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Major sex abuse uncovered in Anglican Church

July 16 2003

A South Australian police task force into child sex abuse within the Anglican Church had identified 217 victims and 48 possible offenders, police said today.

However the number of victims could rise to more than 400 as investigations continued, Police Commissioner Mal Hyde said.

Mr Hyde today likened the scale of police investigations into child sex abuse to those for the infamous Snowtown bodies-in-the-barrels murders in 1999.

"We have well over 200 matters to follow through on at this stage, with the possibility of that number increasing significantly," he told reporters.

"By anyone's measure that's a very, very significant and complex investigation to carry forward.

"I certainly don't know of any similar investigation on this scale within this state.

"The Snowtown case would have to rank up there but in a different kind of way."

Of the 217 victims identified, police said 136 cases involved the Anglican Church while the others related to other churches and organisations.

Seventy-four cases dated back prior to 1982. The state government recently removed immunity from prosecution for sex offences before 1982.

Fifteen alleged offenders had multiple victims and six, including Anglican youth worker Robert Brandenburg, were now deceased, Mr Hyde said.

He said links existed with other states, including Tasmania, through the Church of England Boys Society.

"There is evidence, over the years, of some networking ... which is what you expect from offenders of this type," he said.

He refused to detail whether any offenders were still preying on children but said some investigations were close to completion.

No charges have yet been laid.

The task force, which was established in May, would be doubled in size to 11 staff to cope with the number of child sex complaints received, he said.

"I expect the investigation to reveal a lot more cases, particularly the pre-1982 cases that we need to investigate in some way to carry those through," he said.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see the number of cases double."

The police investigation was sparked by calls from two Adelaide clergymen for a public inquiry into child sex allegations.

Clergymen, the Reverend Dr Don Owers and the Reverend Andrew King, said they had information the alleged abuse involved a number of Anglican parishes and had occurred over almost four decades.

Their revelations prompted the SA Anglican Church to establish an inquiry into its handling of child sex complaints and apologise to boys sexually abused by Brandenburg.

Brandenburg was found drowned soon after being charged by police with sexual offences in 1999.

Dr Owers today said the number of cases investigated by police was not surprising.

"One victim that I spoke to suggested his estimate was approximately 200 (victims of Brandenburg alone)," Dr Owers said.

"I suppose that (217 victims) sounds like a reasonable figure, unfortunately.

"But it's generally accepted not all victims will come forward."


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