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Speaking to the police about abuse at Warwick School 40 years ago - it gets so much worse

Tom Winnifrith Friday 26 May 2017

 

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After almost six weeks away in London, Sweden and then Greece I had a good stack of mail to wade through. At the bottom of the pile was the Old Warwickian, the glossy mag for we schola warwicensis of days gone by. And to its enormous credit it has finally acknowledged, albeit almost sote voice, the issues of abuse from the "old days."

En passant, in an article on reunions, Dr "Scot" Wilson - an intelligent,l decent and funny man as well as a very good (English) teacher, noted that not all of us OW's had happy memories of an era when punishment of boys was not quite what it is today. When the OW has looked back to the 70s and 80s every article that I can remember has been of happy flashbacks, normally involving sporting triumph rather than academic achievement. Warwick in 1980 revelled in its philistine approach to life, sod the scholars or the musicians - bloody freaks. Let's honour the rugger team as it tours Zimbabwe and so what if the odd boy got a damn good thrashing, make a man of him!

Dr Wilson has broken new ground in recognising that things went on that should not have done. Well done to him.

Encouraged by this I phoned the Old Bill in Leamington,as I had been urged to do by the current headmaster,to report the two occasions in the 1978/9 school year when sadistic bastard Geoffrey Eve, my form teacher, had thrown my head against a wall. Eve was a serial abuser who was eventually given early retirement by Warwick - no doubt with a full pension - after one boy suffered serious hearing loss as a result of a frenzied attack. I have detailed his abuse and the cover-up which lasted many years and allowed Eve to carry on abusing, before on these pages.

I had a long chat with the officer in charge of what is now an official investigation with a crime number. I am preparing a formal statement and will go in to sign it when next in Warwickshire in late June. But the officer seemed confused, the school, he said, had no records for where Eve is now. It does, I insisted, he was being invited to OW events until just a short while ago; he lives in Leamington. Oh, you are right, said the officer, that is "the other investigation". At that point I pricked up my ears as any journalist would do.

It seems there are two investigations now running into events at Warwick in the 70s and 80s. The other one does not involve Geoffrey Eve but another master of the time. And the allegation here is NOT physical abuse. I think we all know where this is going.

Natch, all the Warwick records from the time have been lost. Before this starts a witch-hunt, the officer is clear that the school has lost track of this man so all of the harmless old queers who taught us but who are remembered fondly, or whose lives are reported on in the OW, are, by definition, in the clear. I swapped emails with a fellow OW who happens to be gay on this matter and without prompting he served up a name. If I had to bet the ranch I would have offered exactly the same name. It would be wrong to speculate in public so I will not. But if an OW is reading this and has anything he'd like to share, I would urge him to contact the current Head Master.

What is increasingly clear is that while Warwick School today is a fine place where teachers treat pupils with respect and where any breach of trust would be dealt with fiercely and quickly, Warwick School of forty years ago was a very different place. It was an establishment with more than its fair share of dark goings on which those in charge failed to stop or deal with. Turning a blind eye is bad enough. Covering up - which is what happened with Eve - is far worse.
I am sure that it was far from unusual among English boarding and public schools in this regard. It is just that this is rather personal for me.

Postscript: The Police called yesterday to offer me counselling. I suggested that after 38 years it was probably not going to be of much use but thanked them for the offer. I don't feel scarred in that I think about those events very rarely so if this is a scarring it is minor compared to other issues. My only interest in this is that a sad old man who caused misery for countless little boys forty years ago is not allowed to die in peace with his reputation intact but is punished for what he did. Geoffrey Eve... I am talking about you, the wheels of justice are now starting to turn.

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About Tom Winnifrith
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Tom Winnifrith is the editor of TomWinnifrith.com. When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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