Victims give chilling accounts of their time at Ampleforth College

Former pupils gave chilling first-hand accounts of how they were beaten, ritually humiliated and raped at their boarding schools.

Ampleforth College was likened to a Nazi prisoner of war camp by one victim, who said: ‘It felt like Colditz.’

One priest got sadistic sexual pleasure by beating boys for reading Marvel comics or climbing a tree. 

Other pupils were raped over the bonnet of a monk’s car for not sprinting fast enough during night time ‘punishment runs’ around the school grounds.

One boy, who was abused in his first week at the junior part of the school in North Yorkshire, recalled being tickled by a monk in a dormitory before he was later plied with alcohol and raped. 

The same monk is said to have ordered six boys to form a line to perform a sex act on him.

Another abuser made at least 11 children aged between eight and 12 perform a sex act in front of other pupils in the Ampleforth school workshop.

One ex-pupil told police he would often see a monk visibly aroused as he was watched during swimming lessons.

One teacher at Ampleforth, Dara De Cogan, was jailed last year for grooming and sexually abusing a schoolgirl between 2005 and 2010. 

Victims described being picked on by sadistic monks and passed around to other abusers by ‘feeder priests’. 

One victim said: ‘At nights in the dorm after lights out, he would come and sit on my bed and comfort me.

‘After about two weeks, he asked me if I wanted some cocoa… I followed him to his study… he asked if he could wash me, which meant me undoing my pyjamas and…it eventually landed up with me in his bed where he would also join me.’

At Downside School in Somerset, prefects were taken to the pub by a priest and made to down whiskey as they were groomed for sex. 

When the abuse was uncovered, the clergyman left and went on to work in numerous child care posts after receiving a glowing reference from the abbot.

One pupil said: ‘I remember very clearly walking down corridors with him on the way to the monastery library and passing monks and other teachers, and just thinking, ‘Does nobody know?’ Is nobody looking at me and this man and worrying … does nobody have any idea what’s going on?’ 

Yesterday another victim described their torment at Downside, adding: ‘I was vulnerable, broken and needed help from the Church when I was a child. 

‘I trusted them to help, but instead my life was destroyed and I was handed a life sentence of suffering by my abuser and those who failed to act against it.

‘My abuse would have been stopped immediately if the right safeguarding procedures were in place. 

‘I repeatedly asked for help from a Church that claimed to care and was failed again and again. Instead, under the guise of kindness and caring, those I turned to for help silenced me with guilt and shame, making me believe that I was a sinner.

‘It is hard enough to disclose the shame and humiliation of abuse, without it then being trampled on by those who fail to believe that their Church can commit such atrocities.

‘It was fear of such reprisals by such a strong network of supporters and the wider Catholic community that kept me quiet for so long, knowing my abuser had surrounded himself by those who would defend him at any cost. 

‘Many people who were abused by clergy have ended up taking their lives, or lived lives of self-destruction because of the unbearable pain they have suffered. The Catholic church has blood on its hands as a result.’

An 11-year-old vulnerable boy recalled how he was groomed by geography teacher Nicholas White, who took photographs and fondled him in a monastery library. 

He said: ‘I remember knowing something profoundly wrong had just happened, and I was quite certain that ‘I am going to go into that monastery building and I am going to tell someone, because these are good, holy people’, and then very quickly I had this sudden wave of terror that I was making a tremendous mistake because it’s possible that I had been given an utterly sacred gift, only given to the special few, and if I went in there, these men would be desperately disappointed and angry with me because I had revealed this secret.

‘That was the logic of my 11-year-old mind.’ 

When the boy’s father complained, White was moved to the senior school and was even allowed to assume the role of housemaster to the same boy. 

He left in 1989 but was allowed to return a decade later. He was jailed for child sex offences in 2012.

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