Angus Bell was a victim of appalling abuse for years at one of Scotland’s most prestigious schools. He’s now suing Musselburgh's Loretto School and courageously chose to speak publicly to tell his full story to Neil Mackay.

Warning: graphic and disturbing content

“IT’S like you’re being murdered every single day,” Angus Bell says. “I wake up each night haunted by nightmares. Sometimes I’ve more than 100 panic attacks a day. It was like living through the Lord of the Flies.”

For more than 30 years, Angus Bell suffered in silence, telling nobody but his closest family and friends about the physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse he suffered as a pupil in the 1990s at Scotland’s prestigious private boarding school Loretto, in Musselburgh.

Today, he has lifted his anonymity to speak publicly for the first time about what happened to him, as he prepares to sue the school for £1 million. It’s thought to be the first ever civil action against Loretto in relation to historic abuse allegations. His lawyers say his action could trigger a flood of other law suits. Such a development could potentially cost millions.


Angus Bell

Angus Bell


Angus suffered years of pupil-on-pupil abuse, where older pupils subjected younger children to appalling acts of violence and humiliation, often sexual. This was often linked to ‘the fagging system’, where younger students were effective servants - or ‘fags’ - for older pupils.

There was also physical abuse of pupils by staff, he claims. Historic sexual abuse by staff is also known to have taken place at Loretto. The filmmaker Don Boyd has told how he was raped by teacher Guy Ray-Hills, now dead, while at the school.

Angus and other past pupils at Loretto from the 1990s and earlier decades say discipline was outsourced by teaching staff to older pupils, resulting in nightmarish acts of cruelty. Our sister title The Herald on Sunday has ran a series of investigations into this scandal, which has been dubbed a ‘MeToo’ moment for boarding schools.

A teacher who worked at Loretto in the 1980s has also told how he discovered that pupil-on-pupil abuse was happening and alerted management. David Stock claims that after he blew the whistle internally his life was made intolerable, he felt his position was untenable and he had to resign. He was made to sign a non-disclosure agreement, he alleges, when he left.

Stock says: “If my warnings had been heeded then the abuse which boys like Angus suffered might never have happened.”

Both Angus and David Stock gave evidence to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, which earlier this year concluded “that pupils were exposed to sexual, physical and emotional abuse”. Loretto, the inquiry says, “is one of a number of boarding schools” investigated. The inquiry also noted cases of Loretto teachers “grooming” children for sexual abuse, as well as reports that teachers “touched children inappropriately or made sexual comments” to pupils.

Angus’s story

Angus describes Loretto as “a factory for sadists and sociopaths. Children were tortured by other kids on a daily basis, beaten and abused by staff, and subjected to the cruelest of corporal punishments.

“I witnessed kids set on fire, their genitals mutilated from gang beatings with boots. Boys were raped with objects in front other boys. We were beaten with hockey sticks and cricket bats daily. Beds were urinated and defecated on by our tormentors. I was whipped with belt buckles, thrown down flights of stairs, waterboarded in dirty toilets, locked in trunks, strangled. Kids were hung out of windows, their heads beaten off the ground until they foamed at the mouth.

“We were crushed under furniture. Kids were shot in the face with BB guns. Teeth were punched out. I was stabbed with compasses, fly-kicked in the stomach. Every day was a cross between The Purge and The Running Man. None of this would seem out of place in an ISIS torture site, let alone a school that cost families hundreds of thousands of pounds. Children were abducted from their beds at night, stripped naked and tied to trees.

“Even now, decades later, remembering it can make me curl up and cry. We were sanctioned slaves for older pupils.” Angus and other boys had to wait on older pupils at meal times, and often had their own food stolen, tainted or thrown on the ground. “I went hungry every day for years.”

Cruelty was both bizarre and sadistic. Older pupils “played a game” called ‘Head, Bollocks, Toes’ in which younger pupils were beaten with sticks on their face, genitals and feet if they moved. Older boys would ejaculate onto dinner plates and masturbate in front of younger pupils. Younger pupils were made to masturbate in front of older pupils.

