A former church helper broke down in tears yesterday as he claimed he was molested by a vicar more than 30 years ago.

Father Edward Michael Wright, 69, invited the schoolboy back to his vicarage where he plied him with alcohol and performed serious sexual assaults on him, jurors heard.

Wright, the vicar of St Barnabas Church in Jericho, Oxford, since 1980, was also allegedly involved in a 'group rape' attack involving a number of men.

Now aged 44, the alleged victim broke down during his evidence as he told of a series of sexual assaults. He claimed that he received counselling for up to 10 years and his marriage suffered problems.

Wright, who has been suspended by the Oxford diocese, denies six counts of a serious sexual offence and six of indecent assault between December 1973 and December 1976.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard how as an 11-year-old the boy started helping at St Stephen's Church in Lewisham, southeast London. Jurors were told the lad craved the vicar's attention because of his troubled home life.

He also felt 'special' to be singled out by Wright, who was someone he trusted, respected and confided in. But, according to prosecutor Rosina Cottage, for three years Wright repeatedly abused him and was also party to a group sex attack.

The court heard that horseplay turned to fondling and more serious forms of sexual assault in the vicarage, often after services but the boy made no complaint at the time.

"He continued going back to the vicarage," said Miss Cottage.

"Clearly by this time Father Wright would be aware he was someone willing to submit to what he wished him to do.

"Remember how young he was. Remember this was 30 years ago. A young boy and a vicar, who's going to believe him?"

She alleged the boy fell victim to 'group rape' at the vicarage between the ages of 11 and 13 after an evening service. He had been given coffee liquor prior to the assault, the court was told.

Miss Cottage said: "Then he was raped by a number of men, he doesn't know who or very much detail about it and he's not quite sure that Father Wright was one of the perpetrators.

"But he (Wright) was involved and he was part of the joint enterprise of this boy being raped.

"A pattern emerged of what would happen to him after services and it happened on at least three other occasions."

A full police investigation was launched last year leading to the arrest of Wright. When Wright was spoken to he denied any knowledge of the boy or anything about him.

Giving evidence the alleged victim told the court how he was not the only boy who would join Wright at the vicarage after church services.

At one point he pointed to Wright in the dock and said: "That man over there, he touched me. I couldn't believe that the man would touch me like that ... I just complied."

The trial continues.