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Andrew Soper trial: Former Catholic priest found guilty of 19 historic sex abuse charges in Ealing

Andrew Soper, a former abbot at St Benedict's School, has been found guilty of 19 charges of indecent assault and buggery

Known as Father Laurence, Soper has been found guilty at the Old Bailey

A "sadistic" former abbot at St Benedict's School in Ealing has become the fourth man to face jail over sexual abuse dating back more than 40 years.

Andrew Soper, 74, fled to Kosovo with £182,000 from the Vatican bank in a bid to avoid being prosecuted for molesting boys at the Roman Catholic school in Eaton Rise.

The former Ealing Abbot, known as Father Laurence, was extradited to face 19 charges of indecent assault and buggery against 10 former pupils in the 1970s and 80s.

On Wednesday (December 6), a jury at the Old Bailey deliberated for 14 hours before finding him guilty of all charges by a majority of 10 to two.

Judge Anthony Bate remanded Soper, who remained impassive throughout while the verdict was read, into custody to be sentenced on December 19.

The scandal-hit school has come under scrutiny in the past, as both violent and sexual abuse by adults in positions of trust was said to be "prevalent".

Throughout the trial, prosecutor Gillian Etherton QC told the court how the victims were subjected to sadistic beatings by Soper for "fake reasons" - such as "using the [wrong] staircase".

She added: "It is the prosecution's case that 'punishments' as described by the complainants in this case were carried out by Soper in entirely inappropriate ways and circumstances and on many occasions with what can only have been sexual motive."

Andrew Soper, a "sadistic" former master at a top Catholic school(Image: PA)

One complainant who provided evidence during the trial said he suffered from flashbacks and nightmares about his treatment at the former abbot's hands.

He said he did not come forward sooner because he felt "embarrassed" and feared being beaten or not believed.

Giving evidence, Soper denied using the cane as a ruse to abuse boys who were given the choice of six lashes with trousers on, or three with them off.

He told jurors he went on the run to Kosovo for six years out of "stupidity and cowardice", fearing that his life's work would be wrecked.

Soper said: "If you want to destroy a priest, vicar, anybody, all you have to do is make an accusation up against them. Their future is ruined, their character is ruined."

Soper will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on December 19(Image: Getty Images)

The former abbot is the latest in a string of men to face allegations relating to their work at St Benedict's.

In 2009, Father David Pearce, 75, who was nicknamed the "devil in a dog collar", was jailed after he admitted 11 charges of indecent assault dating back to 1975.

Between 2003 and 2009, "master of discipline" John Maestri, 78, of Chatham, admitted five indecent assaults against children at St Benedict's in the 1970s and 80s and was jailed.

In 2010, John Skelton was also convicted of indecent assaults against two complainants said to have occurred in 1983 at St Benedict's.

Soper "abused his position as a teacher and priest" at St Benedict's School(Image: Google Maps)

Speaking after the guilty verdict was read, London Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Tetteh Turkson said: "Soper abused his position as a teacher and as a priest to abuse children for his own sexual gratification.

“He compounded this by trying to evade justice and fleeing to Kosovo in order to go into hiding.

“The victims’ bravery in now coming forward and giving evidence has seen him convicted of these serious offences.”

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