Abuse row couple found in hiding

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The Independent Online
THE COUPLE accused of abusing mentally-handicapped residents at two Buckinghamshire care homes were found by the Independent yesterday hiding in a caravan in southern England.

When confronted outside the caravan on Hayling Island, near Portsmouth, Gordon Rowe refused to answer any questions. He had grown a beard, and was wearing thick-rimmed glasses and a beach hat. He then ran to a maroon K-registered Ford Escort in which his wife, Angela, who had covered her face with a large headscarf, was sitting. When he saw a camera, Mr Rowe pulled away at high speed, stalled, and then left the caravan site.

Mr Rowe, owner of the two homes, is alleged to have physically abused at least 13 people and humiliated others. His wife is alleged to have sexually assaulted one resident.

Mr and Mrs Rowe left their pounds 300,000 eight-bedroom house in Windsor last month, days before the Independent originally disclosed the allegations of abuse.

Buckinghamshire County Council inspectors' report on the allegations was completed in June but the council's social services department kept their findings confidential. They agreed to let the homes remain open, providing that Mr and Mrs Rowe severed all ties with them.

It had been thought that the Rowes might have left the country for their holiday home on a luxury estate near Disneyworld in Florida, but they surfaced on the caravan site on Hayling Island. The island is a perfect place to disappear. It is a popular summer resort and has several large holiday camps and more than 1,000 semi-mobile 'static' caravans on dozens of small camp sites.

Mr and Mrs Rowe were on a discreet site called Seagulls, on Sandy Point Road, a residential street on the way to the beach. They were staying in a caravan owned by Michael Goswell, who has worked at Broadmoor top-security psychiatric hospital, where Mr Rowe also worked as a social worker. Mr Goswell could not be located last night.

The caravan is a basic one-bedroom 26- foot model, with garden gnomes arranged on the patio outside.

Neighbours on the small site, which is surrounded by tall trees, confirmed that the couple had been there for two to three weeks. 'They kept very much to themselves,' said one woman. 'They did not talk to us.'

A spokesman for St Herman Estates, which owns the site, confirmed it was not aware the caravan was being used during this period. It is not known where the couple stayed last night, but it is understood that they were intending to stay on the site at least until the end of the month.

Mr Rowe's young son was withdrawn from his private school in Windsor about three weeks ago. Mr Rowe met the headmaster at the school on Wednesday: the school would not say what had been discussed.

(Photograph omitted)