A perverted monk who fought extradition from Australia has admitted sexually abusing two former pupils at a fee-paying Highland school more than 40 years ago.
Denis Alexander, 85, preyed on the schoolboys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, whilst teaching history at Fort Augustus Abbey school in the 1970s.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard on Friday how Alexander targeted the young men in his study and during Yoga classes.
Judge Lord Burns heard how Alexander, who was a monk with the Benedictine Order, later left Scotland and became a Priest in Sydney, Australia.
But he was brought to justice after a BBC documentary called the Sins Of Our Father was aired in 2013.
Alexander’s victims saw the show and plucked up enough courage to contact police who requested his extradition back from the country.
The cleric initially fought attempts to bring him back to Scotland. But he was returned almost three years after the extradition request was sent to Australia.
Now Alexander has been brought to justice after pleading guilty to two charges of sexual assault.
Prosecutor Jane Farquharson QC told Lord Burns that Alexander’s offending represents a small part of the sexual abuse of the children who attended the school, which closed in 1993.
Ms Farquharson said: “These offences committed by this accused Denis Alexander are a snapshot of what is believed to be wider systemic abuse of children within the Fort Augustus Abbey School and its preparatory school Carlekemp, also run by the Benedictine Order.
“The Fort Augustus Abbey School has been the subject of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry from July to October 2019, in the course of which is the English Benedictine Congregation, accepted that physical and sexual abuse of children did take place. A sincere apology was tendered on October 1 2019.”
Alexander observed proceedings sat in a wheelchair in court with his head bowed. He has poor hearing and his lawyer instructed him to tell him if he couldn’t follow proceedings.
Alexander was known as Father Chrysotum when he was teaching at Fort Augustus school. He also taught bagpipes.
Victim was summoned to monk’s study
The court heard that Alexander’s first victim is now 60-years-old. He was aged around 13-years-old when Alexander summoned him to his study and ordered him to sit down.
Alexander “pushed” his hand down the boy’s trousers and started to touch him. After the abuse finished, the man did not tell anybody what happened until he saw the BBC programme.
Alexander’s second victim is now aged 58. He was abused after Alexander asked him to join a yoga group.
The court heard the man was aged around 12 to 13 at the time of the abuse.
Ms Farquharson said: “In respect of his second yoga class, the complainer found himself alone with the accused, no other persons were present. He described the accused touching him inappropriately.”
The court heard that on another occasion, Alexander preyed on the boy during another yoga class and forced him to perform a sex act on him.
The pupil told the headteacher about what happened. But the police did not become involved at that point.
Ms Farquharson added: “The complainer told the headmaster what had happened and shortly thereafter, the accused visited the complainer’s home address and spoke to his stepmother.
“The complainer was then sent back to school where the accused was still working.
“The complainer expressed his relief when the accused left the school shortly thereafter.”
Alexander fought extradition order
The court heard that Alexander left the school in the 1970s and stopped being a practising Benedictine monk. He remained a priest and moved to Australia where he was made a priest in the Sydney diocese in 1999.
The police became aware of the abuse allegations at the school following the BBC documentary.
The Crown Office requested Alexander’s extradition from Australia in August 2016.
An extradition warrant was issued by an Australian court in January 2017. However, Alexander did not consent to being returned to Scotland.
In April 2019, Alexander went to an Australian court in a bid to stop an order made by a judge the following month ordering him to be returned to Scotland. however, he didn’t pursue the legal action and came back to the UK in January 2020.
Ms Farquharson said: “Significant delays were occasioned in bringing the accused to Scotland as a result of the accused’s opposition to the extradition process.”
Ms Farquharson said that Alexander had already spent a significant time in custody on remand.
She added: “Since his arrest on January 23 2017, the accused has spent approximately 1,599 days in custody to date – that is four years and 139 days.’
Accepts his guilt for these offences
Defence solicitor advocate Shahid Latif told Lord Burns that his client was in poor health but planned to return to his “homeland” of Australia at the conclusion of the legal process.
Mr Latif added: “He cannot do anything more than what he has already done by accepting guilt for these offences.
“The Denis Alexander of today is different to the Denis Alexander of that time. He presents today as a geriatric and has significant health difficulties.
“He still plans to return to his homeland – Australia.”
Lord Burns deferred sentence on the first offender for the court to obtain reports about his background.
He will be sentenced next month.
Detective praises victims’ courage
Detective Superintendent Vince McLaughlin, Senior Investigating Officer for the investigation from Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division, said: “Denis Alexander took advantage of a position of authority and trust over the boys he abused in order to satisfy his own selfish and depraved interests over the course of many years.
“His deplorable behaviour has caused untold trauma for those affected and, while physical scars heal, the psychological effects are lasting and significant. It is important that lessons from the past are never forgotten to ensure the most vulnerable in our society are protected from abuse.
“It is testament to the courage of the men who came forward that Alexander has finally, after all this time, admitted his guilt and accepted responsibility for his actions.
“I want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to everyone who came forward over the course of what was a complex and lengthy investigation involving Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, which was followed by the legal process of extradition in order for Alexander to face justice here in Scotland.
“While today’s outcome in court cannot change the past, hopefully it will go some way to support and reassure the victims.
“I would also thank and acknowledge work of the Police Scotland investigation team who relentlessly and diligently pursued justice for the former pupils of the school since the allegations first came to light.
“The conviction of Alexander also demonstrates clearly that time is ultimately no barrier to justice. We are aware there may be others out there who may have suffered abuse in the past but have not felt able to come forward and report this to police. I would urge you to do so.
“No matter how much time has passed, no matter who committed the abuse and no matter where it happened we will listen to you and thoroughly investigate to bring people like Alexander to justice.”