Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The case of John Maestri

In comments on past blogs, a number of people have asked about John Maestri, a former Middle School Maths teacher at St. Benedict's.

Well, I have been doing some digging, and I have uncovered a few facts.

Maestri left the school somewhat abruptly. The commenter benet left this comment on another article last September.
Many will remember that in 1982 a Middle-School Master called John Maestri disappeared weeks before he was due to replace Dom Laurence Soper as Master of the Middle School.

It emerged many years later that the parent of the victim had complained to Abbot Francis that she would report John Maestri to the Police if he were allowed to take up the post as Master of the Middle School. He then disappeared.
I have heard the same story from other sources. I think I now know who made the complaint, but I will not say. I make it an absolute rule here of not mentioning the names of any victims or of their families.

I have now learned some more. Maestri has been before Isleworth Crown Court on three occasions. All of them for sexual offences against boys under the age of 14, all of them pupils at St. Benedict's School, and all the offences relate to his time teaching at the school. In all three cases he pleaded guilty to the charges.

On the first occasion in 2003, he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison.

On the second occasion in 2005, he was given a Community Rehabilitation Order.

On the third occasion in 2008/9, he was given 2 years in prison, suspended for 2 years.

He has been placed on the Sex Offenders Register for an indefinite period.

I have learned that Maestri went on to teach at another school (I don't know where) after he left St. Benedict's. I have no knowledge of whether he abused children there.

The obvious inference is that Maestri was asked to leave quietly to avoid publicity, and that part of the deal involved giving him a good reference that made no mention of the real reason for his departure.

I wonder how many times something like this has happened at the school.

But the most ironic and even tragic thing is that Maestri's position as junior school headteacher subsequently went to - Father David Pearce.

I think that the Abbey has some questions to answer about this. It was a very strange failure of judgment that caused the Abbot to appoint two paedophile abusers in quick succession as junior school headteacher. Of course, Shipperlee wasn't Abbot then, Francis Rossiter was. Rossiter is still at the Abbey, according to the Abbey website he is now Prior. So the correct person to ask is available.

14 comments:

  1. Mr West,

    Well done on your research on John Maestri.

    The summary report whuch recently appeared on the Abbey website is a ham-fisted effort revealing how little the Trustees of St Benedicts have learned from David Pearce and the recent events in Ireland, Germany Austria etc ad neauseam.

    A proper report would have gone back to the 1970's for David Pearce and covered John Maestri as well.

    I agree that Abbot Francis Rossiter is the right person to ask about John Maestri. The former Abbot is being protected by the Abbey.

    Just a point of clarification John Maestri was based in the Middle School (the 3rd Form and L4th) not the Junior School. He was due to replace Dom Laurence Soper as Master of the Middle School in January 1984 but never did as he disappeared.

    In the light of this it is curious that in 1999 he was admitted to St Benet's Hall, the Private Hall of Ampleforth Abbey at Oxford to read Theology as a mature student. He was actually living in the Hall with monks who were taking degrees at Oxford.

    Can you publish anything to provide evidence of John Maestri's convictions - newspaper cuttings etc - just to fix this info in the public domain?

    Thank you again for your efforts to uncover the stroy at St Benedict's.

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  2. Correction - 1989 not 1999 - ie ten years earlier!

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  3. I can add a little bit about John Maestri. He was indeed mostly teaching in the middle school, not the junior school. I think he also occasionally took maths classes in the upper school too though.

    As far as I'm aware a parent of a victim gave the school an ultimatum to immediately dismiss him, or he (the parent) would take the matter immediately to the police. The school complied. This would have been in about 1984. Judging by the fact that his court appearances all related to offences against pupils at the school, it would appear that further allegations then arose.

    I do know a little more than that, but I too will avoid making statements about victims.

    I'd add that I'd never have guessed it of Mr. Maestri. No rumours about him whatsoever on the rumour mill, when I was taught by him. He had a short temper, but that was about it.

    -ballymichael

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  4. To somewhat reiterate the previous poster: me too. When I was taught by Maestri, I had no suspicions myself. Quite the contrast with Pearce!

    He was indeed a fierce character - scary on occasions. Always rushing along with his bat-gown on (as many other did too) Although primarily a maths teacher, he also taught history in the middle school. Produced quite amusing handouts for the pupils.

    When I was there, and he taught in the MS, Soper was the MS head. Useful coincidence for both of them, I'm sure.

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  5. I was a former pupil at St Benedict's and both Pearce and Maestri taught me. Fortunately I was not abused by either. Pearce was well known by the pupils to be dodgy hence his nickname of "Gay Dave" or "GD" and we were very wary of him.

    However at least two of my friends at the school were abused by Maestri. His modus-operandi was offering Maths tuition in his rooms at the Middle School. He had, in those days a rarity, a home computer, and his little reward for the "good" boys was to sit on his knee and let them play on the computer whilst he abused them.

    I was not aware until the recent Times articles that he had been prosecuted for some of his crimes.

