A MUCH-LOVED Riverina priest acquitted this week of raping a 10-year-old girl will never escape the black mark against his name, according to a former Griffith mayor who himself was cleared of serious charges.
Griffith councillor Mike Neville said Father Neru Leuea will always be stalked by the unproven allegations he sexually assaulted the girl in 2003.
Cr Neville faced a high-profile sexual assault case in 2012, while he was Griffith mayor, but was not found guilty.
“No matter where he (Fr Neru) goes or what he does in the future, this will follow him,” Cr Neville said.
“You don’t get your life back; you have to make a new life and it was not just for me, it was for my family – all of those lives have been changed.
“The frustrating thing is that you think you can go back to life the way it was but the difficulty will be getting some stability.”
Father Brendan Lee said it was “disappointing” more people didn’t show their support during a troubling year where Father Neru Leuea was “guilty until proven innocent”.
“It was a bittersweet moment,” Father Lee said of hearing the judge’s verdict.
“In as much as it was a giant relief that he was shown to be not guilty and can now get on with his life, it is bitter because the whole thing got so much traction. I just hope he can continue to have that same upbeat point of view.”