Catholic abbot, 80, wanted in connection with child sex offences, has vanished

FATHER Laurence Soper, an ex-London abbot accused of sexually abusing children, is reportedly on the run from police after jumping bail.

Soper, an abbot in Ealing between 1991 and 2000, was arrested last year on suspicion of sexual assault. He is now the subject of an international manhunt after jumping bail earlier this year.

The allegations against him cover a 20 year period, and relate to the time when he was head monk at St Benedict’s, a private school attached to Ealing Abbey.

Father Laurence Soper

Posting a comment beneath the London Evening Standard report, a former pupil wrote:

St Benedict’s always was and always will be a truly hateful place, ruining young people’s lives with a culture of sadism and abuse (mental and physical as well as sexual) that is not only tacitly accepted and tolerated but actively encouraged. A pox on the place. Do your kids a favour and don’t send them there.

We now learn that the Vatican has ordered an inquiry into decades of sexual abuse by clerics at the Benedictine abbey, which runs St Benedict’s.

A former headmaster, Father David Pearce, was jailed in 2009 for abusing boys at the school over a 35-year period. He was dubbed the “devil in a dog collar” by one of his victims.

The Vatican confirmed yesterday that it had launched an investigation, known as “an apostolic visitation”.

Bishop John Arnold and the Right Rev. Richard Yeo, President of the English Benedictine Congregation, visited Ealing Abbey last month as part of the Vatican inquiry, according to Eddie Tulasiewicz, spokesman for the Catholic diocese of Westminster.

St Benedict’s School is holding its own inquiry into the scandal, led by lawyer Lord Carlile, and his report is due to be published soon.

London’s Metropolitan Police said police are trying to trace Soper, who was arrested and bailed last year on suspicion of “historic sexual assault.”

Ealing’s current abbot, Martin Shipperlee, said earlier this month that in March, Soper:

Left the monastery in Rome where he had been living to travel to London for an appointment with the police. Unfortunately he failed to keep that appointment and we have heard nothing from him since and all efforts to contact him have been without success.