Paedophile priest Francis Paul Cullen avoided police for 20 years

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Media captionCullen admitted dozens of charges of historical sex abuse against seven children in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire

The fugitive paedophile priest Paul Cullen evaded capture by the police for more than 20 years living on the Spanish island of Tenerife.

But the 85-year-old was not living under an alias - he was using his own name in the resort of Los Cristianos.

Cullen has admitted dozens of charges of historical sex abuse against seven children in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, dating back to 1957.

He is due to be sentenced at the same court next month.

Cullen's victims were all children, some of them only six-years-old.

'Normal person'

They included altar boys, connected to three churches - St Mary's in Hyson Green, Nottingham; Christ the King in Mackworth, Derby, and St Anne's in Buxton, Derbyshire.

Image copyright Unknown/ police in Spain
Image caption Francis Paul Cullen abused children over a 36-year period.

Sexual abuse allegations were made against Cullen in 1991 and he appeared in court in Nottingham but a month later he skipped bail.

After police circulated a description, a priest in Playa de las Americas, Tenerife, recognised him and Cullen was arrested in 2012.

Det Con Matt Goodwin said it took 21 years to arrest the priest because "he did not want to be found".

"We had some concrete information in 2012 that Father Cullen had been living in Tenerife. That information had come to us from the Catholic Safeguarding Board," he said.

"That was the start in getting a European warrant to get this man back to this country."

It is believed Cullen lived openly in an apartment block for about 15 years, before being kicked out for non-payment of a community fee.

Father Jose Estevex Herrar, parish priest in Los Cristianos, said Cullen attended services "once or twice a month".

He said: "Once, perhaps two years ago, he told me he was a priest.

"I was surprised. I have seen him before - just a normal person and suddenly he's a priest.

"It was impossible to think of that man coming here regularly and then suddenly he was a criminal. Not in Asia, Australia, Thailand but here in a European community.

"He was a normal person among the others - from what I could see, of course."


David Elliott from Matlock, Derbyshire, who has lived on the island for 18 years, said he was "not surprised" someone could hide there.

"The clientele changes all the time. There are new faces around all the time," he said.

"I am not surprised because there are such a lot of people here. But it does seem a long length of time, 21 years."

Cullen, who helped to build Christ the King Church in Mackworth, abused some of his victims over many years. They were all connected to the church, police said.

Father Andrew Cole, of the diocese of Nottingham, said: "I think he probably was a charismatic priest - I have heard that said about him, but he abused that position of trust.

"There will be people that remember him fondly but I hope that's tempered by the shadow side of his life."

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