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TOPIC: Pedo Protectors intimidate witnesses

Pedo Protectors intimidate witnesses 3 months 4 weeks ago #4328

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www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-24/survivors...ion-tactics/11041506
Survivors of church abuse speak out about mafia-style intimidation tactics
7.30
By Ben Millington

Updated Wed at 5:33pm
Peter Creigh wears glasses and a white collared shirt.
Photo: Peter Creigh says he was followed and intimidated by two anonymous men. (ABC News: Jerry Rickard)
Related Story: 'Like being raped again': Survivors reveal pain of applying for redress
Related Story: How was former archbishop Phillip Wilson's conviction overturned?
Related Story: Catholic Church won't break seal of confession to report child sex abuse

Real estate agent Peter Creigh was alone and finishing an open home inspection in Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, when a stranger in dark wraparound sunglasses approached him.
Key points:

Two victims of church sexual abuse say they were intimidated in an effort to stop them giving evidence
Peter Creigh, who was abused by a Catholic priest, says he was followed and threatened by two anonymous men
Steven Smith, who was abused by an Anglican priest, received threats that his children and grandchildren would be killed

Mr Creigh introduced himself and offered a handshake. But the handshake was not returned.

"He just said, 'I know who you are Mr Creigh. You're involved in the court case against Archbishop Wilson,'" Mr Creigh told 7.30.

"He said … 'I'm a concerned keeper of the faith' and 'it would be in your best interest to not give evidence at the upcoming trial'.

"It just blew me away. I was just completely shocked. And the guy just turned around and walked out of the house."

The incident happened in early 2017 when Mr Creigh was the key witness in a landmark case against the Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, who was the highest ranking Catholic in the world to be convicted, and later acquitted, of concealing child sex abuse.

It was alleged that in 1976, when Bishop Wilson was a young assistant priest in the Maitland Newcastle Diocese, a teenage Mr Creigh had twice told him about the years of abuse he had suffered at the hands of paedophile priest James Fletcher, yet nothing was done.
Peter Creigh in a black and white school photo
Photo: Peter Creigh, circled, at school in 1972. (Supplied: Peter Creigh)

With the concealment trial still nine months away, Mr Creigh said the first incident of intimidation left him in a state of "deep shock", but it was not to be the last.
The man on the motorbike

In a second incident, Mr Creigh said the same man rode up behind him on a large motorbike that had the number plates covered with black plastic.

"His words were, 'Mr Creigh, we meet again. It appears you're not taking us seriously.' And then he said I should not proceed any further with giving evidence at the upcoming trial," Mr Creigh said.

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The man allegedly raised two fingers in the air to signal it was his second warning before riding away on the motorbike.

"I came home immediately and just burst into tears. I was that upset to tell my wife Kym what had happened," Mr Creigh said.

Both incidents were reported to Detective Sergeant Jeff Little, who was the head of Strikeforce Lantle which was set up to investigate child abuse in the church.

Detective Little said police increased patrols of Mr Creigh's neighbourhood and advised him on his personal security, but investigations to find the perpetrator came up empty handed.

"This coward took it upon himself to hide," Detective Little said.

"He hid behind sunglasses, he hid behind a helmet, he had a blacked-out number plate and was essentially hiding behind anonymity."
'We know where you live'
Peter Creigh, in a striped blue shirt, is hugged by two women.
Photo: Peter Creigh surrounded by supporters outside court. (ABC News: Brooke Wylie)

In the middle of the trial in March 2018 Mr Creigh had already given evidence when he was intimidated a third time while letterbox dropping real estate pamphlets.

It was a different man with an even more sinister threat.

"He said, 'We know where you live, we know where you work', to 'think of your family', and 'we want you to retract your evidence'," Mr Creigh told 7.30.

"I said, 'Go to hell.' And he said, 'Mr Creigh, you will be financially rewarded by doing this'. And that, 'You should take it very, very seriously'.

Mr Creigh asked who the man was.

"He said, 'We're here to protect the church and, of course, the Archbishop.' And they were the exact words."
The 'Healing Bishop'
The 'Healing Bishop'
How Archbishop Philip Wilson rose to prominence in the Catholic Church.

Mr Creigh's name was still suppressed by the court at the time of the incident. The source of the leak against him has never been found.

Detective Little said that while a police investigation could not find the men, the language they used is certainly suggestive of an "affiliation with the church".

In a statement the Catholic Church said neither it nor Bishop Wilson knew anything about the intimidation incidents and therefore could not offer comment.

Bishop Wilson was convicted in the Newcastle Local Court trial in May last year, but that conviction was later quashed on appeal by a District Court judge.

Mr Creigh said the intimidation compounded what was already a very difficult and traumatic legal process that lasted several years and forced him to relive the horrific sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

At the peak of the trial Mr Creigh was rushed to hospital for a quadruple heart bypass and later suffered a stress-related seizure. He still has not returned to his real estate career.

"It was more than a roller coaster, at times it felt like a car wreck," he said.

"It was really, really difficult. There was some really, really black moments there.

"You had to keep on saying to yourself that [there's] far greater good here to be done and you just had to find that strength, you just had to find it from somewhere.

