Child sex abuse inquiry: ‘Dead’ Hutchins ex-teacher Ronald Thomas found living in NZ
A former Hobart private school teacher accused of sexually abusing students in the 1960s and believed dead has been found living in New Zealand.
Last month, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held open hearings in Hobart on alleged sexual abuse at the Hutchins School in the 1960s.
Former music teacher Ronald Thomas, who was referred to in the hearings, has been found living north of Wellington despite the commission and witnesses believing he was dead.
The commission confirmed the inquiry believed Mr Thomas was dead but is now discussing with its lawyers about the next step it should take.
The Hobart inquiry focused on allegations surrounding former headmaster David Lawrence and another teacher, but heard claims up to eight former Hutchins School staff were paedophiles.
Former Tasmanian police commissioner Richard McCreadie told the hearing in November that as a police officer in 1970 he investigated claims of sexual abuse at the school.
He said a young man had disclosed having been abused by the music teacher, whom he called Mousy Thomas.
Mr McCreadie told the inquiry that when he approached Mr Thomas, the teacher “immediately sprang up and shut the door”.
“Thomas then admitted having molested the young man,” Mr McCreadie said.
When he returned to arrest him, he was told by the school that Mr Thomas had gone to South Africa.
Mr McCreadie told the commission that at the time it would have been “very unusual” to arrange extradition from overseas unless the person involved had been charged with murder.
“In some ways, I thought the problem had gone to South Africa… and that we ought to get on with other things,” he said.
Today, Mr McCreadie told ABC Radio’s PM program: “I have given my evidence as I remember it and I have no reason to change that.”
The ABC spoke with Mr Thomas. He refused to comment but told newspapers he denied allegations against him.
Mr Thomas worked as a teacher at several schools in New Zealand before retiring in 2002.
The teachers’ council said Mr Thomas was registered after passing a criminal check and had been endorsed by a former principal.
The council said there was no record of any complaint against him.
Police liaising with inquiry over latest revelations
Tasmanian police would not directly say whether they were investigating revelations that Mr Thomas was alive.
Assistant Commissioner Donna Adams said police had received six recent referrals from the commission and the information would be investigated.
Police have monitored the Hobart hearings and liaised with the national inquiry.
Police would liaise with the commission about the revelations of Mr Thomas’s whereabouts.
In a statement, the Hutchins School board again restated its “sincere and wholehearted” apology to former students who had been sexually abused.
“Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime,” it said.
“The Hutchins School will continue to cooperate fully with and assist the royal commission.”
The Tasmanian-based inquiry will continue hearings in Sydney next week.