So, anyway, the jury came in. DC Christine Hobson still on the stand. Rather than play the recording of Maestri's police interview, she & the prosecuting barrister did a play-act, reading it out with each taking one part of the conversation.
In essence, Maestri's line of defence at the interview was that either the abuse didn't happen, or that it was Lawrence Soper who did it and the victim had got them mixed up, and that it couldn't have been him because at the time (1977-78) he he was an ordinary teacher and so didn't have the authority to administer corporal punishment. At the interview he gave accounts of two incidents that meant that he thought it might be Soper.
The two incidents he described regarding Soper were as follows:
- During a rugby festival, a boy had been recounting some episode involving Soper. But it wasn't specifically to him, but seemed to be being told to all around, including parents.
- On another occasion, he had gone to Soper's office to find Soper sitting in his armchair and the boy standing by him,. Something about the scene made him wonder if something untoward had happened.
The defence asked her if she had investigated the victim's financial status. She said no, the police don't do that. They asked if they had checked his computer for confirmation of the first date on which he had emailed anybody about the abuse. She said no, again they don't do that sort of thing. On re-examination the prosecution established that the police don't do that in any case, that Hobson had been a police officer for 29 years and hadn't done that in any case.
They asked if the police had asked the school for relevant records, of punishments, of school reports, of class lists to see who Maestri might have taught at the relevant times. The police had asked, and the school had stated that they had kept no such records.
They asked if the police had followed up the idea that the abuse had actually been perpetrated by Soper rather than Maestri. She said no.
Then Maestri took the stand. And his evidence seemed to do more damage to himself than to anybody else. It largely consisted of him, at the direction of his own barrister, going through his police statement and recanting reveral bits of it, specifically the point that he hadn't had the authority to cane anybody at the time. In fact, he had been made "Master in charge of discipline" in the middle school in about 1974 when Anthony Gee had been made Master of the Middle School, and "Second Master" of the middle school when Lawrence Soper had been appointed Master of the Middle School in 1977 on Gee's promotion to Headmaster of the school as a whole.
In both roles he did have the authority to administer corporal punishment, contrary to his original statement to the police. But he says he didn't use or like the cane, he used a slipper. He also said he didn't like applying corporal punishment. He thinks it likely that he did beat the victim on more than one occasion, (in the police interview he had described him as an "obstreperous boy").
He also admitted that he left the school in 1984 as a direct result of a complaint from a parent about abuse of another boy.
Maestri said he never caned anybody, he always used the slipper instead. He says he never took anybody's trousers down, and never rubbed them better after. Never gave "pastoral care" in terms of asking whether they still hurt from the last beating. He said he left all that kind of thing to the monks. He says he never touched his own genitals during or immediately after a beating
Neither Pearce nor Gee mentioned to him that any kind of complaint had been made against him.
Maestri was apparently a priest for a time before he became a teacher. The prosecution asked him why, at the time of the first abuse he committed, whether he knew it was wrong. he realised it was, but said he was naive, and didn't think it had really done any significant harm. He says that eventually he did admit it to one of the monks with a request that it be passed to the Abbot. He didn't say when, and the prosecution didn't ask. It doesn't seem to have caused him to stop teaching there.
He was asked if he still had a loyalty to the school, and he said that he had.
He was asked why he had fingered Soper rather than any other monk.He said because of the two incidents that he mentioned in his police interview.
He was also asked in respect of the two incidents regarding Soper he mentioned in his police report, why he hadn't reported it to anybody at the time, he said he thought it was common knowledge and so must have been being dealt with. At another point, he said he hadn't taken it seriously.
Maestri want on within a couple of years to teach elsewhere at a Catholic girls school in Berkshire. He said he couldn't remember the name of it.
Then Anthony Gee took the stand. His evidence was brief. he startyed teaching at St Benedict's in 1965. In 75 he was appinted master of the Middle School, and from 1977-85, was headmaster. he remained a monk until 1990 and subsequently left the order and married. He had no memory of any conversation with the victim of the sort that the victim had described. He had no knowledge at the time of any abuse going on at the school, though of course he had learned subsequently of the convictions of Pearce and Maestri. he denied theratening the victim with damnation, denies having threatened his family in any way when the boy left in the summer of 1981 on completing his O levels.
Gee also stated that he had no knowledge at the time of any abuse by Pearce or Maestri, though he had of course heard about it since.