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Abuse headteacher left estate to ex-council leader and priest to clear his name after death

PUBLISHED: 13:18 16 December 2019 | UPDATED: 09:47 18 December 2019

Left: convicted paedophile Derek Slade. Right: Islington politician Derek Sawyer, one of two executors in Slade's will. Pictures: Suffolk Police/Evening Standard

Left: convicted paedophile Derek Slade. Right: Islington politician Derek Sawyer, one of two executors in Slade's will. Pictures: Suffolk Police/Evening Standard

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A paedophile headmaster gave half his estate to an ex-leader of Islington Council in the hope it could be used to clear his name, the Gazette can reveal.

Derek Slade was headmaster of St George's in Norfolk from 1978 to 1982. Photo: SubmittedDerek Slade was headmaster of St George's in Norfolk from 1978 to 1982. Photo: Submitted

Derek Slade died in March 2016 while serving a 21-year sentence at Norwich Prison for the physical and sexual abuse of boys.

Slade admitted to more than 50 charges including sexual assault, beatings and child pornography at private schools in Norfolk and Suffolk, between 1978 and 1983, at Ipswich Crown Court in February 2010.

Derek Sawyer, a former Islington Council leader and Jeremy Corbyn's constituency agent until March 2010, had helped set up one of the schools with Slade.

Slade later led Sawyer to believe that he had assumed a new identity legitimately. Mr Sawyer later helped Slade find work in schools abroad under his new identity, after Slade's earlier conviction for physically assaulting boys in 1986.

After the 2010 conviction, Mr Sawyer said in 2011 that the pair had had only "intermittent" contact over 40 years and he had been "taken in and used".

Islington Council leader, Derek Sawyer, and then-chair of social services Sandy Marks at a 1993 press conference on the first report into child abuse in the Islington's care homes. Picture: Evening StandardIslington Council leader, Derek Sawyer, and then-chair of social services Sandy Marks at a 1993 press conference on the first report into child abuse in the Islington's care homes. Picture: Evening Standard

Documents that have now been seen by the Gazette show the paedophile left him half his money, possessions and belongings after he died, in order to appeal some of his convictions.

When asked for comment, Derek Sawyer told the Gazette: "I have always made it clear that I utterly condemn Derek Slade's behaviour and the crimes for which he was convicted, which I find abhorrent.

"I had no involvement with the drawing up of the will. I had not seen it before Slade's death and did not know its contents. The will was handed to a firm of solicitors to deal with."

Almost all of the money went towards legal costs, Mr Sawyer said - and, as Slade had instructed, looking into the possibility of an appeal. He added: "I have not received payment as an executor or as a residual legatee."

The two executors in Slade's will were Mr Sawyerand the Rev Robin Sanders, a former deputy head at the Suffolk boarding school who went on to become a Catholic priest.

A 2012 report by the Prison Ombudsman into Slade's death noted that one of them, described as a "friend" named as Slade's next of kin, also regularly visited him in prison.

The Rev Sanders confirmed this was him. In 2010, he said, "I was very shocked by what was revealed about Mr Slade, condemn utterly his behaviour and deplore what his victims suffered."

But he added: "Especially in view of the long time he faced in prison I did not consider it right to break contact with him."

In his hand-written will, Slade had written: "Whereas my blood and familial relatives have renounced contact and ties with me… I hereby instruct my executors to ensure that none of my relatives benefit in any way whatsoever from my estate."

He asked them to sell his house in Burton-on-Trent, with leftover cash to be used to try to clear his name. The property sold for £95,000 in late 2017.

St George's school at Finborough Hall. Picture: SubmittedSt George's school at Finborough Hall. Picture: Submitted

Slade wrote: "...if my appeal to have some of my convictions quashed have not been completed successfully... the monies shall be utilised to pursue my case".

The paedophile asked to be cremated and for his ashes to be scattered in international waters.

He also directed for £1,000 to be given to an organisation only named as "the 1996 Society" and be spent within 12 months "solely for good living".

When asked what this referred to, Mr Sawyer said: "The 1996 Society does not exist."

Derek Sawyer, now 70, was the leader of Islington Council between 1992 and 1994, when inquiries into the child sex abuse scandal at Islington's care homes were first taking place.

