Among the ripples of the police investigations into 1980s student rape at Chethams, the RNCM, Guildhall and other music schools, a private school reached a quiet settlement this week with a former student who had been sexually abused by a teacher between 1976 and 1983.
He was not the only victim at Sevenoaks School. Stuart Neilson, an ex-pupil, has come forward to tell Slipped Disc that he was abused by the same teacher. He is not seeking damages, but has formed a support group. So far, eight ex-pupils have said they were abused by five teachers at the school during the period concerned. Stuart Neilson wants Seveoaks School to acknowledge responsibility for the abuse, rather than passing the buck to its insurers.
The chief abuser, says Stuart Neilson, was a technology teacher called Gerd Sommerhoff, a minor celebrity who once presented science programmes on the BBC. Sommerhoff, described in his Wiki entry as a ‘pioneer of theoretical neuroscience’, went on to teach at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was awarded the OBE. He was the grandson of Elise Schumann, third child of Robert and Clara Schumann, and had been brought to England as a child in 1931. Sommerhoff died in April 2002. Stuart Neilson is concerned that his offences should not be forgotten.
He wonders if there are wider ramifications to the case. During the time of these abuses, there was a chaplain and housemaster at Sevenoaks School called Peter Hullah.
The Rev. (later Bishop) Hullah went on to become head of Chetham’s. He once walked in on the convicted rapist Mike Brewer while he was fondling a naked girl. At Chetham’s, as at Sevenoaks, the Rev. Hullah turned a blind eye.
Stuart Neilson tells us that, as a pupil, he discussed sexual bullying and abuse with Hullah. ‘I am absolutely certain that he was aware of the nature and extent of the sexual abuse, and that he was both chaplain and a housemaster,’ he attests. At Mike Brewer’s trial, Hullah admitted being party to ‘a cover-up’ to arrange Brewer’s removal from the school. Except for his evidence at the trial, Hullah has maintained total media silence and refused requests for interview.