"And somehow, I think it just made me a stronger person having stood up to them."
'Petrified about giving evidence'

The intimidation tactics used on Mr Creigh have raised fresh questions about whether another witness in the Bishop Wilson case also suffered intimidation tactics.

Father Glen Walsh was a Newcastle priest who was ostracised from the Catholic Church after raising the alarm in 2004 about the abuse of another boy by James Fletcher.
A man walking.
Photo: Bishop Philip Wilson. (AAP: Dan Himbrecht)

Three weeks before Bishop Wilson's trial began, Father Walsh took his own life.

"Father Glen Walsh was an honourable man and he was a crucial witness in the case against Archbishop Philip Wilson," Detective Little said.

"He certainly told me he was petrified about giving evidence against such senior members of his church and, regrettably, the evidence that he could have given, actually went with him to his passing."

Mr Creigh said he believed it could be an instance in which intimidation tactics had the desired impact.

"Was he leant on too? Who knows? But it is more than a coincidence," he said.
'We're going to kill you, your kids, your grandkids'
Steven Smith wears glasses and a t-shirt
Photo: Steven Smith says he could have been killed after wheel nuts on his rear tyres were loosened. (ABC News: Jerry Rickard)

The alleged intimidation of witnesses in sexual abuse cases has not been limited to the Catholic Church. Abuse survivor Steven Smith also suffered relentless intimidation from within the Anglican Church.

Mr Smith was raped about 250 times from the age of 10 by then-Anglican priest George Parker.

He spoke out publicly about it in 2013 and said the years of intimidation began.

"I've had my tyres slashed, screws in my car tyres, car window broken, a bullet left on my front step, text messages, phone calls, late-night calls, I've been followed on numerous occasions," Mr Smith said.

"There were just days and days of text messages like: 'If you don't stop we know where you live, we know your grandkids, … [where] your kids live. We're going to kill you, kill your kids, kill your grandkids.'

"It just went on and on and on."

He said the context of intimidation was to "shut up" and stop talking about what happened to him within the church.

At times he said his life was in danger.

"I was driving my car and it felt funny and I stopped," he said.

"I had my son with me, and we got out and all 10 wheel nuts on the back wheels had been undone and the wheels were just hanging on the thing, and I was about to get on the expressway.

"It could have killed the lot of us."
Keeping safe
Steven Smith as a child
Photo: Steven Smith as a child (Supplied: Steven Smith)

Mr Smith said he had now moved house three times to protect his safety and was cautious about revealing his address in case friends or family were followed.

"My eldest brother lives in the Newcastle area and for probably eight or nine years now he hasn't known where I live," Mr Smith said.

"He has never visited me. I visit him, but he doesn't know where I live and we both understand why that needs to be that way.

"Not very many people know where I live and I'm very careful about that."

Mr Smith's abuse formed a key part of case 42 in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, which was one of the most comprehensively covered cases in the inquiry.

During the hearings the Anglican Church was so concerned about the dangerous element within its membership, it provided Mr Smith with a security detail that shadowed him throughout.

"I had a woman walk up to me at one tribunal hearing, an older lady, and she spat in my face and said, 'you're nothing but a trouble maker'," he said.

"That's the sort of people you're up against and they're people who profess to be Christians and are happy to sit in church every Sunday.

"They're a pack of criminals and a religious protection racket and I can't get my head around how people can behave that way."

The royal commission found a paedophile ring was allowed to operate within the Newcastle Anglican Diocese for at least 30 years and that the cover-ups reached the highest levels.

It noted new leadership in the diocese had made significant improvements, but that they too had faced intimidation from those within the church.
Church acknowledges threats and intimidation
Bishop Peter Stuart stands at a microphone in church.
Photo: Newcastle Anglican Bishop Peter Stuart acknowledged that abuse survivors had experienced anonymous threats. (Facebook: Anglican Church Newcastle)

Newcastle Anglican Bishop Peter Stuart acknowledged the problem in a statement to the ABC.

"One of the terrible features of the disclosure of child abuse within the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle was that survivors and staff experienced anonymous threats and intimidation," he said.

"The Diocese encourages anyone with knowledge of criminal activity to make a report to NSW Police."

Both Steven Smith and Peter Creigh said no pastoral support was provided to them from the churches since speaking out about their abuse, and that it was, in fact, the NSW Police and Detective Jeff Little who supported them throughout.

"These guys are fighters and they've prevailed," Detective Little said.

"I would call the intimidation a secondary wounding.

"They've already been to hell, they have suffered, and sometimes the only way to get over something is not to go around it, is to go through it, and certainly those two men have been through it."

Despite investigations, no-one has ever been charged in relation to Mr Smith's intimidation.

"One thing I hope they've learned is that I won't be intimidated, and I won't stop speaking," Mr Smith said.

"I won't be intimidated by people of that calibre."

Watch Ben Millington's story on 7.30 tonight.

Topics: catholic, anglicans, sexual-offences, religion-and-beliefs, royal-commissions, newcastle-2300, adelaide-5000

First posted Wed at 3:57pm
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