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Fugitive former abbot appears in court over abuse allegations

Fr Laurence Soper (EPA/Metropolitan Police)

A former abbot of Ealing Abbey accused of child sex abuse offences has appeared in court after returning to the UK from Kosovo following a five-year police search for him.

Fr Laurence Soper, 72, appeared at Ealing Magistrates’ Court on Monday. In court, he gave his name as Andrew Charles Kingston Soper. He is now due to appear at Isleworth Crown Court on September 19.

Fr Soper was arrested at Luton Airport on Sunday on suspicion of a series of sexual offences against five boys, one aged under 14, allegedly committed at St Benedict’s School in Ealing where he taught in the 1970s and 1980s.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said Fr Soper was “arrested on suspicion of nine offences of sexual assault committed over a period from 1972 to 1986.”

Fr Soper, who was the abbot of Ealing Abbey from 1991 to 2000, was arrested in May under a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in Kosovo, but Kosovan courts twice blocked extradition attempts due to the fact that the country has a 30-year statute of limitations.

He was initially arrested in 2010, but failed to report to a London police station in March 2011 after being granted bail.

He was thought to be living in a monastery in Rome when the EAW was subsequently issued for him.

According to reports in Kosovo, Fr Soper lived in the Kosovan city of Pec for several years, going by the name Andrew, and had told neighbours he was writing a book.