Alleged victims' disappointment as death of barrister accused of abusing boys means he will not face justice

Mark Stibbe, of North Yorkshire, says John Smyth subjected him to beatings
Mark Stibbe, of North Yorkshire, says John Smyth subjected him to beatings

Accusers of a British barrister who allegedly abused boys at Christian camps have spoken of their regret that he will not face justice after he died in South Africa.

Police had been planning on questioning John Smyth QC over allegations that he beat children in the 1970s and 1980s while he was a leader at the Iwerne Trust camps, where he was a colleague of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Officers in Hampshire had passed a preliminary file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and were preparing to ask him to return voluntarily to the UK for questioning.

But he is believed to have suffered a sudden heart attack and died on Sunday in Cape Town at the age of 77.

mong his 22 accusers is Mark Stibbe, 57, who claims he was groomed by Smyth as a young man from the age of 16, leading to physical beatings at the age of 20.

Mr Stibbe, a former vicar who lives near Skipton in North Yorkshire, said he had at first been surprised to hear, earlier this month, that the police wanted to question Smyth “with a view, possibly, to bringing him back here to this country to face justice” - a development he had not been expecting for some months.

Just eight days later, he was told Smyth had died.

He said to have his hopes raised, “only to have them dashed in an instant, with the realisation that Smyth was no longer able to face justice, was a great disappointment”.

He said: “Where does this leave us as Smyth victims? There is still work to be done, even though we can’t have justice in relation to John Smyth by conventional means.

“It has always been the case that there are two stories here, not one. There is the story of the original abuse but there is also the story of the cover-up of this abuse.”

Mr Stibbe said he would like some closure on that front at least, whether it be through the courts or through receiving apologies from the organisations involved, adding: “The fight goes on.”

Andrew Graystone, a victim advocate, criticised the Church of England and Hampshire Constabulary for failing to “act in a timely way”.

“John Smyth’s victims will never see him face justice and they will never get answers to their questions about what happened,” he said.

The Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson, previously said he was among those to be allegedly abused, saying he had endured “violent, excruciating and shocking” beatings.

Other accusers levelled some blame at the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for failing to expose the abuse.

Mr Welby, who worked as a dormitory officer on camps in the late 1970s, insisted he was “completely unaware” of the allegations at the time and was no “close friend” of Mr Smyth.

Hampshire Constabulary confirmed a preliminary file had been sent to the CPS requesting advice and that they were making arrangements for Mr Smyth to return to the UK for interview on a “voluntary basis”.

Officers are talking to the accusers and will not comment further until after discussions with the CPS and Mr Smyth’s lawyer, a spokesman added.