George Pell scoffed, joked and described a victim’s recollection of the abuse he is now behind bars for as “disgraceful rubbish” in his interview with Victorian police in Rome three years ago.
As the 77-year-old cardinal adjusts to jail life, the interview exposing the secret of his sexual offending against two boys in 1996 has been released.
The footage, played to jurors who convicted Pell of five charges in December, marked the first time he heard the detailed complaints which he passed off as a “product of fantasy”.
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Pell did not give evidence during the trial, so the police interview was the only time jurors heard from the accused himself.
Cross-armed and shaking his head he told Detective Sergeant Christopher Read to “stop it” as he read a victim’s recollection of Pell exposing his penis from beneath his ceremonial robes.
“What a load of absolute and disgraceful rubbish. Completely false. Madness,” he declared.
When the physical acts he committed on the boys were described to him, as told to police in 2015 by the surviving victim a year after the accidental death of the second boy, he again denied it.
“What a load of garbage and falsehood. And deranged falsehood.”
Pell continues to maintain his innocence as he awaits sentencing – up to 10 years on each of five charges – by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd on March 13.
Victoria Police has confirmed there are no further investigations into Pell, but the Vatican has announced its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will investigate with an inquiry that could ultimately lead to his dismissal from the priesthood.
It’s not expected to occur until after an appeal, which Pell’s legal team will pursue along with a bail application after the sentence.
Pell will remain in protective custody until then because of his high profile, including in lockdown which can stretch to 23 hours at time.
His barrister Robert Richter QC apologised on Thursday for describing Pell’s crimes as “a plain, vanilla sexual penetration case” on Wednesday.
“In seeking to mitigate sentence I used a wholly inappropriate phrase for which I apologise profusely to all who interpreted it in a way it was never intended: it was in no way meant to belittle or minimise the suffering and hurt of victims of sex abuse, and in retrospect I can see why it caused great offence to many,” Mr Richter said in a statement.