“I was thrown head first off a cliff, dunked in rivers, my face and spine were stamped on with rugby boots. My nose was broken, my face split open. I suffered multiple concussions, I was electrocuted in the showers, pelted with rocks, my finger was nearly severed. Someone stamped so hard on my leg I got a golf-ball sized blood clot and could’ve died. I was spat on every week, and called ‘ugly’ every day.”

Angus was far from alone. He says abuse was widespread. He claimed many pupils suffered similar torment, and many participated in the violence. “For me, we’re talking about thousands of assaults over more than 2000 days - it was eight years in Hell. You’d get less for murder. There was no way out. We were trapped in a boarding school away from our parents. So many people are compromised socially, professionally, emotionally and criminally.

“I was physically assaulted by dozens of boys in my time at Loretto. Several pupils were violently or sexually assaulted by staff. Every single one of us was a victim of a violent regime.”

Angus never told his parents what happened. Now dead, he feared telling them would break their hearts as they’d feel guilt at sending him to the school. Some of Angus’s tormentors now have high flying careers. Others have been accused of crimes in adulthood.

Angus says his time at Loretto is reminiscent of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment where psychologists created a fake jail, dividing volunteers into guards and inmates. It quickly became a torture chamber. “The Stanford Prison Experiment lasted just days before it was shut down. Loretto has been going for 195 years. Why on Earth would this be allowed for children? It was a system designed to make boy-soldiers for an empire that no longer existed.”

Pupil-on-pupil violence, says Angus, “was encouraged by some staff”. The school system, he feels, was “like a cult”, with a strict code of silence. Letters home were monitored and phone calls forbidden, he claims. “The mentality was all about hierarchy, it was enforced by violence and punishment”. He told of teachers witnessing violence by older pupils against younger pupils, yet “there was no punishment”.

An average day would see Angus “kicked in the genitals and hit in the face with brooms”. There were “ritual beatings” by older boys. “It was like a war zone with older boys smashing children to the ground repeatedly, kicking them in the head”. Angus saw one boy kicked in the genitals five times. “His genitals were bloody, swollen and damaged. He was in agony for weeks. There was no suspension or expulsion for the perpetrator, no final warning. He was free to carry on his attacks. We had to live with him for years. It was far from his last attack.”

After being thrown downstairs “head first and landing on my chest”, Angus coughed up blood. “We constantly lived among people we felt could kill us at any moment. Sociopathy was completely normalised.” For a period of six months, Angus was “beaten and taunted every night” by a specific attacker while other boys “egged him on like apes. I was beaten repeatedly with a belt, jumped on, choked. I cried myself to sleep every night.”

One teacher laughed when they heard a boy verbally “ripping me to pieces”, says Angus. “The teacher found it hilarious.”

Sexual humiliation and abuse began when one older boy “pulled down his underpants in front of me and grabbed his penis and started masturbating. Then he said, ‘You do it’, and stretched his hand toward me.” Angus ran and was able to escape.

Being forced to ‘fag’ - or ‘scab’ as the system was called at Loretto - saw children “treated worse than shit. You were humiliated and absolutely controlled.” If young pupils didn’t fulfil the orders given to them by older pupils they’d be ‘bog-brushed’: their heads forced down unflushed toilets. Children were made to eat sweets that had been put in their anuses. Food deprivation was a regular occurrence. Boys would be made to lick the muddy boots of older pupils. Young pupils were forced to clean up tissues that older boys had used while masturbating.

“It was The Hunger Games on every level,” Angus says. “I was a child trapped in a madhouse of violence, and sexual and emotional abuse. For eight years, I was driven to the brink of suicide. I thought about throwing myself out the window. I planned to hang myself and practised with belts.” He saw other boys become hysterical due to the abuse they suffered.

Angus recalls a period where he began responding to the violence with hysterical laughter. “I’d dig pencils into my palm to stop it. All the fear and anxiety simply erupted as manic laughter, hysteria.” He was often so exhausted he’d “collapse asleep” in prep class which was overseen by older pupils, resulting in more violence. “They’d grab me by the hair and slam my head off the desk.” Angus still has scars on his lip, wrist and head from violent attacks.

