Alleged sex abuse victim to plead guilty to robbing churches

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An alleged victim of clerical abuse will plead guilty to breaking into more 20 Catholic churches. Image: ShutterstockAn alleged victim of clerical abuse will plead guilty to breaking into more than 20 Catholic churches during a three-month burglary spree that terrorised priests and parishioners.
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Motivated by a deep-seated hatred of the Catholic Church, Stephen Peters, 49, admitted to police that he wanted to create fear among the clergy, often cutting off power as priests slept.

A prosecutor told the County Court of Victoria that Mr Peters had vowed “to continue to offend until he received an apology from the church”.

Between February and April 2018, Mr Peters broke into Catholic churches from Swan Hill to Morwell and in more than a dozen Melbourne parishes, where he stole money donated to collection plates, wallets and more than three cars owned by priests.

Mr Peters found more than $14,000 in cash in a filing cabinet during an aggravated burglary at St John the Baptist Church in Clifton Hill on April 9.

Less than a week later, he broke into the presbytery of Our Lady of Victory in Camberwell, where he stole $1500 from a safe.

At Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ringwood, Father Anthony Doran was confronted by Mr Peters, who said: ” I’ll stab you, you f—en dog, f— off”.

Wielding a hammer, Mr Peters also threatened to kill a cleaner who interrupted a burglary at a church in Balwyn.

The crime spree ended on April 22, when Mr Peters handed himself into police at Heidelberg station after leaving a trail of forensic evidence, including fingerprints and DNA.

A prosecutor said the burglaries had caused “immense fear” among members of the clergy and unsettled the broader Catholic community.

He said that Mr Peters had told police he was abused by a priest when he was younger.

The hearing continues in the County Court on Monday.

–The Age

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