Derek Slade, pictured in 1982, made boys write essays about the beatings they had received. Picture: SubmittedDerek Slade, pictured in 1982, made boys write essays about the beatings they had received. Picture: Submitted

He went on to become chairman of the London Courts Board and was a founding member of Islington's local policing board, a trustee of charity Crime Concern and director of youth offending charity Catch-22.

He also set up a book publishing company with Slade, Oriflamme Publishing Limited, which is still operating from Mr Sawyer's house in Finsbury Park.

It is understood that despite still co-owning the company, Mr Sawyer is not profiting from it and Slade did not receive royalties in prison.

Mr Sawyer also wrote a job reference for Slade under his false name, Edward Marsh, which helped him gain a senior position at a school in Swaziland.

Dr Liz Davies, who heads the 200-strong Islington Survivors' Network, said she had contacted Islington Council's head of safeguarding and local authority designated officer with concerns about Mr Sawyer and Slade's relationship in 2016.

Derek Sawyer wrote a reference for Slade to take up a position in Swaziland.Derek Sawyer wrote a reference for Slade to take up a position in Swaziland.

She said: "ISN raised the issue when we became aware of the reference. They had sight of this but there was no interest whatsoever."

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The council said the matter had been dealt with "in line with its safeguarding policy".

Background: Derek Sawyer and Derek Slade

Publicity from Help A Poor Child names Derek Sawyer and Derek Slade as contacts for a project in South India.Publicity from Help A Poor Child names Derek Sawyer and Derek Slade as contacts for a project in South India.

Derek Slade and Derek Sawyer knew each other from school in the 1960s.

In 1977 they co-founded Anglemoss, the owner of St George's: a boarding school in Norfolk for the children of Armed Forces families.

Mr Sawyer quit as a director as soon as it was set up and was not involved in running the school, but Slade became headmaster and subjected boys to horrific abuse.

Slade made boys as young as eight strip naked for beatings and then forced them to write essays about the whippings.

Concerns were raised with Islington Council in 2016. Picture: Ken MearsConcerns were raised with Islington Council in 2016. Picture: Ken Mears

He organised "midnight feasts" at his home in the grounds where he and friends sexually abused the boys, his trial in 2010 heard.

Abuse allegations at another school Slade set up, Dalesdown in Sussex, led to Slade pleading guilty to two counts of physical assault on pupils in 1986.

Mr Sawyer spoke as a character witness for Slade in court in 1986, quoted in newspapers as saying he was "a well liked teacher".

The Appeal Court reduced Slade's three-month jail sentence to a conditional discharge.

Slade's lawyer said as a result of the conviction his client "would not be able to return to the teaching vocation". But he did.

In 1988 Slade obtained a passport using the birth certificate of a dead child from Derby called Edward Marsh.

And with Mr Sawyer's help he kept teaching abroad. The pair set up a book publisher, Oriflamme Publishing Limited, in 1990 which published textbooks written by Slade and a children's novel by "Derek Sawde": a combination of their names.

It was followed in 1995 by an education company, Indo British Education Projects (IBEP).

In 2000, Derek Sawyer wrote a glowing reference for "Edward Marsh" to work as director of education for IBEP at Sisekelo High School in Swaziland. At no point did he mention the past conviction or name change.

When asked about this, he told the Gazette: "Any information I gave concerning Slade was accurate and given in good faith. To the best of my knowledge at that time, he was legitimately using the name Edward Marsh."

Slade was sacked from Sisikelo in 2001 for instituting a new corporal punishment regime and allegations of physical and sexual abuse emerged in subsequent years.

In 2003 Derek Sawyer and IBEP backed yet another pitch by Slade for £85,000 of taxpayer cash to run a remote, isolated "school" in Gujarat, India.

Eight teenage boys at the Anglo Kutchi English Medium School later alleged they had been beaten and molested by Slade on the premises.

Slade also received backing from UK charity Help a Poor Child to set up a 200-capacity "orphans village" in South India.

In 2005, HAPC publicity asked for donations to Slade's latest scheme be sent to Derek Sawyer's home address in Islington.

Derek Sawyer said he had no recollection of the projects in India and was not involved.


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