Official files on police investigations of child abuse at Gordonstoun, the school in the Scottish Highlands that educated the Queen’s sons and Prince Philip, appear to have gone missing or been destroyed.
In a case investigated by the Observer, a teacher named Derek Jones seriously sexually assaulted a number of children attending the junior school around 1990. He was twice questioned by police in the following years after the children told their parents what had happened. Files were forwarded to the Procurator Fiscal, Scotland’s prosecution service, but it was decided not to prosecute. The files would normally be retained, but Scotland’s Crown Office says they now cannot be found.
Jones died in a car crash in Kenya six years ago. But two of his victims, now in their 30s, want to discover why he was not prosecuted. Gordonstoun sacked Jones, who had been an English teacher in the junior school for three months. The school’s bursar told the boys’ parents that the school would ensure he never taught again.
One of the boys, John Findlay, was drugged, photographed naked and sexually assaulted in his dormitory bed at Aberlour House, Gordonstoun’s junior school. He told his parents what had happened soon afterwards. A police investigation was launched, but the Findlays decided, after pressure from the school, not to press for a prosecution.
Another man, who does not want to be named, has told the Observer he was groomed and taught to masturbate by Jones when he was 12. He said that Jones also performed oral sex on him and showed him pictures of boys at another school who had also been the teacher’s “favourites”, implying that they also had sex with him.
He told his parents about the assault a year later. His family went to the local police, who mounted an investigation and assured them that a prosecution would happen because other complaints had been received about Jones. But shortly before the court date, the Procurator Fiscal told the boy’s mother that there would be no prosecution. No reason was given.
Findlay believes that Jones did go on to teach again. He has already served a freedom of information request on Police Scotland. He asked the force to reveal the details of all their inquiries at the time of Jones’s assault on him, first detailed in an Observer magazine investigation in April that also uncovered allegations of the rapes of two 12-year-old girls at Aberlour House.
The FOI request was refused on grounds of privacy and excessive cost. Findlay plans to appeal. “If there has been a tradition of abuse and cover-up anywhere children are looked after by people who aren’t their parents, it needs to be known by the public,” he says.
The Procurator Fiscal’s office told the Observer: “We do not have a record of a case against Derek Jones on the system and we are unable to establish at this stage if we did receive a report from the police and if so what the reason was for not prosecuting.”
But police in Elgin have assured the victims that files did go to the prosecutor, and found the reference number of one of the original complaints.
The Procurator Fiscal’s office said that such files would normally be kept, even if the decision was made not to proceed with a prosecution. But the cases all precede computerisation of the prosecutors’ archive.
The office was unable to say whether all records relating to abuse complaints at Gordonstoun, of which there have been several since the 1970s, had gone missing or just the documents that were concerned with the Jones allegations.
In England and Scotland, lost police files have been a recurring problem in the current wave of revelations around historical abuse in childcare institutions.
One of the reasons for setting up an inquiry, which is soon to begin in England under a New Zealand judge, Lowell Goddard, was the fact that the Home Office had lost files of allegations concerning important people given by Geoffrey Dickens MP to the then home secretary, Leon Brittan. Both men have since died.
The Scottish government has announced its own inquiry into abuse of children in institutions. After protests, its remit was extended to private boarding schools. Police Scotland recently announced that its National Child Abuse Investigation Unit had started inquiries into 45 institutions, including 17 schools.
A spokeswoman for Gordonstoun said: “It is absolutely right that any allegation of abuse is thoroughly investigated. We have recently taken a number of steps to address any allegations of historic abuse proactively, including writing to former students urging them to come forward if they were affected. We will continue to help any former student as best we can.” Gordonstoun’s junior school was separately managed until 2004.
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