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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 14:47 GMT
Teacher admits 35 indecency charges
John Walker pictured entering Oxford Crown Court
John Walker, left, will be sentenced in April
A 58-year-old teacher has admitted 35 charges of gross indecency and indecent assault on primary school children in Oxfordshire.

Oxford Crown Court heard that John Walker, of Blackthorn Close in Headington, Oxford, abused both boys and girls aged between eight and 11.

The offences centred on a primary school, which cannot be named for legal reasons, over a 13-year period between 1976 and 1989.

It also emerged in court that Walker was issued with a formal complaint by the local education authority in 1989 after it received an anonymous letter detailing his abuse at the school.

But he was allowed to continue working as a teacher until his crimes came to the attention of police in 2001.

Up to 60 children

Walker, who pleaded not guilty to a further 20 charges of indecent assault and indecency with a child, has been remanded in custody, pending reports before sentencing in April.

The witnesses in this case have shown tremendous courage

DC Steve Hart
The judge warned him he would be facing a long time in prison.

The offences Walker faced in court concerned 19 children - 12 girls and seven boys. But police say the investigation is continuing, and suspect that up to 60 children may have been abused.

Following Walker's court appearance, Thames Valley Police Detective Constable Steve Hart, who investigated the offences, said: "The witnesses in this case have shown tremendous courage in coming forward and giving evidence against this man, who for a long period of time preyed on young children and was an immense danger to them

He added: "He has pleaded guilty to a series of very serious offences against children.

"The result of his guilty plea means the victims are saved the trauma of giving evidence."

Camping trips

Sandy Stansfield, prosecuting, told the court the abuse finally came to light when one of the boys involved approached Walker's partner and told her what had happened.

He was encouraged to go to the police, who then mounted a full investigation.

One victim recalls Mr Walker being superficially friendly and having favourite pupils

Sandy Stansfield - prosecution lawyer
The court heard that Walker was an author of chess books and ran a school chess club, as well as organising sports and other activities including camping trips away.

The court was told Walker, who at the time was single and lived with his mother, picked his "favourite" pupils and then assaulted them.

For some victims the abuse carried on after they had left the primary school.

Ms Stansfield said: "Walker abused both boys and girls, he had his favourites who were either in or out.

"One victim recalls Mr Walker being superficially friendly and having favourite pupils. Others he used to bully and humiliate."

The court was told that during holiday summer camps, held near the school, Walker would lead children on midnight walks through graveyards, single out his intended victim and then sexually abuse them.

Others he abused following chess lessons in his study at his home, or in the changing rooms following swimming lessons.

Psychological damage

Testaments from some of his victims read out to the court said they had suffered prolonged psychological damage from his abuse.

A victim said in a statement that he feared not being included in the football or chess teams if he said anything about Walker's behaviour.

One victim said he had been assaulted at least 30 times by his teacher and that he was told not to say anything.

Walker, he said, told him: "This is not hurting anyone - it's only society that thinks this is wrong - there is nothing wrong with doing this."

BBC correspondent Rory McLean, in the court, said the victims and families sat silently while Walker responded "guilty", time and time again, and then left the room without speaking to reporters.

The BBC's James Westhead
"The abuse happened... while he was a primary school teacher"
The BBC's Rory Maclean
"If you were not a 'favourite' you were humiliated and bullied"

Click here to go to Oxford
See also:

18 Feb 02 | Education
Missing records of abuse teacher
18 Feb 02 | Education
Could this abuse happen now?
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