THE priest accused of molesting a former pupil at St Benedict's school 20 years ago, told a jury: "The incident never happened and I deny the allegation utterly".

Father Gerald Stanislaus Hobbs - known as Father Stan - said the victim, now a journalist, was making the claims because he couldn't get him for an incident that took place on an Italian holiday.

The priest has admitted that the incident took place on the school holiday when the boy came to him with constipation, but as he cannot be prosecuted for that in this country he said: "Because he could not get me in Italy - he would try to get me in England."

The father, who suffers from tremoring in his hands, told the court he was born into a GP's family in Ealing and had joined St Benedict's Abbey when he was 18.

He told the jury at Isleworth Crown Court yesterday that in his 60 years at the Abbey: "No-one has ever made an allegation of impropriety against me, or anything like that whatsoever".

He said when he was 17 years old he had feeling for a younger boy.

"I had no idea what it meant," he said. "That was the only time in my life. I took a vow of celibacy, chastity, and that was that.

"I have never felt like having a physical relationship with anyone."

A former alter boy, Ronan Kelly, travelled from his home in Geneva to be a character witness for Hobbs.

The 32-year-old money broker said: "I consider Father Stan to be the kindest and nicest old man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting."

Detective sergeant Gareth Morgan also read his interview with Hobbs to the jury in which the 77-year-old said sexual images in themselves were not wrong but had to be rejected for it not to be wrong or a sin.

He denies one charge of indecently assaulting the journalist at St Benedict's Middle School in Ealing between January 1984 and December 1985 when the boy was 12 or 13 years old.

The jury is expected to retire next week. The case continues.