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The BBC's Angus Stickler
"The priest died two years ago"
 real 56k

Childline Founder and Chairman, Esther Rantzen
"There are many areas where we have to reassure children to make sure the truth comes out "
 real 28k

Father Kieron Conry, Catholic Media Office
"It takes people a long time to come forward due to the nature of the crime"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 13:56 GMT
Abuse inquiry at top Catholic school
Pupils enter the London Oratory School
The secondary school has 1,360 pupils
An investigation has been launched into allegations of child abuse at the London Catholic school attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair's two teenage sons.

The inquiry focuses on a former chaplain and governor at the London Oratory School in Fulham, south-west London, who died of a suspected Aids-related illness, several newspapers have reported.

Police and social services were alerted after pupils wrote letters about Scots-born Father David Martin to Childline.

While Mr Blair sends his sons, Euan, 16, and Nicholas, 14, to the school, there has been no suggestion that they are involved in the investigations.

The priest is dead, the abuse is over - there is nothing we can do to punish the man

Pupil's father
The former chaplain is alleged to have met at least six pupils in his rooms at the London Oratory Church, to which the school is affiliated.

Two boys were said to have expressed fears that they may have contracted the HIV virus from the priest, who died two years ago, aged 44.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "Allegations of abuse at a London school have been received by Hammersmith and Fulham child protection team.

"The allegations are being investigated."

Parents' concerns

Parents dropping their children off at the school on Tuesday morning had mixed feelings about the allegations.

"Obviously it is very serious, I think all parents are very concerned and will want to hear more about it to make sure it never happens again," said one father.

But another boy's father felt the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph were using the story as an excuse to attack the prime minister.

London Oratory School
Pupils are said to have phoned ChildLine
"The priest is dead, the abuse is over - there is nothing we can do to punish the man," he told the BBC.

"This is an attempt to knock Blair because Blair's kids are at this place. Look at the papers which are running the story."

The Daily Mail said Hammersmith and Fulham Council confirmed an inquiry began after a letter was sent to social services from a boy at the school.

A council spokeswoman later confirmed that no police checks had been made on Father Martin before he took up his role as chaplain and governor.

But she said that this was because he was not employed as a teacher by the school.

Archbishop received letters

Kieran Conry from the Catholic Media Centre said letters had been received by the Church in the summer.

"It passed them on straightaway to the social services, so that they were dealt with properly" he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He confirmed that the Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was among those who received the letters but said it "wouldn't be appropriate" for the Church to hold its own investigation.

"It is investigated properly by the police and the social services, it is not a church matter once allegations are made," Mr Conry told Today.

However he admitted it was a "cause of considerable distress and embarrassment" for the Catholic Church in a year which has brought strong criticism for its methods of dealing with paedophile priests.

The Church is currently reviewing its guidelines for addressing the problem.

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