Suffolk

Oakwood School inquiry: Five in court over abuse

Five men have appeared in court, charged over allegations of abuse at a Suffolk boarding school.

They appeared before Bury St Edmunds magistrates following an inquiry into allegations of physical and sexual abuse at Oakwood School, Stowmarket. which closed in 2000.

The five men, from Suffolk, Northamptonshire, Southampton and Lancaster, did not enter formal pleas.

They are due to appear at Ipswich Crown Court on 17 October.

Oakwood opened in 1974 and was a state school for young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The school, which was run by Suffolk County Council, closed temporarily in December 1999 and shut for good the following year.

Former head teacher

Police have been investigating historical physical and sexual abuse of children at the school over a 21-year period in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Eric de Smith, 74, of Danes Close in Stowmarket is charged with 16 alleged offences of indecent assault or gross indecency against boys.

The other four men are charged with the assault, ill-treatment or neglect of boys.

Stephen Player, 59, formerly a head teacher at Spratton Hall school in Northamptonshire, and Michael Watts, 57, of Sellwood Road, Southampton both face six counts.

Gerald West, 69, of Martins Meadow, Gislingham in Suffolk, faces 10 counts.

Graham Hallett, 65, of Aldcliffe Road, Lancaster, is charged with one count.

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