A nurse says she spent years living with the knowledge that her paedophile teacher had abused her and gotten away with it.
But she was floored when she found out that Brian Smith, 80, had been found hanged in his shed after his horrific crimes were exposed.
Smith had pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault against young boys and was due to stand trial for another 14 counts at Liverpool Crown Court last Monday.
Smith had also been dragged to court for alleged indecent assault on a pupil in 1994, but was cleared after his fellow teachers at Lister Drive Primary School gave evidence in his defence.
Angela (not her real name), the complainant in that case, still maintains today that she was subjected to an 18 month campaign of sexual abuse by Smith when she was aged between 10 and 11.
She told the ECHO: “For years there were people who didn’t believe me. The teachers stood up in court and said he was a lovely man.
“Parents of other children went up to my mum and said ‘we want to let you know your daughter’s evil’.
“I even found out distant members of my own family didn’t believe me. When I saw the [recent] story in the ECHO I could not believe it, I have had to take time off work.”
Angela says the abuse began in the last two school years at Lister Drive, where Smith worked as a music teacher.
Smith’s stock room was opposite Angela’s class – and the predator allegedly began calling her to come in and “help” with things.
She said: “He took me into the stock room and locked the door.
“He would say sit on my knee and then kiss my lips. He would say ‘you’re not scared of me are you?’ which shows he knew I was scared.”
Angela says Smith would touch her over her clothing, but the most repulsive memory is the open-mouthed “sloppy kisses” the then 50-year-old regularly forced on her.
Smith would allegedly tell Angela “I love you, you are so special to me” and suggest “this is our secret” in an effort to manipulate her into silence.
Despite his predatory instincts, Smith was a popular teacher in the school, known for making children laugh by wiggling his eyebrows.
Angela said: “He came across as a nice, jovial, jolly man. When people noticed he paid me a lot of attention they just said he must have seen me as one of his children.”
The damage caused by Smith’s abuse came to a head a few years later when Angela, then 15, developed the eating disorder anorexia.
She said: “I had some support then from my high school Holly Lodge. I spoke to a counsellor, who told me anorexia is normally brought on because you have no control in your life, and your way of controlling is by not eating.
“They asked me if anything had happened to make me feel like that and I broke down and told them about Mr Smith.”
The counsellor at Holly Lodge insisted on reporting the abuse to police, and despite initially being dead set against the idea, Angela found the strength to give evidence and take Smith to court.
But far from bringing her justice, the experience was devastating.
She said: “We got to court and it was horrendous, they just tore into me.
“There were teachers from the school giving evidence saying what a nice man he was. His barristers cross-examined me and told me it was all lies, they said things like ‘you even voted him for teacher of the year’.
“You know what it’s like when you’re a kid, everyone else was saying how funny he was and you just follow them.
“But they said I was attention seeking. They asked me to describe the lock in the stock room but I couldn’t remember, they said I was making it up.”
“I broke down in court, and the barrister said ‘I hope you know I am just doing my job’, and they called a break. I thought they might go a bit easier on me, but when we came back they tore into me again.
“I was just looking at all these people thinking, ‘but it did happen’.”
Angela says parents of pupils at the school attended court to support Smith and told her mum: “We’re not here for your daughter, she is a liar.”
Despite the setbacks in her case, Angela managed to “sort myself out” in her words and forged a career as a nurse – but in the background the abuse she described has played on her mind over the years.
She said she recently broke down to a manager at a work night out and told them about the experience, and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Helplines and support groups
The following are helplines and support networks for people to talk to, mostly listed on the NHS Choices website
- Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
- PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is an organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
- Mind (0300 123 3393) is a charity providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
- Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
- Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.
- Hub of Hope is the UK’s most comprehensive national mental health support database. Download the free app, visit hubofhope.co.uk or text HOPE to 85258 to find relevant services near you.
- Young Persons Advisory Service – Providing mental health and emotional wellbeing services for Liverpool’s children, young people and families. tel: 0151 707 1025 email: email@example.com
Angela says recently a male former classmate reacher out to her on Facebook and told her Smith “did it to me as well.”
She said: “He decided not to do anything about it and I was absolutely gutted.”
Reading about Smith’s death in the ECHO was a difficult moment for Angela, although she feels glad the truth about his crimes is out.
She said: “He obviously had no guilt at all. He’s lived a nice life in comfort, he’s got away with it and left devastation for all his victims.
“He’s killed himself but that’s the easy way out.”
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Recently Angela talked to former classmates who remembered her being called into Smith’s stock room.
She said: “They remembered the fear on my face going into that stock room. They said they wished they had spoken out at the time.”
The new charges faced by Smith related to the abuse of three male victims between the 1960s and the early 1980s in Liverpool, Southport and York.
A neighbour told the ECHO police were seen searching his house before a dog team searched his garden, eventually making the grim discovery in his shed.
A spokesman for Merseyside Police said: “Officers attended a house in Childwall following the death of a man on Monday.
“Police attended the house on Okehampton Road following concerns for the safety of an 80-year-old man. The body of the man was found in an outbuilding.
“He has been formally identified and next of kin have been informed. His death is not being treated as suspicious and a file has been passed to the coroner.”