Police investigate sex abuse claims at Oratory school
societyguardian.co.uk, December 5, 2000
Staff and agencies Tuesday December 5, 2000
An investigation was under way today into allegations of child abuse at the London Oratory school.
The inquiry centres on a former chaplain and governor at the Roman Catholic state school in Fulham, south-west London, at which Prime Minister Tony Blair's two eldest sons are pupils.
Police and social services acted after pupils alleged they were abused by Father David Martin, who died of a suspected Aids-related illness two years ago.
Martin was alleged to have met at least six pupils in his rooms at the London Oratory church, to which the highly regarded school is affiliated.
Two boys were said to have expressed fears that they might have contracted the HIV virus from the 44-year-old Scots-born priest, who died in September 1998.
There is no suggestion that Mr Blair's sons are involved in the allegations or the investigation.
A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "Allegations of abuse at a London school have been received by the Hammersmith and Fulham child protection team.
"The allegations are being investigated."
ChildLine founder and chairman Esther Rantzen confirmed that the telephone helpline had been contacted by children who made allegations of abuse at the Oratory school.
She refused to discuss the case further, but said: "As a journalist, I have received for years letters making allegations against priests working in the Roman Catholic church, so I am very aware of the problem.
"I also know that this does occur from time to time in schools and I know how difficult it is to investigate these circumstances when they occur in schools," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"Children who are sexually abused are very often frightened, guilty and ashamed and take the blame on themselves.
"When this happens inside a school, they often feel that they have to protect even their own parents, who sent them there for their own good, and they don't want to hurt their parents by revealing what has happened.
"So there are a great deal of areas in which we need to reassure children in order to ensure the truth comes out."
A spokeswoman for Hammersmith and Fulham council confirmed that a child protection team investigation was under way.
As school chaplain, Martin was employed by the church, not the school, so it is not clear whether he was subject to police checks before working with pupils, she said.
Martin entered the priesthood as a novice in 1988 after a 10-year career as a stockbroker in the City of London, the Daily Mail reported.
He was ordained by the late Cardinal Basil Hume, archbishop of Westminster, in 1994.
Martin died four years later from bronchopneumonia in the hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, Westminster.
The 1,360-pupil Catholic boys' school, which admits girls in the sixth form, was founded by the Fathers of the London Oratory in 1863.
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