Ahead of his session with the Royal Commission, Leroy revisited the sites where he was abused, measured the distances between them, took photos, delved into old documents, and compiled a comprehensive file to hand up to the Commissioner. He said he found the process therapeutic and rewarding. ‘If I may pat myself on the back,’ he said, ‘I’m a very, very thorough detective’.
As his file made clear, Leroy was born in rural New South Wales in the late 1930s. He attended a primary school located just 500 metres from his front door, and fondly recalled how he would ‘walk home for a hot lunch each day’.
High school was a different story. There were no schools nearby, so Leroy’s parents sent him to one in the city. Beside the school was a boarding house where Leroy lived for the next three years.
Daniel Ritchie was a young Anglican clergyman who lived and worked at the boarding house. One of his jobs was to supervise the boys while they showered. Leroy said that, at the time, he and the other boys were ‘oblivious to the fact that he was perving on all of those naked bodies’. They never talked about it, nor did they talk about Ritchie’s night-time visits to the dorm.
‘Once or twice a week he returned to the dormitory half an hour or an hour after lights were turned out … He would enter quietly and kneel down beside a boy’s bed. If you weren’t asleep you could see this – unless you were the victim. He’d slide one hand down under the bedclothes and fondle the boy’s penis.’
As well as witnessing this behaviour multiple times, Leroy was himself a victim on six or seven occasions. When it happened, ‘You’d just freeze’. Ritchie would then move on to another boy, usually visiting three in a night.
From these night-time visits, Ritchie determined his favourites and granted them special privileges. Leroy recalled how Ritchie would take him and four other boys out on the weekend in his car.
‘As these boys considered themselves a bit special – because they were selected to go on these outings – I tend to think that this was a treat, a way of thanking them for allowing him to touch them in bed at night.’
On one of these trips Ritchie took Leroy and the other boys to a river. He got them to strip off and swim naked while he arranged their towels closely side-by-side on the grassy shore. When the boys emerged and sat down on the towels, Ritchie encouraged them all to masturbate in front of him.
Sometime later, Ritchie took up a post elsewhere and left the school. Leroy doesn’t know exactly why he left but he suspects that someone complained and Ritchie was asked to leave. He didn’t think much of it at the time, and believes that, as a child, the abuse had very little impact on him.
‘I felt that probably it was a fairly normal thing. That’s why it wasn’t reported or anything like that as such. And at that age I think that young children, particularly boys, thought, “Well, so be it”. It was only when you became mature and adult and in more recent years when all of these horrific situations have been brought out in the open that you realise, you think back, and you start doing a rewind back to that time and think “Well hang on, hang on”.’
Leroy said that although he’s ‘strong enough’ to live with the legacy of the abuse he still feels haunted by bad memories and finds it upsetting every time he hears mention of child abuse in the media. On the other hand, he wants to drag the issue into the light and examine it thoroughly because that is the only way to ‘get to the bottom of these problems’.