FRESH allegations have been made against John Smyth QC, who helped to run the Iwerne Christian camps during the 1970s. On Monday, the BBC interviewed a victim of Mr Smyth’s from Winchester College, who spoke of being beaten frequently as part of what is now being termed a religious cult. The latest accounts reveal the savagery of the beatings. One victim recounted how one boy had received 800 lashes over 12 hours.
Another victim, Andy Morse, described how, to continue the beatings, Mr Smyth recruited boys from among victims to take over while he watched. These were often more brutal than Smyth’s attacks. Mr Morse named Simon Doggart as one of these substitutes. “The strokes he gave me were probably the equivalent of three of John’s. Simon was completely brainwashed. I think even then I sensed that it wasn’t my friend beating me: it was actually John Smyth beating me, using my friend to carry out his abuse.”
Another victim spoke of Doggart’s strokes as “far, far worse than Smyth. There was no discussion, no emotion, I recall, just a fit sportsman using all his force.”
Mr Morse said that Mr Smyth had asked him to beat others. “He was asking lots of people to beat other people.” He had declined.
The alleged beatings took place in a shed, equipped, Mr Morse said, with dressings to be applied after the beatings. “John Smyth had every single bandage, dressing, iodine, anything that had been invented, but even though he had all that equipment and, I would call it, paraphernalia, we were bleeding everywhere. Even with these dressings on, wearing these adult nappies, we bled all over his house. . .”.
The beatings stopped in 1982, when Mr Morse tried to take his own life.
Mr Doggart is now the head of a prep school in Buckinghamshire. There has been no suggestion that he has harmed any of his pupils. His lawyer told the BBC that he could not answer their enquiries owing to critical illness.
The victims, teenagers and young men, were told that the beatings were necessary to expiate their sins. One survivor who has come forward is the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson (News, 10 February), who described the beatings as “abuse perpetrated by a misguided, manipulative, and dangerous man, tragically playing on the longing of his young victims to live godly lives”.
Police are investigating the allegations. In the mean time, Mr Smyth remains at large in South Africa.