Accused Child Sex Priest in Jail

By Michael Davis, Daniel Hoare and Claire Harvey
The Advertiser [Australia]
June 26, 2004

ACCUSED child molester and Salesian priest Frank Klep was behind bars in Melbourne last night almost six years after warrants were issued for his arrest on charges of child sex abuse.

Klep looked tanned and healthy when he faced court charged with five counts of indecent assault dating back to 1973.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard how Klep passed through Australia three times without being detected, despite the outstanding arrest warrants.

The incidents are alleged to have occurred at Rupertswood, a Salesian all-boys boarding school at Sunbury, north of Melbourne, between 1973 and 1976.

Dressed in a checked blue-and-white shirt, white and grey tracksuit jacket and white slacks, he sat stony-faced in the dock throughout the 30-minute hearing. He was not required to enter a plea and was remanded in custody.

Klep had been living and working at a Salesian theological college in Western Samoa for the past six years.

The charges were laid against Klep in 1998, one month after he began his new job at a Salesian theological college in Samoa.

Klep was met yesterday by police from Victoria's sexual crimes squad when his Polynesian Airlines flight arrived at Melbourne Airport at 9.20am. It is believed Klep had travelled alone from Apia via Auckland, after leaving Samoa at 2am Friday local time.

Samoan government and church officials took Klep to the airport in Apia four hours before his flight was due to depart.

He was kept in a holding room at the airport and smuggled on to the plane to avoid the media.

In court yesterday, Senior Constable John Raglus said the issue came to his attention again when he was contacted recently by US newspaper The Dallas Morning News.

The paper asked how it was possible for Klep to continue teaching in Samoa when there was a warrant to arrest him in Australia.

Senior Constable Raglus said he contacted the Samoan Government, which discovered Klep had failed to disclose on a visa application a 1994 conviction on four counts of sexually assaulting two teenagers in the 1970s.

Klep's lawyer, Tony Hargraves, said his client had returned from Samoa to Australia three times since 1998, and there had been no attempt by Victorian police to arrest him.

Magistrate Paul Smith remanded Klep in custody until September 9, saying the priest had shown "a disinclination" to abide by the law by not presenting himself to police even though he knew a warrant was outstanding against him.

In a statement issued by the Salesian order yesterday, church head Ian Murdoch said the order had not been aware "of details of the complaints against (Father) Klep which were taken to the police until they were reported in the media this week".


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