Courier report brought flashbacks

A man who claims he was sexually abused by a teacher at a Brighouse residential school came forward after reading a Halifax Courier report about similar allegations involving three other former pupils.

The complainant, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told police in a video interview four months after seeing the report that he felt sick when he saw it and had flashbacks about what had happened to him at the William Henry Smith School.

In the interview the man described alleged incidents of abuse by former assistant headteacher Peter Merrick which he said had taken place in the shower room, the boot room and the head’s office.

The man told the interviewing police officer that he had not told anybody else about the abuse and had kept it to himself over the subsequent years.

He said his heart nearly exploded when he saw a report in the Halifax Courier last September relating to abuse allegations that had been made against Merrick.

The man said he had come forward to ‘’get it off his chest,’’ but during cross-examination by Merrick’s barrister Eleanor Laws QC he was pressed about whether he had sought to make a claim for compensation.

The complainant said the day after his police interview he had spoken to a solicitor for about four hours on the phone about the alleged abuse.

When asked about why he had thought about compensation the man told the jury at Bradford Crown Court that the abuse was ‘’not right’’ and he had had a partner who had also been abused.

The man said he had initially contacted a criminal solicitor for advice, but had then found a specialist solicitor through the internet.

Miss Laws suggested that the man had made contact because he wanted to know if he could claim compensation, but the man said he had been seeking advice about what to do.

The man, who has been to prison in the past, said there had been a four-month delay in going to the police because he was frightened and his head was ‘’spinning.’’

The prosecution has alleged that Merrick, 66, of Burton Road, Overseal, Derbyshire, systematically abused four pupils at the school between 1977 and 1984.

He has denied 19 charges of indecent assault and two of buggery.

The trial continues.