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By a Broken Rites researcher
Marist Brother Ross Francis Murrin was jailed in 2008 and 2010 for child-sex crimes, committed during his teaching career in Australian Catholic schools. There is evidence that his Marist superiors were aware many years ago about his criminal behaviour but they negligently allowed him to continue teaching, thereby endangering more children until the police finally caught up with Murrin in 2007.
Murrin worked in eleven Catholic schools in New South Wales and Queensland. Here are three examples:
As shown later in this article, the Marist Brothers were negligent in inflicting Murrin on his students, especially when the Marists kept transferring him (as a known offender) to more schools.
Civil action by victimsCanberra solicitor Jason Parkinson (principal of the legal firm Porters Lawyers) is acting for several Murrin victims seeking compensation
He says he possesses evidence that the Marists knew that Murrin was a danger to children.
Jason Parkinson told Broken Rites:
"After he indecently assaulted the boys at Daceyville, the Marist Order transferred Murrin to a school in Queanbeyan [in southern New South Wales, near Canberra] and then to Cairns, Queensland.
"The Cairns school is particularly significant. From 1979 at Cairns, Murrin committed multiple indecent assaults against boarders. Two siblings — let us call them 'Ian Windsor' and 'Gordon Windsor' [not their real names] — were repeatedly assaulted by Murrin when he was their boarding master. Unusually for victims of child sexual abuse, Ian and Gordon told their father, who travelled from a remote part of Queensland to confront the Marist headmaster in Cairns.
"Murrin wrote a letter apologising to the Marist Brothers Order. This letter is now in the hands of the New South Wales Police and has been subpoened by Porters Lawyers. Murrin also wrote a letter of apology to the family.
"Ian and Gordon allege that the Marist headmaster gave them two tickets to a circus by way of compensation for Murrin's assaults.
"After Murrin attacked another St Augustine's boarder during a school camp in 1981, both he and the Marist headmaster left the school. The ex-headmaster later became prominent in Marist 'youth welfare' in Australia nationally."
Murrn's sixth school was St Gregory's College in Campbelltown NSW, where he repeatedly assaulted "Rupert". Jason Parkinson's firm is acting for Rupert in Rupert's action against the Marists and the school for compensation.
Parkinson says that the Cairns background is crucial for Rupert's compensation case, because Rupert's assault occurred long after the Marists undoubtedly knew that Murrin was a danger to children.
The Cairns and Campbelltown schools were both boarding schools and Murrin was assigned to be a boarding master at both schools.
Jason Parkinson says: "During the 1970s and 80's the religious Brothers in boarding schools had more power over the children than their parents did. To repeatedly give a paedophile access to children in that setting is reckless and reprehensible."
Jason Parkinson was present at the Campbelltown sentencing in February 2010. As well as acting for "Rupert", he is also acting in compensation actions for other victims of Murrin from other schools.
Parkinson has been tracking Murrin's movements from his first school (in Sydney's Daceyville) to his next ten schools. Parkinson has travelled from Canberra to Cairns, Brisbane and the Gold Coast locating Murrin victims and gathering evidence.
Broken Rites researchRepresentatives of Broken Rites have attended Murrin's court hearings in Sydney and Campbelltown, taking notes of the proceedings (for this article) and chatting with victims. In addition, other victims of Murrin have contacted Broken Rites from both New South Wales and Queensland — either before or after the court proceedings.
Broken Rites has obtained this list of the eleven schools at which Murrin worked:
At Coogee and Campbelltown, Murrin's duties included being the "religious" education co-ordinator.
Judge refers to the Marists' follyAccording to court evidence, Murrin (born on 10 June 1955) completed his own schooling (Higher School Certificate) in 1972. In January 1973, aged 17, he joined the Marists and spent that year as a "postulant" (that is, as a candidate for admission). As part of his training, he was appointed as a Marist Brother to teach primary classes at the Daceyville school in February 1974, when he was just 18.
