Sunday, November 28, 2010

Priest denies
Llanelli priest in alledged blackmail case denies child photo claims

Roman Catholic priest Father Michael Manning outside Swansea Crown Court.By david o'callaghan

A ROMAN Catholic priest who was allegedly blackmailed has vehemently denied a claim his mobile phone contained indecent images of children.

Father Michael Manning insisted it was also untrue that he and another man had been seen "cuddling on the sofa" at the presbytery of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Llanelli. The priest rejected both suggestions yesterday when giving prosecution evidence at the trial of a man accused of blackmailing him.

Michael Costello allegedly intimidated Father Manning into handing over £280 by pretending to have found indecent images on his mobile and by threatening to involve the press.

At Swansea Crown Court, 38-year-old Costello denies stealing the phone and blackmailing him between March 7 and April 12 this year.

He also denies stealing £135 from another man.

Giving evidence, Father Manning said that, after the mobile went missing, Costello claimed to have found images of children on it.

Questioned by prosecutor Patrick Griffiths, Father Manning emphasised that there was no truth in either of Costello's claims, but he agreed that he gave sums of £200 and £80 to Costello after feeling intimidated by "tacit threats" made by Costello when the defendant asked him for money.

When the phone disappeared he became afraid that somebody might "plant" something on it.

There had been much publicity about child abuse in the Catholic Church at the time.

Cross-examined by Ieuan Rees about his decision not to go immediately to the police, the priest said: "You react from your gut feeling — not from your mind, not from your intellect."

Mr Rees said the defence case was that anything Father Manning gave to Costello was given "voluntarily, without any pressure at all".

In response to this, the priest said: "I was under the impression that if I did not give him money he would make use of whatever he claimed was on the phone."

The case continues.

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