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17 December 2013, 16:49
A former teacher who "disgracefully abused'' his position by carrying out sex attacks on boarding school pupils in Oxfordshire and Worcestershire has been found guilty of a catalogue of historic offences.
Jonathan O'Brien, 55, used his charm and good looks to attract his victims, making them believe he was "sharing a secret'' with them rather than "forcing something on them'', Chichester Crown Court was told.
The four-week trial heard that O'Brien was a "charming, convivial and attractive man outside of the school environment'' and would "easily dazzle those he met''.
The ex-teacher, of Fairfield Road, Bosham, West Sussex, was found guilty of five counts of gross indecency and 15 counts of indecent assault. He was cleared of two other indecent assaults, West Mercia Police said.
Eight offences were on three boys at The Oratory School in Woodcote in the mid to late 1980s. The others were against seven boys at Winterfold House School near Kidderminster in the early 1980s.
The trial heard that the pupils O'Brien targeted at the two high-achieving schools were ``clever, slim, blond, blue-eyed, sporty boys''.
The dark room was ideal for what O'Brien wanted as it was the only room at Winterfold House which had a lock on the door and a warning sign outside, jurors heard.
O'Brien would exploit friendships between pupils, use extra tuition sessions to get one-to-one contact with his victims, as well as ingratiating himself with the boys' families, the trial was told.
He also exploited the loneliness of unpopular boys, or those whose parents lived abroad, as well as abusing their sexual naivety by showing them pornography, jurors heard.
Inquiries into O'Brien's abuse began in November last year when a man came forward saying he had been sexually abused by the former teacher.
The victim told former schoolfriends about the investigation and that prompted other victims to come forward, including some now living abroad. O'Brien was charged in February this year.
Detective Sergeant Steve Cook, who led the investigation for North Worcestershire CID, said O'Brien had systematically abused boys over a long period of time.
He said following Tuesday's convictions: ``In doing so he also disgracefully abused the position of trust he was in and that was particularly relevant in this case as he was teaching in boarding schools where the children were away from their families and had nowhere else to go.
``He exploited their vulnerability and they did not feel at that time that they could come forward because 'it wasn't the thing to do' and that they wouldn't be believed. Now they are extremely relieved that this has come out into the open.
``O'Brien refused to comment when we questioned him about these matters despite the growing weight of the evidence against him. It has been a further aggravating feature of the case that his denials forced his victims to go through the ordeal of testifying in court.
``The fact that some of them were prepared to travel long distances from abroad in order to do so illustrates how determined they were to expose O'Brien, and I would also like to pay tribute to all the witnesses for the amazing courage they have shown in coming forward.''
Sentencing will take place on a date to be fixed.