Francis Paul Cullen, an 85 year old ex Catholic priest has pleaded guilty to number of childs
sex offences after he was extradited from Tenerife where he had been living for the last 22 years. Cullen evaded police for over 20 years by skipping bail and fleeing to Tenerife in a cowardly attempt to avoid prosecution. At a hearing at Derby Crown Court, Cullen pleaded guilty to 21 counts of indecent assault to seven children. He will be sentenced on the 24th March.
The despicable paedophile abused at least five altar boys and two girls aged between six and sixteen. These incidents took place between the early 1950’s and 1991. Cullen who was born in Dublin, Ireland worked as a priest in many areas including Scunthorpe, Leicester, Alfreton, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Buxton and Mackworth.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Nottingham said he was pleased Cullen had, ”owned up and taken responsibility for these sickening crimes”.
Cullen was originally arrested back in 1991 in Nottingham but skipped bail and fled to Tenerife. A warrant was issued for his arrest but this was withdrawn by the courts in 2000. Derbyshire police reopened the case when a former altar boy abused by Cullen in the 1960’s came forward. Extensive enquiries, including investigation by Interpol, failed to locate the disgraced Catholic priest and the investigation was closed pending further information. A year later the case was reopened when a woman abused by Cullen in Buxton in the 1980’s reported his crimes to the police. Again, the investigation was closed when Cullen could not be found. Cullen was finally tracked down in 2012 to Playa De Las Americas where he has attended the same church for mass for 20 years. His location had been discovered with cooperation from the Catholic Church and their safeguarding board. This was a real breakthrough in bringing justice to Cullen, although it seems incredible that intensive investigation by the police could not find him, but the involvement of his ex employers soon ‘discovered’ his whereabouts. Cullen was finally detained on August 20th 2013 by officers of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, (SOCA) on a European Arrest Warrant.
Father Andrew Cole, spokesman for the Diocese of Nottingham, said: “I would like to give our sympathy to those who have been affected by this tragedy in any way and assure them that we will do whatever we can to support them.”
“I would also like to take the chance to thank Cullen’s victims for their bravery in coming forward after many years of silence; it is because of them that Cullen has pleaded guilty.”
“Nothing can take away the horror of what happened to them, but I hope that today’s verdict will help them in some small way to find peace.”
Derbyshire Police urged any other victims who have not yet come forward to contact them.
Detective Constable Matt Goodwin said “Given the length of the offending history of this investigation, which lasted from 1955 to 1991, I believe it is inconceivable that there are not
more victims of this man’s crimes.”
A former altar boy from Preston, Lancashire said, “this conviction comes as no surprise at all to me, I was an altar boy in the late 60’s at my local Catholic Church. We [other altar boys] all knew child molesting was going on, as soon as I got wise to it I left, I was one of the lucky ones.”
This conviction could be just the tip of the iceberg; hopefully the sentencing of Cullen later in March will give people the courage to report historic and current abuse.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article or have concerns for someone else please contact any of these organisations below;
NAPAC is the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. They are a registered charity,based in the UK, providing support and information for people abused in childhood. http://www.napac.org.uk
Childline. 0800 1111 or online www.childline.org.uk
NSPCC . National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children www.nspcc.org.uk