January 2023

Pair jailed for total of 28 years for school abuse

Two men who abused dozens of teenagers at a council-run residential school have been jailed for a total of 28 years.

Matthew George and John Muldoon worked at Kerelaw School in Ayrshire when they physically and sexually assaulted their victims over three decades.

Art teacher George, 73, was convicted of 39 offences and jailed for 16 years.

Muldoon, 69, was sentenced to 12 years after he was found guilty of 16 offences including rape.

They targeted a total of 28 youths at the school near Stevenston, Ayrshire, between 1975 and 2004.

It is the second time both men have been jailed for offences committed at Kerelaw.

At the High Court in Dundee people in the public gallery clapped as the pair were sentenced.

Lady Drummond told George: “These young people at Kerelaw were some of the most vulnerable in society and were there to be looked after. You took advantage of your role to groom and manipulate them. They were too frightened of you to speak out.

“The trauma they have suffered in your hands compounds the difficult start they had in life. Your behaviour destroyed their childhoods and had a devastating impact on their adult lives.”

She noted both men remained unrepentant and accepted no responsibility for their crimes, telling Muldoon his actions had a “long-lasting impact” on his victims.

Amy – not her real name – was abused by both men.

Now in her 30s, she told BBC Scotland she became a resident pupil at Kerelaw after a relationship breakdown with her parents.

During her stay in the 1990s, she was raped and assaulted by Muldoon and subjected to sex attacks by George.

She said: “If I didn’t feel safe, I used to run away all the time to try and escape that… I’d run away again at the first opportunity, because by this time the abuse had escalated.

“I felt compelled [to do what they asked]. I felt scared about what would happen if I didn’t.

“I’d heard rumours when I first went there about there was stuff going on. But until it happened to me, I was sceptical.

“I didn’t feel compelled to speak to anybody because I didn’t believe there was anybody who could help.

“I don’t think we would’ve been believed.”

Amy said she later “sought solace in drugs” and lost children to social services. She has been abstinent for a year.

She continued: “I still have flashbacks. I struggle with relationships, forming new friendships, even going out sometimes on a daily basis.

“Since I’ve given the evidence, and we’ve secured a conviction, it’s maybe given me a bit of closure.

“Why did they make us go through giving evidence in court?

“Why did they not just accept what they’d done and save the victims – and the court – a lot of time? And just the whole emotional process of having to relive this day to day.”

During the trial at the High Court in Glasgow, victims spoke of being abused by George at the school and at his home in Largs.

As well as horrific sexual abuse, the court heard of physical violence which included children being put down holes while also being punched and hit.

George’s methods included attacking children with golf balls and mops handles, as well as practising karate on the boys.

The former teacher, who worked at Kerelaw for 29 years, was mainly convicted of indecent and physical assaults. His offences involved 21 boys and girls.

Muldoon, of Irvine, committed crimes against nine children including the rape of two girls.

Kerelaw School was run by Glasgow City Council after local authority restructuring in the 1990s.

experienced abuse are empowered to speak out regardless of who the perpetrator is or how many years have passed.”

“Junkies and miscreants” was how victims were described by supporters of Matt George.

Even after he was first behind bars in 2006 for abusing 10 teens, George still enjoyed the support of a local Largs newspaper that insisted he’d been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

His supporters sought to paint him as a tough-but-fair teacher who was victimised by the dubious accounts of drug addicts and criminals.

It was true that complainers involved in both cases suffered addiction and some had regular contact with the justice system.

Nevertheless, two separate juries found they had been abused by George and Muldoon.

George was in jail after an unsuccessful appeal when I was first contacted by one of Kerelaw’s former pupils in 2015.

This man – who’d struggled with addiction – detailed the physical abuse he was subjected to by George.

He spoke about being struck by golf balls and the beatings he faced at the hands of his teacher.

After that, the victim – now approaching 50 – would send the occasional email asking for updates on his case after he’d reported it to police.

But in 2017, months after George and Muldoon reappeared in the dock, he died of natural causes.

He was one of five complainers in the case who didn’t live to see the pair stand trial for a second time.

A sixth complainer – a woman – passed away in the days before the jury began its deliberations. The jury would later unanimously find both men guilty of the five charges involving her abuse.

Kerelaw was closed nearly two decades ago after allegations of abuse emerged. It has since been demolished.

But its lasting legacy lies in its impact on those who were abused there and its influence on their lives afterwards.