MICHAEL McKENNA AND AMANDA GEARING
June 01, 2013
THE Church of England banished serial pedophile priest Robert Waddington to Australia, where he abused children across a decade, after suspicions were raised about him molesting choirboys in his London parish.
In an alleged church cover-up spanning almost 60 years, Waddington was suddenly and unexpectedly sent to a small school in regional Queensland in 1956 amid claims he was molesting the son of an English politician.
Last month the Church of England ordered an independent inquiry into the handling of allegations against Waddington, after a joint investigation by The Australian and The Times of London.
But it can now be revealed that Waddington – who died in 2007, facing allegations he abused students in Australia in the 1960s and English choirboys in the 80s and 90s – was molesting children as soon as he joined the church in 1953. The latest allegations have been made by Ray Munn, 70, who was recruited by Waddington, then a curate at St John’s church in Bethnal Green, East London, to sing in the choir in 1953.
He was almost immediately groomed by the Cambridge University-educated clergyman, who took him on holidays in the English countryside, before he began molesting the then 11-year-old.
“He was very cunning, he treated us like young adults, gave us pet names – mine was ‘mon petite’ because I was small – and, in my case, convinced my parents that I needed to be confirmed and would give me one-on-one lessons for that,” Mr Munn said.
Now living in Adelaide, Mr Munn said he believed Waddington was “shipped out” to Australia after suspicions were raised about the then local choirmaster.
“It was so sudden, Waddington was working at the church, planning his next holiday to France, and then the next thing he was being sent to Australia,” he said. “People were getting suspicious about him, about how much time he was spending with children, taking them on holidays and offering private tuition, which included sex education classes.
“After a while he began abusing me and, I think a few others. But then one kid reported it to his father, who was a politician and a rough and tough bastard, and soon after Waddington was gone.”
Police were not called and the church in London last night said there was no record of any complaint made against Waddington at St John’s in the 1950s.
The alleged inaction mirrors the later failure of clergymen in Australia and Britain, including the then Archbishop of York David Hope, to report complaints of Waddington’s alleged abuse.
Last month, Lord Hope expressed his regret over failing to report confirmed allegations made in 1999 and 2003 about Waddington, who rose to become head of education for the church in Britain. After being sent to Australia in 1956, he was a chaplain at the Slade School in Warwick, Queensland, until 1959. Between 1961 and 1971 he was headmaster of St Barnabas boarding school in Ravenshoe, north Queensland. It is alleged he abused at least three boys there, and recruited several teachers, later convicted of child abuse.
The Church of England is expected to next week announce the appointment of a retired judge to head its inqiry into Waddington.
Last night, the church issued a statement asking Mr Munn to report his abuse to authorities and offering him counselling.
“We would encourage Mr Munn to report any claims to the police and statutory authorities,” it said.
Mr Munn said he came forward to support the victims and ensure the truth about the extent of Waddington’s abuse was exposed.
“I wanted people to know that the abuse began in England 10 years before what had previously been exposed,” he said.
Mr Munn’s account of how he and other choirboys were groomed is almost identical to those offered by other victims.
“He was well-educated, very impressive and disciplined but spoke to us like young adults, he never spoke down,” he said. “I was encouraged to join the choir, and I did and he made me feel special …
“He would take us on trips through London, showing us important buildings, telling their history and taking us for tea and scones afterward coffee.
“After a while Waddington then convinced parents of boys in the choir who were not confirmed that it would be a good idea if we were confirmed and offering private classes. That was when the abuse started, (with him) kissing and fondling me.”
Mr Munn believes the abuse stopped when he was on a trip in the English countryside with Waddington and was staying at a local vicar’s home. “I was in the bath when he came in and said I needed to wash my back and to stand up and he would do it … but the vicar’s wife began knocking on the door and telling him to come out. I think she knew.
“He never touched me again after that.”