‘Shocked and angered by abuse allegations’

A former teacher accused of sexually abusing four pupils at a Rastrick school has told a jury of his feelings of shock and anger when allegations were first made against him.

Peter Merrick, 66, was initially questioned by police back in 1993 after two ex-pupils at the William Henry Smith School made complaints.

He was interviewed again in 2009 following a further investigation and later charged with a series of offences dating back about three decades.

Barrister Eleanor Laws QC asked her client to cast his mind back to 1993 and say how he felt at the time.

“First of all total shock that anybody could suggest such a thing,” said Merrick.

“And then I suppose I became quite angry. Why pick on me.”

The court has heard that no action was taken against Merrick in 1993.

An at times tearful Merrick told the jury that his years at the William Henry Smith School had been a formative period for him and his family and very positive.

“It’s as if that’s been shattered completely,” he told the court.

He said he found it difficult to talk about the allegations and his health had deteriorated.

“Have you asked yourself why it is that they have focused on you?” asked Miss Laws.

“I think hardly a day goes by when I don’t ask that question,” replied Merrick.

Bradford Crown Court heard yesterday that Merrick, of Burton Road, Overseal, Derbyshire, began teaching in 1971 and started work at the William Henry Smith School in 1976.

Merrick said no allegations of abuse had ever been made against him during his 25-year teaching career which included an eight-year spell at the William Henry Smith School.

During his time there he became an assistant head before leaving in 1984 to take up a headship at another school.

“Did you leave under cloud?” asked Miss Laws.

“No,” replied Merrick.

The court heard that Merrick had been a Rotary Club member since 1980 and had been involved in charity work and organising local events in Derbyshire since retiring from teaching in 1996.

Merrick has denied a series of charges of indecently assaulting male persons under 16 and two allegations of buggery.

During cross-examination prosecutor Matthew Bean asked Merrick if he felt he had been wronged and that he was the victim.

“I believe I am,” said Merrick.

“Over the years that you were there you became sexually interested in some of the boys under your care Mr Merrick,” suggested Mr Bean.

“No. Not at all,” said Merrick.

“You acted on those feelings didn’t you Mr Merrick,” said the prosecutor.

“No,” replied Merrick.

“Isn’t the truth that you abused them because you knew that if they spoke out that they would be unlikely to be believed. You realised that didn’t you because of who they were and the problems they had. You knew they wouldn’t be believed,” suggested Mr Bean.

“No,” said the defendant.

The trial continues.