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The serial child rapist teaching his class at Trinity College, Colac, could not possibly have imagined that one of the students in front of him would nearly 40 years later help launch an Australia-wide investigation that would lead to his conviction and eventual incarceration.
Kevin Wilmore Myers was a cool sportsman, conman, fraudster, and fake teacher who molested children for 50 years. Every time he came close to getting caught, he moved to another hunting ground.
Kevin Wilmore Myers in 1968.
Too often, as was the way back then, those with suspicions dropped the matter, relieved he was now someone else’s problem.
That is until 2020, when Myers, aged 74, was jailed for a minimum of 10 years for molesting seven Trinity students and two apprentice chefs. With ongoing health issues, he may well die in jail.
Pleading for mercy at his trial he told of a broken life, losing his child in a car accident and watching his sister die of bowel cancer. Just like his life, this was all lies.
Dean Paatsch was a Trinity student with a burning sense of injustice and a long memory. He wasn’t one of Myers’ victims but knew plenty who were. “They were my friends,” he says.
Paatsch is talking to us for one reason. He knows of more than a dozen victims from Colac who have yet to come forward. “My message to them is they can now take civil or criminal action. All the work has been done.”
He is not drumming up business for a slice of the compensation: “I don’t make a cracker out of this. I’ve made enough money in my life.”
Myers was 34 and a science teacher (he faked his CV) who was a rowing coach at surf lifesaving clubs. He would groom the kids at school, offer them the chance to learn to crew the Trinity surf boat then isolate and attack them in bunkhouses, his car, at the school and in private homes.
Paatsch learned his class teacher was a predator when two fellow students escaped after Myers attacked them in a bunkhouse in Lorne.
When the news broke, he was at a friend’s house. “His mother was on the school board and another mother arrived saying her son had also been attacked.”
Yet nothing was done. After the rumours circulated and Myers was confronted by a staff colleague, he was allowed to quietly resign to travel Australia, finding his way into positions of trust to molest again and again.
Paatsch says the fact that Myers was a liar and a conman was common knowledge and he was once arrested in a classroom on fraud charges. He served time over school holidays and then was welcomed back.
One of the students at the school at the time (also not a Myers victim) was Peter “Tommy” Hanlon, who went on to be a wonderful sports writer at The Age. Paatsch was a year ahead of him.
“[Paatsch] was such a bolshie genius at school that he spent his HSC year in the library studying alone because he reckoned he could teach himself more than the teachers,” Hanlon recalls.
“In the old HSC system, the best possible score was 410. Dean got something like 403.
“He worked as a commercial lawyer before starting his own business dealing in governance issues and basically keeping the bastards honest at the top end of town.”
A qualified lawyer with a forensic nose for fraudsters, Paatsch has spent 20 years investigating companies and, as he puts it, “uncovering corporate skulduggery”.
You get the feeling that if he was a ferret, there wouldn’t be many rabbits left in Victoria.
He could have left the events of Trinity behind him, but at his 10-year school reunion a drunken friend confided that he too was a victim. “There was this dark cloud around our cohort.”
At the school’s 50th anniversary he approached the vice-principal to expose the institution’s dark past and urge it to apologise. (It eventually did, though as is the modern way it had to be dragged to the line to compensate the victims.)
Paatsch used his forensic investigative skills to pursue Myers’ past. Using electoral rolls he traced his movements and found a trail of destruction – abused boys who became damaged men.
When Paatsch was on holiday in remote Australia, he knocked on the door of a pub where Myers had worked. When he mentioned the name of the offender, he was introduced to yet another victim.
He even employed a genealogist to trace Myers’ family, finding the sister the offender would tell the court had died of cancer very much alive.
Teacher Kevin Myers at St Edmunds College Canberra in 1979 – the same school where he had offended 10 years earlier.
He believes that over more than 50 years Myers abused hundreds of victims: “He was an intelligent and skilled child rapist.”
Paatsch found not only that Myers was a prolific offender but that senior officials at two Christian Brothers schools had protected him.