“I was beaten to a pulp. During the night, you’d be dragged from your bed by up to 14 older boys. You’d be beaten and carried through the building screaming, and thrown into a bath of cold water, your head cracking off the enamel. Sometimes teachers made the victim mop up the mess.”

Angus claimed some teachers were “fully aware of what was happening”. The only moments of kindness he experienced were from “caring matrons” who carried out nursing duties.

In terms of school discipline, “older pupils were left to do all the muscle-work. They ran the school in all but name, with impunity. Ultimately, adults put adolescents in charge of young children. It was a recipe for horror.”

Angus adds: “The phrase repeated over and over was ‘it was way worse in my day’. Violence began long ago at Loretto, originating from adults on kids, continuing in that vein, and each year being copied and built on by pupil-on-pupil. ‘You’ll go through this pain because we did’: that was the mantra that was made clear from the start, and then ‘you’ll have the right to do it to others. Complain and it’ll get much worse for you. It’ll be the making of you’.

“When two children are drowning, a common reaction is that one puts their hand on the head of the other, forcing them under to save themselves. That was Loretto.”

A pencil was once stabbed so deep into Angus’s hand that “the lead went in and snapped off. I had to dig it out with a compass”. An older boy held a group of young boys in a room “in absolute terror” firing a BB gun at them.

Another boy made a group of children lie down and “spent half an hour just walking over our bodies - hands, fingers. If we made a sound, he’d start again”. Angus once saw a boy set alight. Money was regularly stolen from younger boys and spent on alcohol.

Older pupils "played a game" called ‘Space Invaders’ where they’d hit balls at children with hockey sticks “until we were all hurt”. Boys were tied up and forced out windows, hanging from cords. Some assailants have highly influential jobs.

Boys were beaten in their beds at night with boots, like “the scene from Full Metal Jacket”. Older pupils “crucified” victims tying them to bed-frames and hoisting them in the air. Many boys, including Angus, were put in chests, and some “launched” downstairs. “Attacks like this went on every night, all over the school.”


Loretto School

Loretto School


Angus was “placed inside a duvet cover” and kicked and beaten with sticks. A ‘game' called ‘Run the Gauntlet’ saw young pupils forced to walk between older pupils. “They’d rain punches on you - kicks to testicles, clothing pulled off. I was beaten like that every day for three years.”

One attacker “grabbed younger boys by the penis and dragged them from the showers”. On a number of occasions, attackers strangled Angus until he fainted. Boys had teeth knocked out. Birthdays were singled out for ritual humiliation and violence. Angus once slept inside a desk on his birthday to hide from assailants.

“It was like Mad Max. Staff didn’t protect you.” Sometimes younger boys would barricade themselves into their dorms to fend off attacks.

“There were many incidents of older boys exposing themselves to younger boys. You’d be ordered to watch older boys bathe.” One older pupil made boys eat food he’d put his penis in, another shaved his “pubic area in front of children”. A child was sodomised with an object by an older boy. Group masturbation was enforced by older pupils reading aloud from pornographic magazines. “I hid for hours to escape this,” says Angus.

Teachers “knew about the abuse, knew it had been going on for decades, but they saw nothing wrong. It was ‘boys will be boys’. Everybody normalised it. Adults saw it as ‘just pranks’. Who wants to admit they’re part of daily, institutionalised child abuse? The school’s reputation was all that mattered. Child welfare didn’t come into it.”

One attacker who engaged in sexual assaults later had a career with access to children. “There was industrial scale negligence, atop countless teacher-on-pupil assaults. Loretto destroyed my childhood and much of my adult life.”

Angus entered the school as a straight-A student, but his grades rapidly declined due to the violence he suffered. He planned to go to Oxford or Cambridge but barely scraped into any university. In college, he was withdrawn and suffered from severe anxiety.

After university, he found it almost impossible to hold down a job and worked sporadically as a removal man, dishwasher and gardener. His annual salary since leaving Loretto averaged £6000. “So many pupils’ grades were destroyed by years of duress, torture, violence and sexual and psychological abuse,” he added.

