Suffolk: Former pupils speak of alleged abuse at Kesgrave Hall boarding school

Alexander Hanff, who was allegedly abused at Kesgrave Hall school

Alexander Hanff, who was allegedly abused at Kesgrave Hall school - Credit: Archant

TWO ex-pupils of a former Suffolk boarding school have spoken of the alleged abuse they suffered during their schooldays.

Detectives have re-opened a child abuse inquiry into accusations relating to Kesgrave Hall after reviewing the original investigation which took place in 1992.

Lee Woolcott-Ellis and Alexander Hanff have waived their right to anonymity in order to speak openly.

Mr Woolcott-Ellis, who was at Kesgrave Hall from 1975 to 1980 and after moving from its sister school in north Devon, alleged: “I was physically, mentally and sexually abused at both. The sexual abuse of children at these schools was rife.

“I don’t think I have spoken this in depth about my time at the boarding schools before. Now is the time for this to be said. Other victims should do the same. There is no shame in being a victim of abuse.

“I was a very angry man and I was on a road of self-destruction. The beatings, the mental abuse and the indecent assaults took their toll.

“People who have not been abused similarly cannot truly have an understanding of how it feels to be such a victim. In that respect it is quite hurtful when you hear someone say ‘oh they should have said something’, or ‘why have they waited until now to speak out?’.

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“There is a general ignorance here. It was not possible to say no at the time. The consequences of that would have been severe.

“Even as a young child I recall feeling a sense of guilt. You know what is happening is wrong, but then you also feel frightened and helpless at the same time.

“It was not possible to report the assaults, many tried and it achieved nothing, except further bruises. The abusive years were so traumatic.

“You bury the thoughts from then so deep that they are not readily available. This is so you can function as normally as you feel you can.

“When you feel that vulnerable, you will hit out and behave in a way you feel you can protect yourself.

The drive to self-destruct stayed with me for many years and I had considered ending my life on a number of occasions.

“It would be hard to explain how isolated you feel and how terribly sad you feel. I am fortunate now to have a supportive partner of 12 years. Someone who has understood and supported me through the years.

“It was not always so, I have two failed marriages which could mainly be attributed to my anger, mood swings and inability to maintain a normal relationship.

“I do not think you can ever truly get over what happened. You have to come to terms with it and accept that it happened, and then attempt to live a normal life.

Alexander Hanff, was at Kesgrave Hall between 1986 and 1990.

The 39-year-old alleged: “I’ve been at rock bottom. I have been committed for treatment three times for depression and attempted suicide.

“The physical abuse started in my first weekend, the beatings – corporal punishment as it was known then – which was illegal at the time.

“This happened pretty much on a daily basis. The sexual abuse was less regular. It happened in my first couple of years there – inappropriate touching in the showers, coming out of the showers and seeing a member of staff committing a sex act.

“I have mixed feelings (about Kesgrave Hall). Academically it was a good place to be. Socially it was a terrible place to be. The level of bullying by staff and pupils was very high.”

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