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A FORMER topless model who was groped by a randy priest last night told of her anguish at being branded a deranged liar in court.

Maria McBride was accused of going out for revenge by making up allegations alcoholic Father David Brown when he sacked her as his housekeeper.

But, after the priest was found guilty yesterday by a sheriff of one charge of sexual assault and three charges of harassing women, Maria was finally absolved.

Last night, as the 31-year-old single mum-of-three enjoyed a champagne celebration with family and friends, Father David Brown, 48, whose career lies in tatters, was facing up to three months in prison or a heavy fine.

He will also be placed on the Sex Offenders' Register when he is sentenced at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

After the Scottish Mirror broke the news of the court verdict to Maria, she broke down in tears and said: "This means I can have my life back.

"I have been looking at being branded a liar and a loony and that's what the Catholic Church has set out to do.

"But in the end I've won because I was the one telling the truth."

Maria went on to claim the case had exposed hypocrisy in the Catholic Church and she accused Scotland's top Catholic, Cardinal Tom Winning, of brushing the matter under the carpet.

She said: "I phoned the Cardinal, I phoned him twice and he put the phone down on me.

"I told him that I was going to go to the papers and I wasn't going to allow them to treat me like that.

"I told them they were picking on the wrong person because what I was saying was all fact. He thought I was a liar and that I wasn't suited to the job, that I was behaving in a typical way for someone of my type.

"He just looked on me as a single mother who wasn't worth the time of taking seriously.

"He looked down on me and it was obvious he wanted to brush the matter aside."

The court had heard earlier accusations by Maria that Cardinal Winning had lied to her when she approached him for help.

She said he broke a promise of keeping her conversation secret and then promised her job was safe just before she was sacked.

Shaking with emotion, Maria added: "This has had a terrible effect on me. I've been made a nervous wreck. Look at my eyes, I've not been able to stop crying."

After the verdict, another woman Father Brown harassed congratulated Maria at her flat in the south side of Glasgow.

The woman said: "This is the best news we could have had.

"The defence lawyers did their best to make Maria out to be some kind of crackpot but they believed us.

"Father Brown is a sick man and it would have been a travesty if he was found not guilty."Maria claimed that the letter firing her from her job at the chapel house arrived on the same day as a four-page note from Father Brown apologising for his disgusting attacks.

She said: "I was meant to be making allegations up but all the time I was the one who was suffering because no-one in the Church would believe me."

Father Brown's breach of trust was all the more shocking because he had known Maria since she was a primary schoolgirl and is the Godfather of one of her children.

He agreed to give her a job as his housekeeper when she turned up years later as a single mum.

During the two week hearing, Glasgow Sheriff Court heard how, in October, 1997, Father Brown had sneaked into her bedroom at St Thomas's Roman Catholic Church, in Riddrie, Glasgow, and drunkenly felt her breasts.

The 48-year-old virgin also tried to jump into bed with her, despite her protests.

Maria said: "He lay on the bed and fondled me. It was like a nightmare.

"I pushed him away, he told me he loved me and that he was a virgin and that if he ever had sex that he would want to do it with me.

"He said he wanted to touch me. I really freaked out and shoved him away, saying 'get out, get out'."

In court, Father Brown said: "I have sexual feelings as anyone has but I am able to control them.

"I am a virgin at the age of 48, if that answers your question."

But Christine Carvel, prosecuting, suggested he had been tempted by Miss McBride and that he had mistaken her friendship for something else.

She told him: "Your sexual feelings were let loose when you had been drinking and in the company of an attractive woman you acted in an indecent way."

The court heard that Maria had made up allegations of assault against other people.

The defence case was largely based on Maria's medical history and they told of how she had a hysterical personality.

The court also heard she had accused one of her babysitters and a hospital doctor of child abuse.

A GP now training for the priesthood wrote a letter saying she seemed to be a "dangerous person".

But Sheriff Maciver, who found another charge of indecent assault against Brown not proven, said that he found her to be a credible witness.

He disputed suggestions that she had manipulated other witnesses and fabricated evidence.

And he disregarded the claim by defence advocate Maggie Scott that Maria had been the "rotten core" of the case against Brown.

Brown's lawyer John McCormick said the priest was stunned by the verdict.

He added: "Father Brown is both surprised and astonished that, notwithstanding his acquittal in respect of the most serious charge, the court placed reliance on the evidence of Maria McBride.

"This is particularly so in regard to the medical evidence as to her psychological condition and the evidence of previous allegations which she has made against others."

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said they could not comment until Brown was sentenced.

He would not say what future the priest had with the church but added: "Father Brown has not been involved in active ministry for over a year since the start of the proceedings."

Sheriff Kenneth Maciver called for a social inquiry report and bailed Father Brown.

The priest will be sentenced on September 16.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 27, 1999
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