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The predator who bought himself a school | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

A former pupil, Charlotte Williams, herself now the proprietor of an independent school, remembers her time at the school: ‘He was dominating and creepy, always walking around in the evening. He had some kind of watch he would swing around – as an adult I can see that that was a kind of show of power. If we had socials and we were with boys, he would be watching us.’

Williams believes that she and a number of her friends were expelled for posing a risk to Martin: ‘There was always a feeling that he was excluding anyone who was cheeky and outspoken. There was a pattern of removing anyone who might speak out.’ 

Charlie Clothier, another pupil, says that ‘the staff who would question him would leave’. Catherine Allott, a senior teacher, transferred from the Harrogate campus to Thorpe Underwood but left soon after, ‘entirely of my own volition’.

When asked what she thought of the new ownership, she says: ‘I was a traditionalist. He was more modern, shall we say.’

Was Martin more involved in the day-to-day running of the school than would be typical for a proprietor? ‘He owned it. He had every right to go wherever he wanted to go.’

‘He always said he was untouchable’

Allott acknowledges that Martin’s conviction ‘is a bit horrifying in any respect’. Since Martin stood back from every board following his arrest in 2015, his children have provided family continuity as directors of the remaining businesses. His son Francis is a director, general manager and CEO of The Equine & Livestock Insurance Company. 

As well as chair of the Collegiate Board, Amy is a director of Care & Recreation Holdings Limited, the holding company for QE. Around the time of Martin’s trial in 2018, The Charity Commission announced that it was conducting an investigation into the charities The Martin Foundation and The Collegiate Charitable Foundation, of which Martin’s children Amy and Francis are among the trustees.

The commission was tasked with examining conflicts of interest, unauthorised trustee benefit, and whether or not the charities were being run in accordance with their aims. Before this article went to press, I asked the Charity Commission and its interim manager for a progress update. The Commission will not comment on an ongoing investigation.

In 2017, The Collegiate Charitable Foundation paid £2.84 million in rent to, and purchased services worth £5.19 million from Thorpe Underwood Services Limited (now Queen Ethelburga’s Services Limited). The directors of Thorpe Underwood Services Limited in the same period include Amy Martin and Francis Martin.

The charity received £2.8 million from Queen Ethelburga’s College Limited, another company with the same directors. It is difficult to imagine who might have overseen the decisions made about related party transactions without being conflicted. I put these allegations to Amy Martin.

Her response was: ‘As you correctly identify, there is currently an ongoing inquiry by the Charities Commission and it is therefore not appropriate for me to comment on, or answer your questions. I will be making no further comments.’

In March this year, following the publication of my investigation for independent magazine The Fence, Brian Martin was the subject of a prohibition order issued by the Secretary of State for Education, banning him from being involved in the management of an independent school. 

Martin no longer lives at the Thorpe Underwood site, or with his wife: he has renovated a historic property in central Scotland, where he now resides. QE is trying to move on: an out-of-court settlement of £15,000 was made to Rebecca earlier this year over a civil claim that the school failed in its duty of care towards her.

Martin is now a convicted sex offender who has served just 19 months in prison. According to one former employee, he ‘is despicable and disgusting, an evil and vindictive man’. To another: ‘He always said he was untouchable.’

A former pupil says: ‘He’s such a pervert, beyond extreme. Not just sexual, the sexual was horrific. What’s worse is the manipulation, the making you feel like you’re the bad one.’

As Charlotte Williams says: ‘He groomed a school.’

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