Sevenoaks   School

Allegations of child sexual abuse have been made against a number of teachers at Sevenoaks School, notably Gerd Sommerhoff (who has been linked with the Paedophile Information Exchange). A court case was settled against Sevenoaks School in 2013 for damages to XY resulting from sexual abuse by Gerd Sommerhoff. The school chaplain through many of these years of abuse was Peter Hullah, formerly a Bishop in the Chruch of England, head of Chetham School of Music at the time of sexual abuse there.

(See also Index and estimates of the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Britain and Ireland)

Allegations have been made against Gerd Sommerhoff, Casey McCann and teachers of physics, English and classics.

Gerd Sommerhoff

Gerd Sommerhoff and his twin sister moved to Ryde on the Isle of Wight in 1931 with their mother (Elizabeth Ruher Sommerhoff when she married Major Bernard Francis Anne Vernon-Harcourt, while their elder brother, Walter Hans Sommerhoff, emigrated to Santiago, Chile. Gerda was granted leave to remain and Gerd interned in Canada during WW2.

1939-11-03: Alien internment

Gerd Sommerhoff taught science at the Dragon School and presented science programmes for the BBC from 1960-1962 before being recruited to Sevenoaks School in 1963 by headmaster Kim Taylor. He was described as "a cyberneticist attached to University College, London, and a frequent broadcaster on BBC Schools Television" (New Scientist, 25 March 1965 page 772). His teaching methods and technical centre (VISTA) were acknowledged with an OBE.

1982-12-31: OBE Gerd Walter Christian SOMMERHOFF, Director, Centre for Creative Technologly, Sevenoaks School, Kent.

He died in 2002.

2002-04-28: Death — Deceased Estates. Details of the deceased: Claim expires: 26 July 2002. Surname: SOMMERHOFF. First name: Gerd. Middle name(s): Walter Christian. Date of death: 28 April 2002. Last address of the deceased: Person address details: 5 Berrylands, Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 1XW. Teacher and Research Fellow (Retired). Details of the Executor/Personal representative: Executor/Personal Representative: King & Co, St Andrews House, 59 St Andrews Street, Cambridge CB2 3DD. Solicitors. (Ref APH.) (Paul Smith, John Sylvester and John Robinson.)

A first allegation of sexual assualt was published in 2012. Others followed, including an anonymous pupil ('XY') who received compensation from the school in compensation for sexual abuse by Gerd Sommerhoff.

2012-11-08: Dead Sevenoaks teacher Gerd Sommerhoff accused of sexual abuse, by Alice Hemmings [text version]

2013-11-07: Emmott Snell settlement November 2013: Sevenoaks School settles abuse case out of court. This firm represented ‘XY’, in a civil claim arising from sexual abuse by Gerd Sommerhof, a high profile teacher between 1976 and 1983. XY brought his legal case after years of torment and attempts to ‘bury’ it, but it was the Saville scandal that finally gave him the courage to report it. Although his abuser had died, XY was successful in recovering a not insignificant sum of damages for his assaults and associated losses.

2013-11-07: Sevenoaks School settles sex abuse case out of court, by Sean-Paul Doran [text version]

2013-11-14: Payout Over Child Abuse, Sevenoaks Chronicle (print edition) [text version]

2013-11-18: Sevenoaks School teacher had 'six more victims' of sex abuse, claims accuser, by Sean-Paul Doran [text version]

2013-11-21: Drivetime, BBC Radio Kent, Dominic King

Jimmy Savile

Jimmy Savile visited Sevenoaks School on April 24, 1978, and may have abused a pupil during a car-ride. The school and police initially dismissed the allegation because there was "no evidence that Savile had ever been to the school".

The police statement of 18 October 2012 included: "Jimmy Savile stopped at Sevenoaks School during a charity fund-raising run, for a photograph opportunity in the car park at the front of School House, on the High Street. ... After the photograph session, a large chauffeur-driven car arrived in the car park. Jimmy Savile asked if any of the boys would like to go for a ride around town, which (of course) everyone wanted. He chose a boy ['W'] ... The rumour that went around the school was that Jimmy Savile had "touched" 'W' and that Jimmy Savile was a dirty old man who liked to "interfere with" little boys. That is the impression of him that I have carried since then, and I have heard many rumours over the years supporting that impression, so I was not surprised by the current media exposure — I am more surprised that it was not made public many years ago." Further evidence to Sevenoaks School's independent enquiry stated that "it was not unusual [in 1978] for either staff or visitors to take pupils off the premises for short trips, meals or to their homes, occasionally overnight."

2014-03-27: Jimmy Savile child abuse investigation at Sevenoaks School, by Sean-Paul Doran

2014-03-27: Jimmy Savile child sex abuse investigation at Sevenoaks School centred around charity event, by Sean-Paul Doran

Original news report and photographs

2014-04-03: FLASHBACK- The day Jimmy Savile came to Sevenoaks, by Sean-Paul Doran — In April 2014 Sean-Paul Doran sytematically searched back-issues of the Sevenoaks Chronicle, locating photographs that were published and identifying the exact date and time of the visit by Jimmy Savile to Sevenoaks School.