At Murrin's sentencing (regarding the Daceyville offences) in March 2008, Judge Helen Murrell told the court: "Despite his youth and lack of teacher training (let alone training in relation to appropriate sexual boundaries), the offender was given responsibility for a Year 5 class of 30-35 students [at Daceyville]. In effect, he was unsupervised."
The judge said: "The folly of placing an 18 or 19-year-old youth in charge of 30-35 Year 5 boys must have been obvious."
[That is, the Marist Brothers put these students at risk from Day One.]
When Murrin's lawyer submitted "mitigating" evidence (seeking a lenient sentence for Murrin), Murrin's psychiatrist told the court that Murrin had fallen victim to a system which had wrongly allowed him to teach at the "extraordinarily young" age of 18 and which had been "very slow to respond to this nature of sexual abuse".
[This amounted to an admission that the Marist Brothers order was negligent in turning Murrin loose upon young boys.]
Offences at his first schoolThe Daceyville school, where Murrin's first charged offences occurred, was a boys-only campus in Banks Avenue. The school was then being run by the Marist Brothers but the Banks Avenue campus has since been replaced by a full co-ed primary school (St Michael's school), now run by the Catholic Education Office.
The court hearing in 2008 was told that the abuse often occurred when Murrin asked one of the boys to come to his desk and ordered him to sit on his lap. He would then maul the boy sexually in front of the rest of the class.
A number of the offences took place on a "religious" retreat or during detention, with one boy molested while the class was in the library watching a movie.
The most serious incident occurred during a weekend, when Murrin grabbed one of the victims from behind and pinned him to the floor before pulling his pants down.
Murrin's behaviour was "quite open", the court was told. A pupil would witness another pupil being assaulted.
Judge Murrell said that Brother Murrin, even at 18, was tall. She said the victims were intimidated by the status and size of the offender.
The court was told that the victims were forced to remain silent about the abuse. Judge Murrell said: "One victim complained to his parents but he was disbelieved. His parents could not comprehend that a person in the offender's position would breach the trust reposed in him."
The 17 Daceyville charges were not Murrin's only offences. He admitted that there were other occasions he had abused the children for which he had not been charged.
And these eight boys were not necessarily Murrin's only Daceyville victims. They were merely those who were located by the police 30 years later. And they were merely those who agreed to make a signed, sworn statement for court purposes.
One victim died
At a pre-sentence hearing (regarding the Daceyville offences) in Sydney District Court on 1 February 2008, the court heard impact statements, showing how the abuse disrupted the adolescence of Brother Murrin's victims.
One victim ("Gary") ended up as a drug addict, dying of a drug overdose in 1987 aged 22, the court was told.
The assault of "Gary" was witnessed by another boy, whose testimony enabled police to charge Murrin in relation to the deceased victim, the court was told.
Gary's father said in his impact statement that the abuse by Murrin when Gary was 10 in Primary Year 5 completely changed the boy.
"This revelation (caused our family) total emotional distress and heartbreak," the father told the court.
"I'm now in a position to understand my son's disinterest in school matters."
The boy became "secretive and reclusive" and withdrew from the family, and developed a substance addiction to mask his low self-esteem and feelings of little worth.
The boy entered rehabilitation at 18 and left the program 40 times in five years, unable to overcome the demons of his past.
"The family was extremely fearful of his instability, that it would result in the loss of his life, which it did," his father said.
The revelation of Murrin's abuse sparked a "chain of detrimental events" for the family, leading to a "meltdown", he said.
"The effect of this knowledge of the abuse was far-reaching. Our grand-children in Catholic schools, we fear that they are suffering.
"Our belief has been rocked in all things Catholic."
In court, the Marist Brothers' lawyer demanded that the court should not allow this father to describe how Murrin's sexual abuse affected the whole family, instead of just how it affected the boy. The judge therefore prevented the father from reading his full statement to the court.
Another impact statement
Another of Murrin's victims, "Boris", said his faith in God had been destroyed by Murrin's assaults.
"It was only in my adult life that I realised that Ross Murrin betrayed all of us ... everyone in our class of about 30 students," he said.
"He betrayed the local community, he betrayed the New South Wales state government, the Marist Brothers order, the Catholic church and, most of all, our parents."
