Archbishop embroiled in probe of sado-masochist Cape Town lawyer

John Smyth, who died a year ago in Cape Town, beat hundreds of boys at church camps in the UK in the 1970s and 80s.
John Smyth, who died a year ago in Cape Town, beat hundreds of boys at church camps in the UK in the 1970s and 80s.
Image: Justice Alliance of SA

An inquiry into sadistic beatings inflicted on boys at church camps by a lawyer who died in Cape Town a year ago is expected to hear evidence from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Justin Welby, now 63, was a "dormitory officer" at Church of England camps where John Smyth caned boys and young men in the 1970s.

Anti-gay campaigner Smyth fled the UK for Zimbabwe in 1982, and later launched the Justice Alliance of SA from his home in Bergvliet‚ in the southern suburbs of Cape Town.

He died of a heart attack at the age of 77 last August, shortly before he was due to be extradited to the UK to be interviewed by police.

After Smyth's past was revealed in 2017 in a British TV documentary, his Cape Town church said it had been investigating him for showering naked with young men in the congregation and discussing sex with them.

Church-on-Main in Wynberg later asked Smyth to stay away from its services.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby officiates at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor in May 2018.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby officiates at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor in May 2018.
Image: Owen Humphreys/Pool via REUTERS

Welby issued an apology on behalf of the Church of England after the Channel 4 documentary.

He is now set to testify at an independent review the church has established to investigate which church staff knew about the abuse, whether they responded appropriately and whether the attacks could have been prevented.

Between 1974 and 1981, Smyth was chair of the Iwerne Trust which invited boys and young men from public schools to "bash camps". There, Smyth gave up to 800 lashes to numerous males.

A report by the Iwerne Trust in 1982 said the assaults were "horrific", but it did not report Smyth to the police, and the terms of reference for the church inquiry say Smyth was "encouraged by those involved in the Iwerne Trust" to go overseas.

Andrew Graystone, lawyer for 26 men who were beaten by Smyth, said the lawyer went on to abuse 90 young men and boys in Zimbabwe, where he was charged with the death of a 16-year-old boy who drowned. The charge was later dropped.


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