

 To review the existing “whistleblowing” policy

The Church is refusing to publish the report or even name the author who prepared it on the grounds it was an ” internal report”.

Yet it highlights one of the major perennial problems in tackling child sexual abuse – the decision by authorities to sweep scandals under the carpet – and quietly transfer the person to a new post elsewhere. Not only is this irresponsible but its is dangerous as it puts more children at risk just to preserve the reputation of the organisation.

This a good case  to be referred to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – either under its Roman Catholic investigation – or the part of the inquiry that will examine safeguarding. Alexis Jay, the chair, should seek out this report as it will help explain in detail what went wrong here and how it can be tackled in future. Otherwise valuable lessons could be missed and the Roman Catholic church will once again have to be taken on trust that it doing the right thing.



17 thoughts on “How a Roman Catholic paedophile priest who mixed with celebs nearly escaped justice

  1. Pingback: How a Roman Catholic paedophile priest who mixed with celebs nearly escaped justice Posted on April 27, 2017 by davidhencke | Hollie Greig Justice

  2. Reblogged this on Buried News and commented:
    Having researched abuse cases, I have always wondered about the number of deaths either before and after the trial. Brings to mind the saying “Dead Men Tell No Lies”
    What mystifies me is the British approach to money and child protection. In the former, if you worked in a Bank and stole money you will be unlikely to find another job in banking. But, if you work in child care and sexually abuse the children under your care, your Boss will cover it up and send you elsewhere. SO HERE WE HAVE BRITISH VALUES, MONEY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN CHILDREN.


  3. The MPS conducted a scoping investigation (Operation TORVA) in 2013 into allegations that children had been routinely sexually abused at schools in the U.K., run by the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Roman Catholic Order.

    As part of that investigation, MPS identified one Salesian priest, Fr Terence O’Brien SDB, as ‘ a prolific paedophile’. I brought evidence forward to that investigation, which showed that O’Brien ranked at least alongside Savile in terms of the number of children he sexually abused. Yet what has been said about that? Very little. Holding power to account. I don’t think so.


      • David,
        Have you seen the latest article by Daniel Janner in the Times? It is a desperate attempt to discredit Jay and the whole enquiry process. I just hope she is strong enough to see it through. I am not surprised that the Times published it. No mainstream journalist seems willing to challenge the continuous stream of unattributed nonsense that is being published to undermine any attempt to get the truth.


      • Colin:I will take a look today. There does seem to be agenda to try and stop any investigation into anyone who is a prominent figure but it looks to me that Alexis Jay is made of sterner stuff to resist. Also they have the problem that Theresa May set up the inquiry and is not going to want to close it down now as she will be seen as making a mistake.


  4. Good article, David. These are the areas where pressure needs to be kept up
    to stop backsliding clerical management. Does the Catholic Church make public
    its ‘new’ Safeguarding policy, ie publish the procedure online?
    Robert Montagu


  5. If a parish doesn’t have a safeguarding representative, prsumably the diocese itself is responsible for interim measures. Have the two dioceses explained what the arrangements are in parishes without a safeguarding representative in place?


  6. “One of the successes of the Met Police investigation into the notorious Elm Guest House in Barnes…”

    David, just to clarify, do you stand by the story published on Exaro?

    It was headlined: “Public should know truth about VIP paedophile ring”


  7. Pingback: Tom Watson MP Deletes Tweet – Fr Tony McSweeney/Grafton Close/Richmond Council/Vaz | goodnessandharmony

  8. Why was the EGH complaint registered by DC **** in 2003 removed from the Mets complants log by 2004? And why was this recorded complant with it supporting paperwork given to the investigators not mentioned by Cmdr Jerome in his statement of 14 2.2019 to the child abuse inquiry ?


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