Angus later emigrated to Canada. He has a loving family, with a wife and children. His passion at school was cricket. His one professional success was writing the critically acclaimed book Batting on the Bosphorus recounting his travels in eastern Europe playing the sport.

“Like many ex-boarding school pupils, in their 40s, I still wake up with nightmares and my heart feels like it’s going to rip out of my chest. When I tell people outside of Britain about Loretto, they’re horrified. In the UK, it’s a mix of denialism, or sometimes folk even say ‘oh poor little rich boys’ as we’re seen as privileged.

“I suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder - that’s the only privilege of a boarding school education. For the last three years I’ve had counselling, and I’ll need therapy for the rest of my life. I cry almost every day. I’m on medication. Sometimes I just curl up in a ball and howl with pain. The thought of living in Scotland terrifies me. I’d never send my children to boarding school. Pre-teen boarding should be banned.

“The terrible thing is that the older boys who were doing this to the younger boys were in need of help too. In some way, their attacks were a cry for help. Loretto turned us all into ‘the Lost Boys’. The ultimate lesson I was taught throughout my time at Loretto was this: ‘you’ll never be loved’. The damage from boarding school is like asbestosis. There’s initial hurt, but then 25 years later it can destroy you.”

The teacher

DAVID Stock was the first person to blow the whistle on what he calls Loretto’s “horrifying culture of violence and sexual abuse”. Stock, who taught English at the school in the 1980s, became aware of barbaric pupil-on-pupil abuse. He informed school authorities, and claims the offences were “covered up”.


David Stock

David Stock


Stock says that after he blew the whistle internally he was targeted by school authorities and his job became untenable. He claims he was given no alternative but resign his post and was told to sign a non-disclosure agreement or risk his pension. Stock’s allegations have been corroborated by another teacher at the school, who worked at a higher pay grade.

Stock says empathically that if his warnings had been heeded, then pupils such as Angus might not have been subjected to years of abuse.

Stock became aware of bullying and sexual assault when boys confided in him about abuse. Among the offences Stock recounted was a case in which two young pupils were “repeatedly subjected to sexual attack” by an older pupil. Other pupils were sexually assaulted with objects. He also talked of boys being beaten with cricket bats, hung out of windows and over bannisters, and one being made to rub Deep Heat into his genitals.

A child “threatened suicide because of what he’d been subjected to”. One alleged offender went on to work in a career which apparently gave him close contact to children.

Stock spoke of boys “crying themselves to sleep”. Bullying was “rife and routine”. He alleges school authorities dismissed cases as “just pranks”. At one point, Stock claims, Child-Line posters were taken down by school authorities.

He claims his reports to school authorities about a “sexual abuse ring and culture of violence” were brushed aside, and the response was that the incidents were “just boys being boys”. The school cared more about its reputation than child welfare, he alleged.

Stock was reduced to tears when he discovered the abuse and remains angry to this day. He claims there was a “bid” to get rid of him after he raised the abuse with school authorities. Stock says that all those responsible for the culture within Loretto should be “held accountable”.

A more senior teacher to Stock who worked at Loretto at the same time, said: “I can confirm that everything David has said is true.”

The lawyers

ANGUS is suing Loretto for £1 million, in what’s thought to be a first-of-its-kind action. A spokesperson for his legal team, the firm Digby Brown, said: “The deepest and sincerest respect is extended to Mr Bell for speaking about his experience. He is an eloquent, credible and brave individual who deserves recognition.”

They added that “sadly”, Angus “is one of many who suffered at Loretto, but his courage could be the very catalyst to herald a new wave of justice against yet another institution that failed the children it was responsible for. A historic abuse claim for damages has now been raised against the school, but as it’s in the early stages it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

The school

A SPOKESPERSON for Loretto school said: “In light of the ongoing legal position and our responsibility of confidentiality to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, it is not appropriate for the school to provide any comment at this stage.”

Loretto has previously issued an unreserved apology to anyone abused in its care.

The school previously acknowledged pupils were abused by a teacher in the 1950s and 60s. The school’s lawyer previously said there had been flaws which allowed “despicable abuse” to take place, and acknowledged that the school had let down the victims.

Loretto also previously said it’s now a very different place with measures to ensure pupils are protected.