A CATHOLIC priest accused of sexually abusing young boys has been working just yards from a playgroup and church in Stone, the Newsletter can reveal.
Alexander Bede Walsh appeared in court on Monday charged with the indecent assault and buggery of four boys in the 1980s and 90s.
The 57-year-old was arrested following a lengthy investigation by detectives and the Crown Prosecution Service into his work at a North Staffordshire church.
Now, it has been revealed that Mr Walsh has been working as a chef at Aston Hall, Stone - a home for retired and convalescent priests in Aston-by-Stone until two weeks ago.
The home, which is run by the Archdiocese of Birmingham, is next door to the Holy Michael Archangel Church and just a few hundred yards from Aston playgroup.
Archdiocese spokesman, Peter Jennings, confirmed Mr Walsh had been working at the home on a voluntary basis since around November 2009.
The Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, also released a statement to people in the parishes affected the revelations.
It reads: “I would like you to know that I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers at what must be a very difficult time for many of you following the news about your former priest, Fr Bede Walsh.
“I continue to ask Our Lord’s blessing on you and all your parish community.
“Should you need to talk to someone in the present circumstances my Safeguarding Co-ordinator, Jane Jones can be contacted during office hours on: 0121 230 6240 or at other times on 07976 516 629.”
The Archbishop of Birmingham added: “The Archdiocese of Birmingham has co-operated fully with the police and will continue to do so. As this matter is now the subject of legal proceedings it is not possible or appropriate for the Archdiocese to make any further comment at this time.”
Mr Walsh, of Abbots Bromley, is charged with 19 sexual offences against boys when he served as a priest in Coventry and in the Cheadle area of North Staffordshire. The boys were aged between eight and 16 at the time of the alleged offences.
He appeared at North Staffordshire Magistrates earlier this week and was released on bail to re-appear at Stokeon- Trent Crown Court on January 31.
Sue Hanson, Senior Crown Prosecutor and reviewing lawyer with CPS Staffordshire, said: “Following a long and detailed investigation by Staffordshire Police, we received a file in December 2010 on Alexander Bede Walsh.
“The file was carefully examined and reviewed in accordance with our Code for Crown Prosecutors, to ensure that we had sufficient evidence and that it was in the public interest to charge Fr Walsh with any criminal offences that he may have committed.
She went on: “With all of the evidence examined, detectives were authorised and charged Fr Walsh with 17 counts of indecent assault and two counts of buggery on four boys when aged between 8 and 16 in the 80s and 90s.”