2 Nov 2010

Former Anglican priest murdered amid child abuse claims

Times Online - UK July 21, 2009

Former British priest John Mountford murdered amid child abuse claims

(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

John Mountford said he was being blackmailed

David Brown

A British former priest has been founded murdered in Libya after telling friends that he was being blackmailed over claims that he had sexually abused children.

John Mountford, 53, is reported to have been stabbed to death shortly after returning to Tripoli, where he was teaching English at a school for the children of foreign oil workers.

The former Anglican chaplain at The Blue Coat School in Edgbaston, Birmingham, told friends that he had been threatened by people preparing to reveal that he had been accused of abusing a boy at a leading Australian private school. They had also threatened to spread allegations that he was sexually assaulting children in Libya.

Mr Mountford’s employers reported him missing to the British Embassy in Tripoli on Thursday last week soon after he returned from visiting relatives in Britain. The Foreign Office was informed last night that his body had been found.

Mr Mountford moved to Libya two years ago after the collapse of a prosecution for sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy at St Peter’s College in Adelaide, where he was chaplain, in 1991 and 1992.

The charges were withdrawn days before the start of his trial in August 2007 after his accuser, David Martin, claimed that he had been intimidated by private detectives working for the defence and attempted to kill himself. Mr Martin is reported to have a received a record $A500,000 (£248,000) compensation in an out-of-court deal in February.

After the settlement Mr Mountford e-mailed an Australian newspaper to insist that he was innocent.

Mr Martin’s lawyer, Peter Humphries, said today said that the news of Mr Mountford’s death had brought no joy.

“There is, however, a sense of considerable relief that the events that have caused the family such distress over the years can finally be put behind them,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mr Mountford was attached to The Blue Coat School from 1987 until he left for Australia in 1990. The co-educational boarding and day prep school has 550 pupils aged 2 to 11.

The abuse claim had received widespread coverage in Australia after allegations that a senior figure in the Anglican church had advised Mr Mountford to leave the country to avoid prosecution.

The Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Rev Ian George, resigned in June 2005 after being discredited by an inquiry he had initiated into the church’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse.

After fleeing Australia in 1992, Mr Mountford went to Indonesia, before moving to Thailand, where he worked at the Harrow International School in Bangkok, which is linked to the British public school of the same name, from 1998 to 2002.

He was extradited from Thailand to Australia in 2004 to face five charges of indecent assault, two of procuring the commission of an act of gross indecency and one of unlawful sexual intercourse.

The current Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Rev Jeffrey Driver, said the church was trying to confirm reports that Mr Mountford had been found dead in his apartment at the weekend.

“If they are true then for Mr Mountford’s family and friends there is a great shock, but at the same time I would want to recognise that perhaps for some in the community these reports will bring some mixed emotions,” he told ABC.

Philip Grutzner, principal of St Peter’s College, said: “The school is obviously most concerned about the murder of anyone; it’s such a tragic event. We are also very concerned about people who have been affected by this event and events associated with Mr Mountford over the past 17 years.”

Mr Mountford had lived openly at St Peter’s College with an Indonesian boyfriend he had brought back from a holiday on Bali and who was also accused of a “sustained sexual assault” on Mr Martin.

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