Guardian Thursday 28 July 2016 04.21 EDT
Pell exposed himself to young boys at surf club, says Victorian man
Les Tyack, who reported to police the alleged 1980s incident involving
the cardinal, has gone public in the hope it will support child sex
Tyack has also spoken to the ABC’s 7.30 program, which has reported
police are investigating multiple child abuse allegations against Pell
along with Tyack’s allegation.
A man has spoken publicly about allegedly seeing Australia’s most
senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, expose himself to a group of
young boys at a surf lifesaving club in the late 1980s.
Les Tyack, from Victoria, who reported the alleged incident to police
and also provided a statement to the royal commission into
institutional responses to child sexual abuse, has gone public with his
story in the hope it will support survivors who have also spoken out
about coverups and abuse by members of the hierarchy of the Catholic
Tyack told Guardian Australia: “I
witnessed Pell involved in a situation where he very clearly exposed
himself to three young boys at Torquay Life Saving Club in the summer
of 1986 or 87
Tyack has also spoken to the ABC’s 7.30 program, which reported police
are investigating multiple child abuse allegations against Pell along
with Tyack’s allegation.
Pell has denied all the allegations, saying they are “totally untrue and completely wrong
and “nothing more than a scandalous
”. He said if the claims had “any credibility
,” they would have
been pursued by the royal commission by now.
The other allegations involve two former St Alipius students, who
allege Pell repeatedly touched their genitals while swimming with them
at the Eureka pool in Ballarat in 1978-79. At the time, Pell was
episcopal vicar for education in the Ballarat diocese.
The royal commission was unable to accept Tyack’s statement about the
alleged incident he witnessed at the pool because it did not fall
within its jurisdiction of examining child sexual abuse that occurred
within institutions, including religious, educational, not-for-profit
and charitable institutions. But Tyack has also made a statement to
police, who have interviewed him twice about the allegations in the
past 12 months.
“As a member of the surf club I’d be there at least every Saturday or
Sunday, I had kids involved in surf-lifesaving and was pretty active
myself,” Tyack said.
“I walked into the change rooms and Pell was in there and he was facing
three young boys, towelling his back. Then I went to have a shower and
he was still standing there when I got out, this time with the towel
draped over his shoulder and full-frontal facing the boys.”
In his statement to the royal commission, Tyack said the boys appeared
to be about eight to 10 years old and about two to three metres in
front of Pell on the bench along the opposite wall to the entrance.
Tyack said the boys were dressed by the time he got out of the shower,
and he told them to gather their belongings and leave the room. He said
he then allegedly spoke to Pell.
“I said; ‘I know what you’re up to.
Get dressed and piss off, and don’t come back to the surf club. If I
see you here again, I’ll call the police
He said he never saw Pell again.
“I’d seen him in the surf club two or
three weeks prior to the incident and I didn’t know who he was
Tyack said. “I was talking to a
couple of surf club members and I said, ‘who’s that guy’, and they
said, ‘that’s George Pell’, expecting me to know who he was and that he
was a bishop. That’s why I didn’t tell the police at the time, because
I thought who’s going to believe me over a bishop of the church? But it
was something I did mention to mates early in the piece.
Pell was appointed an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Melbourne
Tyack says he knew someone who was sexually abused by a Christian
Brother in a Geelong school, and that the incident changed his friend
“dramatically”. When reports about the abuse that occurred in Geelong
institutions were reported by local media in 2012, Tyack decided to
file a police report about allegedly witnessing Pell expose himself to
children. Guardian Australia has seen this police statement.
In his statement to the commission, Tyack said at the time the incident
occurred: “I was not aware of the
bigger picture and the problem that was going on with priests and
teachers within the church and schools
“I thought initially that it was a
once-off of Pell exposing himself. The more I have heard over the years
of the incidents involving victims of the Catholic church, the more
this incident has played on my mind
Guardian Australia has spoken to two separate witnesses whom Tyack told
about the incident at the time.
Fifteen survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic
priests in Australia have come a long way to be in the room when the
cardinal is asked what he knew
“I’m not some wacko with a
vendetta against the church
,” Tyack said.
“I’ve held fairly senior positions in
the community, and it’s not something I do lightly, speaking out like
this. I’d prefer not to be doing it. But I’m doing it to appeal to any
members of the public who have seen members of the clergy in
compromising situations to come forward.
Guardian Australia has contacted the Vatican for comment. In a
statement made to the ABC, Pell’s office said that he “emphatically and unequivocally rejects any
allegations of sexual abuse against him
”, adding that “claims that he has sexually abused anyone,
in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely
A spokesman for the Victoria Police chief commissioner, Graham Ashton,
told the ABC there was “very much a
” into the allegations. Ashton denied to 3AW
on Thursday that police had leaked the allegations to the media. He
said the Pell case had been referred by Victoria Police to the Office
of Public Prosecutions.
“They’ll give us an opinion on
whether more investigation is warranted, whether its not going
anywhere, whether they don’t recommend taking it further or if we have
got enough to lay charges
,” Ashton said.
It is not the first time allegations have been made against Pell. The
Southwell Report, an internal investigation conducted by the Catholic
church in Australia, examined an allegation that Pell had sexually
abused a 12 year-old boy at an altar boys’ camp on Phillip Island in
the early 1960s.
Led by AJ Southwell QC, a retired judge, the inquiry found in 2002: “The complainant, when giving evidence of
molesting, gave the impression that he was speaking honestly from an
actual recollection. However, the respondent, also, gave me the
impression that he was speaking the truth.
Southwell concluded there was a lack of corroborative evidence to prove
the abuse had occurred, that he was not “satisfied that the complaint has been
Earlier this year (2016), it was reported that Pell was being
investigated for allegedly committeding “multiple offences
” when he was a
priest in Ballarat, and also when he was working as the archbishop of
Melbourne. It was reported that detectives from taskforce Sano had
compiled a dossier containing allegations that Pell sexually abused
minors “by both grooming and opportunity”.
Pell has strongly denied the allegations, describing them as “without foundation
” and “utterly false
Cardinal Pell charged with
Article (with various links to related stories)