Brother on sex charges flees to Sri Lanka

Bernard Kevin McGrath.
Bernard Kevin McGrath.
Immigration New Zealand was left in the dark about a former Catholic brother who fled the country while awaiting extradition to Australia to face hundreds of sex abuse charges.

Law enforcement agencies failed to notify Immigration about 65-year-old Bernard Kevin McGrath, who fled his Christchurch home for Sri Lanka after being charged in June with 252 abuse counts.

New Zealand Police and authorities in Australia have failed today to identify where the breakdown occurred allowing McGrath, a former brother in the St John of God order, to leave the country.

He is alleged to have raped, molested and abused dozens of young boys in church-run institutions in New South Wales in the 1970s and '80s.

An Immigration New Zealand (INZ) spokeswoman today said there was no alert on McGrath's passport to say he should not leave New Zealand.

She said INZ would "need to receive information from police or another agency to put an alert on our system", and such information had not been received.

A spokesman for New Zealand Police said a "request for assistance" by NSW Police had been made in relation to McGrath - but he would not say what date that was made and what it entailed.

All other questions needed to be directed to NSW Police, the spokesman said.

In Australia, authorities - including NSW Police and the federal Attorney-General's office - declined to comment.

Australian media reported today that bureaucratic delays in McGrath's extradition may have been responsible for giving him time to leave New Zealand.

The Sydney Morning Herald said "a NZ source" said the formal extradition request had come to them from Interpol on November 15, almost five months after charges were laid.

In 2006 McGrath was found guilty of 22 charges against nine victims, and spent two years in a New Zealand jail.

He is now believed to be in Sri Lanka.


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