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Adelaide Archbishop ignored abuse claims: witness

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A key witness in the trial of Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, accused of covering up sexual abuse by a pedophile priest, has told how he believes his abuse claims were ignored.

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Peter Creigh, whose name had been the subject of a suppression order before he asked for it to be lifted, told the Newcastle Local Court today the now-dead priest James Fletcher had preyed on him when he was an altar boy in 1971 in the NSW Hunter region.

Creigh said he went to see Wilson in the presbytery of an East Maitland parish in early 1976 to tell him about what Fletcher had done to him five years earlier.

Having kept the secret of Fletcher’s abuse for so long, Creigh trusted Wilson to take action against the pedophile priest but nothing happened.

“I thought I could trust him (Wilson),” Creigh, 57, said.

“At that stage, I was 15 and the abuse was starting to concern me, what had gone on five years prior.”

Creigh said Wilson had had a “look of horror” on his face when he told him about Fletcher’s abuse.

He said Wilson assured him he would mention the abuse claims to the parish priest and have it looked into.

Creigh said it was the first time he had told anyone about the abuse, not even his parents, and it was something he wanted to get off his chest.

But when nothing had happened six months later, Creigh said he went to see Wilson again who told him he had no further knowledge of the situation and the church was still looking into his abuse claims.

Creigh said he never heard from Wilson again.

Defence barrister Stephen Odgers SC said Wilson did not dispute meeting Creigh in 1976 but believed he had a false, reconstructed memory about discussing Fletcher’s abuse.

Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison, in his opening address, had earlier told the court how a second altar boy, aged between eight and nine years old, had confided in Wilson when in the confessional box in late 1976 about Fletcher’s abuse.

Wilson allegedly told the boy he didn’t believe him and he should be ashamed of himself before sending him off to say 10 Hail Marys as an act of contrition.

Fletcher was convicted in 2004 of sexually abusing another boy and died in jail in January 2006.

Wilson, 67, is the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged with concealing child sex assault.

The trial continues.

– AAP

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