Victoria police investigate fire at third church linked to paedophile priests

The Guardian

Oliver Milman
Tuesday 31 March 2015

Victoria police are investigating the third suspicious church fire in Melbourne within the past week.

Two separate fires broke out at St Mary’s church in Dandenong at around 2am on Wednesday, causing extensive damage to the 151-year-old church before fire crews were able to extinguish the flames.

The church is linked to Kevin O’Donnell, a priest who has been accused of a number of sexual assaults on children. O’Donnell, who is now deceased, was never charged over the alleged offences.

Early on Monday morning, another suspicious fire destroyed St James church in Brighton, with St Mary’s church in St Kilda suffering damage on the same day due to suspected arson.

Priest Ronald Pickering attended both of the churches in the 1970s and 1980s. Pickering, who died in 2012, fled to the UK in 1993 and did not face prosecution over a number of sexual abuse offences stretching back to 1960.

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