Update: McKno died at Norwich Prison on 29 September from “cardiac failure” after choking
Former teacher from Alby jailed for 14 years for abusing children
John McKno, of Alby Hill, Alby, in north Norfolk, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court today, Friday 13 May, where he was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment.
He will remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register for an indefinite period.
Detectives from Suffolk Police’s Operation Garford, which was set-up specifically to investigate allegations of abuse at the former Kesgrave Hall boarding school, first arrested McKno in May 2014.
“McKno committed the most heinous crimes and stole the childhoods of his victims from them, preying on them at a time when they were vulnerable and abusing his position of trust.”
McKno was also investigated into allegations relating to another defunct educational establishment known as Beam College, in Great Torrington, Devon, and he was initially charged with offences occurring at Kesgrave Hall and Beam College on 24 March 2015.
Following these charges, further offences were added to McKno’s indictment when he appeared at Ipswich Crown Court on 9 October 2015 for a plea and case management hearing.
These related to a third school, the former St Michael’s College, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, and additional offences at Beam College.
McKno originally denied all 12 offences that he stood accused of. However, when he appeared at Ipswich Crown Court on Tuesday 1 March for the beginning of a trial, he then pleaded guilty to nine of the charges, which are as follows:
Three offences involving two victims occurring at Kesgrave Hall, Suffolk:
🔹 One count of buggery with a boy under 16, between 1 March 1986 and 31 March 1987
🔹 Two counts of indecent assault on a boy under 16, between 7 February 1985 and 6 February 1989
🔹 Four offences involving two victims occurring at Beam College, Devon:
🔹 One count of indecent assault on a boy under 16, between 1 January 1975 and 25 June 1979
🔹 Two counts of buggery with a boy under 16 and one count of indecent assault with a boy under 16, between 15 May 1977 and 14 May 1979
🔹 Two offences involving one victim occurring at St Michael’s School, Worcestershire:
🔹 Two counts of gross indecency with a child under 14, between 1 January 1979 and 31 December 1985
He denied one charge of attempted buggery and two charges of indecent assault and these will remain on the court file.
“The victims involved in this case have been extremely brave in coming forward and the outcome of this case is a credit to them having to endure the emotional torment of re-living these events.”
Operation Garford was launched in December 2012 as a joint investigation between Suffolk Constabulary and Suffolk County Council, under the supervision of Detective Chief Inspector Stuart McCallum (who retired in the summer of 2015) to investigate allegations of sexual and physical abuse at Kesgrave Hall, spanning the entire time the school was open between 1975 and 1992.
This followed an earlier inquiry into alleged abuse at the school which took place in 1991-92. This resulted in police presenting a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, which at that time found insufficient evidence to proceed with any prosecutions.
Kesgrave Hall was a boarding school for boys aged between 11-18 from across the country, who were described as being of high intellect, but with emotional or behavioural problems.
Detectives attempted to trace and make contact with every pupil who had attended the school during the 17 years it was open. However there were no records for the period between 1975 and 1981, so there were only pupil details from 1981 onwards.
Over 100 former pupils were located and written to about their time at the school and over 50 of those contacted engaged with police.
In addition to this, over 100 former members of staff were also contacted (including teachers and support staff), with again over 50 responding.
This was an international inquiry, with officers travelling at total of over 9,000 miles to all four corners of England and into Wales to speak with victims and witnesses. In addition to this there were lines of enquiry to be followed in Europe, the USA and Australia.
“The sentencing of John McKno finally provides justice for his victims, who have waited between 30 and 40 years for this day.”
The operation was split into two strands, one in respect of allegations of sexual abuse and the other in respect of allegations of physical abuse, with accusations made against a total of 17 individuals.
However, five of these people died before police were able to speak to them. Detectives interviewed five suspects (including John McKno) in connection with sexual assault allegations, resulting in three arrests (including McKno).
Police had obtained agreement from the Crown Prosecution Service to charge the other two people who had been arrested, but they both died prior to this being achieved.
There was also sufficient evidence to have charged another suspect who died before police were able to interview him.
A further seven suspects were interviewed in relation to allegations of physical abuse and agreement had been reached to charge one of these suspects, but he also died before this could be done.
Allegations of physical abuse had to be viewed in the context of what was allowed at the time whilst corporal punishment was still legal.
Detective Inspector Jim Gooding, who succeeded DCI McCallum as Senior Investigating Officer following his retirement, said:
“The sentencing of John McKno finally provides justice for his victims, who have waited between 30 and 40 years for this day.
“McKno committed the most heinous crimes and stole the childhoods of his victims from them, preying on them at a time when they were vulnerable and abusing his position of trust.
“We were determined from the outset of Operation Garford to discover the truth behind the allegations of abuse stemming from Kesgrave Hall and wanted to give the victims the chance to give their best evidence in the pursuit of justice.
We had a good working relationship with the Crown Prosecution Service Complex Case Unit from the beginning and this was crucial to the inquiry.
“This was a very challenging investigation for all of the team who worked on it, not just in respect of the nature of the offences and the passage of time, but also in the fact that as Kesgrave Hall was a boarding school the majority of the victims were not local to Suffolk.
“The age of the suspects was another factor working against us and we had obtained sufficient evidence to charge a further four individuals, but they died before we were able to do this. Although we cannot predict what the outcome of these criminal proceedings would have been, this unfortunately denied other victims the opportunity of obtaining justice.”
Detective Constable Wendy Leah, who was officer in the case of Operation Garford and interviewed all the victims, added:
“Today’s sentence is a reflection of the serious nature of these offences in which five children were subjected to sustained sexual abuse.
“John McKno was in a privileged position as a teacher or member of care staff when he committed these offences against vulnerable boys for his own sexual gratification.
The victims involved in this case have been extremely brave in coming forward and the outcome of this case is a credit to them having to endure the emotional torment of re-living these events.
“Time should never be a barrier in achieving justice. I hope the sentence passed today provides some level of closure and allows the victims to continue to recover from these traumatic experiences.”
Teacher admits sexually abusing 5 pupils at 3 different boarding schools
A former teacher has admitted sexually abusing five pupils at three different boarding schools.
The trial of John McKno, 70, was about to start when he pleaded guilty to nine charges, which date back to the 1970s and 80s.
His victims were all boys under the age of 16, and one was under the age of 14.
At Ipswich Crown Court McKno, from Alby in Norfolk, was told he faces a “significant” jail term when he is sentenced on 29 March.
He had pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault, two of gross indecency and three of committing a serious sexual offence.
A further three offences including buggery were ordered to lie on file.
The attacks took place at the Kesgrave Hall School in Ipswich, Suffolk; the Beam College in Great Torrington, Devon, both of which have since closed, and St Michael’s College in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire.
Judge Goodin said he will receive a “significant” jail term for the “grave” offences.
He was arrested as part of Operation Garford, an investigation by Suffolk Police into historical abuse allegations at schools.