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Mother of two girls abused by Catholic priest calls for Pell's legacy to be torn down, & more in News in 5.

The following contains details of sexual assault which may be distressing. For 24-hour support, please call 1800 RESPECT. 

1. A mother of two girls abused by Catholic priest calls for George Pell’s legacy to be torn down.


A mother of two girls abused by a Catholic priest and who battled Cardinal George Pell for recognition says the convicted pedophile’s legacy should be torn down.

Chrissie Foster, with her late husband Anthony, spent years fighting Pell and the Catholic Church for compensation for their daughters Emma and Katie who were abused by Father Kevin O’Donnell.

“Cardinal Pell, Archbishop then, had absolutely no sympathy or understanding,” Ms Foster told the ABC’s 7.30 Report on Tuesday night.

“He was just angry and jumping down our throats, telling us to prove it in court or substantiate what we were saying and of course we had no proof because it’s just our daughter’s word against the pedophile.

“But now, I look at it under this verdict that he’s received, and I think, oh, my goodness, you know, he had a vested interest in shutting us up because he himself was a pedophile as well.”

The Fosters spent 10 years pursuing compensation from the church over their daughters’ abuse at primary school between 1988 and 1993.

Their daughter Emma took a fatal overdose of medication in 2008, and Katie was hit by a car after binge drinking in 1999, leaving her brain-damaged and in need of 24-hour care.

The Fosters took on the Catholic Church in the media, at a Victorian parliamentary inquiry and during hundreds of days of child abuse royal commission hearings, including during Pell’s testimony in Rome.

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Pell designed the church’s Melbourne Response, a reparation scheme for victims and Ms Foster said his legacy taken down after December’s conviction for child sex abuse.

“Everything he has installed or implemented, everything on his issue, everything he has said on this issue needs to be torn down,” Ms Foster said.

“It was designed to protect himself and people like him.”

2. The Vatican has described the conviction of Cardinal George Pell as “painful”.


The Vatican has described as “painful” the news of the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, one of Pope Francis’ most trusted aides and advisers, for molesting two choirboys in the 1990s but insists he has the right to defend himself until the appeals process is completed.

Acting Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti on Tuesday read a brief statement but took no questions about the conviction, which was delivered unanimously in December.

Due to a court order, news of the verdict couldn’t be published until Tuesday. Pell, 77, risks a maximum prison term of 50 years.

The conviction of Pell, who had been appointed by Francis to be the Vatican’s treasurer, risks further staining the pontiff’s already spotty record on cracking down on credibly accused clergy and over transparency on church handling of high-profile cases.

In 2016, reports emerged that Australian police were investigating abuse allegations against Pell that involved minors. But the Pope allowed the cardinal then to stay on in his Vatican roles as Francis’ leading financial adviser and as the Holy See’s economy chief, without any restrictive measures.

After Pell left Rome in the northern summer of 2017 to defend himself in his homeland, Australian church authorities forbade Pell from publicly saying Mass or having contact with children.

“In order to ensure the course of justice, the Holy Father has confirmed the precautionary measures which had been imposed by the local Ordinary on Cardinal George Pell when he returned to Australia,” Gisotti said.

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Thus, he said, while awaiting “definitive assessment of the facts” Pell is “prohibited from exercising public ministry and from having any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors”.

Francis had tapped Pell as his economy minister in 2014, early in his papacy, even though some allegations against the Australian were known at that time. Pell’s term in that role runs out this year.

The verdict represented “painful news that, as we are well aware, has shocked many people, not only in Australia”, Gisotti said, adding that the Vatican is awaiting “the outcome of the appeals process, recalling that Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence and has the right to defend himself until the last stage of appeal”.

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Pope Francis has in some cases cast doubt on victims’ allegations of abuse and cover-ups against high-profile clergy, including a notable case in Chile.

Earlier this month, Francis expelled former US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the priesthood after a Vatican trial found the churchman guilty of sexual abuse of minors and adults, including in the confessional.

The Pell and McCarrick cases drastically escalate the gravity and reach of the sexual abuse scandals for the Vatican, where last week bishops from around the world met to map prevention strategies.

3. After pleading not guilty, R. Kelly has walked out of jail by posting $US100k bail.

US R&B singer R. Kelly has walked out of a Chicago jail after posting $US100,000 ($A139,410) bail that will allow him to go free while awaiting trial on charges that he sexually abused four people dating back to 1998, including three underage girls.

