Private investigators to examine school in Dunedin

The Catholic Church's National Office for Professional Standards has called in private investigators to examine historic sexual abuse at a former Dunedin high school.

Corporate Risks, a licensed private investigation firm based in Christchurch, has sent a staff member to Dunedin to interview victims of historic abuse at the former Catholic education institution, St Paul's High School.

It is not yet clear if the company is focused solely on St Paul's, or casting its net further afield.

Corporate Risks senior investigator Micky Earl declined to discuss the investigation when contacted, referring questions to the National Office for Professional Standards.

John Kavanagh
John Kavanagh

"I'm not saying anything other than that.''

NOPS director Virginia Noonan would only say when contacted her office took all complaints seriously, and church protocols now required an independent party to investigate such complaints.

"It is not appropriate for our office to engage in any discussion or correspondence about any actual or possible investigation.''

The Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, the Most Rev Michael Dooley, did not respond to requests for comment about the investigation.

The move comes months after ODT Insight revealed Ian Thompson, a former teacher at St Paul's, had taken his own life after allegedly abusing pupils there for more than a decade in the 1970s and 1980s.

Three men came forward to identify themselves as victims of Mr Thompson, while suggesting he could have abused as many as 16 boys from the school.

Mr Thompson eventually took his own life in 1985, after being confronted by one of his victims, but his death was presented as a heart attack and he was farewelled at St Joseph's Cathedral.

One of the victims told ODT Insight he believed the school had been involved in a cover-up - a claim backed by a former staff member from the period, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The school - which later merged with other Catholic schools to form Kavanagh College - was at the time run by the Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious order which had other members also implicated in historic abuse within the Dunedin diocese.

Dunedin priest Fr Magnus Murray also took singing lessons at St Paul's until his offending was first revealed in 1972, and he was convicted in 2003.

Fingers have also been pointed at others at the school, including a Christian Brother said to have offended against a boy from the school, and a lay teacher, who has since died, said to have been offending against numerous boys at the same time as Mr Thompson.

All of the offending occurred under the Catholic Bishop of Dunedin at the time, John Kavanagh.

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