Tuesday, 26 September 2023, 18:33
The story of Father Fran, the priest arrested in Vélez-Málaga on suspicion of sedating and sexually assaulting women, started in January 2023 in Santa María Micaela church in Melilla, when a woman who said she was the priest's ex-partner confessed to having found a series of images of a sexual nature in the home she shared with him.
The bishop took the decision to remove the priest from Melilla and sent him back to Malaga, but without assigning him to a parish. However, it wasn’t until August that the ex-girlfriend went back to the church in Melilla where she confessed to having found a hard drive containing images of sexual assaults that Father Fran had allegedly committed on what appeared to be unconscious women.
The church referred her to the National Police and she went to the Family and Women's Services Unit (UFAM) in Melilla where she explained what she had found and gave the officers a copy of the images. The officers contacted their counterparts at the Central UFAM to work together on the investigation.
It was when the officers began analysing "hundreds" of photographs and videos - according to the sources consulted - that they disocvered 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 practiced 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 open source investigation (OSINT), which uses intelligence gathering techniques including social media, satellites and user-generated content to trace suspects and victims.
The officers were led to believe that all of the victims, who are aged between 20 and 35, were considered friends of Father Fran. 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.
While giving statements to the police, the women all said that they were unaware they had been sexually assaulted or recorded. Three of the women chose not to watch the tapes, but the other two did. All five have decided to press charges.
The investigators were then able to piece together the modus operandi allegedly used by Father Fran. The assaults were allegedly committed during religious trips. They allegedly took place in homes and even, apparently, in a parish house.
The UFAM mounted a plain-clothes surveillance operation around Father Fran’s home; a flat owned by his mother in Vélez-Málaga. At the time of his arrest he was working as a chaplain in Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación church in Yunquera and Santa María de la Encarnación church in El Burgo.
The priest was arrested in the early hours of 11 September as he made his way home to Vélez-Málaga. That same day he had officiated at morning mass in Yunquera.
While searching his flat in Vélez-Málaga officers located more material including hard disks, pen drives, several mobile phones and a camera - the contents of which being analysed and officers are looking for further victims.
The first videos date back to 2017 and coincide with the year in which Father Fran was ordained a priest. Prior to his ordination, Father Fran had publicly condemned the paedophile scandals linked to the Church, which he described as shameful, and told the newspaper La Opinión that his mother - who had been a nun in Vélez-Málaga - had passed her faith to him since from an early age. There is no evidence to suggest paedophilia.
In August 2017 he was appointed parochial vicar of Álora and parish priest of Ardales and Carratraca. In December 2018 he was appointed chaplain of the Diocesan Schools of San José Obrero and San Julián in Málaga and San Juan Pablo II in Alhaurín De La Torre. He was appointed parish priest of Santa María Micaela in Melilla and chaplain of its prison in July 2021.
Investigators have not ruled out finding further victims in Malaga, Melilla, Cordoba and Valdepeñas (Ciudad Real). They are appealing to possible victims and have called for anyone who thinks they might have travelled with him or coincided with him on any of his trips to contact 091 or go to their nearest police station.
The bishopric has issued a statement condemning the incident.
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