Calls for Ian Mikardo School head to resign over hiring convicted killer Ian Devlin
PUBLISHED: 18:44 19 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:16 20 June 2016
Calls have been made for a head teacher to resign from a special needs school in London's East End which employs a teaching assistant once convicted of a racist killing in the same neighbourhood.
The mayor of Tower Hamlets promised a public meeting yesterday to open a full council investigation into why Ian Devlin—convicted 15 years ago of killing an Asian father on his way home from work—was hired at the Ian Mikardo School in Bromley-by-Bow.
He has been working at the school for the past five years just 10 minutes away from the crime scene where he and two others killed 35-year-old Shiblu Rahman 15 years ago.
Devlin, now 32, who has also been working in a local church and has been acclaimed a ‘good Samaritan’ for helping his neighbours, was 17 at the time Mr Rahman was stabbed in the street while he pleaded for his life.
He was convicted of manslaughter with another at the Old Bailey in 2001, while a 15-year-old who stabbed Mr Rahman was convicted of murder.
Feelings still run high 15 years on, in this largely-Bengali district of East London, after news leaked out that Devlin was still in the area and was teaching children—many of the pupils with emotional problems and tendency to violence.
Four school governors have resigned over the issue, it has emerged this week.
“Murder is a wicked offence and is not guilt-free,” Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs told a packed community meeting in Whitechapel yesterday.
“Anyone who has taken part in it can never be forgiven—there is no acceptable situation where a murderer or party to manslaughter seeking rehabilitation should be employed in a school so close to the crime scene, because of the community’s sensitivity.”
The resignation call came from former council leader Helal Abbas, who chaired yesterday’s meeting.
He had earlier told the East London Advertiser: “Shiblu Rahman’s wife is still suffering—he died in her arms.
“The school has shown misjudgement in appointing Devlin in an area like that. I believe in rehabilitation—but not in a school in the same area. What were they thinking about?”
He added: “The head teacher should hang her head in shame, having misjudged the situation and been insensitive to the community and the family. She should leave the job.”
Head teacher Claire Lillis defended the appointment in a statement to the press, in which she said Devlin “has been an example of how a rehabilitated offender can contribute to his community”. All appropriate checks and advice in the appointment were made and the school would support him in continuing his work, she insisted.
But four school governors disagreed and have resigned—including the chair of governors James Court.
Ian Devlin appeared on the front-page of the council’s former East End Life newspaper last summer as a good Samaritan for decorating a neighbour’s home in Bromley-by-Bow.
He was part-time premises manager at Bow Road Methodist church in 2013 when he climbed Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, raising £37,000 for the school, supported by mem bers of the congregation.
A member of the church told the Advertiser: “What happened in his past was in his youth. There was no issue with Ian working for us. He didn’t commit murder and didn’t kill anyone, but was with the wrong people at the wrong time.”
But the killer accomplice-turned-Samaritan now working in a special needs school in the same neighbourhood as the crime he committed has angered parents.
They had no clue about his racist past, even though he declared his criminal record when he applied for the job.
One parent, Tanya Hussain, said: “It’s really important that this is not a witch hunt against this man—but I don’t believe they are running the school in an appropriate way. Every day my child is at that school there’s a problem.”
There was no criticism at yesterday’s meeting of the man being rehabilitated. It was more about why he was taken on in a school in the same neighbourhood as the racist murder he was involved in.
Community activist Abdul Khalisatar told the meeting: “This is a policy issue—how this could be allowed to happen and what rationale was used to take him on at the school, then defending that decision under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, is unacceptable.”
He added: “Why place this man directly at the crime scene and then add insult to injury telling us he’s reformed and will educate your children?”
A former governor at the school, Lisa Panavich, resigned over “unresolved issues”.
She warned: “We must consider the children’s vulnerability when protesting, because they have fragile minds and complex emotional needs.”
Another former governor, Dan McCurry, spoke of a sensitive school atmosphere with its teaching staff of 40—one for each pupil.
He said: “The real problem is that this man is working on the doorstep of where the murder in 2001 happened—just 10 minutes away, in the very community where his crime was committed.
“The reason the head teacher chose to hire him in the community is baffling.”
Community leader Azmal Hussein suggested boycotting the school in his call for the head teacher’s resignation.
He demanded: “If she is not out of the school within a week, we should stop sending our children there.”
Mayor Biggs has begun a full council investigation into the protocols of hiring teachers and has hinted that “it may need Parliament to get interested”.
He is looking into whether there are enough safety catches to make sure decisions aren’t made “which undermine public confidence and safety”.