By Paul Bibby, Rory Callinan and Martin Van Beynen
A FORMER Catholic brother charged five months ago with hundreds of counts of sexual abuse against children and young adults, is currently living on a tea plantation in Sri Lanka because the authorities dragged their feet in extraditing him to Australia.
The former St John of God brother, Bernard Kevin McGrath, who recently served two years in a New Zealand prison for sexually abusing boys there, had 252 abuse charges laid against him in a Newcastle court on June 27.
The 65-year-old is alleged to have repeatedly raped, molested and abused dozens of young boys at church-run institutions in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese during the late 1970s and ’80s.
It is understood that a number of the charges relate to McGrath’s time as a brother at the notorious Kendal Grange College in Morisset.
Yesterday, it was reported that McGrath was one of three brothers being sued by Sydney’s so-called “playboy rapist” Simon Monteiro, who is currently serving a seven-year nine-month sentence for aggravated rape, and claims that the abuse he suffered has left him with severe psychological disorders.
Among the charges are 30 counts of homosexual intercourse with a male between the age of 10 and 18, 30 counts of homosexual intercourse between a teacher and a student aged between 10 and 18, and 102 charges of indecent assault.
NSW Police were meant to extradite McGrath back to Australia from Christchurch where he lived since being paroled in 2008, to face the charges. But it is understood the 65-year-old was allowed to fly out of New Zealand some time after the charges were lodged and is currently staying on a tea plantation in the highlands of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a known haven for paedophiles, particularly the rural areas where criminals run large organised child sex operations.
McGrath’s New Zealand brother, Clem McGrath, said the accused man had flown out of Christchurch in “early winter” after a friend had told him “why don’t you come to Sri Lanka? You’ve got nothing here”.
Neither NSW Police nor the office of the Commonwealth Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare, would say yesterday when the process of extraditing McGrath began.
“NSW Police will not comment in relation to this investigation as speculation may jeopardise current lines of inquiry,” a police spokesman said in response to questions. But a New Zealand police source said the formal extradition request had only come to them from Interpol on November 15 – nearly five months after the charges were laid, and weeks after McGrath reportedly left the country.
It is understood the extradition may have been delayed by the multiple levels of bureaucracy involved in the extradition process.
It is not known whether Sri Lankan authorities have been informed that a potentially dangerous accused paedophile has been residing in their midst. Australia does not have an extradition treaty with Sri Lanka directly. However, it can extradite suspects from Sri Lanka under the ‘‘London Scheme’’ which enables Commonwealth countries to extradite fugitive criminals to each other upon the presentation of prima face evidence.
It is understood that Australian Federal Police based in Sri Lanka have been made aware of his presence and may have been tracking him.
Brother Bernard Kevin McGrath was transferred to New Zealand to be teacher and dormitory master at “Marylands”, a SJOG boarding school near Christchurch for boys with learning and behavioural difficulties.
In 1993, he was sentenced to three years jail in New Zealand for his offences at Marylands and the Hebron Trust, a learning centre for street kids. In 2002, more complainants contacted the New Zealand police concerning sexual assaults by McGrath culminating in his conviction in 2006 on 22 counts of abuse.
Some 10,000 to 12,000 children from rural areas in Sri Lanka are trafficked and prostituted to paedophiles yearly.