A priest walked free from court today (Tuesday) after a jury cleared him of sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy helper more than 30 years ago.

Father Michael Wright, 69, was accused of plying the schoolboy with drink and repeatedly molesting him at a church in Lewisham, se London, in the early 70s.

But Mr Wright, vicar of St Barnabas Church in Jericho, Oxford, since 1980, insisted the alleged abuse was a 'figment' of his accuser's imagination.

And the jury at Blackfriars Crown Court cleared him of 12 sex charges after he said: "I'm not a paedophile."

The complainant, now a 44-year-old man, claimed he was sexually assaulted and the victim of a 'group rape' incident involving Wright and a number of other men after a service.

Giving evidence Mr Wright, who was arrested last year, admitted he was gay but insisted he done nothing inappropriate to the boy.

He claimed to have only a "very hazy memory" of the church helper.

"I would have passed him in the street I'm sure," he said.

He added there was "absolutely not any truth in the claims."

The cleric counted Lewisham-born Reggae star Maxi Priest as one of his former helpers at the church. He said: "One I remember playing truant a lot and his father wasn't around a lot and I helped his mother.

"Trouble is I can't remember his name - I have since been told he became quite a famous pop singer called Maxi Priest."

Edinburgh-born Wright, whose of the vicarage at St Barnabas Church in Jericho, Oxford, was cleared of six counts of a serious sexual offence and six of indecent assault December 1973 and December 1976.

After his arrest Wright stood down from his post and his role as a governor at the church-aided St Barnabas Primary School in Jericho, in Hart Street.