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Boarding school abuse scandal: the unanswered questions and seething anger

PUBLISHED: 05:42 20 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:06 20 September 2018

Mike  Parker was abused by Derek Slade at St George's School in Finborough near Stowmarket. Photo: Archant

Mike Parker was abused by Derek Slade at St George's School in Finborough near Stowmarket. Photo: Archant

Archant

Victims of abuse at a private school are only getting a fraction of compensation they had been promised. Today more ex-pupils come forward to tell of their anger.

Ex-pupils at St George's made claims of more than £1m against the company behind the school for Slade's abuse but will only get a small fraction of that. Photo: SubmittedEx-pupils at St George's made claims of more than £1m against the company behind the school for Slade's abuse but will only get a small fraction of that. Photo: Submitted

Thirty years after he was abused by his headmaster, Steve Easey’s solicitor handed him a file.

The four-inch thick folder bulged with essays he had written as a pupil at St George’s School, first at Wicklewood in south Norfolk and then at Great Finborough in Suffolk.

But these were no ordinary schoolboy musings.

In explicit detail, they recounted the beatings and abuse he had suffered at the hands, cane and bat of Derek Slade.

St George's School was based at Finborough Hall near Stowmarket. Photo: SubmittedSt George's School was based at Finborough Hall near Stowmarket. Photo: Submitted

“I managed to read about halfway down the first page before I just broke down,” Mr Easey said, speaking publicly for the first time about the abuse in the 1970s and early 80s.

Slade, who was finally jailed in 2010 for 21 years, kept the essays for decades in his home which he had made his victims write.

In 2013 Anglemoss Ltd, the firm which had owned and ran St George’s School, agreed to pay compensation to ex-pupils.

Mr Easey, now 51, was due to get £40,000. But he was never paid.

Former headmaster Derek Slade, pictured, led a Former headmaster Derek Slade, pictured, led a "reign of terror" at St George's School in Wicklewood and then Great Finborough. Photo: Archant

In 2011 Anglemoss’ directors, John Sinclair, his wife, son and daughter-in-law, hired solicitors who moved the firm’s assets - the school’s building and business - to two new companies which they also owned.

Those new companies now own and run Finborough School which is on the same site as St George’s.

It left Anglemoss without enough money to pay the ex-pupils the agreed compensation.

It meant liquidators Grant Thornton were brought in by the High Court in 2014 to reach a settlement with Anglemoss.

That took four years and the final payout of £855,000, agreed this summer, barely covered the costs of the case.

It leaves the 36 boys with around £5,000 each which will be paid out over several years.

Mr Easey, who as at the school from 1979 to 1983, said: “I believe all the lads are being hung out to dry.”

Ex-pupil Hamilton Scott, 53, who suffered physical abuse at the school, and now lives in New Zealand, said he had written to his lawyers about his disgust at the settlement.

Liquidators said the way the school's ownership structure changed in 2011 was Liquidators said the way the school's ownership structure changed in 2011 was "inapproriate". The school was transferred to a company owned by Louise Sinclair (HR Director) and James Sinclair (Principal), first and second left. The buildings were moved to a company initially owned by John Sinclair (right) and now owned by his wife Susan. Photo: Submitted

“I feel that we have been further insulted by the companies that were meant to be protecting us,” he said.

Another of Slade’s victims, Mike Parker, did get paid compensation as his claim was covered by the school’s insurance.

But Mr Parker, whose testimony helped lead to Slade’s arrest in 2010, said: “The Sinclairs agreed to pay damages to the boys in the claims, but they never paid. I consider this just as bad as the abuse itself.”

Away from the settlement, the pupils still have questions about how Slade got away with abusing so many boys at the school.

Steve Easey was a pupil at St George's School in Wicklewood and Great Finborough where he was abused by headmaster Derek Slade. Photo: Steve EaseySteve Easey was a pupil at St George's School in Wicklewood and Great Finborough where he was abused by headmaster Derek Slade. Photo: Steve Easey

Mr Easey, from Wiltshire, said: “We don’t know how staff didn’t notice what was going on with the abuse.”

During Slade’s trial in 2010 Ipswich Crown Court was told about “midnight feasts” at Slade’s home in the school grounds where he and friends sexually abused school boys.

Mr Easey, who now works as a project coordinator, said those boys would have had to have walked around the grounds in the middle of the night to get to and from Slade’s house.

The physical abuse at St George’s was first exposed in 1982 on BBC Radio 4 by journalist Roger Cook and led to national headlines.

Derek Slade

 was arrested in 2010 and jailed for 21 years. Photo: Suffolk ConstabularyDerek Slade was arrested in 2010 and jailed for 21 years. Photo: Suffolk Constabulary

Slade denied the allegations but then left the school.

Mr Parker, from Newcastle upon Tyne, said boys who spoke out about the abuse were labelled liars and fantasists.

“I was one of those boys and I knew many others that were accused and blamed for the actions of staff,” he said.

Aside from Slade, who died in 2016, two other former teachers at St George’s have also been jailed - Gerard Singer and Alan Brigden.

Derek Slade showing his cane at St George's School in the 1980s. Photo: SubmittedDerek Slade showing his cane at St George's School in the 1980s. Photo: Submitted

•The unanswered questions

We have asked the directors of Anglemoss Ltd, the Sinclairs, through Finborough School, the following questions but they have not responded.

-What was the justification for transferring the ownership of the school and assets to separate companies and away from Anglemoss?

-Why were no provisions made in Anglemoss’ accounts for the liabilities regarding compensation for the abuse victims?

-Why did Anglemoss not pay the agreed sums, putting the victims through years more stress and ultimately leading to far smaller payouts?

-We also asked for a response to the ex-pupils’ allegations that staff knew about Slade’s abuse.

John Sinclair, the founder and former principal of St George’s School, denied during Slade’s trial in 2010 that staff were too frightened to talk to Slade and would turn a blind eye to abuse.

•Timeline of the case

1978: St George’s School established by John Sinclair near Wymondham. Derek Slade appointed headmaster.

1980: It moves to Great Finborough near Stowmarket

1982: Abuse allegations made by pupils to journalist Roger Cook. Slade denies allegations but leaves

2009: Ex-pupils report Slade’s abuse to police.

September 2010: Slade convicted, jailed for 21 years.

Late 2010: Solicitors begin acting for ex-pupils to get compensation

February 2011: Former teacher Alan Williams arrested but takes own life in June while on bail

July 2012: Former maths teacher at school Alan Brigden jailed for five years

March 2014: Court appoints auditors to liquidate company behind school

June 2015: Solicitors issue claims against school’s new companies

March 2016: Slade dies at 66

September 2016: Ex-teacher Gerard Singer jailed

July 2018: Ex-pupils told liquidator has settled claims

•Follow the latest from our investigations unit on Facebook

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