Twenty more former schoolboys at one of Scotland’s leading private schools have come forward to accuse a teacher of abuse in the days since broadcaster Nicky Campbell broke his silence.
The teacher, now in his 80s, was already accused of abusing 16 boys at Edinburgh Academy in the 1970s but since Campbell last week revealed the abuse he suffered and witnessed, the number of alleged victims has more than doubled.
Former pupils contacted Campbell and journalist Alex Renton after the presenter spoke out on Wednesday. All have been advised to contact police and as, allegations mount, investigators fear the teacher may have been one of Scotland’s most prolific abusers.
In recent days, Renton has been contacted by more than 40 former pupils with new allegations about staff. Eight of them name the same teacher, known as Edgar for legal reasons, while, at the same time, 12 others contacted Campbell accusing the same teacher.
Allegations had already been levelled against Edgar during the ongoing Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry led by Lady Smith and there are at least 16 former pupils who have already accused him of physical or sexual abuse.
Yesterday, Police Scotland, where a dedicated team are investigating the allegations, urged other victims to come forward. Renton said former pupils had contacted him with the new allegations after Campbell’s podcast and subsequent broadcast interviews.
He said: “There is a wider picture here. These are not isolated incidents.”
A number of alleged victims of Edgar have given evidence to the ongoing abuse inquiry. The Scottish Government launched the inquiry, led by Judge Lady Smith, in 2015 and will report the outcome of its investigations to Scottish ministers and make recommendations to better protect children.
One former pupil at Edinburgh Academy described being abused by Edgar, telling the inquiry: “I was dressed but didn’t have my shorts on under my tracksuit.
“I told him this. It was so quick, but he seemed to want to turn it into a joke. He put his hand down my tracksuit trousers and rubbed his hand against my groin.
“My recollection is that this happened outside the classrooms, and there may or may not have been other boys around.
“I’ve never told anybody about that until a couple of weeks ago when I spoke to somebody who had also gone to the Academy and he said he remembered the teacher.”
Another ex-pupil said he suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Edgar when he worked at Fettes College. He said: “Edgar was the worst and he was an odd individual because he had a rage in him. His head would go very red and he would shake and shout and pull your hair, throw board dusters at you or bang your head on the table.
“It was like he’d flipped into a different person. He used to always have his hands in his pockets when he was watching the kids at break time.
“He used to take me into the boot room and talk dirty to me. He would also encourage me to talk dirty back to him. That was fairly regular for me, right through my time in junior school.”
Renton said all the new alleged victims have been advised to contact police and seek psychological support for trauma. Renton, who is also an abuse survivor who has written about the abuse he suffered at one of the country’s most elite private schools, believes child abuse by staff has taken place at most, if not all, of Scotland’s fee-paying schools in the past. He believes, however, that safeguards put in place to protect pupils today are inadequate and should be bolstered.
He said: “Those schools were appallingly badly run and they tolerated and colluded with the perpetration of sexual abuse to the most unbelievable degree and they are still in denial about it.
“These are some of the grandest schools in the country. People write to me and I try to connect them and help them go to the police.
“I had always known Edinburgh Academy was a hotspot, but since Nicky Campbell told his story I’ve had more than 40 people come forward with new allegations or offers of information about staff.
“Alleged offences took place between the early-1960s and early-90s. The accusations are about violence, sexual abuse, cruelty or seriously inappropriate behaviour.”
He said Edgar and another teacher, who is now dead, have been named by many of the alleged victims who have come forward in recent days. As well as being abused himself, Campbell saw other children suffering abuse at the hands of Edgar.
Campbell, 61, claimed this alleged abuser could be “one of the most prolific paedophiles in British criminal history” but has not been extradited to the UK because of his age. He believes Edgar may have inflicted abuse for decades.
The teacher was at the broadcaster’s school, Edinburgh Academy, before moving on to Fettes College, where former PM Tony Blair was educated. Campbell fears the 30-year career of Edgar, who is now 82, and living in South Africa – meant that the alleged abuse could be even more widespread.