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  6. What age is he and what city does he live in now?

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  7. Mr Maestri used to dislike me intensely (thankfully) and even go as far as mocking me in a "bullying" sort of way in front of everyone - why? I can make a fair guess as to why. I was one of the boys in his handful of classes who was more "mature" looking. We all had an inkling as to who were the "teachers pets" - the smaller, more innocent lads whom he would invite to see his computer after school, ones he would EVEN in class treat with a greater deal of public affection (lots of shoulder massages, back rubbing, etc. - basically things we would all regard as inappropriate). He knew he could not do that to me as I was as tall as he was even then and not a "pretty boy", so he actively avoided me and kept his physical distance. However, to make up for it, Father David on one separate occasion attempted some inappropriate physical contact with me - it was more an opportunistic attempt, and nothing happened as I stepped away, but still...

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  8. I had heard about Maestri, firstly the rumour was that he had gone off his rocker, which the church seemed to deem preferable to his actual exploits. Oddly the two things I remember about him was that he made us learn "Is this a dagger I see before" speech, which I still know and the fact that my poor misguided mother had a dinner party to set him up with her girlfriend, because she couldn't bear to see a whole, sporty Catholic bachelor going to waste. She was annoyed for years with the friend who arrived pissed and sweary and mildly manhandled an affronted Maestri. Poor mum, if only she had known she needn't have been mortified for him.
    And honestly. Gay Dave, the asian houseboy in the army who committed suicide in Dave's dentist chair because he wouldn't pay his gambling debts, they were school lore. Nasty man, would say "still friends, hmm" after giving a boy a thrashing

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  9. Like some of the other contributors I was also taught history by Maestri and thankfully in hindsight I was not his type but "those amusing history handouts" were usually poking fun at the less popular members of the class. He was a bully and what little I learnt was tinged with memories of a mocking classroom.

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  10. I was also taught by Mr. Maestri in the late 70s. I'm sorry to say I used to always use him as an example of one of the best math teachers I ever had. I always found his classes wonderful. In hindsight I can see he did pick on certain members of the class but I never suspected abuse unlike some of the other names that have come up who all taught me as well (but never abused me). I guess I was a lucky one

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  11. I was a pupil at St Benedicts from 1979 to 1984; Maestri gave me private tution for maths in his home. Fortuitously he didnt lay a finger on me; I heard no rumours about him at the time and was shocked to hear that he had been convicted of such serious offences against children. As for Pearce, he was my division master in the Upper Fourth - gave me the creeps; I heard the stories about him and was not surprised to hear of his conviction. Same applies to Soper.

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  12. Hmm

    Not happy. I remember very well these people and being at a disadvantage when dealing with them. Left a long lasting memory which I would rather forget. Time for payback, they know what they did, organised? Probably. Ruined or influenced my life? Definetly. Paid abuse!!!

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  13. I heard about the Maestri rumors while I was still in the Upper School. This was soon after he suddenly left .... a fellow pupils' mother seemed to have an inside track on lots of information about his inappropriate behaviour... and shared the information with me whilst spending after school time at my friends house. It came up I recall as I had said how inspirational Maestri was for me in maths... I heard he was given good reference to work at a girls school, apparently to minimise the risk. Bearing this in mind the culture of abuse and knowledge by at least a set of parents leads me to believe this was an open secret at the Abbey and more than likely known by more than one set of parents.... Perhaps deals were being struck for 'fee-free' education in exchange for silence ..... I was at Benedicts' from 1981 until 1988. I was taught by Father David & Maestri.... I recall Maestri being an inspirational maths teacher as another contibutor has said, but I also agree he would pick on and bully others if he didn't like them... I had maths lessons in Maestris' apartment, immediately outside the main gates. I do remember him being very, very 'touchy feely', but I also count myself lucky that nothing further occurred ... Father David, 'Gay Dave', taught me history in middle school and he hated me, I recall he was nasty, but bizarrely his hate inspired me to score 2nd in my end of year history exam from nearly last position at beginning of the year - I've always spoken my mind, so perhaps that's why we didn't get on.... I do recall that Father Laurence caned me on more than one occasion.. I now realise that he had a habit (pun intended) of a requirement for me to inappropriately remove clothing to be caned. I 'd go so far as to say pupils were groomed or bullied to behave or at least this attitude by masters was tolerated .... I spoke my mind anyway.......

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  14. John Maestri's funeral was held on Tues 22nd March.

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.stwilliamofperth.org.uk/uploads/Newsletter/Church/NEWSLetter%252020th%2520March.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwiyjdSXj9rMAhULIMAKHcjlAHEQFggjMAM&usg=AFQjCNGQebD5pkrUXeore8-IIC2-40y9Gw&sig2=2kJLhHc7sJKM_sCAB3Wr0A

    This is a photo of him as I knew him. He taught me RE at a Catholic comprehensive in the late 90's. He often gave me lifts home and to my knowledge never reoffeneded.
    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/crime/article3095391.ece

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