Abused schoolboy took gun to school to kill rapist teacher

John Comerford took a loaded shotgun to his school, with a plan to kill his rapist. But he was told the teacher who raped him was already dead. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
John Comerford took a loaded shotgun to his school, with a plan to kill his rapist. But he was told the teacher who raped him was already dead. Picture: Sam Ruttyn


MORE than 30 years ago, John Comerford returned to the steps of De La Salle College with a loaded shotgun.

A tormented 18-year-old, he was going to kill the man who stole his life when he was just 11.

But Mr Comerford never got the opportunity to come face-to-face with Brother Anselm Hallam as an adult because as he sat on the steps of the southwestern Sydney school, he was told the teacher was dead.

He would spend the next two decades of his life harbouring the secret of his childhood rape, not telling a soul about the day Anselm caught him alone in the school's old church.

He was tidying up before a midweek service when he noticed a container of holy bread had been left out.

"I stood there eating it when I heard someone scream behind me," Mr Comerford said.

"As I turned, I saw Anselm coming towards me. He slapped me hard across the side of my head which knocked me off my feet to the ground.

"He continued to hit me around the head area and as I covered myself up crying … He grabbed me, placed his forearm across the back of my neck and started pulling at my pants.

"Then he started fumbling with something under his uniform, I thought he was getting his strap and all I could think of was he could only give me six (straps) and (that) I have had so many before. I was thinking I would be OK. Then he raped me."

That assault led Mr Comerford down the dark road of substance abuse, repeated suicide attempts and relationship breakdowns.

"I had been dependent on either drugs or alcohol for much of my life," Mr Comerford said.

"Last year I was ­finally diagnosed with severe depression, severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder."

It's the typical life of a victim and heartbreakingly similar to all the child victims who are now suing the Revesby Catholic school for their alleged abuse in the 1970s and '80s.

They too had suffered at the hands of Anselm, who was allegedly moved from a school in Melbourne to Revesby following complaints of sexual abuse there. Some allege they were abused by other teachers at the school.

At the forefront of these cases is Jason Parkinson, of Porters Lawyers, who this week labelled the school a "hotspot of paedophilia in Sydney" back then.

"Men have complained to us that Br Anselm would routinely molest the entire class of children by having them stand up at the side of their desk, and have them unbutton their shorts and then go from one child to the next," he said.

"There are scores of men who are suffering from the serious psychiatric injuries of childhood sexual abuse.

"Everyone we meet has had suicidal ideations, a large number have actually planned their suicide and many have attempted it and been fortunate to have failed."

Mr Parkinson is handling more than 1500 cases against independent schools in NSW, including Trinity Grammar, Knox Grammar, St Patrick's at Goulburn and Newington College.

The Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses To Child Sex Abuse, which launched in 2013, is ­expected to hand down its final report in December.

Mr Comerford only recently learnt Anselm was actually still alive at the time he visited the school in 1983, the teacher dying years later at age 92.

Now working as a fly-in fly-out employee in Western Australia, Mr Comerford said he knew it was for the better that he had spent decades thinking his abuser was dead.

However, learning Anselm had allegedly been moved from school to school following complaints had ­shattered him.

"If I had known earlier, I probably would have done something earlier," he said.

"As soon as I read that, I rang the solicitor straight away."

I had been dependent on either drugs or alcohol for much of my life. Last year I was ­finally diagnosed with severe depression, severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder

Responding to Mr Comerford's story, De La Salle reiterated its "unreserved apology to those who have suffered as a result of abuse endured at any of our facilities".

"What happened in the past is unacceptable and inexcusable," it said.

The 52-year-old said the best thing he ever did was finally talk about his assault, something he never shared, even with his mum, before she died.

He said meeting a good counsellor had been a key on his road to getting healthy, along with the love he had received from his four children and partner. "Life is still a struggle, however I have reconnected with my family, who have been fantastic about it all. I have a really supportive partner and a great counsellor who I can talk to about what is going on," he said.

