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Violinist Nigel Kennedy 'appalled' by allegations of child sex abuse at prestigious Yehudi Menuhin music school


Kunal Dutta
Wednesday 08 May 2013 16:30 BST
Nigel Kennedy
Nigel Kennedy (Rex Features)

The violinist Nigel Kennedy has said he is “appalled” by allegations of sexual abuse involving children as young as 10 at one of Britain's most prestigious music schools.

Surrey police are investigating claims that one of the late founding musical directors of the Yehudi Menuhin school had abused pupils over four decades.

The claims came in wake of a Channel 4 News investigation that alleged that the school's co-founder Marcel Gazelle sexually abused young girls in bedrooms at the school. It cited one former student, Irita Kutchmy, who studied with Gazelle from the age of nine until 12. She said that his behaviour had a “very detrimental” effect on her childhood. “I just remember feeling like I was sort of like his property, his pupil and therefore what he said went,” she said.

“It didn't appear to me to be weird that he came up to wake us up in the morning. It was just the way it was at the school… He would tickle me under the sheets... His hands were on my bare skin where they shouldn't be.”

Those claims were validated by Nigel Kennedy, who attended the school from 1964 to 1974. A decade ago Mr Kennedy spoke out on what he had witnessed during his time there, telling a BBC programme that “there were some strange things going on with some of the girls…that would have been illegal, definitely”.

Mr Kennedy, whose claims were not investigated further at the time, yesterday reiterated his experiences telling Channel 4 News: “I just know that Marcel Gazelle was a repeat offender and it wasn't a one off thing.

”It's a disgrace really that people's trust has been abused in such a way… The children themselves, their trust, the parents' trust, people's belief in music as being a pure form of art, [that] this whole ethos can be abused by one sick selfish person is very, very disturbing.“

Marcel Gazelle died in 1969. His family have said they are ”surprised“ by the allegations, which they dispute entirely.

The allegations come less than two months after the choirmaster Michael Brewer was jailed for six years for sexually abusing a pupil while a musical director at the Chetham's School of Music in Manchester, a £31,000 a year boarding school in the city centre. The judge claimed he had abused his ”powerful position“.

His victim, who gave evidence at his trial, committed suicide six days later.

Separately, it emerged that 39 teachers past and present are currently being investigated by Greater Manchester Police as part of Operation Kiso.

Officers are taking statements and preparing reports for the Crown Prosecution Service.

So far the only suspect named by police is violin teacher Wen Zhou Li, who was arrested on suspicion of rape in February. Li denies the allegations but has been suspended from Chetham's pending the police investigation.

A spokeswoman for Chetham's said child protection policies were reviewed annually and the last review was in October. She added that discussions had taken place with the governing body over abuse cases. ”The Independent Schools Inspectorate concludes that 'pupils report that they are happy and feel safe and secure in the school'.“

Surrey Police said: ”We can confirm we have been contacted by the Yehudi Menuhin School following allegations of historic sexual abuse against a member of staff who is now deceased. “The Force is liaising with the school and would encourage anyone with concerns to contact us. Surrey Police treats any allegation of this nature seriously and have officers who are specially trained to support victims of sexual assault.”

The Yehudin Menuhin School could not be reached for comment. However in response to the programme it said: “We have checked the records which survive from 50 years ago and can find nothing about any concerns expressed at the time. ”In accordance with our policies we have reported these serious allegations to Surrey police.“

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