December 2017

93-year-old paedophile priest claimed he ‘forgot’ years of sexually abusing boys

A paedophile catholic priest who used swimming lessons and foreign camping trips as a ploy to abuse boys as young as 11 claimed he ‘couldn’t remember’ his sickening crimes.

Father John Kevin Murphy, 93, used his position of trust to groom four boys during the 60s and 70s while working as a priest at St Luke’s Parish in Whiston, and the attached St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic School.

Today Liverpool Crown Court heard how during his 12 years working in the area, Murphy, of St George’s Court in Maghull , gained the trust of several families and offered to take boys, aged between 11-16 at the time, for swimming lessons, exercise sessions and even camping trips abroad in order to abuse them.

While teaching the boys to swim, he would put his hands inside their swimming trunks, touch their genitals, and then make them shower naked.

On one occasion, he made one of his victims sit on his knee in a changing room and performed a sex act on him.

Murphy, who worked in Whiston between 1962 and 1974, also took two of the boys on separate camping trips – including some abroad – where he sexually abused them.

In one case, in Italy, one of the boys returned to his tent for the night to find Murphy had zipped both of their sleeping bags together and forced him to play a ‘game’ which involved touching him sexually.

On another, Murphy performed oral sex on one of his victims – who was younger than 13 at the time.

He would also regularly invite the boys into his home under the guise of giving them ‘exercise lessons’ where he would lure them into touching him inappropriately.

Some of the abuse – including an occasion where he forced one of the boys to strip off – happened on church grounds.

The incidents, which happened on several occasions between 1962-1974, were brought to the attention of police a number of years ago by two of the victims, however the trauma of the abuse left them feeling unable to give evidence.

It was only when a third victim came forward to Merseyside Police in July 2016 that sufficient evidence could be gathered to bring charges against Murphy.

One of his victims, Stephen Armstrong-Smith – who waived his legal right to anonymity – was abused several times over a period of two years while Murphy worked as a junior priest.

He was so terrified of what would happen if the truth came out that he denied the assaults to his parents, and questioned whether he brought them upon himself.

In a desperate attempt to avoid Murphy, who also worked at his school, he would often fake illness so that he was allowed to stay at home.

On one occasion, Murphy visited his sick bed under the guise of checking how he was, and touched him inappropriately under the covers.

It was after this incident that Mr Armstrong-Smith took his concerns to the church who told him he could “tell the police and risk people finding out” or keep it to himself and “let the church deal with it.”

Terrified of anyone finding out about the abuse, Stephen took the second option and Murphy was sent to another parish.

In a moving victim impact statement read out in court, an emotional Mr Armstrong-Smith detailed how the years of abuse at the hands of Murphy had left him in emotional turmoil over his sexuality, and led him to five serious suicide attempts – including drinking cleaning products and starting a house fire.

While the statement was read out, Murphy couldn’t look at his victim and kept his eyes closed.

He said: “I was hoping Father Murphy would look me in the eyes while I read this, but he doesn’t even have the decency to look at me.

“As a result of the abuse in my early life I had massive confusion over my sexual orientation. I was constantly questioning if I was gay. I was also asking myself if I had invited Murphy’s advances.

“This insecurity stayed with me throughout all my life and I felt a constant need to be accepted and suffered terrible rejection issues.

“I have made around five serious suicide attempts, one a house fire in Whiston where I was hospitalised. Four years ago I drunk bleach. I put this all down to what happened to me.

“Throughout my life the flash backs or dreams of what happened weren’t there very single day but I’d generally have a manic episode every three to six months which would last for between two days to a month.

“I’ve had several bouts of around four month blocks where alcohol abuse took hold. I drank three bottles of red wine a day, I would get DT’s [confusion caused by alcohol withdrawal] and end up drinking the following morning to stop the shakes.”

Despite pleading guilty to 16 counts of indecent assault on a child at an earlier hearing, Murphy – who remained silent and kept his eyes closed throughout the sentencing – claimed he had no recollection of the abuse.

Sentencing, Judge Anil Murray said he “doubted” Murphy could not remember the incident and ordered him to sign the sex offender’s register for life.

Murphy was also handed a three year prison sentence, of which he is expected to serve half, with the remaining 18 months on license.