Somerset

Somerset sex abuse teacher Nigel Leat 'extremely devious'

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Media captionThe mother said "I absolutely despise him"

A mother of children at a primary school where a teacher sexually abused pupils has branded the man "extremely devious".

The woman has spoken of parents' devastation on learning Nigel Leat was being investigated for sexually abusing children in his classroom.

Leat, 51, admitted 36 sexual offences at a hearing at Bristol Crown Court in May.

They include one count of attempted rape and 22 counts of sexually assaulting a child under 13.

The married father-of-two's five victims at Hillside First School in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, were girls aged between six and eight.

'Despised him'

Police have revealed how Leat used to identify "star pupils" and shower them with gifts before abusing them in one-to-one reading sessions.

Officers were alerted to Leat's crimes after a child told her mother Leat had been touching her inappropriately.

After police arrested him on 13 December last year, they discovered about 30,500 indecent photographs and 720 indecent movies in his possession.

Leat also admitted one charge of voyeurism, one charge of causing or inciting a child under 14 to commit sexual activity and two charges of possessing indecent images of children.

Det Supt Geoff Wessell, of Avon and Somerset Police, the senior investigating officer in the case, said Leat had groomed his victims, leading them to think the behaviour was normal.

Leat would often abuse his victims in the classroom with other pupils present, covertly recording the incidents under a table.

He also wrote letters to one victim, requesting sexual acts.

Image caption Leat taught at at Hillside First School in Weston-super-Mare for 15 years

The mother, whose children attended the school but were not abused by Leat, said she "despised him".

She told the BBC how she received a text message in December to say the school was going to be closed and attended a meeting with other parents that evening.

"Everyone just wanted answers that couldn't be given at that time," she said.

"People were absolutely devastated. People were crying, it was awful."

Leat, a former musician, qualified as a teacher 15 years ago and took his first teaching job at the school.

Det Supt Wessell said he was well-respected by his colleagues, and regarded as "pleasant, caring and easy-going".

Continuing 'suspicion'

His family knew nothing of his crimes, Det Supt Wessell said.

The mother, who cannot be identified, said: "He was great fun. My child was always coming home telling me funny things that had happened - how he'd jumped onto podiums, he was just bags of fun."

She said Leat was "extremely clever and devious" to have avoided detection.

"You don't expect things like this to be going on in the classroom," she said.

"The range of emotions go from anger to sadness to disbelief all at the same time.

"When I take my children to activities, there is always that slight suspicion now."

Review begun

She said she was "really angry" the abuse was not detected sooner.

"It's really hard to blame anyone else but Leat," she said.

"He's the one to blame but obviously there were some failings otherwise.

"Hopefully now this will go some way to preventing it from happening again."

North Somerset Council said it had begun a review into the case.

"You want him to experience what he's put other people people through," the mother added.

"I despise the man now. Absolutely despise him.

Leat is due to be sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday.

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