Further questions are being asked in relation to an alleged cover up of child abuse which was endured by teenage public school boys at the hands of a British barrister, John Smyth QC, in the 1970s and the 1980s.
On behalf of the Iwerne Trust, John Smyth ran religious summer camps in the 1970s and early 1980s, which were attended by boys from elite public schools. It is alleged that Smyth subjected the school boys to horrific beatings in order to purge them of their “sins”.
Allegations of abuse emerged back in 1982 after one of Smyth’s alleged victims attempted to commit suicide. In response, the Iwerne Trust commissioned an internal inquiry into the abuse which was conducted by Mark Ruston, a Church of England vicar. The report detailed the prescribed punishments for “sins” such as masturbation and pride, 100 and 400 strokes respectively. It was reported that over a three year period, eight boys had received 14,000 lashes between them, with two of the boys being whipped 4,000 times each. The report also stated that these beatings were carried out while the boys were either naked or semi-naked in order to “increase humility”.
Pupils of Winchester College were among the alleged victims and the allegations of abuse were disclosed by the Iwerne Trust to the college in 1982. In response, the headmaster of Winchester College at the time met with Smyth and made him undertake that he would never again enter the college or contact its pupils.
Like the Iwerne Trust, Winchester College failed to disclose the abuse to the police.
Denying that the college had sought to conceal the abuse, the college offered that the decision not to report the allegations had been based on the fact that the victims’ parents felt their sons should be spared more trauma. Although the college felt it had acted “in accordance with the standards of the time”, it admitted that those standards had proved inadequate.
The survivor of abuse whose suicide attempt had prompted the inquiry fairly acknowledged that “everything could have been stopped” if the police had been informed.
The failure to report and prosecute John Smyth in the UK allowed him the opportunity of a fresh start when he moved to Zimbabwe in 1984. In Zimbabwe, Smyth founded the Zambesi Ministry, a series of Christian summer camps for boys from top public schools. It is alleged that at these summer camps, Symth abused teenagers in a similarly brutal way as he had done in the UK.
In 1997, Smyth was arrested and charged with killing a 16 year old boy named Guide Nyachuru, who was found dead in a swimming pool at one of the summer camps in 1992. It was also alleged by five other boys that Smyth had subjected them to abuse, including savage beatings. In 1998, the case of culpable homicide was dismissed against Smyth after it was claimed that prosecutors had overstated the claims and failed to follow procedures.
In 2002, Smyth moved from Zimbabwe to South Africa where he became a campaigner against gay rights.
The Church of England claims that it reported the abuse to the Cambridgeshire police in 2013, and again in February 2014, after an alleged victim came forward. However, because the allegations were non recent and there were difficulties with respect to the extradition of John Smyth from South Africa, no investigation was launched. In 2014, the allegations were separately reported to Hampshire police. However, the fact that the reporting party would not provide details of other victims or further information again prevented the police from opening an inquiry.
Last month Hampshire police initiated a formal investigation into the non recent allegations of sadistic abuse by John Smyth. They are appealing for anyone with any information about the events detailed above to get in contact with their investigation team, quoting Operation Cubic.