Man reveals his story of abuse at Catholic-approved school

Out of the Shadows author David Armstrong. Photo: Steve Adams Out of the Shadows author David Armstrong. Photo: Steve Adams

Saturday, June 14, 2014
7:30 AM

A Norwich man has written a book about his life-long struggle to overcome sexual and physical abuse he says he suffered at a Catholic-approved boarding school.

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David Armstrong, 67, wrote the book ‘Out of the Shadows’ as closure for his own ordeal and to help other victims of abuse to speak out and reclaim their lives.

In the book he describes the beatings and sexual abuse he claims he suffered as a 13-year-old boy at the hands of Irish-born Catholic ‘Presentation Brothers’ at St Vincent’s school in Dartford, Kent - one of six such Irish-run institutions then in existence in the UK.

After he left the school, he ended up in borstal and eventually served a term in Broadmoor, where he met disgraced TV presenter Jimmy Savile.

Following release from Broadmoor, he began the long process of rehabilitation. And apart from a well-publicised blip when, as a gambling addict, he banned himself from every betting shop in East Anglia, he has triumphed over adversity and forgiven his abusers.

He said: “It took me 10 years to begin talking about my experiences at St Vincent’s. Writing this book has taken me over two years and is a final part of the long rehabilitation process.

“Edmund Burke said that, if good men stay silent, evil will prevail, which encapsulates the primary reason I am sharing my story publicly for the first time. In these pages I bare my soul.”

Some of the most talked about passages in ‘Out Of The Shadows’ will surely be those featuring Savile.

Mr Armstrong, who lives in Norwich’s Golden Triangle, said Savile told him he had been abused as a child.

He said: “,,, he said to me very quietly: ‘I will tell you something now – and I will say it once and never mention it again.’ He paused, and with a look of sadness coming over his face, he added: I was abused as a child... by someone I trusted.’.”

The retired car salesman, who has never married, also talks about the part played by Savile in helping bring about his release from Broadmoor.

He says: “Jimmy Savile was a dependable figure whom we respected, a sane and trusted friend.”

He said when he found out about Savile’s crimes, he could hardly believe it, but he added: “He fooled everyone including Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles. But looking back on it, I remember one time he said that “killers and paedophiles have uncontrollable demons”, and he might have been describing himself. His crimes were terrible and I sympathise with his victims. I’m just saying what happened to me.”

Mr Armstrong, who has lived in Norwich all his life, was born into a Catholic family on the Larkman council estate. He was arrested, aged 13, while helping a farmer shoot vermin, and Norwich Juvenile Court sent him to St Vincent’s.

Earlier this year, the Vatican admitted to a UN Committee in Geneva that no less than 3,400 priests had been disciplined for offences of abuse against children in the past decade.

A team of solicitors is looking into allegations of abuse at the former school in Dartford, which closed in 1982. It says it has been contacted by more than one victim.

• ‘Out Of The Shadows’, with an introduction by Mr Armstrong’s uncle ‘Big’ John Armstrong and an epilogue by Anthony Grey, founder of the book’s publisher, Tagman Press, is available at Norwich bookshops at £9.99.

Have you written a story about your life? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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