One of his victims from Canberra, where Myers trained as a teacher, was among the first to blow the whistle and later took his own life.
In 1998, one of the apprentice chefs went to police and Myers was charged, but he was able to abscond to spend another 20 years free to assault kids.
Former student Dean Paatsch and Detective Sergeant Nigel Freebairn. The cop and ex-student teamed up to bring a notorious child molester to justice.Credit: Justin McManus
As a teacher, he assaulted students, as an itinerant chef he molested young staff, and when he was finally arrested in 2018 in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley he was hiding out in a boarding house across the road from a boys’ school.
In 2016, one of the Trinity victims made a complaint to the Sano police task force investigating child sex abuse.
Subsequently, Paatsch teamed up with Detective Sergeant Nigel Freebairn from the task force.
“Myers offended in just about every state in the country, and was chased out of town in NSW for targeting boys at surf clubs,” Freebairn says.
Many offenders target those kids who are isolated and lonely, stepping in as a trusted adult before betraying them.
Freebairn says Myers perfected a different method. “He was a man’s man, very sporty, and drove a panel van. He targeted sporty, popular kids offering to crew surf boats. He was the teacher who would let them smoke and drink.”
These alpha boys, he says, felt “shame and guilt, leaving them to blame themselves for decades”.
The detective met Paatsch at one of the criminal hearings. “He was acting as a victims’ advocate. I can’t rate what he did more highly. He has this moral compass to right wrongs.”
Freebairn knew Myers was lying at his plea hearing, “trying to mitigate his own horrendous offending, looking for the mercy he didn’t show his victims”. When they left court, Paatsch told Freebairn he would chase down each lie, producing a dossier that condemned Myers with his own words.
Freebairn (who spent some of his teenage years in Colac) praises Myers’ victims, who testified “after suffering in silence for so long”.
Paatsch says Freebairn’s meticulous criminal investigation provided multiple leads to pursue civil compensation for the Trinity victims.
This case was aimed at Myers’ enablers, who failed to protect the students in their care, choosing reputation over humanity.
Paatsch didn’t use a spade to dig the dirt but took to a bulldozer. He found four boys from Canberra who in 1969 were attacked on a weekend science excursion. He discovered the other adult present was a one-armed US exchange teacher who tried to protect the victims, then reported Myers to the school.
Myers resigned, yet returned to teach at the same Catholic school 10 years later. This time he quit when he said his property was vandalised by students.
Paatsch says his victims rebelled and set fires at his house. “One student tried to kill him.” Again Myers was moved on.
Trinity College’s principal at the time, Ron Stewart, confronted Myers in 1980 over sexual assault allegations, then allowed him to continue teaching for two more years, finally choosing to punish the victims rather than the offender.
Paatsch says when stories of Myers’ multiple sexual assaults began to circulate, Stewart allowed him to resign and then “systematically moved those kids out of the school. It was outrageous.”
“He was the crime scene cleaner for the Christian Brothers,” says Paatsch.
Myers took the boys out of the school at midday Friday, bought them beers for the trip in the panel van to the coast and attacked them that night. He even ran “grog and porn” nights inside Trinity to fund the boat program.
For the civil case run by lawyers from Maurice Blackburn, Paatsch produced witnesses including the Canberra victims (“magic men who were prepared to relive the worst day of their lives”), nuns, fellow teachers and concerned adults. He even found a former professional basketballer who was friends with the US exchange teacher who could corroborate details of the 1969 attack. “They were our perfect strangers, many who didn’t know each other but told similar stories.”
Even with the overwhelming evidence Christian Brothers, Sisters of Mercy and the Archdiocese of Ballarat fought the case until they couldn’t, settling earlier this year with six Trinity victims for an undisclosed amount.
(Our educated guess is that it wasn’t bucketloads of cash, more like truckloads.)
All because Dean Paatsch, the kid in the science class, had the memory of an elephant and a thirst for justice that the years would not diminish.
If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.
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