The Times, 25th March 2014
by Andrew Norfolk
By the age of 12, Luke Redmond had been sexually assaulted by three men. All were teachers at a prestigious school paid handsomely by his parents to give their son the best possible start in life.
One was a “gifted colleague” of the West End giants Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber; another became an Anglican clergyman. The third sat boys on his lap until he went “very red in the face”. Such were the hazards of 1960s life in an English preparatory school.
Last year The Times revealed that five teachers at another prep school, Caldicott, in Buckinghamshire, abused more than 30 boys over two decades. Caldicott was among 130 British independent schools, later identified by this newspaper, where staff had been linked to sex crimes involving boys. Teachers at 64 of them were convicted of sexual offences against male pupils.
Luke was outraged that his school was not on the list. He was not the only former pupil of St Paul’s and its prep school, Colet Court, to contact The Times to set the record straight.
Now 59, married and with adult children, he had set out to build a life that wasn’t defined by what happened to him at school. For years he blocked out all recollection of childhood abuse, but psychological wounds festered and 14 years ago the dam burst. Memories erupted and with them came a desire for justice. Luke contacted the police.
By 2000 only one of his three abusers was still alive. Paul Topham was by now an Anglican priest. In a police interview, Luke described lying in his dormitory bed on evenings when Topham was duty master. As dorm monitor, Luke’s bed was closest to the door and the light switch. Topham invariably entered the room, switched off the lights and then sat on Luke’s bed. In the dark, his hand reached under the boy’s bedclothes.
The child lay frozen with shame and confusion. He told no one, nor was there any discussion among the boys of Topham’s far more public assaults when Colet Court boarders were sent at weekends to use the senior school swimming pool. Swimming naked was compulsory. “If Topham was supervising, he’d be in the water in his turquoise shorts. If you rested against the side of the pool, he’d swim up from behind and rub himself against you.”
His abuser set out to befriend Luke’s parents. During school holidays he would often “pop by for a sherry”. Luke said: “He tainted the only safe place I had.”
The officer investigating his complaint of abuse told Luke that Topham was questioned under caution in 2000. He denied every allegation. No charges were brought. He died in 2012.
It was already too late to hold a second abuser to account: Luke’s former housemaster, known as “Alex” Alexander, was dead. Naughty boys were summoned to his study for a beating, then asked to select the weapon — a slipper, hairbrush or plimsoll. Boys pulled down their pyjamas, then bent over a chair. Afterwards, the housemaster would sit the miscreant on his lap, give him toffees as a treat, then shower the child with physical affection. “At the time, I didn’t realise what was happening. I just remember being cuddled and feeling puzzled because he’d always end up going very red in the face.”
Luke’s abuse by Alan Doggett, Colet Court’s director of music, was a once-only indecent assault during the boy’s compulsory audition for the choir.
A far worse fate awaited another boy in his dormitory, a year younger than Luke, who was angelic in both voice and looks. He was Doggett’s chosen one, summoned far too often from their dormitory to spend long hours at night in the choirmaster’s bedroom.
A year later, another boy cried foul and Doggett was forced to resign, though his crimes are understood to have gone unreported by St Paul’s. As a result, it was a decade before he finally appeared in court, charged with offences against a ten-year-old choirboy, born in the year the teacher left Colet Court.
Twice, in 2000 and earlier this year, Luke contacted St Paul’s to ask if it had support mechanisms for victims of historical abuse at the school. Each time, he says, he was told there was no such provision, though St Paul’s last week suggested a meeting to discuss how he might be helped to achieve “closure”.
The former pupil’s name has been changed to protect his identity.
See also Ian Pace’s article on Alan Doggett