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Escape attempt at Oakwood School in Stowmarket ended in more violence, former pupil tells jury

Ipswich Crown Court ANL-140617-141524001
Ipswich Crown Court ANL-140617-141524001

A late night escape attempt from a boarding school where boys claimed to have been regularly beaten by staff ended in more violence, a former pupil has told a jury.

The man, now aged 44, said he fled from the “disciplinarian” rule of deputy head teacher Gerald West dressed in his Spiderman pyjamas but got no further than the local railway station.

West, 71, of Martins Meadow, Gislingham, was waiting for him when he was returned to Oakwood School at Stowmarket by police, the man told Ipswich Crown Court.

The man said: “I knew what was coming because I had done it before and knew how Mr West was. For want of a better description, a disciplinarian.”

West had slapped the boy and another pupil who had escaped with him around the face, it was alleged.

After the other boy had been told to leave the office, West administered further punishment, said the man.

He told the court: “I got a punch to the body and a kick to the leg. I fell backwards and hit my head on one of the metal handles on a filing cabinet.”

The next day he woke up to find blood on his pillow, said the man but did not seek medical help because he feared that would lead to further punishment being inflicted.

Instead he dumped the pillow and stole another from a cupboard so there would be no sign of what had happened, he said.

West and three other former teachers at the now-closed Oakwood School are accused of child cruelty. West faces 10 charges and the other men 14 charges between them.

Giving evidence, the man denied that 30 years after the alleged incidents he had helped to initiate legal action against the former teachers.

He said: “I was approached to make statements by the police and solicitors. I didn’t go to them. It was not something I wanted to re-live.”

Another ex-pupil has alleged that after drinking alcohol in a dormitory with other pupils, he had been beaten with a training shoe and forced to go to another part of the school by one of West’s co-defendants, senior master Stephen Player.

The man told the jury that Player had punched him, resulting in him falling to the floor and sustaining two black eyes. It was also alleged that Player had, on another occasion, kicked and punched the pupil for five minutes during

a football match.

The other defendants, who have also pleaded not guilty, are Stephen Player, 61, of Manor Road, Spratton, Northamptonshire; Michael Watts, 59, of Sellwood Road, Netley Abbey, Southampton, and Graham Hallett, 66, of

Aldcliffe Road, Lancaster.

The prosecution have alleged that the four men were involved in a “regime of abusive behaviour” at Oakwood between 1974 and 1999. The school closed down in 2000.

The trial continues.


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