A former Catholic brother wanted in Australia on more than 250 child sex charges was reported Monday to have fled New Zealand for Sri Lanka before his extradition could be secured.
Bernard McGrath is facing 252 child sex charges in Australia relating to his time in church-run institutions in the 1970s and 1980s and was due to be extradited from New Zealand earlier this year.
But McGrath’s brother Clem told Australia’s Fairfax newspapers he had flown out of Christchurch several months ago after being contacted by a friend who said: “Why don’t you come to Sri Lanka? You’ve got nothing here.”
According to Fairfax, McGrath was now living on a tea plantation in the Sri Lankan highlands.
He was paroled in New Zealand in 2008 after serving jail time for child sex offences at a Christchurch school in the 1970s — his second stint in prison for such crimes.
Australian police told AFP they would “not comment in relation to this investigation as speculation may jeopardise current lines of inquiry” and refused to confirm “who we are or are not investigating”.
New Zealand police said they were also unable to comment.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare, who is responsible for extraditions, did not immediately respond to questions on the case.
Australia this month announced it would hold a sweeping royal commission into claims of child sex abuse within religious organisations, not-for-profit bodies, state agencies and schools — an inquiry expected to take years.