Stowmarket: Police question five former staff in school abuse inquiry

29/6/11; (Screengrab) Oakwood School in Stowmarket.

29/6/11; (Screengrab) Oakwood School in Stowmarket. - Credit: Archant

FIVE former members of staff at a Suffolk school embroiled in child abuse claims involving up to 100 pupils have been interviewed under police caution.

The quintet were questioned following allegations of sexual and physical abuse at Oakwood School in Stowmarket, which closed more than 10 years ago.

However, police have said those spoken to have not been arrested.

It has not been revealed whether they were teachers or auxiliary staff.

Lisa Miller, a spokeswoman for the force, said: “I can confirm that five people have been interviewed under caution.

“The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made at this stage.”

The long-running inquiry, codenamed Oxenton, has received allegations from 95 former students.

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A civil claim against Suffolk County Council is also being pursued by Cambridge-based solicitor Andrew Grove and Co on behalf of 100 ex-pupils alleging abuse.

The county council is facing claims for a compensation payout which could run into millions of pounds.

Oakwood School opened in 1974 as a school for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The school closed temporarily in December 1999 after serious concerns were expressed. Although it was re-opened, it closed for good in 2000.

There have already been convictions relating to people linked to Oakwood School.

Teacher Keith Hatton was jailed for four years in 1987 for nine sex assaults.

A part-time assistant, a man from Stowmarket – who was a teacher in other schools and a foster carer – was jailed for eight months in 1995 for sexually abusing a child.

A Stowmarket clergyman with connections to the school took his own life in 2003 after being arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.

In a separate investigation a 59-year-old man from the Ipswich area arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a child in relation to the former St George’s School in Great Finborough, near Stowmarket, has had his bail extended until May 8.

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