Hours earlier, the R&B star pleaded not guilty to the allegations after spending the weekend behind bars. He said little during the brief arraignment, telling the judge only his name. His lawyers spoke on his behalf.

The singer-songwriter was arrested on Friday on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. A judge set bond at $US1 million ($A1.4 million), meaning Kelly had to post 10 per cent of that amount to be released. He will be forbidden from having any contact with females younger than 18.

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The recording artist has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves. Kelly has consistently denied any sexual misconduct, and he was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.

Defence lawyer Steve Greenberg reiterated at a news conference that Kelly has done nothing wrong and said no one has shown him any evidence to the contrary.

“Everybody is entitled to a defence. Everybody is entitled to the presumption of innocence. We should all be taking a step back. Let’s see what happens, what the evidence is and how this plays out,” Greenberg said.

Details of the allegations against Kelly emerged Saturday when the prosecution released four detailed documents – one for each accuser – outlining the basis for the charges. The allegations date back as far as 1998 and span more than a decade.

A jury in 2008 acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges that centred on a graphic video that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a girl as young as 13. He and the female allegedly seen with him denied they were in the 27-minute video, even though the picture quality was good and witnesses testified it was them, and she did not take the stand.

Each count of the new charges carries up to seven years in prison, making it possible for Kelly to receive up to 70 years. Probation is also an option.

4. NRL player Dylan Walker’s fiancee changes testimony in domestic violence case.

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The fiancee of NRL star Dylan Walker says she told police he pulled her ponytail and she fell because that’s what she believed to be the truth at the time.

Then she calmed down and realised that wasn’t the case.

Alexandra Ivkovic testified at Walker’s hearing in Manly Local Court on Tuesday after arriving hand-in-hand with the Sea Eagles player.

The 24-year-old has pleaded not guilty to domestic violence-related assault occasioning actual bodily harm and the backup charge of common assault after Ms Ivkovic suffered grazes to her shoulder, leg and feet.

The attack allegedly occurred on a concrete driveway outside their home on Sydney’s northern beaches, between 4.45pm and 5pm on December 6 after an argument over a PlayStation.

Ms Ivkovic was interviewed at 5.55pm by Senior Constable Clare Scully.

In footage tendered in court, Ms Ivkovic tells the officer a fight started when she made dinner and asked Walker if he wanted a fork or a spoon.

He got “p***ed off” that his game had been interrupted and “pretty much lost his s***, calling me a f***wit”, Ms Ivkovic said.

She said she left the home with a baby in her arms and Walker followed, pulling her by the ponytail to the ground.

But on Tuesday she told the court she recalls things differently now.

“When I fell, I thought at the time that he had grabbed my hair but then I realised that he didn’t,” Ms Ivkovic said.

She said Walker reached out to grab her shoulder and her hair got in the way.

“I legitimately believed he had pulled my hair which is why I was in so much shock and I was upset,” she said.

The young woman said she calmed down, confiding in her family and friends, and felt she’d overreacted.

She said she had made attempts to retract her police statement but nobody responded.

Ms Ivkovic said regardless of what happens in court they are “moving forward as a couple” and commented that she “wouldn’t stay in a domestic violence relationship”.

She was questioned by police prosecutor, Senior Sergeant Craig Pullen, about references she made in the police interview and her triple-zero call to Walker pulling her hair.

“Yes, and I told exactly the truth I believed at the time,” Ms Ivkovic said.

She dismissed his suggestion she was lying to the court.

Neighbour Lauren O’Sullivan earlier testified she saw Ms Ivkovic leave the house, cradling a baby in her arms, before a man quickly caught up to her.

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“I saw him yank her ponytail very hard and I saw her fall to the ground.”

She felt distressed and went to help Ms Ivkovic. Walker then allegedly asked her partner if he “wanted a go”.

Ex-Sea Eagles player Matt Ballin, Manly general manager of football John Bonasera and media manager Wayne Cousins sat in the public gallery on Tuesday.

The hearing before magistrate Michelle Goodwin resumes in May.

5. 79yo woman acquitted of killing her husband who drowned with weights around his waist.

An elderly woman has been found not guilty of killing her despairing husband, who drowned in their pool with weights tied around his waist.

Hazel Margaret Spenceley, 79, had been wed to 80-year-old Peter Spenceley for 57 years when he died in the backyard of their Perth home on December 20, 2016.

She has been on trial in the WA Supreme Court since last week, charged with manslaughter and accused of pushing him in.

