Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Cathedral cleaner jailed for child abuse

An Adelaide District Court judge has described the actions of a 77-year-old cathedral cleaner who sexually abused a school girl as 'cunning' and 'premeditated'.

Croatian immigrant Mato Karapandzk was today sentenced to seven years jail with a non-parole period of four years, for abusing the then 12-year-old girl in the early 1980s.

Karapandzk met the victim at St Francis Xavier's Cathedral in Victoria Square in 1981, while she was taking a wheelchair-bound nun to pray at the church.

The church was across the road from the girl's school, St Aloysius College.

Karapandzk was a cleaner at the church and began paying the girl to regularly wheel the nun across the road, which he told the court he would otherwise have to do.

But within months his relationship with the girl turned sexual, and over five years he sexually abused his young victim in and around the Cathedral building, sometimes giving her $20 after the abuse.

In December he was found guilty of five child sex offences by a District Court jury, and acquitted of a sixth charge.

Today Judge David Smith said Karapandzk robbed the victim of her innocence and disrupted her schooling and career opportunities.

"[The crimes were a] premeditated, cunning and secretive exploitation of a schoolgirl, which you carried off under the noses of Cathedral staff for five years," he said.

"You must have appreciated the seriousness of what you were doing.

"You had no regard for the harm you were doing. It was arrogant, exploitative and predatory behaviour."

However Judge David said he took into account Karapandzk's age and poor health, as well as his upbringing in Croatia during World War II, where he witnessed fighting and atrocities.

Outside the court the victim, who is now living interstate, said she was pleased at the length of the sentence and glad Karapandzk would not be able to abuse anyone else.

Karapandzk has been granted leave to appeal against the conviction in the Supreme Court next week.

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