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'House of horror' school used as 'money machine' by controversial group

PUBLISHED: 09:32 22 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:16 27 August 2019

The former Red House School near Buxton where pupils have made abuse allegations (top left). A report by the Charity Commission found money was moved from the school to a Danish group whose leaders lived a

The former Red House School near Buxton where pupils have made abuse allegations (top left). A report by the Charity Commission found money was moved from the school to a Danish group whose leaders lived a "lavish" lifestyle in the Cayman Islands. Picture: Archant Library/Diego Delso

Archant Library/Diego Delso

Hundreds of thousands of pounds was moved abroad from a school at the centre of a historic abuse investigation - helping to turn the group behind it into millionaires, according to regulators.

A confidential report from the Charity Commission, obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that while pupils were suffering alleged abuse in the Small School at Red House near Buxton, the charity which ran it in the 1990s moved large sums of money abroad.

The school was part of a Danish co-operation called Tvind and charged councils around £700 a week to take troubled youngsters from 1984 to 1998. It also had a sister school near Hull called Winestead Hall.

But Norfolk police is now investigating after 12 ex-pupils made claims to this newspaper about alleged abuse. One former pupil, Steve Chase, described Red House as a "house of horrors".

Former headteacher at Winestead Hall Steen Thomsen claimed in 1998 the English schools were used as a "money machine" by Tvind.

A yacht used by the Small School at Red House in the 1990s. The Charity Commission found money was moved abroad by overcharging the school for leasing yachts.A yacht used by the Small School at Red House in the 1990s. The Charity Commission found money was moved abroad by overcharging the school for leasing yachts.

And the Charity Commission report, written in 1997, but never made public until now, reveals how wealthy the charity behind the school became.

Called the Small School at Red House Ltd, it had assets of £3m as well as £1.6m in its bank account in 1996 - the equivalent of around £8m today.

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The Danish government investigated Tvind in the '90s and found funds from schools in Denmark were being "siphoned off" so that the "leaders of the Tvind Empire might maintain lavish lifestyles in the Cayman Islands".

The former Red House School near Buxton where former pupils have made abuse allegations. Photo: Archant LibraryThe former Red House School near Buxton where former pupils have made abuse allegations. Photo: Archant Library

Money was moved abroad from the UK schools, meanwhile, by overcharging the charity behind them for renting buildings and sailing boats, the Charity Commission report said.

The buildings and boats was leased to it through a company in Jersey called Argyll Smith and Company Ltd at a total of £335,000 above market rates.

The school also paid £240,000 to an organisation in Denmark called Faelleseje for "management services" between 1989 and 1996.

But the Commission found the charity had no documents showing what these services were. It also paid Faelleseje to lease computer equipment.

Red House School in Buxton, pictured in 1980. Photo: ArchantRed House School in Buxton, pictured in 1980. Photo: Archant

Faelleseje owns many of the proprieties linked to Tvind's leaders called The Teachers' Group.

In 2001 Danish authorities raided the Teachers Group's offices and charged its founder Mogens Amdi Petersen with fraud.

They were found not guilty in 2006, but prosecutors appealed and they are now wanted.

It is thought they may have taken refuge in a £20m luxury compound on the Pacific coast in Mexico, the BBC reported in 2016.

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