Police raid former Bishop of Broome’s home for second time over child sexual abuse allegations

Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC [Sydney, Australia]

February 7, 2024

By Erin Parke and Rosanne Maloney

Police investigators from the Child Abuse Squad are again searching the home of the former Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders.

WA Police last month confirmed they had restarted their investigation into sexual abuse allegations against the veteran cleric.

Bishop Saunders has denied any wrongdoing.

Half a dozen police officers are again scouring the Broome property, which is owned by the Catholic Church.

WA Police said child abuse detectives were in Broome investigating historic child sex offences.

It is the second time in a month the specialised police unit has flown from Perth to interview locals and search the home on Piggott Way.

The 73-year-old resigned from his position in 2021 after almost 50 years as a priest and bishop in the remote diocese.

“The Catholic Diocese of Broome will not comment on this matter at this time, given it is an ‘ongoing investigation’,” a Church spokesperson said.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference declined to comment on the renewed search.

Waiting for Vatican decision

Christopher Saunders is believed to be in Perth as the second round of search warrants is executed.

It is understood he has not vacated the house, despite being ordered by the Vatican to leave the Kimberley region while both internal church and WA police investigations got underway.

In 2022, Pope Francis ordered a Vos Estis inquiry be undertaken into Bishop Saunders.

The resulting report, completed by two former police detectives, was leaked to the media, and catalogued allegations of bullying, financial mismanagement, and the grooming of young men.

A year on, the Vatican is still deciding what action to take.

In other cases internationally, Vos Estis inquiries have resulted in senior clerics being defrocked or having their movements limited and pensions imposed.

The Catholic Church has confirmed the full report was handed over to WA Police, triggering a fresh investigation into allegations of sexual assault first made by several young Aboriginal men in 2019.

WA Premier Roger Cook said he was pleased police had allocated resources to the investigation.

“The sexual assault teams in police are obviously investigating some very grievous allegations,” he said.

“The fact that they’re back there today really just demonstrates how seriously they’re taking these accusations.”

[Photo caption;] A 200-page Vatican report was leaked detailing dozens of allegations against Bishop Christopher Saunders.