Sussex

Sussex sex-abuse carer Darren Turk 'died after witch hunt'

Frewen College in Northiam Image copyright Oast House Archive
Image caption Turk was convicted of historical abuse offences at Frewen College

A former boarding school worker who was found dead while he faced a sex abuse trial was the subject of a witch hunt, his mother has said after an inquest.

Jasmine Botting said Darren Turk - found hanged at his Etchingham home in June - was an innocent "gentle giant".

He was convicted of historical abuse after his death in what is thought to be the first time a dead man has been convicted of a crime in England.

East Sussex senior coroner Alan Craze concluded Turk took his own life.

After the hearing, Mrs Botting said her son wrote in his last letter: "I cannot go to prison for something I haven't done."

Adding that the family were waiting to hear whether they could appeal against Turk's convictions, she said: "It was definitely a witch hunt. He couldn't believe someone could say those awful things about him."

'Hounded to death'

Turk, 54, was accused of offences against boys aged 11 to 15 between 1996 and 2002 at Frewen College, Northiam, where he was a member of care staff and later head of care at the school, but not a teacher.

The charges did not involve any staff or pupils currently at the school.

After Turk died, a Lewes Crown Court jury convicted him of 10 counts and cleared him of six counts.

The inquest heard he had been prescribed anti-depressants before his body was found at his home in Fontridge Lane by his stepfather Eric Botting.

Post-mortem tests gave the cause of death as hanging and toxicology tests found he had 74mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, described by the coroner as "not a huge amount".

A plastic box labelled "Mum and Dad" contained letters of a suicidal nature, the inquest heard.

Mr Craze said: "The letters make it abundantly clear what he was doing and why he was doing it."

In a statement, the family said: "An innocent man has been hounded to his death by a malicious campaign with no justification whatsoever.

"Darren was one of the gentlest, loveable and caring people you could ever meet."

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