Child abuse inquiry continues as ex-head found guilty

FORMER Suffolk headmaster Derek Slade is facing a long jail term after being convicted of abusing pupils during the 1970s and 1980s.

The 61-year-old, who ran St George’s School in Great Finborough, near Stowmarket, will be sentenced on Monday for more than 50 offences – including child sex abuse, beatings and child pornography.

Meanwhile, police are continuing their inquiry into what went on at St George’s, and are believed to be looking at whether any other offences were committed there.

A jury at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday found Slade guilty of three counts of buggery, four indecent assaults and, six charges of actual bodily harm on 12 boys aged from eight and 13, between 1978 and 1983.

Slade was acquitted of a further buggery charge and another offence of indecent assault.

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Following the jury’s verdict, one of his victims spoke of his feelings.

He said: “I cried when I heard. It has not given me any comfort. I thought it would. I honestly thought when I took the call I would be elated and feel justice had been served. However, I don’t feel that. I’m just numb.

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“Slade is now where he belongs. He should never get out.”

In a joint statement, Slade’s other victims said: “Derek Slade stole our childhoods. What should have been the happiest years of our lives were turned into the most fearful.”

Investigating officer Detective Inspector Adrian Randall, of Suffolk police, refused to be drawn on the continuing inquiry.

He would only say: “The investigation is still ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

Regarding Slade’s victims, Det Insp Randall added: “I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for these men to come forward and try to make sense of what happened to them decades ago as defenceless young boys.” Jurors heard that Slade ran St George’s private school, which was initially based in Wicklewood, Norfolk, then moved to Great Finborough, in 1980.

Prosecutors said Slade hit boys with a slipper, a table tennis bat, a jokari bat, and his bare hand.

Before his trial, Slade, of Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, admitted 15 indecent assaults and five assaults on boys, as well as 17 child pornography offences and having a false passport. He denied the other allegations of assault and indecent assault.

He was remanded in custody until sentencing.

Sickening stories and drawings illustrating the depths of Slade’s depravity were found at his home in Derbyshire during a police search on February 15 this year.

One of the pivotal points of an investigation, codenamed Operation Racecourse, came when a Suffolk police officer stopped Slade at 3.40pm in Derby’s Browning Street.

The former headteacher was arrested on suspicion of sex assaults on children at St George’s School in Wicklewood, Norfolk, and Great Finborough between the late 1970s and early 1980s. By the end of the inquiry 13 ex-pupils were willing to testify to the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Slade, and how it deeply affected their lives.

When Slade was arrested three keys were found on him.

Less than two hours later, officers visited a property in Hailsham Close, Derby, which Slade had given as his home address.

However, the keys he had on him did not fit the locks, and police discovered it was the address of his sister.

It then emerged Slade lived in Farm Road, Burton-on-Trent, where officers used the keys to open the front door of the end-terrace property. A framed photograph of St George’s School in 1981 was on the wall of one of the three bedrooms.

One of the rooms was not used as a bedroom. It contained a desk, four filing cabinets, and two sets of shelves.

In a drawer of one of the filing cabinets, were hand-drawn illustrations.

A black box file on top of another cabinet contained graphic stories about children and more drawings.

A grey box file found in the room had former pupils’ names in it.

The stories found were based around schools and sexual abuse of young children, with accompanying illustrations of the most graphic kind.

As the investigation continued, 70,000 images of children were found on Slade’s computer. Nearly 4,500 of them were indecent.

A fake passport in the name of Edward Marsh was also found at the house. Slade got the name from the gravestone of a dead child and had used it as an alias.

Slade’s Burton-on-Trent home was also registered in the name of Edward Marsh.

He acquired the passport after reading Frederick Forsyth’s novel Day of the Jackal. He copied a passage in the book and visited a cemetery looking for the grave of someone of a similar age to him.

When Slade discovered the grave of Edward Marsh, who was born in the same year but had died aged eight, he stole his identity for a new passport, which he then used to travel abroad and purchase his property in Burton-on-Trent.

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