"I am hoping my story does two things: firstly inspires others to come forward, because I honestly believed I was the only one, and secondly to get closure. I want the school to acknowledge they knew he was a paedophile and moved him to my school knowing that. That will leave me knowing I have done everything that I can to protect the 11-year-old version of me."

This article originally appeared on the Daily Telegraph.

News Corp Australia

Topics:  rape rapist school sexual abuse sydney

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

NCEIA Dolphin Awards looking for the best of 2017

NEVER TOO LATE: Ivan Perger, 66, received his first NCEIA Dolphin Award in the folk category in 2014.

Entries to the North Coast music awards are now open

CWA amenities clean, safe space for mothers

GOING STRONG: Acting president of Lismore CWA Jan Clifford OAM and secretary Janet Henderson outside the CWA rooms in Spinks Park.

Lismore rooms have welcomed nursing mums and bubs since 1928

All hail Super Minister Peter Dutton

Why does the PM want a super ministry?

Local Partners

Camphor Laurel loss threatens fruit dove

The rose-crowned fruit dove is listed as vulnerable in NSW due to habitat loss from the clearing of rainforest and the removal of camphor laurel trees

Why crowds are loving Happy Kanye at Splendour

Danger Dave and Melissah Marie with the artwork Happy Kanye at Splendour in the Festival 2017.

By Barcelona-based artistic collective Hungry Castle

Amber Heard, Elon Musk among Splendour celebs

Bernard Fanning plays the main stage at Splendour in the Grass 2017 on day 2.

DAY TWO of Splendour in the Grass was the day of celebrities.

VIDEO: Girls can feel safe at Splendour

Punters at Splendour in the Grass 2016 at Byron Bay.

High visibility police will be among the crowd at all times

The Block's family home rescue mission

RENO show's new concept – relocating and restoring crumbling heritage homes – proves its biggest challenge to date.

Angelina Jolie 4.0: Is anyone buying this?

Angelina Jolie, master media manipulator, is back.

Love The Bachelor and a feminist? Sorry, you can't be both

These 22 women trying to win Matty's heart... but at what cost? (Pic: Channel 10)

Tans will be sprayed. Roses will be distributed. Tears will be shed.

George RR Martin: Sixth book won't be out this year

Emilia Clarke returns as Daenerys Targaryen in the seventh season of Game of Thrones, which premieres only on Foxtel on July 17.

“I am still working on it, I am still months away..."

Mum spotted on Google Earth 18 months after death

A woman has spotted her mother on Google Earth - she died in 2015

What's on the big screen this week

A scene from the movie War for the Planet of the Apes.

AN ACTION franchise comes to its epic conclusion.

The Bachelor: Will farting be the key to Matty J's heart?

I don’t know what emotion this is.

MATTY J’s return as The Bachelor was sullied on the first night.

Hearty food for cold nights

Boneless lamb shoulder roast with crushed kipflers.

RECIPES: Two tasty lamb dishes to try this winter

How one man made more than $20m in a land deal

Varsity Lakes

Sale, with GST added, shows as a $26.4 million transaction

Tenant: Let me rent, I'll fix your property and pay for it

Noosaville tenant Tony Conyers thought his tenancy was guaranteed until 2035, so he spent his own money on the property. Now he's been told he may not be able to stay for even one more year.

Renter spent $30k on maintaining, improving property over 17 years

TENANTS FROM HELL: See the mess left by evicted couple

DISGUSTING: Mess left by evicted tenants. Owner of the Mongogarie property Christine Beatty has been left at least $5000 out of pocket.

Couple were 'living large' while not paying their rent

How Gladstone's cheapest and most expensive homes stack up

SPECTACULAR: This home on Springs Road, Agnes Water, is selling in the mid-$2 million range.

With the market currently low, now is the time to invest.

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!