June 2018

Former Kerelaw School worker jailed for sex abuse

A former employee of Kerelaw School has been jailed for sexually abusing teens at the secure unit for vulnerable children.

Thomas Howe, 70, was caged for 10 months and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years for abusing the teens.

Howe, of Sanda Place in Saltcoats, turned and smiled at his wife and family as he was led from the dock at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court in handcuffs to begin his sentence.

His victims, who are now in their 30s, were aged 14 and 15, when Howe abused them at Kerelaw School, in Stevenston.

Kilmarnock Sheriff Court heard his first victim woke up in her room one night – and found Howe next to her and abusing her.

And she said Howe resembled the Star Wars character Chewbacca because he was so hairy.

Former colleagues of Howe’s, gave evidence as defence witnesses, telling the court that workers would never go to residents’ rooms alone.

One of them explained: “They could’ve been violent, they could’ve been murderers, so we were very conscious of our own safety. We would never go alone – it just never happened.”

But Sheriff Shirley Foran rejected Howe’s claims of innocence, convicted him of indecent assaults and deferred sentence for background reports to be prepared.

As she did so, she referred to the first victim and said: “I can see no reason why, 17 or 18 years later, she would make a false report now.”

And, referring to the second victim, she said: “It is clear she had her troubles at the time and since.

“She appeared unhappy she had put herself in that position when giving her evidence – I can’t see why she’d fabricate evidence this all these years later. He did it.”

When Howe returned to the dock on Tuesday, Defence Advocate John McElroy said: “He has a position he expressed in evidence and it is adhered to in his report. He does not accept his guilt.”

He said had Howe been convicted at the time he committed the offences, the maximum length of time he could have been jailed for was three months.

And he asked Sheriff Foran to spare Howe jail, saying he was a family man, father and grandfather who had been assessed as “a low-risk of respective re-offending and a low risk in respect of any violence.”

But Sheriff Foran caged him for 10 months and put him on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years.

April 2018

Beast crept into teen’s bedroom to molest her at Ayrshire school for vulnerable children

A sex beast who molested teenagers at a residential school for vulnerable children was compared to Chewbacca by one of his victims.

Thomas Howe, who was placed on the sex offender’s register today, abused the youngsters when they were aged 14 and 15, at Kerelaw School, in Stevenston, Ayrshire.

Howe, 70, worked night shift at the secure unit at the school, where residents were locked in their rooms at night.

Kilmarnock Sheriff Court heard his first victim woke up in her room to find him next to her and abusing her.
And she said he resembled the Star Wars character because he was so hairy.

She explained: “He was like a paedophile with greasy grey-black hair, a moustache and an all-around goatee.

“It was Chewbacca. I had a grown man with his hand on my bum breathing into my ear.

“He’s a paedo.”

The woman, who is now 32 and was placed in Kerelaw’s secure unit after running away from the school, cried through her evidence.

Howe rubbed himself against her and touched her inappropriately after letting himself in to her locked room one night in the early 2000s.

She said: “I was lying under the covers and had wee white boxers on with a diamante love heart on the left side.

“I heard heavy breathing and felt touching.

“I froze at first then turned around – and realised it was real.

“I kidded on I was still sleeping and let it happen, then I saw him when I turned around.

“I’m scarred for life through Kerelaw. It was for vulnerable people and they were supposed to be looking after me.”

The second victim said Howe came alone to her room one night and rubbed himself against her when she pressed the buzzer to go to the bathroom.

Keith Stoddart, Barbara Knox, Margaret West and William McGinley, who are former colleagues of Howe’s, gave evidence as defence witnesses, telling the court that workers would never go to residents’ rooms alone.

But Sheriff Shirley Foran rejected Howe’s claims of innocence, and today convicted him of indecent assaults and placed him on the Sex Offenders’ Register.

As she did so, she referred to the first victim and said: “I can see no reason why, 17 or 18 years later, she would make a false report now.”

And, referring to the second victim, she said: “It is clear she had her troubles at the time and since.

“She appeared unhappy she had put herself in that position when giving her evidence – I can’t see why she’d fabricate evidence this all these years later.

“He did it. I have no doubt in my mind there is a significant sexual element to the offences.”

She called for background reports to be prepared ahead of sentencing and Howe, of Saltcoats, will be sentenced later.