Queen's ex-verger who sexually abused two schoolboys is jailed

Queen’s former verger, 77, who carried out historic sexual abuse against two schoolboys is jailed for 16 years

  • Clive McCleester, 77, pleaded guilty to carrying out 10 historical sex offences 
  • The Queen’s former verger was jailed for 16 years at Inner London Crown Court 

A former verger to the late Queen who sexually abused two schoolboys was today jailed for 16 years. 

Clive McCleester, 77, who served at Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel and supervised visitors to the Queen Mother’s tomb, pleaded guilty to 10 sexual offences at Inner London Crown Court.

The Church of England official abused his first victim while working as a child welfare officer at Tylney Hall School in Hampshire between January 1968 and December 1970.

McCleester later sexually abused a choirboy at Southwark Cathedral in the 1980s while living in the church’s vicarage. 

The church officer, who lives in the Grade I listed Hospital of St Cross almshouse in Winchester, was dubbed a ‘vile predator’ by police after admitting his offences just days before his case was set to be heard in court. 

Clive McCleester (pictured) was today jailed for 16 years after pleading guilty to 10 historic counts of sexual abuse

Prosecutor Catherine Donnelly told Inner London Crown Court McCleester abused one of his victims on the day of his grandmother’s funeral while walking with him in the grounds of Tylney Hall. 

McCleester then took the child back to his room and continued the attack.

‘The victim went on to describe that such incidents happened two to three times a week,’ said Ms Donnelly. ‘It was an ongoing sustained abuse over many occasions.

‘McCleester oversaw the boy’s bath time and ensured the victim was in the bath as opposed to the shower as it had its own cubicle.’

McCleester regularly assaulted the boy, the court heard.

‘This would take place regularly, taking every passing opportunity to touch him,’ said Ms Donnelly.

He complained to police about the abuse after speaking with a counsellor but passed away in 2020.

The second victim was abused between January 1984 and May 1987 while McCleester was working as head verger at Southwark Cathedral.

He was first assaulted by McCleester after being invited back to his home for a Chinese takeaway.

McCleester ‘bear-hugged’ the boy and pushed his genital area to his backside. He sexually assaulted him on up to four occasions, the court heard.

‘It is clear this victim liked Mr McCleester and thought well of him.

‘He said he was never forced but consented to what happened, it’s only in retrospect he has come to accept he was abused and groomed,’ said Ms Donnelly.

He abused the chorister at his flat in the vicarage.

Police reviewed historical documentation, archive files and employment records to trace witnesses in the case.

McCleester attended court via video-link from south London’s Thameside Prison as Judge Jane Rowley told him: ‘You were in a position of great responsibility within the hierarchy of the Church of England.

‘You took advantage of your position of responsibility to sexually abuse young victims at the school and at the church.’

Clive McCleester (pictured) was labelled a ‘vile predator’ by Detective Sergeant Hannah Stewart, from the Met’s Central Specialist Crime unit

She referred to the victim impact statement of the boy he abused when he was head verger at Southwark Cathedral.

‘He describes the anger and worthlessness that he suffered as a result of what you did to him, which impacted every aspect of his life.’

Referring to the boy he abused at Tylney Hall the judge said: ‘His life was blighted and it ended far too soon.’

Judge Rowley told McCleester: ‘You enjoyed many years of a successful career and productive life. Your victims were not so lucky. They both had vulnerabilities when you abused them which followed them into adulthood.

‘Both had the innocence of childhood taken from them. The victims had to live with the effects of the abuse.

Finally the judge addressed the families of both victims, who were in court and on a video link.

She said: ‘You waited patiently for justice to be done for the horrendous acts carried out by the defendant on many occasions and over many years.

‘Nobody has been left untouched by the damage and hurt that the defendant had caused.’

McCleester, who lives in the Grade I listed Hospital of St Cross almshouse in Winchester, Hampshire, admitted eight counts of indecent assault and two counts of gross indecency with a child.

Detective Sergeant Hannah Stewart, from the Met’s Central Specialist Crime, said: ‘This has been a long and arduous investigation with McCleester maintaining his innocence throughout.

‘We are pleased he has finally admitted his guilt just three days before we were due to take him to trial to present our case.

‘The initial victim survivor, having sadly passed away after giving police his evidence, was unable to hear the guilty verdict but his family represented him at court in his absence.

‘The second victim survivor was also sexually abused and exploited by McCleester – a verger in his Cathedral.

‘The impact to both at such a young age has been devastating. They have been extremely brave and shown tremendous strength and courage.

‘The officers involved in this case have worked relentlessly and shown incredible commitment to securing these convictions. Both the victims and their families feel they have been failed by institutions that were supposed to protect them.

‘We hope they can feel an element of peace knowing that justice has been finally served.

Clive McCleester worked as a verger at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, where he oversaw visitors to the Queen Mother’s tomb and helped organise royal funerals

‘McCleester is a vile predator who has no place in society.

‘We urge anyone who has been a victim of McCleester to come forward to police. We will support you.’

A spokesperson for Southwark Cathedral said: ‘Clive McCleester, a former senior employee of Southwark Cathedral has pleaded guilty today on charges of safeguarding offences which took place in the 1980s.

‘Mr McCleester’s crimes are a grievous breach of trust, which will have life-long effects.

‘We would like to offer a full and unreserved apology to all those affected by this matter and we commend the bravery of those who brought this to light, acknowledging how difficult and distressing this would have been.

‘We are profoundly sorry for the abuse perpetrated by Mr McCleester and are committed to doing everything possible to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and adults, who look to us for respect and care.

‘We have cooperated fully with the police in the course of their investigations. The safety and wellbeing of children and young people is our highest priority and we continually monitor our practice and processes to ensure that safeguarding remains at the heart of everything we do.’

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