Eton targeted in paedophile inquiry at top public schools (06.08.00)

Sunday Times, 6th August 2000

ETON COLLEGE has been targeted by detectives investigating an alleged ring of suspected paedophile teachers in Britain’s top public schools.

 A police document leaked to The Sunday Times reveals that officers set up Operation Fledgling, a full-scale intelligence-gathering investigation, into claims that some pupils at the country’s most prominent public school had been subjected to sexual abuse.

 Disclosure of the inquiry will be especially sensitive because Prince Harry is a pupil at the £15,000-a-year school and Prince William, his older brother, has only recently left.

 The year-long inquiry, which ended in 1998, targeted known or suspected “homosexuals/ paedophiles” at Eton and Wellington College, Berkshire, and at Harrow, Hurstpierpoint and five other prominent private schools.

 Both Eton and Wellington declined to discuss the matter last week, but no teachers have been suspended or charged. The inquiry was closed because of insufficient evidence.

 Police sources confirmed that extensive files had been drawn up on suspects, including three teachers at Eton, one at Wellington and nine others at four other private schools.

 The inquiry was launched after a former Eton teacher went to the police alleging that a serving master was abusing pupils. The allegations were so serious that police began to examine the nexus of connections between known or suspected paedophiles and the master, whose identity is known to The Sunday Times.

 In a separate raid, letters were found linking the Eton master to David Hope, a convicted paedophile from Sheffield. Hope had been arrested by customs officers after trying to smuggle paedophile literature through Heathrow airport. He was jailed for 20 months in 1996 for indecently assaulting two boys at the Pounds 12,000-a-year Malsis prep school near Skipton, North Yorkshire.

 The police document names three Eton staff and gives their phone numbers, addresses and the names and addresses of some of their friends and colleagues at other schools.

 It identifies one master at Wellington as a “known/suspected homosexual/paedophile”.

 Detectives interviewed one Eton pupil said to be closely involved with the prime suspect, but the pupil declined to make any allegations. Chief Inspector Jim Trotman of Thames Valley police said: “There was an investigation under the name Operation Fledgling in 1997. No evidence was found sufficient for any proceedings of any nature.”

 The leaked documents show that some of the Eton teachers had links to Thailand and Sri Lanka, although it is not clear whether pupils accompanied them on trips to those countries.

 In 1997, teachers at Sedburgh and Durham public schools were raided by detectives from Scotland Yard’s paedophilia squad. Masters from six public schools were questioned and video tapes, computer equipment and letters were seized. At least two teachers were cautioned by police and asked to leave their jobs.

 A nationwide inquiry into suspected paedophiles at top public schools began after a former teacher at Abberley Hall in Worcestershire allegedly confessed to a colleague to being part of a network of paedophiles.

 The former teacher claimed that he had had sex with “hundreds and hundreds” of boys and named teachers at six leading establishments. There was no suggestion that any abuse took place at the schools.

 Jim Reynolds, a former head of Scotland Yard’s paedophilia squad, said police remained concerned about the problemof “career” paedophiles. “These are professional people who spend their lives cultivating a cloak of respectabilityto enable them to get authorised access to children,”he said.

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