Catholic priest tried to play the victim in court… but is convicted of sexually abusing teenage boy at sleepover in his presbytery 30 years ago

Daily Mail [London, United Kingdom]

July 9, 2023

By Dan Sales

  • Exclusive: Father Reginald Dunkling, 63, was seen as an idol by 17-year-old
  • But the Roman Catholic priest betrayed him and escape justice for over 30 years 

A priest who escaped justice for three decades is facing jail after being convicted of abusing a theatre star, 17, who idolised him during a sleepover in his presbytery.

Father Reginald Dunkling, 63, struck after inviting the teenager to stay overnight at Our Lady of Muswell in north London in the early nineties.

Dunkling – known as Father Reg – was so trusted he had already been allowed to take the boy to Tenerife with another male friend.

But Wood Green Crown Court was told this week that sometime between April 1992 and April 1993 he indecently assaulted him.

During a sleepover after taking him to a concert in Wembley, Dunkling lay on the bedroom floor in his home and forced his hand under his covers, molesting the boy over his boxer shorts.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, the victim said: ‘He said “Have you had a man do this before?” I got out at first light as soon as I could.

‘He was a charismatic, interesting, likeable guy that introduced me to theatres and musicals. Stuff I ended up doing as a living. I kind of idolised him.’

Metropolitan police officers from Operation Winter Key arrested Father Dunkling on June 16, 2020 and asked him if he molested the complainant.

‘No, never, absolutely not,’ insisted the priest, saying he was never alone with the youngster in a Lourdes or Muswell Hill bedroom.

But prosecutor David Harounoff told the jury: ‘The defendant is a priest and in 2013 the complainant was contacted by the police, who were investigating offences, but he declined to co-operate.

‘In 2020 the Diocese of Westminster undertook a safety review and the complainant decided he wanted to co-operate and the police interviewed him.

‘As a teenager he was involved with the church. ‘

Aged just fifteen, the boy was invited into Father Dunkling’s room, where the priest told him: ‘I’m in love with you,’ the jury were told.

There was no physical contact until the night of the Wembley Arena concert, the trial heard.

‘When he was 17 years-old he stayed with this priest in Muswell Hill after the show and meal,’ explained Mr Harounoff.

‘He says he was asleep when this defendant entered the bedroom and lay on the floor beside him, placed his hand under the bed covers and stroked him over his boxer shorts.

‘The complainant said he did not like it and to use his words ‘bolted’ the next morning at 5am.

‘Ten years later he saw Father Dunkling at a music function in Hammersmith and says this defendant looked uncomfortable.’

Dunkling of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, had attempted to fool the jury and painted a picture of himself as something of a pathetic figure.

He was raided at his home by police at 6.30am in the morning.

The priest complained: ‘I was in my bedroom and I was terrified. It was dreadful, I was so embarrassed, I was humiliated.

‘I was put in a holding cell for seven hours and talking about it now brings back bad feelings. I was offered a glass of warm water on one of the hottest days of the year and the officers went out for lunch.’

He was found guilty of one count of indecently assaulting the boy.

After six hours of deliberation following three days of evidence the remaining eleven jurors convicted him by a majority of 10-1.

‘There will need to be a pre-sentence report and I agree it was an abuse of trust,’ announced Judge Rachael Harrison.

‘I am making no promises about what the sentence will be. The starting point is twenty-six weeks custody on the current guidelines.’

Dunkling’s lawyer Tanya Panagiotopoulou said: ‘There will also have to be medical reports. There are complex medical issues as he is awaiting surgery for bowel cancer and amputation of his foot.’

Bailing the priest until October 13 the judge told him: ‘I appreciate this procedure has been difficult for you and you said you didn’t do this, but the jury have said that you did.’