2014-04-03: REVEALED- Jimmy Savile's Sevenoaks visit which sparked child sex abuse investigation, by Sean-Paul Doran

2014-04-03: School to investigate 'Savile abuse' claim: Governors ordered to look into historical allegation dating back to 70s, Sevenoaks Chronicle (print edition)

2014-06-27: Sevenoaks School child sex abuse investigation completed, by Sean-Paul Doran

'Independent' report witheld, the school's own Executive Summary released

2015-02-26: The government-appointed enquiry has reported that "despite credible informants, none of the 14 separate investigations [into schools and homes] had found sufficient evidence of abuse." and The use of a chauffeur-driven car is a recurrent theme in these allegations, which are probably independent and not influenced by reporting (neither the use of a car nor sexual abuse of boys featured in the early news reports). The government report states that "All of these organisations, bar the independent school, are publishing full reports. The independent school is publishing an executive summary."

Sevenoaks School's summary says "The investigation therefore concluded that the suggestion made by the informant that ‘X’ might have been abused was unfounded, and that there was no evidence to show that any other pupil was the victim of abuse by Jimmy Savile." [This document is no longer available on Sevenoaks School's website, but is available in full here]

Some highlights from Sevenoaks School's executive summary are "The investigation identified, located and then contacted ‘X’ , the person referred to by the informant as the alleged victim [is 'X' indeed the person 'W' referred to in the allegation?]. ‘X’ responded immediately giving his recollection of the visit by Jimmy Savile. He concluded his reply by saying that "nothing inappropriate happened or could possibly have happened" during the visit by Jimmy Savile.
After this was put to the informant, he readily and immediately withdrew the identification of ‘X’ as the alleged victim, but then indicated that the alleged victim must have been one of the other boarders. He did not know which. Further interviews corroborated ‘X’’s account in all relevant respects [did any evidence, other than 'X' not being the victim, contradict the detailed allegation made to police?].
The investigation therefore concluded that the suggestion made by the informant that ‘X’ might have been abused was unfounded, and that there was no evidence to show that any other pupil was the victim of abuse by Jimmy Savile.

The final paragraph ends with "An inspection of the School by the Independent Schools Inspectorate in February 2013 concluded that the arrangements at the School for pastoral care, welfare and health and safety of pupils are excellent [was the child protection awareness of 1978 assessed?]."

Lack of accountability

The 'independent investigator', Francesca Quint, will not release her report, stating "I forwarded your original request to the Bursar and will send on your reminder also." (9 March 2015).

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, appointed to oversee the enquiries into Savile's contact with schools and homes, wrote "The investigation report is the property of Sevenoaks School and other than requesting a copy from the school, I'm not sure how else you could obtain a copy. I'm sorry I cannot be of more help." (25 March 2015).

On further enquiry, outlining misleading and inaccurate statements in the Executive Summary, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff wrote "As I have explained previously the decision about publication of the report rests with Sevenoaks School and I have no influence over that decision. I am satisfied that the school conducted a robust investigation and the executive summary published is a reasonable summary of that investigation. I therefore cannot help with the request for action set out in the final paragraph of your letter." (5 May 2015).

Casey McCann

Casey McCann (Michael Thomas Casey McCann) was head of the International Centre until he let the school in 1982, and was replaced in this role by chaplain Peter Hullah. Casey McCann and Peter Hullah were together involved in a high-profile rescue of a pupil from a cult in San Francisco in 1981.

2010-11-18: Shocking death of popular teacher"It Was 10 years ago that the terrible news reached Sevenoaks that Casey McCann, former deputy headmaster at Sevenoaks School and one of the most charismatic teachers ever known, had been murdered in his apartment in the Brazilian city of Sao Paolo. The news was shocking and so was the way he died — killed, said the police, in a fit of passion during a homosexual encounter. The Irishman's body had been tied up and he was dressed only in underwear. A black man seen walking into his flat was immediately suspected. At the time, detectives in Sao Paolo said they planned to interview neighbours in a bid to track down his killer. To my knowledge no one has ever been charged."

