A supervisor accused of rape removed from a private establishment in Béarn

A preliminary investigation was opened by the Pau public prosecutor’s office at the beginning of February, after the filing of twenty complaints and 13 others were filed this week according to the prosecutor.



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The Catholic high school of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, located in Lestelle-Bétharram, near Lourdes, February 14, 2024. (LAURENT FERRIERE / HANS LUCAS)

A lay supervisor targeted by accusations of rape was dismissed from his position in a Catholic middle and high school in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, the management of the establishment announced on Friday February 16, faced with more than 30 complaints from former students. A preliminary investigation was opened by the Pau public prosecutor’s office at the beginning of February, after the filing of twenty complaints. Thirteen others have been filed since Monday, according to the prosecutor.

They mainly relate to acts of physical violence, but also sexual assault and rape which were allegedly committed in the 1980s in the establishment located in Lestelle-Bétharram, near Lourdes (Hautes-Pyrénées). Six priests and two lay people are incriminated. One of the lay people, who was still employed by the Le Beau Rameau school complex, formerly called Notre-Dame-de-Bétharram, “no longer in office” since Wednesday, specified the management in a press release confirming information from South West.

The school group intends to file a civil suit

“A precautionary principle”justifies the head of the establishment, Romain Clercq, without however “call into question the presumption of innocence”. The establishment adds that it is at the disposal of the Pau prosecutor “to fully collaborate in the investigation in the sole interest of the victims” and meant “his desire to become a civil party”. The lay person concerned, now in his sixties, is the subject of eight complaints, five of which relate to sexual assault and rape and three to violence and beatings.

If the 33 complaints concern facts that are mostly prescribed, two of them, with criminal qualifications, are not, told AFP Alain Esquerre, who was a student at Bétharram between 1980 and 1985.

For four months, the person who denounced the physical violence suffered at the time has been collecting testimonies, which are accumulating, and putting together files. “I don’t even have time to process all the stories anymore”, he says. Brice, 48, filed a complaint for rapes and violence that occurred from 1984 to 1991 during his studies at the institution. “At the time, we told our parents about the beatings, but they didn’t believe us. As for the rapes, I had never talked about it,” he confides. His complaint is one of only two, at this stage, not to be statute-barred.

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