Durban - A Durban teacher blew the whistle on a paedophile colleague 21 years ago, but nothing was done.
This week, Dennis Stewart, who emigrated to Australia in 1999, was convicted by a Melbourne court of committing sex acts against children as young as 12.
He has also has been named and shamed on the online Australian paedophile list, Aussie Paedophiles.
Before he emigrated, Stewart taught at Glenmore and Atholton primary schools in Durban.
The whistle-blower said yesterday that Stewart’s unusual closeness to young boys at the school prompted her to report her suspicions to Childline in 1992.
Stewart’s former colleague, who did not want to be named, said Stewart was a Standard 5 (Grade 7) teacher at the time.
“He taught at the school for less than two years. I found him to be very strange. He only befriended boys who were in Standard 3 (Grade 5) – all of them were blond.”
The teacher said he showered the boys with “goodies from the school tuck shop and spent an unusual amount of time with them”.
She claimed that one boy in particular, who was 12 at the time, had Stewart’s undivided attention.
He allegedly bought the boy expensive clothing and had regular sleepovers at his flat in eMdloti.
The teacher said she had been contacted by detectives from the Ballarat sexual offence and child abuse investigation team in Australia.
“I was shocked when I heard the details of his arrest. But I always knew he had a dark side,” she said.
“His relationship with those little boys while he was here in South Africa was odd, very odd.”
She said she told the detectives everything she knew or suspected about Stewart.
She even compiled a detailed dossier which she mailed to the detectives.
“In 1992 I called Childline and reported my suspicions to them. I knew I had to do something,” she said.
“My suspicions gave me sleepless nights. I identified myself and told them I was a concerned teacher. They took down all the details and that was the last I heard from them. There was never any feedback.”
The teacher claimed she also alerted the principal to Stewart’s odd behaviour with the primary school boys.
“The next thing I knew, Stewart was going to another school. He took a transfer to Glenmore Primary. That was the last I saw or heard of him.”
KZN Childline head, Linda Naidoo, said she would investigate if the incident had been reported in 1992.
“We only have a computer database for the past six years,” Naidoo said. “Information dating back so far would have been manually recorded. But we will check our files.”
She said that when calls came through to Childline, their role was to try to protect and prevent incidents. It was not a statutory role, she said.
“When we get such calls we send out teams to facilitate programmes at schools. Most times, children who are victims of abuse feel entrapped or too scared to talk about what happened.”
She said a report was compiled and forwarded to the department of education for further investigation.
“That is our protocol. But I will have to investigate what happened in this case.”
Naidoo said it had become a trend at schools in KwaZulu-Natal – boys were sexually abused, but refused to talk about it.
Stewart, 50, appeared in the County Court in Melbourne on Monday, on four counts of committing an indecent act with a child under 16. The incidents happened between September and November.
Stewart pleaded guilty on all four counts and is expected to be sentenced on Monday.
He could face further charges as New South Wales police are probing allegations of child sex offences between 2005 and 2008.
In court, it emerged that Stewart had invited boys to his home over a two-year period, asking some of them about the size of their genitals and whether they were gay.
He grabbed two of the boys’ genitals on separate occasions at his home and in his office at school. On each occasion the boys rebuffed his advances.
It also emerged that Stewart had arranged a bedroom for one of the children at his home, after buying him a phone, Xbox video game console and depositing regular amounts into the boy’s bank account.
Last month police searched Stewart’s home and seized a computer, which still has to be analysed.
Parents with children at the school where Stewart taught in Ballarat have commented on his conviction on the online paedophile site, with one claiming that the school had not done anything about the incidents.
User Ryan said: “This sicko should have been stopped in South Africa at Atholton Primary! So many lives have been affected by one excuse of a man.”