2000-03-01: Teacher Was Killed In A Fit Of Passion; Police Hunt Young Black Man" POLICE investigating the murder of an Irish headmaster said yesterday they want to talk to a young black man seen going into his flat. Detectives said it appeared that Casey McCann, 57, who was from Co Kerry, but had left Ireland in the 1960s, may have been killed in a "fit of passion". The chief suspect was seen by a doorman late on Saturday night with McCann entering the apartment in the Brazilian city of Sao Paolo. Brazilian cops are working on the theory that the crime involved, as they put it, "passion" or "romance". McCann's plush apartment showed some signs of a struggle and a whiskey bottle was smashed on the floor. The Irishman's body had been tied up and he was dressed only in underwear." (also and

1999-09-28: Love triangle leaves three dead

Peter Hullah

As head of Chetham Music School:

Top music school 'cover up over fondling choirmaster caught with half-naked girl'"Brewer is on trial for raping another ex-pupil with the encouragement of ex-wife Kay. He said the health story was suggested by then headmaster, Rev Peter Hullah, after he had knocked on Brewer’s door in 1994 when the choirmaster had the head girl’s top off.
Rev Hullah knocked on the office door when Brewer had the girl’s top off, but while she had time to dress and dash out before he walked in, he became suspicious and ordered an inquiry.
Asked if it was ‘a cover-up’ in which ‘everything was swept under the carpet by you, Rev Hullah and Chetham’s’ Brewer said he had acted ‘honourably’.
But when pressed by Judge Martin Rudland, the defendant replied: ‘Yes.’"

Convicted of indecent assault: The choirmaster who abused girls and the twisted wife who joined in"The then-head girl told how, when she was 17, Mr Brewer convinced her he was in love with her while groping her in his office and practice rooms. The relationship came to an end when the then headmaster, Reverend Peter Hullah, almost walked in on them with her topless.
He confronted Mr Brewer, who admitted the relationship.
Rather than be sacked, the director of music was allowed to resign on the grounds of ill health in 1994.
And so it was that Mr Brewer’s career was not blighted, but actually blossomed.
The year after leaving Chetham’s, he was awarded an OBE for services to education. Offers of work poured in, not only with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, which he founded, but with other choirs and schools around the world. Such was his profile that in 2008 he landed a role on the BBC’s show Last Choir Standing."

Sexual abuse in music schools"And worse still, it has emerged that Michael Brewer resigned from Chetham's after the then headmaster, Peter Hullah, disturbed Brewer and a pupil in Brewer’s office ‘when the choirmaster had the girl’s top off’. That resignation, supposedly on health grounds, allowed Brewer to leave without there being any investigation, and so allowed Brewer to continue to work with children, particularly as director of the National Youth Choirs."

Choir master accused of raping girl admits affair with another pupil"The woman had earlier told the court that one day she was naked from the waist up when the school's then headteacher, the Rev Peter Hullah, knocked on the door. She and Brewer "instantly panicked" and she was "slipped out" of a side door which opened on to the practice rooms corridor, she said. But Hullah caught sight of her on the corridor and she was later summoned to talk about her relationship with Brewer. She told the jury: "Soon after that he was asked to resign from the school because of his relationship with me. He said it was for health reasons and it was all kept quiet, by the school, the real reason for him leaving.""

Chetham's school of music: further abuse allegations emerge Two more accused of inappropriate behaviour as five former teachers now linked to historic claims"In total, five teachers are now in the frame. Greater Manchester police confirmed on Tuesday that they were already investigating complaints about a further teacher before Brewer was found guilty on Friday. That teacher is not Bakst, Ling or Malcolm Layfield, who stepped down from the board at the RNCM on Monday amid claims he had a string of inappropriate relationships with 16- to 18-year-olds at Chetham's and the RNCM."

Music school at heart of abuse scandal failed to safeguard pupils, reports find: Chetham's school of music in Manchester is criticised for failures of leadership over children's welfare "Council inspectors concluded that the local authority "is not confident about the overall effectiveness of the leadership and governance of safeguarding arrangements in the school"."

Former Chetham's teacher arrested on suspicion of rape //"In May the Guardian revealed that 39 music teachers had been identified as potential suspects in Operation Kiso. A Greater Manchester police spokesman said: "Of those, 10 are being proactively investigated, five are believed to be deceased, 12 relate to third-party reports and a further 12 relate to matters that either do not reach a criminal threshold, whether historic or otherwise, or where statutory time limits do not allow for a prosecution to take place, or are matters that will be passed to another police department to investigate." The 10 being proactively investigated have or have had connections with either Chetham's or RNCM or both, and/or have taught music privately. More than 30 women have come forward to allege abuse by music teachers."//

Suicide of choir director's sex victim: A MOTHER-of-four committed suicide after telling a jury she felt “pressurised” into reliving sex abuse from three decades ago during two days of court grilling."During the trial Brewer admitted a brief affair with a 17-year-old pupil where he would “fondle her bare breasts” in his office. It was agreed he could resign from Chetham’s in 1994 “due to health reasons” when confronted about rumours of the affair by the then headmaster Rev Peter Hullah."

Pupils' Recollections of Sevenoaks School

Clive Dunn: "He learned to sing and dance at an early age, but his progress as a child entertainer was halted when it was decided he should receive a conventional education at boarding school. He remembers those schools with horror, and recalls the relief he felt when he was liberated from them." "But he didn’t have a massively, I have to say, happy time here, because those were the days of beatings and things like that. His comment to me was that it was really good preparation for coming a prisoner of war, which I think is a wry reflecting on his time."