How could paedophile teacher at Warblington School rise through the ranks despite three investigations?
HE was the PE teacher who rose through the ranks to become an assistant head in charge of safeguarding and would be the ‘go to’ person for pupils who needed help.
Tipped for the highest levels one colleague had told Sean Aldridge: ‘If you stick with me... I’ll get you to the top.’
Armed with two mobile phones, and known under his pseudonyms as Jacks and Jack Ridge, he was described in court as having ‘three different lives’.
Publicly at school he was the trusted teacher. At home he was the loving husband and father.
But secretly the 37-year-old was grooming school girls for his own sexual satisfaction, using his natural charisma and easy rapport with students to his own advantage - having sex with one girl nearly every day.
He reassured his victims, one of whom had a miscarriage, and said: ‘No one's gonna catch us.'
Turning up to court wearing a balaclava and putting an umbrella over his head each day, Aldridge was desperate to avoid publicity - and jail.
At his first magistrates’ court appearance in January he was allowed to leave out the youth court entrance and leap into a waiting blacked-out van allowed into the staff only car park.
But now he has publicly been convicted of 25 charges and is facing a lengthy jail term. But how could someone investigated three times for inappropriate behaviour with pupils deceive authorities at every step?
A caretaker spotted one girl emerging from Aldridge’s office late at night. Another teacher commented that he ‘knew’ where one girl was headed as she walked past him towards Aldridge’s office. But none raised concerns.
During his trial it emerged concerns had been raised twice - once in 2010 and again in 2012 leading to a police investigation.
Suspicions led to one person raising the alarm leading to a 2012 police probe.
But when quizzed the girl invovled, his third victim, denied anything was going on, and Aldridge had called her saying: ‘Please don’t tell anybody.’
At the trial jurors heard she admitted lying to police to protect Aldridge. She said in 2018 that officers were ‘spot on’ with what happened.
Detectives, in 2012, did not look at Aldridge’s phone. Warblington School received phone data ‘within days’ of a meeting but there were no messages.
Records from his phone operator later revealed to the school he made a seven-minute call to the third girl’s number. A document reveals Aldridge said: ‘I feel such an idiot for calling (the girl’s) number and talking to her mum.’
He spoke with the girl’s mum in a bid to find out what was going on with the police investigation. The probe went nowhere as there was no complaint by the girl.
When quizzed by the school Aldridge said he had ‘modified his practices’ and no longer gave pupils lifts, removed himself from Facebook and had been reminded to leave his door open when with pupils.
A year earlier he had texted the third victim: ‘Worried I am gonna lose my job or something ya knowx.’
These 2012 investigations came just two years after he was probed by the school over the first victim in 2010. He had denied any sex with her as a pupil.
Similarly, she had denied anything between them happened at school. Concerns were raised after she left school.
Aldridge had texted his youngest victim, the fourth, and said: ‘I want to see you in an outfit and doing a lap dance for me.’
The fourth victim had told a friend about the texts and Aldridge took her phone and ‘deleted messages and told her to lie’.
A teacher said concerns were raised with her in 2011. At that time Aldridge stopped messaging his fourth victim. He carried on two to three weeks later eventually becoming ‘aggressive’ and kissing her neck, unbuttoning her top and groping her.
Aldridge was arrested in the head teacher’s office on November 23, 2017 at the school, where he denied the allegations but now faces jail after being convicted.
A Hampshire police spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that police previously received two allegations from a third party relating to two of the girls.
‘As part of enquiries, police spoke with both of these girls at the time – the first in 2010 and the second in 2012.
‘Neither of the girls disclosed any criminal allegations to police.
‘On this basis, and due to there being no other evidence available to police at the time to pursue a prosecution, the investigation was closed.
‘Because of this, police did not have the power to make an arrest or seize the phones of anyone involved in this investigation.’
A spokeswoman at Hampshire County Council was asked about the school’s investigation and why Aldridge was promoted and made head of safeguarding.
She said: ‘This individual abused his position of trust, deceiving colleagues and the school community in the process.
‘The jury’s verdict has meant that justice has been served and we hope that this will bring some comfort to the victims who were very brave in coming forward and giving evidence, as well as their families.
‘This outcome acts as a stark reminder that it is not acceptable to take advantage, in any way, of children and young people. All allegations of abuse should be taken seriously.
‘We strongly urge anyone to contact their local authority or the police if they have any concerns about a young person being a potential victim of abuse.’