Paedophile teacher at London school held images of pupils
FBI says William Vahey, who took his own life, drugged his victims before molesting them
The Southbank International School in Portland Place, London, where convicted paedophile William Vahey taught. Photograph: Ian West/PA Wire
Parents at the elite Southbank International school in London were last night told that a paedophile American teacher held images of dozens of their children on his computer, some of which showed they had been molested.
Graham Lacey, the school’s head, said that 50 to 60 images had been found on a computer belonging to William Vahey, plunging hundreds of families into an agonising wait to discover if their children are among those pictured.
Vahey, who taught at the school between 2009 and 2013, killed himself in Minnesota last month, aged 64, after being found at an international school in Nicaragua with 90 images dating from 2008 of boys believed to have been abused on school trips.
The FBI, which has been leading a global investigation, believe he drugged his victims before molesting them so they almost certainly do not know whether they were attacked. When Vahey taught history and geography at the London school, he led several trips abroad. “This disclosure, which we learned this morning, left us all appalled,” said Mr Lacey in a letter to parents. “As a staff we feel upset, angry and betrayed. We can only imagine what you as parents must feel.”
The school’s investigation is focusing on school trips Vahey led to places which parents and former pupils said included Jordan, Venezuela and Nepal. Lists of participating pupils have been passed to Scotland Yard and parents have been asked to come forward if children “recall any disturbing incident”.
The school’s chair of governors, Chris Woodhead, a former government chief inspector of schools, said the unfolding crisis was “the worst thing that I’ve ever been involved in 40 years of education”.
Outside the school on Portland Place in Westminster, parents were struggling to come to terms with the abuse crisis. Some wondered how to handle the news that their children may have been molested even if they did not know about it at the time because they were drugged.
“Even if they find my son in the photos, I would rather not know and just forget about it,” said the mother of one child.
Many children had suffered sleepless nights since news of Vahey’s abuse began circulating, after the FBI issued an appeal for more information on Tuesday. “He was an incredibly loved teacher and so the kids are feeling conflicted,” one mother said. “They were mourning him a few weeks ago. It is horrific; there couldn’t be anything worse than what the kids are going through.” She added, they are “scared and distraught, can’t believe it’s true, don’t want it to be true”.
Mr Lacey also admitted that concerns had been raised about Vahey’s behaviour while he was working there as a geography and history teacher. He said there had been one incident relating to Vahey’s relationship with children, which was investigated by school management at the time, but both the parents and the child stated they did not want to pursue the matter any further. – (Guardian service)