Change in law on abuse urged after suicide
Friends of a head teacher who killed himself after being accused of abusing an eight-year-old boy made an emotional appeal yesterday for names to be withheld in future until a guilty verdict. The growing number of allegations against teachers made the change imperative because the vast majority turned out to be unfounded and malicious. Although the police sought to justify the practice on the grounds that it encouraged other victims to come forward, it was unfair for innocent people to suffer. The annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers listened in silence as Dave Kitching described his last meeting with Alastair Wilbee, an Isle of Wight head, who had denied sexually assaulting the boy during a residential school trip. He described how Mr Wilbee, 47, married with two teenage children, protested his innocence but could not cope with the stigma. “He told me of his very real fears that even if he were proved to be innocent, which he proclaimed at all times, how could he ever return to work,” Mr Kitching said. “He felt his professional life was over, whatever the outcome. “Eleven days after the meeting, Mr Wilbee vanished from home and hanged himself from a tree. Two weeks ago John Matthews, the Isle of Wight coroner, recorded a verdict of suicide and criticised the system of publicising the names of accused people.