Last week, he said: “If he’d been a teacher for, say, 30 years and abused, say, 30 boys a year at schools – which is a conservative estimate considering reports, reputation and modus operandi – in terms of British criminal history he could be one of the most prolific abusers on record.
“As for extradition, we cannot work out why that process has stalled. Initially the authorities said ‘age is a problem’.
“They said, ‘Oh it’s something to do with Brexit because the treaties have changed’. We don’t think that’s the case. We can’t get any answers.
“All those little boys are being denied justice. If you work it out through his entire 30-year career, how many boys he must have abused. We’re talking hundreds.”
Meanwhile, Police Scotland said: “This is a live and ongoing investigation in which we have a dedicated team carrying out inquiries.
“While the investigation of child abuse, particularly non-recent offences, can be complex and challenging, anyone who reports this type of crime can be assured that we will listen and we will investigate all reports, no matter when those offences occurred or who committed them.”
The national force added: “If you have suffered abuse, or you know anyone who may have been the victim of child abuse then please call Police Scotland on 101.”
Edinburgh Academy has apologised to the victims and urged people to contact police if they had fresh allegations. The Academy said: “We deeply regret what has happened in the past and would encourage anyone who has been the victim of abuse to contact Police Scotland.
As any like-minded person, we are appalled by such behaviour, and we apologise wholeheartedly to those concerned. Schools should be safe places for children and colleagues alike, and we would like to reiterate our reassurance that things have changed significantly since the 1970s.
“The Academy has robust measures in place to safeguard children at the school with child protection absolutely core to the ethos of the Academy. We have also worked closely with the relevant authorities including Police Scotland with their inquiries and that of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, and we will continue to do so.”
The head of Fettes, Helen Harrison, and representatives of the board of governors said they were deeply moved after they attended the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry each day to listen to evidence relating to their school.
They offered a full apology to anyone who suffered there.
Fettes College said: “It was a profoundly moving experience and we applaud the bravery of everyone who shared their stories. These accounts to the inquiry, describing the abuse suffered, are now part of the school’s history and we must take this as an opportunity to listen, reflect and learn.
“Fettes College takes all claims of child abuse extremely seriously. We have co-operated fully with all relevant authorities in any case of alleged non-recent abuse, and we offer a full and unreserved apology to anyone who suffered abuse while at Fettes College.
“Fettes is not reflecting alone as this is an opportunity for the sector to strive to ensure the voice of the child is central to everything we do.
“Safeguarding is central to all that we do and is integral to the ethos of the school. It is the duty of all members of staff, throughout the Fettes community, to play an active role in promoting the wellbeing of all our pupils.”
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry said: “We continue to encourage anyone with information relevant to the inquiry’s terms of reference to contact the inquiry.”
It said anyone with information or concerns should contact the inquiry, adding: “Individuals can contact the inquiry’s witness support team by phone on 0800 0929 300 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service declined to comment but said the case against the teacher living in South Africa is live.
Were school’s reputations more important than pupils’ safety?
By Alex Renton, journalist and author
What went so horribly wrong in so many of Scotland’s grandest private schools?
Nicky Campbell last week told a terrible story of abuse and cover-up by multiple teachers at his school, Edinburgh Academy, but that is just the tip of a vast iceberg of shame, suffering and institutional cover-up.
Campbell’s dramatic announcement on his BBC Radio 5 show and in a podcast, Different, came as a result of an investigation I did with the BBC into the “Eton of the North”, Edinburgh’s Fettes College. We interviewed a number of pupils who had allegedly been abused at its junior school during the 1970s by a man who, for legal reasons, we called Edgar.
When Campbell, who was himself beaten by a teacher as a 10-year-old boy at Edinburgh Academy, heard the podcast, he knew who was being referred to and realised he had witnessed the abuse of a classmate in a changing room.
It was the same man. He had moved from Edinburgh Academy with a positive job reference to Fettes’ junior school in 1973. Edgar worked there until 1979, with a short sabbatical for psychiatric treatment, prescribed because of violent assaults on children.