Ms Spenceley was on Tuesday acquitted after about four hours of jury deliberations and there were gasps and tears when the verdict was delivered.

Outside court, walking with a cane, she sobbed as she thanked her supporters.

“I did not do anything to assist my husband,” she told reporters.

“He was the most wonderful man in this world. I’ve got to learn to live without him.”

The court was told that before he went into the water, Mr Spenceley was sitting at the edge of the deep end and had a bag containing two 3.1kg dumbbells tied around his midriff.

There was no suggestion his wife attached them or helped him to attach them.

Prosecutor Simon Freitag said Ms Spenceley told a paramedic and a neighbour who arrived to help that she pushed him in after he asked her to.

But defence counsel Justine Fisher argued she did not and was speaking figuratively, not literally, when she said “I pushed him”.

They jury heard there was no dispute and Mr Spenceley had previously threatened suicide and had “simply had enough” of stresses surrounding one of their sons, who had drug and debt issues.

Ms Fisher said her client was distressed, confused and also not speaking literally when she said by the poolside “my f***ing son has caused this”.

Ms Fisher told the jury that if they found Ms Spenceley had pushed her husband in, that wasn’t “a substantial or significant cause of death” because the father-of-two, who had early-stage prostate cancer, may have elected to stay under the water and was able to get out, even though he wasn’t a strong swimmer.

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The lawyer said Ms Spenceley did not know about the weights, which spilled out when police examined the bag.

While experts concluded the deceased had succumbed to immersion, Ms Fisher said he may also have suffered a sudden heart attack, given he had signs of heart disease.

The court was told Ms Spenceley tried to use a pole to get her husband out and ran next door to get help.

Mr Spenceley died on the eve of a cruise to the islands of Indonesia, which the couple had half-packed for.

Anyone needing support is urged to contact beyondblue (1800 22 4636) or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

6. Queenland surgeon accused of sexual misconduct.

A leading surgeon continues to work in Queensland hospitals despite health officials banning junior female doctors from training with him because of alleged sexual misconduct.

Letters written by medical practitioners who claimed professional and sexual misconduct against the Brisbane doctor were tabled in parliament by Liberal National Party MP Ros Bates on Tuesday.

He still works in a number of public and private Queensland hospitals.

The names of their authors have been redacted and only some of them are dated.

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The letters reveal claims he inappropriately touched female colleagues, asked for sexual favours, and invited colleagues to engage in sex acts with him.

One practitioner writes of junior female doctors being barred by Queensland health officials and The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) from training with him at a Brisbane hospital.

This was done “for fear of exposing any more female junior surgical trainees to his sexual misconduct”, their letter says.

Ms Bates did not name the surgeon in parliament, but said she had been contacted in recent weeks by medical professionals who disclosed the allegations.

“They claim that he is a rogue surgeon placing surgical trainees and patients at risk.

“They have taken the extraordinary step to speak out and they want me to speak out because they are sick of nothing being done.”

Ms Bates called for a thorough investigation into the claims, and said she had written to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and Office of the Health Ombudsman with her concerns.

The correspondence also details claims he rushed procedures and that patients needed life-saving surgery after complications that came about from surgeries he performed.

It also says he mismanaged patients after surgery, bullied and verbally abused colleagues, phoned them intoxicated in the middle of the night and verbally abused them, physically intimidated staff and told women they would make poor surgeons because of their gender.

A nurse told colleagues the surgeon touched her buttocks from behind, invited her to engage in sex acts with him while driving past her home at night and asked her to give him oral sex in theatre in a proposition overheard by other staff.

“On one occasion he lowered his pants in an operating theatre in front of nurses and medical equipment representatives and then stood in his underwear while another man proceeded to measure his waist and legs for a suit fitting,” another letter says.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons confirmed it had received anonymous complaints about the surgeon.

“(We) were unable to take the matters further in the absence of evidence and substantiation,” they said.

A spokesperson for the Metro North Hospital and Health Service spokesperson urged anyone with evidence of misconduct to contact the Metro North Integrity Unit.

They both acknowledged the difficulty of investigating anonymous complaints.

Comment has been sought from the surgeon.

If you have experienced sexual assault and are in need of support, please call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also contact Braveheartsfor counselling and support for survivors of sexual abuse on 1800 272 831, Lifeline for 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention, or, if you’re the partner of a person who has experienced sexual assault, you can contact PartnerSPEAK on (03) 9018 7872 for peer support for non-offending partners. 

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