Edinburgh OAP guilty of abusing boys at school

Colwyn Baker outside court. Pic: Mike Gunnill
Colwyn Baker outside court. Pic: Mike Gunnill
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AN OAP from Edinburgh is among three men found guilty of historical sexual abuse at a school for vulnerable boys over a period of more than 30 years.

SERIAL child abuser Colwyn Baker kept a dark secret from his Morningside neighbours for more than 15 years.

The former school carer told his fellow residents of Craighouse Avenue that he had moved to Edinburgh following “a problem with his job”.

He lived an outwardly respectable existence, attending fitness classes, studying at Napier University, looking after his house and running a small business.

But the shocking truth was that Baker fled here in the late 1990s to rebuild his life following a stint in jail for abusing a young boy in Kent.

And the Evening News can reveal today that from behind the curtains of his home in the quiet cul-de-sac, the pensioner was secretly building up a vile collection of child porn.

The 71-year-old already faces spending the rest of his life behind bars after being convicted for a string of sex attacks on children at a boarding school in Kent following a 12-week trial that ended yesterday.

And he will be brought back to the Capital next month to be sentenced for possessing and making indecent pictures of children – images that were found when police investigating child abuse allegations raided his Morningside home three years ago.

For 30 years Baker terrorised vulnerable young boys to the extent that one senior police officer today described him as “one of the worst serial paedophile offenders of our time”.

After a three-month trial at Maidstone Crown Court, the former residential child care officer at Swaylands School, which closed in 1994, was found guilty of 20 indecent assaults and rapes of young boys throughout the three-decade reign of terror stretching back to 1963.

Neighbours told the Evening News how they watched as officers from Kent Police stormed Baker’s house in the summer of 2012, before leading the sole occupant away in handcuffs.

They were then seen taking away computers in evidence bags – equipment which contained gruesome pictures Baker has been convicted for possessing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Liz Gibson, who lives near Baker’s home in Craighouse Avenue, said: “They went straight into his house and took him away. There were three or four big black executive-type cars and they took out computer equipment inside plastic bags. There must have been at least a dozen of them.”

Mrs Gibson and husband Peter said Baker had moved in with his mother around 15 years ago – but they had no idea he had just been released from prison for sexually abusing a young boy.

She recalled Baker saying there had been a “problem with his job”, and admitted she never felt comfortable in his presence.

“He seemed very fond of his mother,” said Mrs Gibson. “She seemed nice. When she died several years ago, he kept the house on. I never took to him, I have to say.

“I didn’t have a lot of dealings with him but when I did, there was something strange. He didn’t like to be challenged.”

Baker, who used to attend the same Aquafit class as Mrs Gibson at Westwoods Health Club in Fettes, is understood to have set up a computing business after completing a course at Edinburgh Napier.

Mrs Gibson, 63, said: “He got rid of his car about ten days before the trial started. Nobody else on the street took any interest. I was thinking, ‘there’s something not right going on’.”

She said it was sickening to think about the ordeal children suffered at the hands of Baker.

“It really makes you feel ill, that those children had to put up with that,” she said. “Not only have they been in school because they’ve got problems but they have had this inflicted upon them, which I find inexplicable. You can’t understand the crime.

“People stealing things – there are people who can’t resist temptation and to some extent you can understand it.

“But I can’t, in any way, shape or form, understand how anyone could do that to a child. It’s really unpleasant.”

Baker is believed to have relatives in North America and does not have any immediate family in the Capital.

Mrs Gibson added: “I think his moral compass is so off from mine – there are some people who don’t think what they do is wrong.”

Her husband said: “I don’t know how you would live your life with that in your background. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the house. He was ever so house proud. He had done a lot of work on it.”

Baker was also cleared of four sex attacks during the trial as he stood in the dock alongside two former colleagues.

Nigel Putman, 62, from Slough, and David Hennessy, 74, from Norfolk, were convicted of two and six charges respectively.

As well as the abuse committed by the trio, jurors were told that Baker, who ran swimming and Scout groups at the school, encouraged pupils to commit sex acts on other children.

One of Baker’s victims became so scared that he often stayed awake at night, sleeping in stairwells to avoid the carer.

As a result, the boy would often fall asleep in class, causing a dramatic decline in his learning. But the court heard the boy ended up being caned by the headmaster as a punishment for dozing off.

The sex offenders register didn’t come into force until 1997 and it is unclear whether police here were aware of Baker’s past.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “There are procedures in place to monitor sex offenders but we don’t comment on individual cases.”

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com