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Stowmarket: Lifelong struggle of bandleader and teacher Derek Cable’s child abuse victims

09:34 27 January 2014

Derek Cable during his teaching days

Derek Cable during his teaching days

Late last year the child abuse victims of Stowmarket bandleader and teacher Derek Cable settled their civil claim against Suffolk County Council.


Thirty years may have passed since Derek Cable preyed on boys in his internationally-renowned Stowmarket Schools Concert Band, but the memories are still as raw as ever for at least two of them.

The 63-year-old was jailed for four years in 2003 after being convicted of 10 offences of indecent assault and eight of gross indecency against five boys during the 1960s and 70s.

Even now, as middle-aged men, two of them said they live their lives shrouded by the legacy of the abuse they suffered as children.

Rage, cynicism, sadness, and rebellion against authority are among its consequences.

Understandably neither man wishes to waive his right to anonymity and it must be stressed the names James and Matthew are not their real ones.

However, the pair are keen to speak about what they have been through to help ensure that children now are better protected than they were.

James joined the band when he was around eight or nine. He was in it during the 1970s and 1980s.

James said: “People saw Cable as a very professional, charismatic, and well-presented.

“He portrayed himself as a man of integrity.

“Cable was highly-respected by members of the band, the parents, and people around the band.

“We (the victims) were groomed from an early point. If you did really well you were likely to be promoted.

“He would use that as a grooming tool with the band members and their parents.

“The abuse started with a cuddle for doing well and went on from there.

“He used to have a cupboard, which was a little office. There were no windows, just the door and a desk and chair.

“That’s where most of the abuse happened during private lessons.

“He would also take you out for a meal, and invite you and others to his house. There would always be bribery with cigarettes and alcohol.

“The abuse was almost like an out-of-body experience.

“He was very good at saying ‘if you ever say anything or tell your mum and dad I will be in a lot of trouble and you will be in a lot of trouble – what will other people think?’.

“To a child’s mind it is total and utter confusion.

“You are tormented by it. You don’t want to go to your lesson, but how can you say you don’t want to go? Who was going to believe a nine-year-old over someone in that sort of respectable position.”

The impact of Cable’s abuse remains as wounding as ever.

James said: “It severely dents your self-confidence. It’s always there. There is always this feeling of burning sadness in your stomach.

“I have a very cynical outlook on life. My sadness and frustration is particularly focussed on people like the police, people in the church and all those who rallied around Cable. I feel they overlooked what he actually was.

“Looking back I feel people should have asked more questions of him and his motives.

“I feel we should have had more protection.

“We were all taken in by touring the world with the band. We were very privileged in that we were allowed extra curricular activities. There was a huge amount of good around being in the band, but no one could see what was going on underneath.

“One boy did make an allegation against Cable in the 1980s. He had stayed at Cable’s house while his parents were on holiday and was plied with alcohol before running away and being involved in an accident. However, Cable was never charged with anything and carried on with the band.

“At school other children plainly ridiculed us saying we were ‘Barney’s (Cable’s nickname) bumboys’. They used to call him ‘Bent Barney’.

“The things he did to me and the other children were sickening and disgusting, and continued for a long time.

“I have complete and utter contempt for the man, what he did, and the way he did it.

“It was an abuse of trust, and the respect in which he was held, to gratify his own needs.”

Matthew’s story.

Matthew was in the band during the 1970s.

He said: “When I first auditioned for the band I didn’t get in.

“Cable took great delight in saying ‘you are in, you are in’.

“I was a young boy – young and naïve. I really wanted to be in this band. I went to another audition. From that he gleaned I was very keen to be in the band. I made myself an easy target.

“It started with little touches here and there. When I became able to play I started to have private lessons with him and that’s when the real abuse started.”

At school when he was told to go into Cable’s small office the music teacher would follow.

However, worse was to come.

“When he really started to come on to me was when I was having private lessons which my parents paid him for. I would have one hour in the evening and that’s when the real abuse started.

“I passed a music exam. I did very well. Cable thought it would be a nice idea to take me and others for a meal at the Lavenham Swan on a Saturday.

“He said we could sleep over at his that night. Low and behold the other two people couldn’t turn up. When I got there off we went to the Swan. We had a nice meal and got back to his in Rattlesden. He showed me where I was going to sleep.

“I was tipsy. He had bottles of drink out everywhere – cans of drink, cigarettes and cigars. He just said help yourself.

“I eventually went to bed and a little while later I awoke with him trying to get into my bed naked.

“I went berserk. I was scared and he stopped, but he was very hurt. He said he thought I loved him.

“I was absolutely terrified.

“On the Monday I went to school I would say that’s when I changed from being this quite naïve, silly little boy to being anti-authority, and I have been since.

“I was sent to see the headmaster. I told him what Cable was trying to do. He said ‘how dare you talk about a teacher like that?’. After that I had to sit in the middle of the hall with my legs crossed so everyone could see me. That changed me.

“From that day on if there was a bully out there I confronted the bully. And if anyone told me what to do I would defy them.

“I stayed in the band because I loved my music. I stood up against Cable after that. I was a bit of a thorn in his side. Once when we were in America I actually hit him when he got hold of another lad

“My life would have been totally different if things had worked out slightly differently in how I dealt with it. What happened changed me. It changed me considerably. I am not bitter about it, but sometimes I think ‘what if?’.

“I feel we should have been better protected. The term ‘Barney’s Bumboys’ was used about us (the boys in the band). I feel people should have seen what was going on at the time.

“The abuse doesn’t go away. I have seen the effect it has had on other people.”

Matthew said he lives with the guilt that he may have been able to stop Cable if he had continued raising his concerns.

“If I had done something to him when I was 12 or 13 he would not have been able to do that. I think he became far worse as he got older.

“Since those days I have always sought to ensure children are protected and have worked with children on a voluntary basis.

“By speaking out I want to highlight it happened and do anything I can to stop it happening in future.

“I would say (to children) talk to someone you feel you can trust and speak to as many people as you can because someone will listen. Call Childline - tell your parents. I didn’t. After I told the headmaster I felt I couldn’t tell my parents.

“You should not be ashamed. There is a certain bravery in speaking up and I wish I had spoken up more loudly when I was young instead of leaving it 30 years to get Cable.

“There is no shame. Be brave, because you will be protecting others as well.”

Childline: confidential hotline 0800 1111.


1 comment

  • Derek Cable was also my music teacher. There were rumours at school about Mr. Cable preferring young boys. I do remember my Mum being quite envious of her friend who was having Mr. Cable for Sunday lunch. Unfortunately, their son was one of Mr. Cable's favourites. There was so much adulation from parents about Derek Cable at the time that I think it would have been extremely difficult for a young boy to report Cable's sinister side. All the best to "Matthew" and "James" for the future.

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