"My parents entrusted us to the Catholic system of education, they paid with their blood, sweat and tears to get my brothers and I through a more ethical system ... the same system that was supposed to protect us, the same system that my parents had trusted so much."
"I have not reached out and spoken to God for a long time ... I hope God and my father can forgive me for my many years of absence from our faith," the victim said.
Locked upAfter this pre-sentence hearing on 1 February 2008, Judge Helen Murrell refused bail and remanded Murrin in custody to be sentenced on a later date.
A Broken Rites representative, who was present in court, saw Murrin being escorted from the courtroom to the cells.
In effect, this was the beginning of his incarceration.
What the judge saidSentencing Murrin on 10 March 2008, Judge Helen Murrell enumerated Murrin’s charged offences, one by one. For some of the victim's families, this was the first time they had heard the details of Murrin's crimes.
Broken Rites obtained a copy of the judge's 15-page sentencing remarks.
Judge Murrell said the offences were generally "impulsive or opportunistic", but Murrin's position of authority over the students was an aggravating factor.
She said: "Each of the offences is objectively serious because it involved a breach of trust by a person in authority. Through most of the 1974 school year, the offender was a very important authority figure to each of his pupils. His status was secondary only to that of their parents. in addition to educating and supervising his pupils, the offender was supposed to provide moral guidance. Several offences occurred when the offender and his pupils were on a religious retreat. The offender breached the trust reposed in him by his pupils, their parents and the church."
Referring to the impact on the victims, the judge said: "They [the victims] were affected by having witnessed earlier assaults. They felt violated, ashamed and isolated. They lost self-confidence. Some became bullies and/or targets for bullies. Some developed anger management problems.
"Some victims continue to experience flashbacks, sleep disturbance and intrusive thoughts. Most victims have experienced difficulty with trust and with developing close relationships, particularly with women. Some continue to struggle with depression and anxiety. Some turned to drugs or alcohol to alleviate their pain. In 1987 [one victim] died of a drug overdose...
"It is inevitable that significant and repeated child sexual assault that goes unrecognised and untreated will have a substantial impact on the victim."
The judge noted that "in cases of childhood sexual assault, for understandable reasons, victims often delay reporting the misconduct."
The judge noted that in 1974, the age gap between Murrin and his victims was not large. She said that, in Murrin's more adult years, "as far as can be ascertained", he has directed his homosexual orientation towards adult males.
JailedFor the Daceyville offences, Judge Murrell gave Murrin a maximum jail sentence of three years and three months, with a non-parole period of 18 months.
Murrin was charged under the laws of the 1970s. The judge noted: "In 1974, non-custodial sentences were common for offences of this type. [Since then] the community has come to ... understand that authority figures, even figures of religious authority, are not immune from such conduct."
The offender's career
The court was told that Murrin started out as a primary teacher but in the 1980s and 1990s he did university studies, majoring in French. From about 1984 onwards, his teaching duties were with secondary-level students, teaching "religion", mathematics and French.
The court was told that in 2002 two of his Daceyville victims contacted the church authorities and Murrin spent 2003 in “renewal”. But he continued to be accepted by the Marist Brothers order. When the police investigated him in 2007, Murrin was in Rome, working for the Catholic Church as a translator.
A father's grief
Several of the victims, plus their families, were present in court during the March 2008 sentence proceedings. One spectator was the father (let us call him "Sam") whose son "Gary" died from a drug overdose.
Outside the court, Sam told Broken Rites:
"Sitting in the court during the several days of proceedings, I reflected on the irony of the situation. Here we were -- me and my wife, with my son's three grieving sisters, and their husbands (all Catholic), plus four of the sexually abused victims.
"Also in court were four Marist Brothers. Now I would have expected the Marist Brothers would be supporting the wrecked Catholic victims of the Marist system but, no, the four Marist Brothers were there supporting the offender, Murrin."
Sam said that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was "smart" in obtaining a guilty plea. The guilty plea meant that Murrin became convicted automatically. Therefore, there was no contest, and the victims were not required to give evidence in court.
