Who was Robert Waddington?
Robert Murray Waddington was born in 1927 at Bognor Regis, England. When he left school he went to Cambridge to study medicine but did not complete his degree. He then studied theology at Ely Theological College.
His first church posting was as a curate in the parish of Bethnal Green in London where he worked from 1953-55.
In 1956 he left England and travelled to Australia to work as chaplain at Slade School in Warwick, Queensland.
He returned to Cambridge in1959 to join the Oratory of the Good Shepherd – a dispersed order of celibate Anglican priests.
He returned a second time to Australia, in 1961 Australia to become headmaster at St Barnabas School at Ravenshoe, in North Queensland. He had no educational or medical qualifications at this time. Whilst headmaster at the school he brutally caned students, giving them up to 25 strokes of the cane at a time and sexually assaulting many students and repeatedly raping some male students. He left the school in 1970.
In 1971 he returned to England and went to Oxford University to study education.
In 1972 he was appointed a Canon at Carlisle Cathedral and the Bishop’s advisor on education. Here he continued sexually offending against children.
In 1977 he was appointed general secretary of the General Synod Board of Education in Britain, a position he held until 1984 when he was appointed Dean of Manchester Cathedral. During this incumbency he sexually assaulted several choirboys, including Eli Ward. Some of his victims were choirboys in the Manchester Statutory Choir and students at Chetham’s Music School in Manchester.
In 1987 he was appointed Superior of the Order of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd in Britain, a position he held until 1990. Once he completed his time as Superior he resigned from the OGS.
By at least 1989, Waddington was fearful of being apprehended for his offences. He told one of his victims at the time, Eli Ward, to tell ‘members of the press’ if questioned, that the Dean was his godfather and was helping him with his GCSE exam preparation. The choir conductor questioned Eli about his relationship with the Dean. Waddington forced Eli to resign from the choir against his wishes. Meanwhile in Ravenshoe, St Barnabas School was summarily closed by the Diocese of North Queensland. The school records were dumped but one box was recovered.
In 1993 Waddington retired from his position as Dean of Manchester due to a diagnosis of throat cancer. After treatment, he was cleared of the cancer by 1996.
In 1998 Waddington conducted the wedding service of one of the Manchester victims, Eli Ward.
In 1999, one of the Australian victims, Bim Atkinson, reported Waddington’s offending from 1964-68, to the North Queensland Diocese which also informed the Diocese of Manchester. Archbishop David Hope questioned Waddington and reported to the North Queensland Bishop Clyde Wood:
. . . this man has recently undergone surgery and post-surgical chemo and radiotherapy for cancer in the throat which has left him now severely debilitated. In view of this, I have no doubt whatever that there is simply no possibility of his so acting as has been alleged of him.
My impression of Father Waddington is that he is a somewhat sad and despondent person now at the end of his ministry, and who has been obviously shocked and distressed by this allegation.
Atkinson was told that Waddington denied the allegations and could not be offending any more.
Once given the assurance that Waddington could not be offending, Mr Atkinson dropped the case. Bishop Clyde Wood then wrote back to the Archbishop of York, sympathising with Waddington:
I note in your letter that Father Waddington was shocked and distressed by the allegations and I can only hope and pray that this matter now having been raised, and Father Waddington being traumatised by the receipt of the allegations, that now notice of closure from this end, will not leave Father Waddington permanently distressed by this matter.
In 2003 Eli Ward reported Waddington’s abuse to a counsellor in England and Mr Ward’s sisters went together to report Waddington’s abuse of their brother to Manchester Diocese. The Diocese did not inform them of the complaint from Australia but told the women nothing would be done until the victim reported in person.
Meanwhile in Australia, Mr Atkinson saw a photo of Waddington at his birthday party looking healthy and obviously not seriously ill, as had been claimed. He reported Waddington’s crimes to Queensland police who launched an investigation. A second victim of sex crimes by Waddington committed in Ravenshoe gave a police statement.
In 2004, an investigator interviewed Waddington and reported he found Waddington ‘very calculating’
Rev Ray Morris interviewed Waddington who told him the abuse claims were motivated by jealousy because he had photographs of some boys on his study desk but not of others. Mr Morris said his answers “showed him either to be naive or very calculating”. Morris’ report was sent to Australia but apparently was not received by the Diocese of North Queensland. In 2013, the report was discovered in the offices of the Diocese of Brisbane.
The North Queensland Diocese wrote to Bim Atkinson saying:
A conversation with the Brisbane Police has confirmed that your case is as yet, not closed. This limited our ability to conduct investigations of take any other associated action over the course of the last few months. In addition, this has also meant that the opportunity to reinterview Rev’d Waddington in England has now been missed.
The committee examined carefully the likely success of bringing in another investigator, it was felt that due to the time passed and the lack of witnesses it was unlikely to produce any additional information which would be of major significance. We are also waiting on a copy of the Police report, which we think is unlikely to clearly resolve the issues one way or the other. The committee on examining information to hand feel that although the claims are not proven, an element of doubt as to investigator findings may exist – once we have the opportunity to view Police report we will be in a better position to fully assess the case further.
The committee does not believe that spending a huge amount of money on another investigation will be of benefit to anyone. We would therefore like to invite you to consider entering into a mediation process. As you know, the Anglican Church of North Queensland is not wealthy, did not have insurance cover in the relevant period and must state that unrealistic expectations will see you disappointed.
In 2005 Waddington went into hiding and died in 2007, aged 79, without ever being charged. He was eulogised in the Whitehaven News, the News and Star, the Telegraph and The Times, London which said he had “a special gift for teaching boys, which proved useful in his later cathedral appointments when he had responsibility for choristers.”
That would have been the end of the story except that in 2012 Eli Ward saw news coverage of the Jimmy Saville case on television, in which victims of a deceased offender secured a police investigation. He wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, reported to Greater Manchester Police and launched a civil action.
GMP soon discovered a Child Protection Report by the Diocese of Manchester indicating there had been a complaint of sexual abuse by Waddington from Australia:
There had been a previous referral about sexual impropriety some time ago from Australia, where R.W. had been the Headmaster at a School. An ex-pupil had made a complaint to the Bishop of [North] Queensland who had relayed it to the Archbishop [of York].
The Diocese discussed its response:
Bishop Nigel wondered whether a call from me, or Graham as he had spoken to (the sister) telling her that [Waddington] was ill might be helpful. I had to speak to The Bishop on another matter so I took the opportunity to discus these issues. In particular I advised that it was not a good idea to speak to the family about Robert Waddington’s state of health. To do so might sound like special pleading and would probably be seen as ‘looking after their own’. The Bishop immediately saw the point and agreed that it was not ‘on’.
Mr Ward contacted me and I met him in Cambridge. On my return to Australia I located Mr Atkinson via a post he made to a social website:
My scoutmaster was Fiery Fred. My pedophile headmaster and abusive caner was The Most UnReverend Robert Waddington. Some of my other teachers were Brother Peter Gilbert (a Waddington-induced pedophile who is now in goal) . . .
After further research and international investigations by Michael McKenna at The Australian, Sean O’Neill at The Times in London and myself, the story broke simultaneously in The Australian and The Times in London on May 10, 2013.
Note: If any detail in this document is in error, please contact me through the contact page on this website.