Ambassador pays tribute to former Ipswich teacher found dead in Peru
- Credit: LA SALLE
The UK ambassador to Turkey has paid tribute to the “extremely kind” and “not a run of the mill teacher” Paul McAuley who was found dead in Peru earlier this month.
Sir Dominick Chilcott, ambassador since 2018, was taught by Paul McAuley - better known as Brother Paul - when a pupil at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich.
Brother Paul’s body was discovered by students of the youth hostel he ran in Iquitos, a large city in the Peruvian Amazon. Initial reports say his body was burned.
A tireless campaigner, Brother Paul, 71, moved to the South American country in 1995 to help indigenous people fight for their rights and environmental issues.
Sir Dominick, who previously served as deputy ambassador to the United States, said: “He was not a run of the mill teacher.
“There was something of a young hippie about him - he had slightly too long hair for a De La Salle brother and a strong interest in the rock bands of the 1960s.
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“Brother Paul was extremely kind and very good company, never talking down to us but filling our heads with lots of good sense.
“He was broad-minded in the best sense and enjoyed the respect of the boys for his fairness and willingness to listen to our ideas - he took a huge interest in all the boys and did his best to make our boarding lives as lively and engaging as possible.
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“I wasn’t very surprised to learn, a few years after leaving school, that Brother Paul had abandoned traditional teaching in Britain in search for something more exciting and a bit whacky, a life better suited to his character but still dedicated to making the earth a better place.
“It is appalling that someone who was so gentle by nature should have suffered such a violent end.”
Sir Dominick’s brother Benjamin remained in contact with Brother Paul following his graduation, sponsoring children through his Peruvian school.
Mr Chilcott said: “He found working in Rome hard work, in that he felt his calling was working with poor disadvantaged people, especially young people. Not managing global La Salle politics from Rome…As such he was desperate to go somewhere like Peru as soon as he could.
“Since about 2000 I’ve been sponsoring children through his school – he basically begged and borrowed off anyone he could to keep the school open – during probably about 15 years I’d send him a few hundred pounds every year and he’d introduce me via email to various students who we funded through his school.
“When I last saw him for a beer, about five years ago, he said he thought environmentalism was his new religion – and at some level it should be for everyone who believes in God – and the environmentalists are the prophets and spiritual leaders of today.
“In the last week I’ve been inundated with emails and texts from people at school, all with stories about how Paul took time out of his life to give them a hand – whether it was because their parents were divorcing - or worse - or because they were ill and stuck at school for a holiday alone, or struggling to make it in a career they were passionate about.
“He always seemed to show up with a word at the right moment.”
Brother Paul was made an MBE for his work in the country, after he set up a school in the poor Punta Piedra shanty in Lima, the country’s capital.
Brother Jorge Gallardo De Alba, vicar general at the De La Salle Christian Brothers, said: “The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools communicates and laments the death of our Brother Paul McAuley, who was found dead on Tuesday, April 2 at the Intercultural Student Community La Salle in Iquitos, Peru, where he worked for more than 10 years.
“Brother Paul McAuley, president of the Loretana Environmental Network and advisor to the Peruvian Amazon Student Organization, was a well-known defender of the environment, fully identified with the reality of the Loreto Region and the problems of Indigenous Peoples.
“We feel united with the Peruvian church, with the Bolivia–Peru District and with all the Lasallians.
“May he rest in peace.”
The investigation into Brother Paul’s death remains ongoing.
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who died in the Peruvian jungle and we remain in contact with the authorities in Iquitos.”