For Adam Osmayev, the manicured countryside of the Cotswolds was a world away from the battle-scarred landscape of his Chechen homeland. But as he mixed with students at his expensive private school, he did not forget his roots.
While staying at the home of the temporary guardian where he and other pupils from Wycliffe College spent their holidays, the tall, pensive teenager was once asked what he wanted to do when he was older. His reply was categorical: “I want to be president. President of Chechnya.”
Robert Workman, a former timber exporter who, with his wife, took on the role of looking after Adam and one of his cousins after their parents, both senior figures in Chechnya’s then pro-Russian government, sent them to school in Britain in 1994. Mr Workman would take in eight or nine international Wycliffe students at a time after being appointed as their temporary legal guardian so they could be cared for during half-term or longer school holidays.
Sitting in his home close to the £10,000-a-term school, Mr Workman, 73, said: “It’s extraordinary to think of Adam facing such serious charges. He was a confident, ambitious young man – as we could see when my wife asked him what he wanted to do in life.
“But he also wanted nothing to do with what was going on back home. I remember we had a Russian student staying at the same time as Adam and his cousin. I asked Adam if they were OK with the Russian lad and he said ‘Of course, what is going on is adult business.’”
Mr Workman, who has now retired from the guardianship role, said he remembered Adam fondly despite the Chechen, along with several of his fellow students, emptying much of his stock of home-brewed cider during the night. He was also a keen wrestler. “He and his cousin would practice on our lawn,” he said. “They were amazingly fast. There would be a tangle of limbs and suddenly one of them would be on top of the other. They were just lively lads.”
“The one thing I would say is that he was a born leader,” he added. “On one occasion another Chechen or Russian lad refused to help out with the washing up. Adam took the boy outside. I could hear him talking to him. A few minutes later, the boy came back in and picked up the tea towel without saying another word.”
He occasionally attended a mosque held in a house in a nearby town but showed no sign of zealotry. Instead, he pursued his studies and did well, securing three As and a C at A-level. His school report portrays an accomplished student. “Throughout his time in the Sixth Form, Adam has set himself high standards; usually he has managed to meet them,” it reads. [He] is charming an generally self-assured young man.” His tutor did note a “less certain side to his nature”, but the overall tone of the report, provided by Mr Osmayev’s wife Amina and confirmed as genuine by a former teacher of the school, was wholeheartedly positive. It concluded: “I feel that he has great potential and the determination to make the most of that potential.”
Mr Workman said he had heard nothing from him since. He said: “In all honesty, I believed he was dead because of what was happening in Chechnya. I’m relieved to find out he’s still alive, if not quite in the circumstances you would hope.”