Cardinal George Pell has been spotted buying a phone charger and newspapers at a service station on his first day of freedom.
Cardinal Pell – who was on Tuesday acquitted of child sex abuse and freed from prison – was seen shopping at the petrol station on the Hume Highway.
He was filmed getting out of the back seat of a car and going inside the Woolworths BP at Glenrowan North, near Wangaratta in Victoria, about 1.30pm on Wednesday.
It’s understood he may be driving from Melbourne to Sydney, although it’s not clear if his trip may be affected by coronavirus restrictions.
Cardinal George Pell has been spotted buying a phone charger at a service station in Victoria on his first day of freedom
When asked how he was feeling after the High Court’s ruling yesterday, the cardinal said he was ‘very pleased’ to be free.
‘I’m sorry I’m not dressed a bit better,’ he said.
‘Before you arrived, it was better here,’ he told media at the service station when asked about life behind bars, before adding his prison experience was ‘not too bad’.
He also asked reporters to adhere to social distancing and not get too close to him.
The Victoria-NSW border, which is 100km away from the petrol station, remains open for traffic.
But under stringent COVID-19 measures people aren’t allowed to travel unless it’s for ‘essential’ reasons.
Victoria is enforcing the two-person limit inside and outside the home rule.
Victorians should only leave the house to shop for essential supplies, medical care or compassionate needs, exercise, or work and study.
People face on-the-spot fines of $1,652 if they’re caught breaching the directions.
Earlier on Wednesday, Cardinal Pell left the Carmelite Monastery in the Melbourne’s east, presumably headed for Sydney.
When asked how he was feeling after the High Court’s ruling yesterday, the cardinal said he was ‘very pleased’ to be free
It’s understood he may be driving from Melbourne to Sydney, although it’s not clear if his trip may be affected by coronavirus restrictions
Cardinal Pell was put up by the Sydney archdiocese after he returned from Rome to fight the abuse charges, having most recently served as Archbishop of Sydney.
He also has family in NSW.
The High Court ruled on Tuesday there was insufficient evidence to convict Cardinal Pell, quashing five convictions.
The spread of the coronavirus means he cannot celebrate Easter with any congregation and any thoughts of a quick return to Rome have been scuppered by international travel bans.
Cardinal Pell released a statement saying a serious injustice had been remedied and he bears no ill will toward his accuser.
The accuser, now a man in his 30s, came forward after the death of the second choirboys in 2014.
‘I respect the decision of the High Court. I accept the outcome,’ he said in a statement.
He also hopes the outcome won’t discourage child sexual abuse survivors from coming forward, reassuring them ‘most people recognise the truth when they hear it’.
Cardinal Pell spent a total of 405 days in Barwon Prison, in regional Victoria.
He was spotted being driven away from the jail on early on Tuesday afternoon, just hours after his convictions were quashed.
Roads were closed to allow the cardinal’s convoy to make his way to the Carmelite Monastery in Kew, in east Melbourne where he was greeted by a nun and a case of wine.
The High Court ruled on Tuesday there was insufficient evidence to convict Cardinal Pell, quashing five convictions. He was freed from Barwon prison within hours (pictured)
Cardinal Pell was charged by Victoria Police officers after a man came forward in 2014 alleging he and another choirboy had been sexually abused at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.
That boy, now in his 30s, gave evidence in court, revealing he felt compelled to come forward after the death of the other boy.
A jury convicted Cardinal Pell of five charges in December 2018 after an earlier jury was unable to reach a verdict.
Victoria’s Court of Appeal upheld the convictions last year.
With coronavirus sending Queensland into lockdown, the forecourt and road outside the High Court in Brisbane were empty for the handing down of the decision.
Cardinal George Pell leaves Barwon Prison on April 7
Only three journalists were allowed in the courtroom as Chief Justice Susan Kiefel handed down the decision.
‘There is a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof,’ the full bench of seven judges said in their judgment.
Cardinal Pell has always maintained his innocence, a fact noted in the High Court’s 26-page decision.
He told Victoria Police officers in Rome in 2016 that the most rudimentary interviews with staff and choirboys would tell them the allegations were ‘fundamentally improbable’ and ‘most certainly false’.
The High Court found the Victorian Court of Appeal majority – Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and President Chris Maxwell – had failed to engage with the idea that against a body of evidence, the complainant’s account was not correct.
The judges put aside the likelihood of the boys slipping away from the post-Mass procession without detection and the possibility Cardinal Pell could have exposed himself through his ornamental robes.
Instead, they focused on the evidence that placed Cardinal Pell at the front of the cathedral for at least 10 minutes after Sunday Masses in December 1996.
They pointed to the fact Cardinal Pell was in the company of Monsignor Charles Portelli when he returned to the priest’s sacristy to remove his vestments and there was continuous traffic in and out of the sacristy for up to 10 minutes after the altar servers completed their bows to the crucifix.
A fifth conviction relating to a second alleged incident, in which the surviving choirboy claimed he was molested by Cardinal Pell in a corridor, was also quashed.
The assumption that a group of choristers, including adults, would fail to notice the Archbishop in full regalia pin a 13-year-old boy to a wall ‘is a large one’, they said.
‘The capacity of the evidence to support the verdict on this charge suffers from the same deficiency as the evidence of the assaults involved in the first incident,’ the judges concluded.
Pell leaves the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne, Thursday, June 6, 2019 after his initial conviction