I was born in Bedford, England on 20th October 1951. Three years later, my parents
moved to Pyrford in Surrey, where I grew up with my four sisters. I went to Pyrford
Primary School, where I was very happy and did well. In September 1963, aged eleven,
I went to the Salesian College in Chertsey, Surrey, an independent Catholic school
For the next three years, I enjoyed school, made good friends and continued to do well academically.
Then, in September 1966, a new teacher joined the school. Hubert Madley. Within a few weeks, he began to be very friendly to me, taking me home after school and working his
way into my family. Then it began, and for the next two years he sexually abused me as
often as he could and wherever he could.
In February 1968, following the tragic death of my closest friend, Martin Allen, I went to confession and told my housemaster, Fr Madden, what Madley was doing to me.
Fr Madden then told the headmaster, Fr O’Shea, who informed the Rector, Fr Gaffney
and the Provincial Superior – Fr George Williams.
But, instead of helping me, they swore me to silence and moved Madley to the Salesian College in Battersea to protect him and the school’s name. I was left to fend for myself,
without any support from the school. Neither my parents nor the police were told. I failed
all my exams and was thrown out of the school.
The impact of the sexual trauma I had suffered was compounded by the betrayal of the Salesian priests, after I had gone to them for help, a combination which created deep-
seated psychological issues within me that would continue to damage me for years to
come. This damage manifested itself in different ways as I developed a range of harmful behaviours as ‘coping mechanisms’, in order to survive, including alcohol abuse,
self-harm and sex addiction.
I found it difficult to settle and was incapable of forming lasting relationships. I tried to
pretend that it had never happened by burying the memories deep in my mind, and for
the next 30 or so years, I stumbled on through life, but the legacy of guilt, confusion and
anger was never far from the surface.
Then, in 1995, the hidden memories began to re-emerge. A trickle at first, then more,
and more, each time becoming sharper in focus and more detailed. They pervaded my
mind during every moment of every day, and haunted my dreams at night. Eventually,
at the beginning of 1997, I broke down, unable to cope with the force of these awful
images, which totally overwhelmed me and took me to the brink of self-destruction.
I was lucky though; I had someone who stood by me. She looked after me while I tried
to find the support and counselling that I needed, and, eventually, I began to recover.
During my treatment, I was advised by my counsellor to tell the police about what had
happened to me, so, in November 1999, I made a full statement to Surrey Police who
launched an investigation. In April 2000, Madley was arrested, but he denied that anything
had gone on between us. Fr O’Shea also denied knowing anything about it, and, based
on their denials, the CPS decided not to prosecute due to lack of evidence, even though
the police had not even interviewed Fr Williams by the time they made that decision.
Despite this, I was not prepared to give up, so, In October 2000, I informed the Salesians
that I intended to start civil proceedings against them They responded by offering to
mediate with me, although they continued to deny having any knowledge of what I had
happened, saying that it would be far less painful and much quicker to mediate, rather
than go through the courts. I agreed, and they began conducting their own internal
investigation in preparation for the mediation.
The mediation took place in February 2001, at which the Salesians continued to deny
having ever had any knowledge of what I was claiming. However, they offered me £20,000,
on the understanding that I would not sue them or Madley, nor would I say anything about
the matter ever again. I took the money, but I did not stay quiet. Instead, I began my own investigation, using some of the money to fund it. The breakthrough came In April 2004,
after I tracked Madley down and told him that I intended to bring a private criminal
prosecution against him.
This time, instead of denying everything, he wrote me a series of letters asking me to
forgive him, and he had numerous telephone conversations with my friend David Williams,
in which he confessed everything he had done to me. He also disclosed the full nature of
the conspiracy the Provincial, Fr George Williams, had cooked up with him in 1968 to keep
the lid on everything.
Surrey police decided that these letters, together with the phone calls, which David had
taped, contained enough information to enable them to launch a new investigation, so,
Madley was arrested again on October 17th 2004, at his home in North London, and taken
to Collingwood police station, where he was interviewed under caution. Madley was
subsequently charged with buggery and indecent assault, under the Sexual Offences Act 1963, and sent for trial in December 2005.
The full story of what happened to me, and the struggles I endured in my quest for justice,
is told in my book ‘Conspiracy of Faith’, which was published by Lutterworth Press on 22
February 2007. Since then, allegations of sexual abuse have emerged against Fr George
Williams, spanning decades and involving pupils at Shrigley Hall, the former Salesian
Missionary College in Macelsfield, Cheshire. These allegations have been brought into
the public domain by a former Salesian Priest, and are outlined in an open latter,
published by the former priest on 23 August 2007 (this letter and the trial documents
are on my website www.grahamwilmer.org.uk).
Greater Manchester Police, together with Bolton Social Services, investigated these new allegations. Following the investigation, Bolton police gave me the following statement:
‘Mr. Wilmer – regarding your allegation of sexual abuse at the hands of Fr George
WILLIAMS. The matter was jointly investigated by the Child Protection Unit at Bolton and
Bolton Social Services. All the information raised in your complaint has been passed to
DC Mike HOBBS from Surrey Police, by DC PARKER of our unit. The reason for this was
that the historical offences you outlined in your complaint were committed in the Surrey
area. The Salesian College has been visited and Fr Michael WINSTANLEY is aware of
the allegations. Fr WILLIAMS is now house bound and has no contact with any vulnerable
persons, and he is deemed currently not to be a danger to children. In respect of the Police
at Bolton there are no further lines of enquiry to pursue. Keith Isherwood, Detective
Sergeant, PPIU – Child Protection Unit.’
In 2003, I set up The Lantern Project, a counseling and support service to help other
survivors, but I still didn’t fully appreciate the scale of child abuse or the extent of the
damage child abuse causes both at the time, and after long the abuse may have stopped.
I do now, as, since then, the project has supported thousands of survivors, male and
female, and of all ages, and what we have learned through that work has enabled us to develop a recovery framework, which we call Unstructured Therapeutic Disclosure,
which is now recognised by our Primary Care Trust, who now fund us under contract as
a specialist support and counseling service for victims of psychosexual trauma.
All of the cases of child abuse that we deal with are horrific; there is no other way to
describe the damage that is caused, yet, despite all of the child protection measures
that schools, churches and the myriad of other organisations in the UK, which interact
with children and young people, are supposed to have in place, we continue to see
cases of child abuse coming forward, both historical and current, which demonstrate
the inadequacies and failures of the measures that are there, enshrined in law, to protect
children from abuse.
My case was far from unique; I have evidence of more than 20 other cases of child abuse
occurring in Salesian schools in the UK over the past 40 years, and there are many more.
The majority of the victims who have come forward and asked me to help them name the
same Salesian priests, including Salesian Provincials, yet my ongoing attempts to have anyone in authority inquire into these allegations continues to meet with a deafening
silence from Education Ministers, Secretaries of State, Church leaders, and, of course,
the current Provincial of the Salesians in the UK, Fr Martin Coyle.
Recently, Beverley Smith (Child Safeguarding Division – Department for Education),
in response to a document I had sent to Michael Gove, containing the personal disclosures from victims of abuse in Salesian schools, and asking him to set up an investigation, wrote
to me saying ‘it would not be appropriate for the Department to consider such an
investigation, not least given that the allegations relate to a period so long ago.’
This is, simply, unacceptable. Child abuse is a crime. It is now, and it was then.
If we can’t look to those we elect to protect our children, then we must find another way.
It is only through an inquiry on a national scale, that we will be able to expose the level
of abuse that has, and still does, take place in schools, churches and other institutions
in our land.