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Former Catholic principal's Russian love quest ends in murder

A 55 year old former teacher and principal in Bathurst Diocese in NSW has been murdered in Russia in a probable Internet bride scam.

As his official cause of death of Peter Julian Hughes was cited yesterday as strangulation, it appeared likely that he met his killers during a search for love in Moscow, where mail-order and Internet bride scams are common.

In the NSW town of Blayney yesterday, Mr Hughes' friend and former colleague Mike Powell revealed that the pair's last contact -- about three years ago -- was a letter in which Mr Hughes asked for a personal reference he needed for a Russian's hand in marriage.

"He was thinking about marrying this Russian woman," said Mr Powell, who took over from Mr Hughes as principal of St Joseph's Central School in Blayney, near Bathurst, in 1990.

Two women and two men were later captured on hotel security video entering the room and that night Mr Hughes' body was discovered, bound and gagged, by a hotel maid.

While Mr Hughes had been listed as a missing person in Britain on September 5 after failing to take up a teaching job there, he had since returned to Australia, then had flown to Russia on September 24, the spokeswoman said.

A nun at the Bathurst Assumption Convent, Sr Robyn McNamara, yesterday spoke of Mr Hughes' passion for Russia and its people.

Sr McNamara knew Mr Hughes through the Catholic school system.

"He had been to Russia, he really loved Russia. He was teaching English there and he always wanted to go back because of the people and the culture," she said.

She said the respected former principal had been forced to abandon full-time work because of a heart condition and had taken sick leave from MacKillop College in Bathurst this year.

The Bathurst community was devastated by his death, she said. "We are in deep grief at the moment."


11 Oct 2002