A former Roman Catholic priest who befriended families before sexually abusing children has been found guilty of 18 counts of sexual offences. 

Francis McDermott, who now lives in Bideford in Devon, was convicted at Aylesbury Crown Court on Tuesday for a string of non-recent sex attacks on six children

They all took place between 1971 and 1978 in High Wycombe and Norwich, where he worked as a priest. 

McDermott abused his first victim while he was training to become a priest in London.

After he was ordained he worked in Norwich and High Wycombe, where he committed further offences against the children of families he had got to know.

Some years later, McDermott contacted his first victim again, after being accused of sexually assaulting a young girl who he believed the victim knew.

The victim recorded the conversation he had with the priest at this time.

In 2017, after receiving therapy, he reported the abuse he had experienced and shared the recording with the police.

As a result, the police contacted the other victims who gave evidence against McDermott.

He was found guilty of five counts of indecent assault on a boy aged under 14, one count of gross indecency with a child under 14, one count of indecent assault on a boy under the age of 16, five counts of indecent assault on a girl under the age of 14 and six counts of indecent assault on a girl under the age of 16. 

The former priest was found guilty by unanimous verdict on 16 of the 18 guilty counts and by majority jury on the further two counts.

He was acquitted of a further eight counts - one count of rape, five counts of indecent assault, one count of gross indecency and one count of buggery.

Investigating officer Detective Constable Catriona Cameron, of the Child Abuse Investigation Department in Aylesbury police station, said: “Francis McDermott was a priest in the Catholic Church held in high regard and was a trusted member of the community.

"He used his position to befriend children for his own sexual gratification.

“The six victims in this case bravely came forward to report the abuse they suffered more than 40 years ago.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their courage and support of this investigation.

“They have been put through the trauma of a trial adding extra distress to them, and McDermott showed no remorse.

“Thames Valley Police will always take reports of any sexual offence seriously and will investigate reports thoroughly whether these are recent or non-recent.

“I hope this is the start of a healing process for all those involved.”

CPS Senior Crown Prosecutor Yasmeen Malik said: “Francis McDermott exploited his position as a priest to strike up friendships with families in his local parishes, and then used his charm and charisma to gain the trust of the children so he could sexually abuse them.

“The victims have shown great courage in admitting what happened to them and giving evidence against McDermott; it’s their brave actions that have seen him convicted of these serious offences.”

McDermott will be sentenced on March 14.