Victims of paedophile priest may be linked to church fires

The Age

March 31, 2015

Nino Bucci

Police are investigating whether the victims of a paedophile priest started two fires at separate churches on the same day.

Fire almost destroyed the 123-year-old St James Church in Brighton on Monday morning, but another 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.

It is unclear if the Catholic Archdiocese plans to increase security at the other churches where Pickering was a minister: St Theresa’s in Essendon, Sacred Heart in Warburton, and St Peter’s in Clayton. A spokesman for the archdiocese said security had not been increased at those churches, but had at St Patrick’s cathedral in the city.

A police spokeswoman confirmed the St Mary’s fire was suspicious and had caused minor damage to a door, and that the cause of the St James fire was yet to be determined.

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