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Stowmarket: Second convicted paedophile teacher linked to abuse claim school

08:53 22 December 2012

Oakwood School in Stowmarket

Oakwood School in Stowmarket

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A SECOND convicted paedophile teacher worked at the Suffolk school which is at the centre of an inquiry into nearly 100 child abuse allegations, it has emerged.

An internal report obtained by the East Anglian Daily Times has provided proof that John Wills spent six years helping care for boys at the former Oakwood School in Stowmarket on one, or two, evenings a week.

Suffolk Constabulary is currently conducting what is believed to be its largest-ever child abuse investigation after 95 ex-pupils of the school made accusations of being physically or sexually abused.

In the late 1980s Keith Hatton, a teacher at Oakwood, was sentenced to four years in jail after pleading guilty at Ipswich Crown Court to nine indecent assaults on pupils.

A further inquiry into sex allegations against a clergyman connected to Oakwood led to his arrest in 2003. He subsequently took his own life before a decision was made on whether there would be any charges.

However, now it can be revealed Wills, who was a teacher and a single parent foster carer, also worked at Oakwood as a part-time assistant, according to a county council report before his conviction 17 years ago.

Wills – who was aged 43 at the time and taught at Claydon High, Westbourne High and Holbrook High - was jailed for eight months in October 1995 after admitting indecent assault on a boy.

Wills is also one of the people who have been named to Cambridge-based solicitors Andrew Grove and Co which is pursuing a civil claim against the county council on behalf of the 95 former pupils.

It is understood one of the claimants has made an allegation against him.

Andrew Grove said: “We are claiming against Suffolk County Council as Mr Wills’ employer, and possibly against Mr Wills himself.”

Wills, who was also a scout leader, was only ever convicted of sexually assaulting one boy. However, a second male was awarded £11,400 in August 2000 by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board after allegations of sexual abuse. It made the payment on the ‘balance of probabilities’ with the bias in favour of Wills’ alleged victim.

The allegations being made against staff at Oakwood School range from the 1970s to the 1990s. The school, which catered for boys with behavioural problems, closed in 1999, after concerns were raised. It re-opened, but then closed for good in 2000.

A spokesman for Suffolk Council said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the particulars of the allegations during a police investigation. We would however urge people who feel they have any relevant information to contact police to help with their inquiries.”

Meanwhile, earlier this week several former pupils of Kesgrave Hall school called for an inquiry into physical and sexual abuse allegations to be re-opened. The original investigation occurred in 1992, although no charges were pursued at the time. Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter has also sent a letter to chief constable Simon Ash urging him to re-open the inquiry.

A major investigation is also continuing into abuse at a third Suffolk school, St George’s in Great Finborough, near Oakwood. Two former teachers at the independent school have already been jailed. Another took his life after being arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.

On Tuesday a 59-year-old man from the Ipswich area was the fourth person to be arrested during the long-running investigation over an allegation of sexual abuse. He has now been released on bail until March.

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