A former catholic priest, charged five months ago with numerous counts of sexual abuse in the Hunter, has fled to Sri Lanka.

65-year-old Bernard McGrath had 252 charges laid against him in a Newcastle Court in June this year relating to alleged instances of sexual abuse during his time spent at church-run institutions in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese during the late 1970s and 1980s.

It is understood that a number of the charges relate to McGrath’s tenure as a brother at Kendal Gange College in Morisset.

Police were meant to extradite the former St John of God Brother from New Zealand where he’d been living, but he was allowed to leave the country and now resides at a tea plantation in Sri Lanka where Australia has no direct extradition treaty.

It’s understood that Australian Federal Police based in Sri Lanka have been alerted to McGrath’s presence and may have been tracking him.