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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Friend 'deceived' - Clywch Inquiry
John Owen
John Owen killed himself before a trial began
A close friend of a former teacher who committed suicide after being accused of sexually abusing pupils has told an inquiry she was deceived by him for years.

John Owen, who taught drama at Rhydfelen near Pontypridd before writing the successful Welsh-language teenage drama Pam Fi, Duw?, was facing charges of indecent assault from former pupils at the school.

Theda Williams had been best friends with Mr Owen for 27 years and had defended him from the allegations, the Clywch Inquiry into the allegations against Mr Owen was told.

In a statement to the inquiry on Wednesday, she said that she now accepted the weight of evidence against Mr Owen was "overwhelming".

Ms Williams, a fellow teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen, insisted she knew nothing about the accusations of sexual misconduct against Mr Owen when he resigned in 1991 after complaints about his teaching methods.

Welsh Joint Education Committee offices
Mr Owen taught drama at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen
However, the inquiry heard she felt she had been deceived by the man she had regarded as her closest friend for over a quarter of a century.

Mr Owen taught at Rhydfelen between 1974 and 1991.

After leaving, he devised the series Pam Fi, Duw?, which was set in a comprehensive school.

The programme ran to six series, and executives praised Mr Owen's "rapport and talent with kids".

Allegations

In 2001, four former pupils of Mr Owen came forward with abuse allegations dating back to his time as a teacher.

He was charged with five counts of indecent assault, but the day before he was due in court, in October 2001, he was found dead in a caravan at Trecco Bay, Porthcawl.

An inquest later heard he had killed himself with an injection of morphine.

He was thought to have taken his own life because of stress caused by the allegations.

The Clywch inquiry into Mr Owen was launched by Peter Clarke, the Welsh children's commissioner, in March 2002.

Several new allegations have been made by ex-pupils and their parents during the hearings.

There were claims that Mr Owen abused some pupils in his own home as well as asking boys to perform in the nude during "virtually pornographic" lessons.

The inquiry is expected to end in June, with a final report published by the end of 2003.




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