Winchester College has apologized for its cult-like Christian club, which permitted a powerful barrister in the 1970s to sexually abuse and groom its pupils.
Independent investigation yesterday revealed that John Smyth QC, an evangelical society member, had ‘unfettered’ access for boys to use in his warped attacks.
Winchester, which charges £43,000 a year, was founded in 1382 and has educated a number of politicians.
Winchester College, (pictured), has apologized for the cult-like Christian club that allowed a powerful lawyer to abuse and groom its students in 1970s.
According to the investigation published yesterday on its website, a Christian Forum that had “unfettered access” at the school 50-years ago showed signs of radicalization.
Smyth used beatings and other abuse to subject his students to sexual ingenuity, sometimes under pretext that it was for religious reasons.
John Thorn, then-head teacher, was informed about the abuse in 1982 by his students but didn’t report it to the police.
Smyth was visited by Mr Thorn, his parents and two other family members in October 1982. They asked him to agree to severed all ties to the school and receive psychiatric treatment.
Thorn stated that he felt Smyth was essentially harmless. The report stated that Smyth abused as many as 90 boys in Zimbabwe and possibly caused the death of one.
Yesterday Winchester apologized unreservedly to Smyth for the “terrible experiences” of its victims.
In a statement, it said: ‘The review…demonstrates in particular that John Smyth was able to infiltrate the college’s Christian community and gain access to the college’s pupils, providing him with the opportunity to groom and then abuse them.’
Reviewers found that multiple staff were aware of Smyth’s “powerful influence” over the boys.
Teachers did not report or share their concerns, and pupils were unable to inform staff.
While some families expressed concern about Smyth’s unhealthy influence over their children, many of his staff believed they were unable to address the issue.
Thorn is now in his 90s and was not able to respond to questions regarding the review. Smyth passed away in 2018.
Independent investigation revealed that John Smyth (pictured in 2017), a member of the evangelical church, had ‘unfettered’ access for boys to perform his warped acts.
Smyth dominated the weekly Christian Forum at the college in the 1970s. In the early 1980s it was attended by up to 100 people.
Smyth invited the boys over to their home to have Sunday dinner with his family.
According to one survivor, he had received over 1,000 strokes in one instance. Two survivors later attempted suicide.
One of his former students said that Smyth helped him feel part of an inner circle because he enforced a code of secrecy and loyalty.
Smyth invited some Winchester boys for Christian summer camp, and they were well-trained.
Reviewers stated that they knew of thirteen former Winchester College students who were abused by Smyth but it was possible there could be more.
Also, the Church of England requested a review of how it handled allegations against Smyth. This report is due in January.
Winchester has been reached out for comment. The Daily Mail could not reach Mr Thorn.