‘Priest’ rings women to hear their ‘confessions’

May 2nd, 2020 11:40 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

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A MALE, pretending to be a priest, has been ringing and harassing several women throughout West Cork, asking to hear their ‘confessions’.

Gardaí say they are concerned about the sudden spate of hoax phone calls targeting women by a man pretending to be the local parish priest.

The phone calls – which all come from a blocked number and are made to landline numbers – were made to parishioners in Kilbrittain, Durrus and Baltimore last week and in one instance, at least one of the phone calls was described  by gardaí as unsavoury.

Sgt James O’Donovan, crime prevention officer for the Cork West Division, confirmed to The Southern Star that gardaí are so far investigating five hoax phone calls that were made last week – four in Kilbrittain and one in Durrus.

‘The man who is pretending to be the local [named] parish priest was offering to hear confessions and looking to give them any assistance that they needed,’ said Sgt O’Donovan.

‘He’s not the parish priest that he says he is, as we have spoken to them all and we are satisfied that it’s not any of  them.’

Gardaí said four calls were received by parishioners in the Kilbrittain parish last Wednesday afternoon April 22nd. A man rang, claiming to be local parish priest Fr Jerry Cremin. It is understood that three of the women realised that the caller was a hoax and hung up on him almost immediately.

‘These calls can be very disturbing for people to receive and if you know anyone who has received similar calls, we would ask them to contact gardaí. We are also asking people to be mindful of all calls coming into their home or mobiles during this Covid-19 crisis. We are aware there have been a number of other scam attempts,’ added Sgt O’Donovan.

Meanwhile, Fr Michael Kelleher of the Rath & The Islands parish also confirmed that two of his parishioners received calls from a man last Thursday purporting to be him.

‘Two women were phoned by a man pretending to be me on the same day, within an hour of each other,’ Fr Kelleher told The Southern Star. ‘Both of them knew straight away that it wasn’t me and challenged the caller, and he was quite persistent that he was me and he kept going as long as he could,’ Fr Kelleher added.

In both of those cases the impersonator said he was ringing around to see how people were doing or if they needed shopping or deliveries. In those cases, he wasn’t offering to say confessions.

‘He made no progress here but my concern would be that while he rang two sensible people who knew me well, he could contact people who are more vulnerable,’ the priest said.

Fr Kelleher said the two incidents were posted on the parish Facebook page immediately to alert people.

The Cork & Ross bishop’s office said the diocese is aware that a number of parishioners have received calls from a person purporting to be their local priests.

‘The diocese is reassured that An Garda Síochána is paying serious and urgent attention to these matters,’ a spokesperson said.

If anyone has information on these calls or have received such calls gardaí have asked them to contact Bandon Garda Station on 023-8852200.

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