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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Teacher abuse inquiry resumes
Schoolyard
Eight former pupils have made harrowing claims
An inquiry into the case of a former teacher accused of abusing pupils in his care has been reopened by the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

John Owen, who taught drama at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen, Pontypridd, killed himself shortly after the claims were made.

But the commissioner Peter Clarke adjourned the Clwych inquiry in April after new allegations were made against five other people.

John Owen
John Owen killed himself last October

No persons, though, have been charged and on Wednesday Mr Clarke resumed his examination of the issues involved in the claims made.

The hearing reconvened with the evidence of a former pupil who said he had been abused by Mr Owen at the teacher's Rhondda home.

He also claimed he was made to dance naked with a friend in front of adults during an A-level practical exam.

The inquiry opened by looking at allegations that pupils were sexually abused at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen over a number of years.

Last year, four of Owen's former pupils came forward with abuse allegations dating back to the 1970s.

He was charged with five counts of indecency with boys between 1974 and 1991.

The resumed inquiry has been told the Crown Prosecution Service had refused to give its reasoning to the commissioner for beginning criminal proceedings against Mr Owen.

Peter Clarke, Children's Commissioner for Wales
Peter Clarke wanted to probe claims' handling

Mr Clarke told the hearing he would again be asking the CPS for its reasons behind the decision.

The commissioner's role is to ensure the safety of children in schools, clubs and health care.

Earlier this year, a teacher suspended from her job at a south Wales school was allowed to return to work, following allegations connected to Mr Owen's case.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to press charges against Theda Williams and four other people following a police investigation.

Miss Williams, who teaches at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen, was suspended from work two months ago when the allegations came to light in the inquiry.

Mr Owen - a former drama teacher and acclaimed television writer of the Welsh-language youth drama Pam Fi Duw? - killed himself last October while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing pupils.

He was found dead in a caravan at Trecco Bay, Porthcawl, on the south Wales coast.

Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen:
Owen taught drama at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen

Before the inquiry was adjourned, allegations that Mr Owen abused a female pupil at the school were heard for the first time.

Earlier this year, the inquiry at the University of Glamorgan in Treforest near Pontypridd was due to hear evidence from seven of Owen's alleged victims - five men and two women.

A representative from a teaching union was present at the inquiry on Monday to represent a person "who might be concerned with the inquiry".

But the counsel for the inquiry, Nicholas Cooke QC, said the new police investigation did not point to the existence of a paedophile ring at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen where Mr Owen taught drama from 1977 to 1991.

The inquiry into Mr Owen, from Tylorstown in the Rhondda, is the first to be held by Mr Clarke, since his appointment in spring 2001.

It follows the Waterhouse report into widespread abuse at children's homes in north Wales.

An inquest at Pontypridd in December heard how Owen killed himself with an overdose of morphine.

The coroner said he was satisfied it was the abuse allegations which led him to commit suicide.


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