Newsnight investigation uncovers historical sexual abuse at Woodford Green deaf school

Victims of decades of sexual abuse at the former Woodford School for Deaf Children, in Snakes Lane,

Victims of decades of sexual abuse at the former Woodford School for Deaf Children, in Snakes Lane, Woodford Green, have spoken about their ordeal to BBC's Newsnight programme. Photo: Chris Young/PA - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Deaf children who were victims of sexual abuse for decades at a Woodford Green deaf school have come forward.

In an investigation by TV’s Newsnight and See Hear, former pupils of the Woodford School for Deaf Children, Snakes Lane East, Woodford Green, have said they were serially abused by headteacher Beatrice Ingall’s husband Eric.

Beatrice and Eric had set up the school in 1951.

Mr Ingall was the bursar and handyman.

Former pupil Miriam, not her real name, told the BBC: “It was something that took place every day, at any time – morning, afternoon, evening, round-the-clock.”

Another victim Sandra said she was abused every week for nearly two years.

Students would try and communicate with people walking by the playground, explained another interviewee, but found it difficult due to their disabilities.

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“There was a busy road with a playground and there’d be people walking past but we had no communication because we couldn’t speak, we couldn’t sign and they couldn’t understand our voices.

“We’d try and write notes but our vocabulary was limited. The only word we knew was ‘rude’.

“We’d make paper aeroplanes and throw them. People would pick them up, laugh and wave and go on their way and we would feel frustrated,”

In 1964 Mr Ingall pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two pupils at Stratford Magistrates Court, and asked for seven other offences to be taken into consideration.

He was fined only £50 and prohibited from being in the school for two years, however it is alleged the abuse continued.

The school eventually closed in 1991 and the case was brought before a judge in 2004, but dropped as Mr Ingall, and witnesses, apparently were too old.

Mrs Ingall, accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse, died in 2007 and her husband in 2012.

Jon Abrams, of Redbridge Disability Consortium, commented: “The Newsnight report reveals a shocking historical case of sexual abuse.

“We are proud of the brave testimony from the victims of the abuse who attended the former Woodford School for Deaf Children.

“Redbridge Disability Consortium strongly believes that everyone has the right to be safe, and not a victim of society. However, it is depressing that the national research clearly shows that disabled children are at significantly greater risk of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect than non-disabled children and that children from the Deaf community are a high risk group.”

An NSPCC spokeswoman explained research shows deaf children are three times more vulnerable to sexual abuse than hearing children.

She claimed exploitation against deaf children still goes on.

“Although lots of residential deaf schools where abuse took place have closed down, we know that deaf children are still subject to sexual abuse.

“We must create a culture where deaf children and adults feel they can speak out about abuse.”