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The arrested priest who allegedly targeted friends. Ñito Salas
Arrested Vélez priest may have abused more women

Arrested Vélez priest may have abused more women

Father Fran's secret girlfriend found computer photos and videos and he is alleged to have told her "You already know I'm a bit of a lad"

Juan Cano / SUR

MALAGA.

Friday, 29 September 2023, 12:50

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Police investigating a Catholic priest who has been held over computer files with photos and videos of him allegedly sexually abusing four sedated or sleeping semi-naked women have not ruled out that more women could have been targeted.

The 33-year-old priest, named as Father Fran, was arrested on 11 September while returning to his mother's home in Vélez-Málaga where he had been living.

The computer files of the alleged abuse had been handed to police last month by the former girlfriend of Father Fran. She said she had found them last Christmas on the priest's computer in Melilla where he was working and had taken copies.

However, the woman, fearful of harming the reputation of the Church and saying she was in love with the priest, had held off handing them in for several months, sources close to the case have said.

The woman did however confess to her relationship with the priest in early January in her church, Santa María Micaela, in Melilla, where it was said to have be an open secret that they were a couple. According to sources, she commented then that she had found something of Fran's that could involve illicit behaviour and was advised to go to the police.

The priest was moved from Melilla back to Malaga province by the church authorities earlier this year to avoid the scandal. He had been recently working as a replacement priest in Yunquera and El Burgo in Sierra de las Nieves.

Once the computer files were handed to police in Melilla in August, officers alerted specialist investigators.

There was a further twist in the case to come, however, when Father Fran made a complaint to police on 6 September, five days before he was finally arrested, saying that computer items and 3,000 euros in cash had allegedly been taken by his then girlfriend. Father Fran's statement is key to the case, as it suggests he acknowledged that the images provided by her belong to him.

Father Fran also allegedly admitted in that statement that he had had a relationship with the woman but claimed that he wanted to end it. According to the same sources, he implied that the young woman had acted out of spite.

In her statements, the former girlfriend is said to have challenged her boyfriend when she originally found the recordings. He is said to have claimed they were from a past stage in his life but also declared to her that "you already know I'm a bit of a lad". The first images date back to 2017 and coincide with the year in which Father Fran was ordained a priest.

The images were taken allegedly on trips with friends. It was when the officers began analysing "hundreds" of photographs and videos - according to the sources consulted - that they discovered the suspect had organised them into four folders with the initials of each of his victims.

The four women appeared to have been given a sedative before the man practised sexual acts "of all kinds" on them. Father Fran was identified in the videos, but the officers still had to put names and surnames to the victims. They used social media and other sources to successfully trace suspects and victims.

There was a fifth woman who was allegedly videotaped but not assaulted. As such the priest is charged with four offences of sexual assault and five offences against privacy.

Father Fran has strong links to Malaga province. His mother had been a nun in Vélez-Málaga. In August 2017 he was appointed parochial vicar of Álora and parish priest of Ardales and Carratraca ahead of moving to Melilla in 2021.

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