Victim in Oakwood School abuse case reveals how abuse ‘ruined his live’ as former headmaster is jailed

The old Oakwood School in Stowmarket.

The old Oakwood School in Stowmarket. - Credit: Archant

As a former headmaster was yesterday jailed for seven years for sexually abusing four boys, one of his victims spoke out about the legacy of the teacher’s abuse in the 1980s.

Eric De Smith, who was headmaster of Oakwood School in Stowmarket, was convicted of four sex assaults on three of the school’s pupils and three offences of sexually abusing another child.

The 76-year-old, of Danes Close, Stowmarket, still protests his innocence.

De Smith’s conviction comes after a lengthy police inquiry codenamed Operation Oxenton costing £57,000.

After the case one of De Smith’s victims, a 45-year-old from the Newmarket area, said: “It has ruined my life. Until now my relationships have failed. I turned to alcohol, drugs and no end of times self-destructive behaviour. I suffered from PTSD for years and still do every now and again.

“It (The effect of the abuse) just makes you numb.”

De Smith’s first victim, who was originally from Ipswich and now lives in London, said: “We were vulnerable children. The prosecution says we were naughty children. I dispute that. We were just children with behavioural problems - or whose parents had died and had no counselling - who were just thrown into that school.”

The man said he rebelled against authority and was thrown out of Oakwood, ending up in approved schools followed by borstal.

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He also became homeless, sleeping in cars, lifts and on the street.

Now the man said he has managed to build better relationships and is in a happy marriage.

Although both men were pleased with De Smith’s sentence they were dismayed by his lack of contrition.

One said: “It’s a let down to people that he hasn’t put his hand up and admitted what he’s done by showing some remorse.

“At that school there was no love, just ‘do as you are told’.”

He also refuted any suggestion the criminal complaints were brought against De Smith to underpin the civil claim for compensation from Suffolk County Council.

“It is very important for people to know it is not about compensation. This is about justice and someone listening to the children.”