FBI probe teacher William Vahey abused boys in UK school

One of London's most prestigious private schools is cooperating with the FBI to identify dozens of children thought to have been abused by a teacher.

A convicted paedophile abused children at a private school in London where he taught, its chair of governors said.

William Vahey, 64, taught students at Southbank International School from 2009 to last year. He was found dead last month.

It has since emerged that the US national had preyed on up to 90 boys at different schools he worked in around the world.

The FBI said his victims were drugged and some may not know they were abused.

Vahey killed himself two days after investigators filed a warrant to search a computer belonging to him containing pornographic images of at least 90 boys aged from 10 to 14, who appeared to be drugged and unconscious.

Southbank International School's chair of governors, Sir Chris Woodhead, said the matter was the "worst thing that I've ever been involved in in 40 years of education".

The former Ofsted chief inspector said the school was working with the FBI to identify which of the children in the images were from the school.

The photographs were catalogued with dates and locations that corresponded with overnight field trips that Vahey had taken with students since 2008, but he had led pupils on such outings for his entire career.

Vahey was jailed for child sex offences in California in 1969, the FBI said.

William Vahey William Vahey pictured in 2013 (left) and 2004
'Immaculate record'

FBI Special Agent Patrick Fransen said: "I've never seen another case where an individual may have molested this many children over such a long period of time.

How teachers are vetted

  • Teachers are required by law to pass background checks and undergo enhanced vetting by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
  • The DBS check includes confirmation that the applicant is not on a list of individuals barred from working with children
  • In this case, it is understood that Vahey had successfully passed a check of his criminal record before becoming a teacher at Southbank International School
  • The DBS was created after the merger of the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and the Criminal Records Bureau in 2012

"I'm concerned that he may have preyed on many other students prior to 2008."

Vahey was confronted about the images by a colleague at the American Nicaraguan School in Managua, Nicaragua, where he had most recently been teaching.

He said he had been molested as a child and then confessed to preying on boys all his adult life, usually plying them with sleeping pills before abusing them.

"Everyone at the school is deeply shocked by what we heard on Tuesday," Sir Chris said.

"Our two priorities now are to communicate as much information as we have as quickly as we can, and to help the police as much as we can in what is now an international police inquiry into the activities of this man."

Southbank International School Vahey taught history and geography at the Southbank International School in central London

Sir Chris said the fact that Vahey was able to teach there and at other schools despite having a conviction for a child sex offence in California in 1969 "beggars belief".

But he added that Vahey had an "immaculate record" and had never given any staff at the school cause for concern.

"He was a very popular man, both with staff and students," he said. "He has managed to deceive his colleagues in schools all around the world for 30 years."

Vahey, who had a home in London as well as in South Carolina, was found dead in Luverne, Minnesota, on 21 March.

The Metropolitan Police said it was working with the FBI and NSPCC to establish Vahey's potential offending during his time at Southbank International School.

It said it searched a home in north London on Tuesday, at the request of the FBI, where a number of items were seized which are now being examined.

The FBI said Vahey worked in the following schools:

  • American Nicaraguan School, Managua, Nicaragua: 2013 until March 2014
  • Southbank International School, London, United Kingdom: 2009-2013
  • Escuela Campo Alegre, Caracas, Venezuela: 2002-2009
  • Jakarta International School, Jakarta, Indonesia: 1992-2002
  • Saudi Aramco Schools, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia: 1980-1992
  • American Community School, Athens, Greece: 1978-1980
  • Passargad School, Ahwaz, Iran: 1976-1978
  • American School of Madrid, Madrid, Spain: 1975-1976
  • American Community School of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon: 1973-1975
  • Tehran American School, Tehran, Iran: 1972-1973.

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