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Fugitive priest pleads guilty to multiple charges of abuse
25 February 2014 16:13 by Liz Dodd

A priest who has spent more than 20 years on the run in Spain has pleaded guilty to multiple charges of sexual assault of children, including of altar boys.

Francis Paul Cullen, 85, formerly working in the Diocese of Nottingham, yesterday admitted to 15 counts of indecent assault, five of indecency with a child and one of attempted buggery.

According to Derbyshire Police he abused seven children including five altar boys and two girls while he was a priest in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, during a period from 1957 until around 1991, when he retired on grounds of "ill health".

He was charged with three counts of sexual assault at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court in October 1991 but fled to Tenerife while on bail. He was extradited from Tenerife last year on a European arrest warrant.

Derbyshire Police thanked the Catholic Church for its help tracing Cullen to Tenerife in 2012. He had attended Mass at the same church there for 20 years.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Nottingham said it was pleased that he had taken responsibility for his crimes.

"We have been working closely with the police throughout the preparation of this case, both before and after Cullen's arrest in Spain and return to the United Kingdom, have encouraged them to bring him to justice and are grateful to them,” he said.

The diocese thanked Fr Cullen’s victims for coming forward and said that the abuse of children was “abhorrent” and taken very seriously by the Catholic Church.

“Nothing can take away the horror of what happened to them, but I hope that today's verdict will help them in some small way to find peace,” he said.

Judge Jonathan Gosling remanded Cullen in custody and adjourned sentencing until 24 March at Derby Crown Court.