News

Abused schoolboy took gun to school to kill rapist teacher

John Comerford took a loaded shotgun to his school, with a plan to kill his rapist. But he was told the teacher who raped him was already dead. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
John Comerford took a loaded shotgun to his school, with a plan to kill his rapist. But he was told the teacher who raped him was already dead. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

*WARNING: GRAPHIC DETAILS*

MORE than 30 years ago, John Comerford returned to the steps of De La Salle College with a loaded shotgun.

A tormented 18-year-old, he was going to kill the man who stole his life when he was just 11.

But Mr Comerford never got the opportunity to come face-to-face with Brother Anselm Hallam as an adult because as he sat on the steps of the southwestern Sydney school, he was told the teacher was dead.

He would spend the next two decades of his life harbouring the secret of his childhood rape, not telling a soul about the day Anselm caught him alone in the school's old church.

He was tidying up before a midweek service when he noticed a container of holy bread had been left out.

"I stood there eating it when I heard someone scream behind me," Mr Comerford said.

"As I turned, I saw Anselm coming towards me. He slapped me hard across the side of my head which knocked me off my feet to the ground.

"He continued to hit me around the head area and as I covered myself up crying … He grabbed me, placed his forearm across the back of my neck and started pulling at my pants.

"Then he started fumbling with something under his uniform, I thought he was getting his strap and all I could think of was he could only give me six (straps) and (that) I have had so many before. I was thinking I would be OK. Then he raped me."

That assault led Mr Comerford down the dark road of substance abuse, repeated suicide attempts and relationship breakdowns.

"I had been dependent on either drugs or alcohol for much of my life," Mr Comerford said.

"Last year I was ­finally diagnosed with severe depression, severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder."

It's the typical life of a victim and heartbreakingly similar to all the child victims who are now suing the Revesby Catholic school for their alleged abuse in the 1970s and '80s.

They too had suffered at the hands of Anselm, who was allegedly moved from a school in Melbourne to Revesby following complaints of sexual abuse there. Some allege they were abused by other teachers at the school.

At the forefront of these cases is Jason Parkinson, of Porters Lawyers, who this week labelled the school a "hotspot of paedophilia in Sydney" back then.

"Men have complained to us that Br Anselm would routinely molest the entire class of children by having them stand up at the side of their desk, and have them unbutton their shorts and then go from one child to the next," he said.

"There are scores of men who are suffering from the serious psychiatric injuries of childhood sexual abuse.

"Everyone we meet has had suicidal ideations, a large number have actually planned their suicide and many have attempted it and been fortunate to have failed."

Mr Parkinson is handling more than 1500 cases against independent schools in NSW, including Trinity Grammar, Knox Grammar, St Patrick's at Goulburn and Newington College.

The Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses To Child Sex Abuse, which launched in 2013, is ­expected to hand down its final report in December.

Mr Comerford only recently learnt Anselm was actually still alive at the time he visited the school in 1983, the teacher dying years later at age 92.

Now working as a fly-in fly-out employee in Western Australia, Mr Comerford said he knew it was for the better that he had spent decades thinking his abuser was dead.

However, learning Anselm had allegedly been moved from school to school following complaints had ­shattered him.

"If I had known earlier, I probably would have done something earlier," he said.

"As soon as I read that, I rang the solicitor straight away."

I had been dependent on either drugs or alcohol for much of my life. Last year I was ­finally diagnosed with severe depression, severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder

Responding to Mr Comerford's story, De La Salle reiterated its "unreserved apology to those who have suffered as a result of abuse endured at any of our facilities".

"What happened in the past is unacceptable and inexcusable," it said.

The 52-year-old said the best thing he ever did was finally talk about his assault, something he never shared, even with his mum, before she died.

He said meeting a good counsellor had been a key on his road to getting healthy, along with the love he had received from his four children and partner. "Life is still a struggle, however I have reconnected with my family, who have been fantastic about it all. I have a really supportive partner and a great counsellor who I can talk to about what is going on," he said.

