St Albans priest posthumously accused of abuse by two victims

Fr Thomas Heley.

Fr Thomas Heley. - Credit: Archant

A dead Catholic priest has been accused of historic sexual abuse by two victims in St Albans.

Father Thomas Heley came to the Parish of Ss Alban & Stephens St Albans in 1977, and stayed there until his death in 1986, during which time it was alleged he abused young boys.

One victim said: “I have been seriously affected by the childhood sexual abuse I experienced.

“It’s had a crippling impact on my ability to sustain relationships, as I feel I cannot trust people or let people get too close.

“It has had a major impact on my relationship with my son, I have been unable to be the father I could have been.

“I have turned to alcohol as a coping strategy in order to block out the abuse, which in turn has led to me losing jobs and exhibiting destructive behaviours which has had a negative impact on those around me.

“It’s only recently I have felt able to disclose this abuse and I am currently struggling to process the emotions that this has bought to the forefront on my mind.

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“I feel I have not been able to lead the life that I could have had, which deeply saddens me and my family.”

After contacting the parish, the victims were told several allegations had been against Fr Heley at his previous posting in Cork from 1999 onwards.

A St Albans clergyman also said he had been told by superiors to watch Heley near altar boys.

The mother of one of the St Albans victims said: “That man was allowed into our community and our homes, he gained our trust, there was no indication that he was a paedophile.

“If we had been given some warning or there had been controls in place to prevent him from having access to children then we could have protected our innocent child from enduring the abuse and the ongoing, debilitating effects associated with child abuse.

“Learning of this abuse has devastated us. We are heartbroken.”

The victims have reported Heley to Herts police, but because the priest is now dead he cannot be investigated.

A police spokesperson said: “Hertfordshire Constabulary has received a third party report regarding allegations of sexual offences in St Albans during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“Unfortunately, due to the suspect being deceased there are no lawful lines of enquiry that we can pursue.

“We understand how distressing this must be for the victim as these types of crimes live with people all their lives and cause so much damage.

“We have signposted the reporting party to an independent support network for victims of sexual abuse.

“If you are subjected to sexual abuse, we urge you to make contact with us as soon as possible.

“Your report will always be taken seriously and you will be put in touch with specially-trained officers who will support you throughout the process.”

Fr Heley was originally sent to St Albans by Catholic charity The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC).

MSC are a charity of priests who minister within the catholic church. Charity representatives recently enjoyed a private audience with the Pope.

In response to the abuse allegations, the charity said: “We have received historic allegations one of our priests based at St Albans sexually abused some young people.

“MSC fully accept and acknowledge the immense pain, harm and distress suffered by persons who have been abused as well as their families - and we encourage any person who has been abused to report it.

“We want to assure everyone MSC rigorously implement our child protection guidelines.”