An Ealing priest has blamed a "tsunami" of media attention for almost identical accounts of boys he is accused of sexually abusing at a fee-paying Catholic school.

Former abbot Andrew Soper, 74, allegedly molested 10 pupils during his time as headmaster and senior priest at St Benedict's School in Ealing in the 1970s and 80s.

Prosecutor Gillian Etherton QC quizzed the defendant on the "extraordinary" similarities between some of the alleged victims' stories during his trial at the Old Bailey on Wednesday (November 22).

They claimed Soper "searched them for a book under the ruse of patting to touch their bottom" and offered three strokes of the cane instead of six "severe lashes" if they took their trousers and pants down.

Andrew Soper trial: Former Ealing abbot claims he fled the country out of 'cowardice and stupidity' after sex abuse allegations

The defendant accepted he had checked boys for "padding" and had changed his account to police on "calmer recollection" of events of some 30 years ago.

But he denied bargaining over the cane, saying: "I never gave that sort of an option because I would never give a boy six strokes of the cane, that's far too much.

"I normally gave two or three."

The trial took place at the Old Bailey

He told jurors incidents had been interpreted in a "sexual way" against a "tsunami of media attention as I am named fairly frequently".

He cited a "backdrop of heavy media attention for the last 10 years" including a blog and "victim" discussion group, documentaries on Channel 4, Channel 5, Panorama, and news articles naming him and the school.

He said: "Against all that you have then got money, of course, which is a great incentive and the more elaborate the story, the more money you get."

Andrew Soper trial: Former Ealing abbot claims he fled the country out of 'cowardice and stupidity' after sex abuse allegations

He went on: "I think, if I'm right, that seven out of 10 complainants left St Benedict's before they completed their education for various reasons and none of them seem to have had, understandably, any love for the school.

"Also I'm associated in the media and public with a number of people who have been accused, and in some cases pleaded guilty, to child abuse in a relatively small school within the same time."

He denies the 19 alleged offences of indecent assault, indecency with a child, and buggery allegedly committed against 10 boys.

The trial continues.

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