"I am hoping my story does two things: firstly inspires others to come forward, because I honestly believed I was the only one, and secondly to get closure. I want the school to acknowledge they knew he was a paedophile and moved him to my school knowing that. That will leave me knowing I have done everything that I can to protect the 11-year-old version of me."

This article originally appeared on the Daily Telegraph.

News Corp Australia

Topics:  rape rapist school sexual abuse sydney


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Action against plastic to protect the ocean

Byron Bay ocean photographer Craig Parry is cleaning up our beaches as part of the Corona and Parley global initiative.

A global initiative to fight plastic pollution

Guns, cash and drugs seized in bikie bust

As part of Strike Force Walenore, police conducted searches for firearms, firearms parts, and ammunitions at two properties of which the occupants were subject to Firearm Prohibition Orders this week.

Two homes searched on North Coast

Glitter obsession not so glitzy for the environment

Courtney Smoulden and Dylan Barker sporting some of the extensive glitter available at Splendour in the Grass 2017 near Byron Bay.

All that glitters is not necessarily gold

Local Partners

VIDEO: The 'Disco Boob' trend at Splendour

VIDEO: REVELLERS lined up in droves at the Glitoris body art tent as the ‘Disco Boobs’ glitter trend took off at the Splendour in the Grass music festival.

Why crowds are loving Happy Kanye at Splendour

Danger Dave and Melissah Marie with the artwork Happy Kanye at Splendour in the Festival 2017.

By Barcelona-based artistic collective Hungry Castle

Amber Heard, Elon Musk among Splendour celebs

Bernard Fanning plays the main stage at Splendour in the Grass 2017 on day 2.

DAY TWO of Splendour in the Grass was the day of celebrities.

DAY 1 WRAP: Fashions leave little to the imagination

Ali Herden, Keisja Divett, Megan Magill and Cassie Durham, of Canberra at Splendour in the Grass 2017.

Sunny weather means the young gets restless and raunchy at Splendour

MOVIE REVIEW: War for the Planet of the Apes

Andy Serkis monkeys around with Apocalypse Now in War For the Planet Of the Apes.

Ninja Warrior airs clips of dead contestant Johann Ofner

Johann Ofner has been identified as the man shot dead in an incident in the Brisbane CBD this afternoon

He was killed before the series went to air.

Meet 7 of the Fraser Coast's most eligible bachelors

Fraser Coast eligible bachelor - Bobbi Depp.

Are you single and looking for love?

Justin Bieber speaks after cancelling 14 concerts

Helal’s selfie with Bieber

So is he starting his own church or not?

Kendall Jenner's raunchy pose could breach standards

Kendall Jenner

Other celebs including Rita Ora, Bella Hadid posted similar shots.

The best and worst reality TV coming

Matty J in a scene from episode two of The Bachelor.

Reality TV bonanza as Hell’s Kitchen, The Block and Survivor launch.

Tenant: Let me rent, I'll fix your property and pay for it

Noosaville tenant Tony Conyers thought his tenancy was guaranteed until 2035, so he spent his own money on the property. Now he's been told he may not be able to stay for even one more year.

Renter spent $30k on maintaining, improving property over 17 years

TENANTS FROM HELL: See the mess left by evicted couple

DISGUSTING: Mess left by evicted tenants. Owner of the Mongogarie property Christine Beatty has been left at least $5000 out of pocket.

Couple were 'living large' while not paying their rent

How Gladstone's cheapest and most expensive homes stack up

SPECTACULAR: This home on Springs Road, Agnes Water, is selling in the mid-$2 million range.

With the market currently low, now is the time to invest.

'We’re goin' to Bonnie Doon!' and now you can too

How's the serenity?

The experience will have you exclaiming “how’s the serenity?”

New life for Bree and historic Oddfellows Hall

TWO CHANGES: Bree Dahl with her new baby Ivy in front of the historic Oddfellows Hall she purchased at auction and will renovate into a house.

Historic hall to be turned into home

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!