This article has been extracted from the Daily Telegraph 3rd May 2012.
Neil Carr, 25 – who is heterosexual but celibate – was placed under investigation after a colleague overheard two young boys say to each other: ”Mr Carr is gay” during a conversation in a corridor.
When asked about their comment both boys claimed they had been molested by the teacher during classes and news filtered out amongst parents.
Within days, similar allegations were made by a third boy and as gossip spread through the primary school in Lancashire, four more came forward.
All the boys aged around seven and eight claimed they had been molested by Mr Carr as he crouched down at their desks during lessons to help them with their work.
A court heard how ”over zealous” parents behaved ”like Ku Klux Klan rednecks carrying pitchforks and torches” to make life hell for the teacher – and set up a page on the social networking site to debate whether he was guilty or innocent.
Staff and another parent claimed the boy had been talking about sex since he was just five years old and was once overheard telling a classmate: ”I can ring Childline and get any teacher into trouble.”
Yesterday single Mr Carr, described by colleagues as a “dedicated and fantastic teacher”, was cleared of 20 sexual offences against seven young boys after a month long trial which heard how the school and local community had been ”split in two.”
During the trial at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester he had been forced to admit to an “experimental” sexual relationship with a male cousin when he was just seven years old. The case has now led to some parents demanding the boys who accused Mr carr being removed from the school.
Addressing the jury, Judge Timothy Mort said: “I thank you very much for the attention that you have given. There were going to be huge problems whichever way this case was going to go. You have been conscientious and have done everything that you could have done in this case.”
As the final verdicts were read out Mr Carr’s sister and parents held hands in the public gallery, and as he was cleared his mother burst into tears and went over to hug him as he stepped out of the dock.
But one woman in court shouted “it’s disgusting” and was told to calm down by court staff before she left the room.
Earlier the jury was told how Mr Carr had joined the staff after getting a first class honours degree in psychology. He had been well liked and respected but trouble began when his “skinny look and wiggly walk” led to gossip he was homosexual.
One of the boys then told his mother that he and two other boys had been molested by Carr during classes and the teacher was suspended on February 15 last year.
Afterwards the mother of the boy defied the headmistress’ wishes to leave the investigation to the authorities and directly contacted one of the other mothers to pass on infomation about Mr Carr because she felt “she had a right to know.”
Rumours spread and parents began debating the case on Facebook.
But although a meeting was called by the school so a local education authority official could answer questions from anxious parent, the mother did not attend because she was having a carpet fitted.
During the trial teaching staff went into the witness box to cast doubt on the claims of the boys.
One teaching assistant said of the original complainant: “I overheard him say: ‘I can phone Childline and get any teacher into trouble’. To be honest i was really shocked.
“For a child of his age to come out with language like that seemed totally inappropriate. I couldn’t believe what I had heard.”
A supply teacher said: “He shouted out, ‘Mr Carr’s not coming back because of what he did to me and other boys in this class and he’s in trouble with the police and he can’t work with children under-18 ever again.’
“I tried to stop him talking about it. I didn’t know why he wasn’t there. I thought he had a serious illness because no one had said where he was.”
A mother who volunteered at the school said: “I would quite often see him talking about sexing – then I saw him simulate sex with lego figures.
“It’s one thing to maybe repeat expressions one which I didn’t even know the meaning of. He would often say he was having sex with little girls in the class which of course we all knew he wasn’t.”
A fellow pupil said of the boy: “He was pretty nasty he always used to bully the people who were vulnerable. He used to say Mr Carr was gay. He used to sing songs that were not nice.
“He would be nice to everybody so they would be his friend then he would do what he did and bully people and then would start to copy him.
“He was always getting into fights and used to hit different people.”
A second former pupil said of Carr’s suspension: “I felt sad and wanted him to come back. I thought it was because he was poorly – then the boys started saying he was in prison.
“They kept saying they didn’t like him because he was really skinny and he walked funny.”
Carr himself said: “The world is made up of people who make presumptions about who you are and what you are – I know who I am and I am happy with who I am.”
He said his sexuality was a constant factor of his life and his best friend would even introduce him to people as saying, “Here’s my straight gay best friend.”
He added: “‘One of my friends said I was as camp as Christmas and at secondary school I was often called gay – someone who joins a choir doesn’t like football and has a wiggle in his walk.
“Everyone thinks I’m gay but I’m not. I have learned to deal with it and I’ve grown a thick skin. I can choose to remain celibate until the end of my life if I want.”
Mr Carr spoke of the day he was told of the allegations. The head teacher came into his class at around 8.30am and asked him to follow her into her office.
He added: “She asked me to sit down and told me that two children had made allegations against me. Your life implodes in a moment. It’s the worst thing anybody could say to a teacher – I was hysterical, crying and sobbing. I couldn’t physically cope. I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t move.”
Mr Carr remembered being sat with his head between my legs, while she was rubbing his back, telling him it would be alright, that he was trusted and she knew it was rubbish.
When she said she had to leave the room, Mr Carr begged her to stay. “I didn’t want to be alone. I don’t know what I said, this is wrong, this cannot happen. This is ridiculous, who’s saying these things?
“I was left on my own – I just fell apart. It was hard enough to walk, so I couldn’t drive. I was in deep shock. I was worried for myself, what I would do.”
He said he would have rather the children said he had punched or kicked them. He added: “The connotations of such allegation reverberate through you. They thought I was a risk to myself”, he said.
When police arrested him, Care’s knees buckled and he had to go through lots of interviews before lunch. “I couldn’t eat, I just had a glass of water that day.”
“In my mind I had nothing to hide, so it didn’t matter whatever questions they wanted to ask me – I could answer it. It became quite graphic.
“It’s the most ridiculous thing imaginable. Supposedly I was helping them with their work and molesting them at the same time – it’s impossible – and all in front of a teaching assistant.
“It’s ridiculous. Of all the children to pick, I pick the violent one – if I had done that to him, he would have hit me.
”He wouldn’t just sit there quietly – this was a child, who, if anybody upset him, would make a big deal of it. It’s not physically possible, there was a girl sat right next to him. Their elbows are touching.”
”It’s ludicrous. I’m not this stealth ninja who moves about the class room abusing kids – and all this in front of 20 other kids.”
The court heard after school club was branded a ”hot-bed of gossip” about Mr Carr’s private life. Carr said he was actively promoted through rumours as being gay and he believed the parents were influenced by their children.
He also said parents had been contacting each other via Facebook and there was an actual page set up before the trial started.
He added: “This is what they are hearing constantly and I’m shooed away and silenced. These children have spent more than 10% of their whole lives believing this.
“It’s their truths. I would fight to the death over this – I would argue with anyone over this. I have conviction in my own truth.”
His lawyer Miss Marsha Myers said: ”It was like rednecks the Ku Klux Klan with their pitchforks and torches out to make things as gruesome and dangerous to Mr Carr as possible.”