A former abbot of Downside has accused his predecessors of protecting child abusers at the school.

Fr Aidan Bellenger, in a letter made public last week, said child abuse was the “heart of darkness” in the community and that it was “tolerated by all my predecessors as abbot”.

The letter was sent to Fr Leo Maidlow Davis, the school’s chairman of governors, a year ago and was read out at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The inquiry, set up in 2015, is examining the mishandling of abuse allegations at two Benedictine schools, Downside and Ampleforth. The hearing was due to end today.

Two monks who taught at Downside have been jailed for child sex offences. One, Nicholas White, was given a five-year sentence in 2012 for child abuse in the 1980s. The other, Dunstan O’Keeffe, was jailed in 2004 for downloading images of child pornography.

Fr Bellenger, who was abbot from 2006 to 2014, said he was “particularly concerned that Richard [Yeo], who should have known better, attempted to protect Nicholas and Dunstan when he should have been protecting their victims.

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