Kesgrave/Devon: Teacher accused of child sex offences at school linked to Kesgrave Hall

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A former housemaster at a school with links to a Suffolk school currently involved in a child abuse inquiry has been charged with more than 25 child sex offences.

Throughout the past year detectives have been re-investigating complaints of child abuse at the former Kesgrave Hall school in Main Road, Kesgrave.

Now it has emerged that 72-year-old John Downing, who taught at Kesgrave Hall’s feeder school, Heanton School in Devon, is to appear at a crown court next week accused of abusing five boys between 1968 and 1982.

Although there was a connection between the schools there is no suggestion that Downing ever worked at Kesgrave Hall.

However, the Suffolk school, which closed in 1993, was founded in 1976 by those who set up the junior boarding school at Heanton.

Suffolk Constabulary has said 15 people have been spoken to in relation to allegations of abuse at Kesgrave Hall during the current inquiry. The original investigation was in 1992. It was re-opened earlier this year on the orders of Suffolk’s then chief constable Simon Ash, following complaints by ex-pupils.

Mr Ash ordered the probe after Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter wrote to him expressing concerns over a police claim that the original inquiry files had not been retained.

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In 1992 the Crown Prosecution Service said there was not enough evidence to prosecute any of the alleged abusers after a complaint from a former member of the independent school’s care staff.

Four members of staff, who had been suspended for seven weeks, returned to their posts.

Downing, a former teacher at Heanton School, was charged with 21 historic sex assaults against four boys earlier this year.

The case is due to have a preliminary hearing before Exeter Crown Court on December 5, it was committed by North Devon Magistrates’ Court.

Downing, of Torrington, Devon, is accused of 14 indecent assaults on a boy under 14 and seven counts of gross indecency on a boy under 14.

These allegations relate to incidents said to have taken place between 1968 and 1982,

Last week Downing appeared before North Devon magistrates charged with a further five counts of abuse on a boy under 14. The charges refer to the period between January 1, 1976, and December 31, 1980. Downing is on unconditional bail.

Heanton and Kesgrave Hall schools were said to have been established for boys with a strong academic ability, but who had perceived emotional or behavioural problems.

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