Published: 15:54, 08 June 2018
A teacher who raped a pupil at a girls' boarding school in the late 1970s has been jailed for 11 years.
John Aldridge, 66, was only reported to police many years later when his victim spotted his name on a list of convicted paedophiles.
Having abused the teenager, the former maths teacher at Bedgebury Park near Cranbrook, had gone on to commit several offences of indecent assault against young girls in the 1990s.
He also repeatedly breached sex offender court orders between 2003 and 2014.
A court heard he raped the girl during a visit to his flat while he was a teacher at the school.
She was said to be 'in his thrall' after he led her to believe they were in a relationship.
Rumours circulated and the head teacher confronted him about his behaviour.
He initially claimed he was simply tutoring her but later confessed they had had sex and was sacked.
But when the victim reported him to police, Aldridge, of King Street, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, refuted the allegation as 'fantasy'.
He denied rape but was convicted by a jury and sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court today.
Judge David Griffith-Jones QC said the abuse had 'significantly affected' his victim's life since.
At the start of the trial, prosecutor Paul Valder told the court the victim went to police after her parents died.
He said: “As time passed, she struggled about what happened to her and it had a profound effect on her daily life."
She told officers Aldridge invited her to his flat and kissed her. He later undressed her, touched her and forced himself on her.
“She didn’t like it, but he kept on,” Mr Valder told the jury.
“She told an officer he raped her and took her virginity. Despite that, she went back to his flat regularly.
“He would stroke her arm and tell her how pretty she was.
"He made her believe they were actually in a relationship and in due course they would live together.
“It seems she went to him for comfort. She felt safe in his flat. You may think she was in his thrall."
Mr Valder said Aldridge was later sacked and his victim felt shame and humiliated.
The boarding school closed after 81 years in 2006 and after the rape was reported to police, the headmaster at the time was interviewed.
He said it came to his attention the girl was a regular visitor to Aldridge’s flat but he maintained he was merely helping her with her maths.
The head said the girl was not to go there again, but he heard the visits continued.
Aldridge was spoken to again and this time he admitted having sex with the girl.
The head teacher then consulted the school governors and it was decided that Aldridge should leave.
His previous convictions include offences of indecent assaults on teenage girls at leisure centre swimming pools.
Aldridge was last jailed for 18 months in May 2014 for breach of a sexual offences prevention order.
"Aldridge used his position of trust to effectively groom a young and vulnerable teenage girl" - Claire Bassett
At an earlier trial last December he was cleared of three offences of indecent assault in relation to the same pupil.
That jury could not reach a verdict on the rape charge and so the retrial was ordered.
Detective constable Claire Bassett, of Kent Police, said: "Aldridge used his position of trust to effectively groom a young and vulnerable teenage girl.
"He lured her to his flat and then subjected her to the most appalling abuse.
"Sex offenders such as Aldridge wreak incalculable damage on their victims, many who will suffer in silence for years, or throughout their whole lives.
"Thankfully in this case the victim has shown extraordinary courage to come forward, even though Aldridge’s lies have forced her to testify in court and endure further anguish.
"Today’s sentence will not take away the emotional and physical trauma the victim was made to endure as child, but it will hopefully bring some closure."
She added: "I hope that this case is a reminder that historic allegations of abuse will always be investigated fully by Kent Police and where we have sufficient evidence, offenders will be put before the courts and punished."
The NSPCC also welcomed the sentence.
A spokesman said: “As a teacher Aldridge’s duty was to protect pupils from harm.
"Instead he abused the trust placed in him by subjecting his victim to a horrific attack in the grounds of a place where she should have felt entirely safe.
“Justice has finally caught up with Aldridge though and that’s down to the courage of his victim in breaking her silence. Hopefully this case will empower other child sex abuse victims to speak out as well.”
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