Sam said: "My family and I were satisfied with Judge Murrell's sentence — in a climate where you get only seven years for murder."
On 11 March 2008, the day after the sentencing, broadcaster Ray Hadley interviewed the grieving father, "Sam", on Sydney's radio 2GB.
On air, Sam said he did not know about his son's sexual abuse until police contacted him in July 2007. The police obtained a school photo and located the boys who were in Murrin's class. The police told Sam that other victims had reported that Sam's son "Gary" was one of Murrin's victims. This was a surprise to Sam but it helped Sam to understand the tragic decline in his son's behaviour in the years after the boy left the Daceyvillle school.
Sam told 2GB that, after his Murrin left the Daceyville school, Murrin continued to have contact with "Gary".
In his teens, Gary became secretive and, unknown to his parents, he started consuming marijuana and tablets and later heroin, Sam said.
Sam said he learned recently that two of Murrin's victims contacted the Marist Brothers in 2002. The Marist Brothers "paid them off", Sam said.
But, said Sam, in 2002 the Marists failed to alert other families from Murrin's class at Daceyville to see if there were any other victims who might need help. The Marists remained silent. Eventually, after a victim went to the police, the police contacted Murrin's ex-pupils in 2007 and did what the Marists had failed to do. But it was too late to help Sam's son Gary.
[That is, Broken Rites believes that it was the police, not the Marist Brothers, who provided moral leadership in the whole Murrin affair.]
The story breaks in QueenslandAfter the 2GB broadcast on 11 March 2008, "Sam" told Broken Rites: "The 2GB telephone receptionist told me that, after Ray Hadley first mentioned the Ross Murrin case, the studio switchboard received a call from a listener, who was a former resident of Cairns in Queensland. The caller did not want to go on air but he told the receptionist that, on his first night as a boarder at a Marist Brothers school in Cairns, the caller had an encounter with Murrin."
Later that week, on 13 March 2008, the phone call regarding Cairns was reported as a news item on page three of the Cairns Post (far-north Queensland daily newspaper). And, in the same newspaper on 15 March 2008, the Marist headquarters in Sydney confirmed that Brother Murrin had indeed taught in Cairns in 1979-81.
Earlier, on 24 February 2009 the Cairns Post had reported that Murrin is under police investigation in relation to a charge of sexual misconduct while he was working at St Augustine’s College in Cairns in 1979-81. Murrin had boarding-school duties at the school.
The newspaper said: "It is feared that there may be many unknown victims of Murrin."
Jailed again, for Campbelltown crimesThe jailing of Murrin in 2008 was reported in Sydney daily newspapers and also in suburban weekly newspapers where Murrin had worked — that is, papers circulating in the Daceyville area and in Campbelltown. This prompted a victim from St Gregory's college in Campbelltown — "Rupert" — to contact the police. He pointed out that Daceyville boys were not Murrin's only victims.
During 2009, while Murrin was in jail, court proceedings were held, at which Murrin was charged with offences against Rupert.
On 4 February 2010, Judge Sorby in the Campbelltown District Court sentenced Murrin for sexually abusing a 14 year old boarder ("Rupert") in his care at St Gregory’s College, Campbelltown in 1982.
During the Campbelltown pre-sentence hearings, adjustments were made to some of the charges. The Campbelltown offences, for which Murrin finally pleaded guilty, included:
Murrin’s guilty plea qualified him for a discount in his sentence. He was sentenced to additional jail time (on top of his Daceyille sentence), extending to 31 January 2015, with parole possible after 31 July 2014.
After Murrin's sentencing, the Campbelltown victim ("Rupert") said outside the court: "As a boy I needed help, not abuse. Murrin assaulted and abused me in a way no child should ever hear of, let alone experience. My life, as well as my family’s life, has been wrecked by that Marist Brother."
Future actionNew South Wales and Queensland Police are continuing their inquiries into Murrin’s activities.
Jason Parkinson, of Porters Lawyers, who is representing some Murrin victims in civil actions, can be contacted on phone 02 6247 3477.