Third Catholic church linked to paedophile priest burns in suspected arson attack

The Age

April 1, 2015

Marissa Calligeros

A third Melbourne Catholic church linked to a paedophile priest has been set alight in a suspected arson attack in as many days.

Two separate fires were lit at St Mary’s Church on Foster Street in Dandenong – one in the main church at the altar and the other in a storage room containing cloaks – about 2am on Monday.

It took firefighters 90 minutes to gain control of the blaze, which caused extensive heat and smoke damage to the 151-year-old building.

Police are investigating whether the fire is linked to two other suspicious fires at Catholic churches in Brighton and St Kilda East on Monday. Fire gutted the 123-year-old St James Church in Brighton on Monday morning, but the blaze at St Mary’s in St Kilda East caused little damage.

Both churches are linked to Ronald Dennis Pickering, who moved from parish to parish around Melbourne abusing boys between 1958 and 1993, when he fled to his native Britain. He died there in 2012, having never been charged.

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