After that he returned to Fettes, supposedly cured, but an ex-pupil told our radio show how he allegedly abused again. When the complaints grew too much, Edgar was “moved on” with a glowing reference from Fettes’ then headmaster describing him as a “thoroughbred”. He went home to South Africa, where he still lives.
Initially the Fettes head had tried to get Edgar a new job at Gordonstoun. That did not happen but Gordonstoun and its junior school Aberlour House – which we also examined in the BBC series – had abuse scandals of their own dating from the 1970s.
An ex-teacher has recently been jailed but, at the time, suspected abusers were not prosecuted.
All of this – along with serious allegations about Loretto in East Lothian, Fort Augustus Abbey School, Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh, Morrison’s Academy of Crieff and other grand establishments – is now being examined by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.
Fettes College recently paid out £400,000 in compensation to a man who was, allegedly, one of Edgar’s victims.
Police Scotland are examining a wave of new allegations about other teachers at Edinburgh Academy. Since 2018 the Procurator Fiscal has been attempting to bring Edgar back from South Africa to face criminal charges arising from the accusations of at least 16 ex-pupils of Fettes and Edinburgh Academy. Since Campbell spoke out just a few days ago, another 20 alleged victims of this one teacher have come forward and spoken of their ordeal for the first time.
So, the wheels of justice are creaking into action. But the question remains, are children safe today in residential schools? Can the schools do their primary job, ensuring that pupils are not at risk from staff? We looked at the child safeguarding policies of several schools and experts told us the documents were vague and full of loopholes – “shoulds” not “musts”.
The Scottish Inquiry has been running for over six years. When at last it concludes it must deliver a demand for new law that, as in many other countries, makes it a crime for staff not to report a suspicion of child abuse, in any institution. That report can’t go just to the headteacher but to an authority outside the school – and the same should apply to any institution looking after the vulnerable.
Scotland should have had such a “mandatory reporting” law years ago. The stories from the grand schools suggest that for decades protecting their reputation may have been a higher priority than the children’s safety. That arrogant stupidity must never be permitted to happen again.
Expert: Children can be scarred for life by trauma they suffered at school
Children attending some of Britain’s most prestigious private schools can be scarred for life by trauma experienced there, according to one expert.
Professor Joy Schaverien, who wrote a book, Boarding School Syndrome, where she identified a condition which leaves former pupils unable to form intimate relationships, said: “I have been doing this work for years as a psychotherapist. I hear these stories from numerous people.
“I get endless emails from people who have suffered this kind of abuse. It is absolutely terrible.
“Many people didn’t know these relationships were abusive – they thought they were out of step in some way.
“Children don’t have the words for it. When he spoke out, Nicky Campbell said that he can’t unsee what he has seen.
“That is common. People experience things that are unspeakable, that one does not repeat. Nicky Campbell went to a private day school.
“So you can imagine what it’s like for children who board because they are exposed to these paedophiles at night.
“They are too young to understand what is happening. They know it is wrong but they don’t have the words to tell their parents.”
Previously, she worked in the NHS psychiatry and psychotherapy departments and held posts at the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Sheffield.
She said the effects of being sent away to boarding school and separated from parents at a young age can last into adulthood, leaving emotional scars and preventing the formation of intimate relationships.
She added: “The impact is huge. There are lifelong effects – it can affect people’s intimate relationships. It’s very hard to trust people. It affects people’s sexuality.
“Nicky Campbell told his mother. He was at a day school and he was able to do that. His mother took it seriously.
“Many children can’t tell their parents either because they are boarders or if they tell their parents, they do not take it seriously. The lifelong impact of that is they have to shut off their feelings because it’s terrifying for them. A child can’t cope with it.
“They dissociate. They don’t feel anything. They don’t trust their emotions because their own feelings aren’t validated by an adult.
“They just feel that it’s cruel and wrong. In therapy we have to help the person unravel it and speak about it.
“Children also feel guilty and feel like it is their fault. The paedophiles really exploit that. They use all kinds of blackmail.
“It is amazing that Nicky is talking about this and it is coming out in the open more now. We have known about this issue for a long time.”
Boarding School Syndrome by Professor Joy Schaverien is published by Routledge
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