Keeping a Secret –John Owen abuse survivor speaks out

“He would call me over to his office to discuss a script or a speech I was working on. He would lock the door and pull the zip of my trousers down. My heart would sink because I knew what was coming next.”

These are the shocking words of one of the victims who survived abuse by the drama teacher John Owen.

In a new documentary, Cadw Cyfrinach (Keeping a Secret) on S4C on Wednesday 7 April at 9.00 one of the survivors, who was a former pupil of John Owen, shares his experiences, his thoughts and the effect that years of abuse had on those pupils in Ysgol Rhydfelen between 1977 and 1992.

This is the first time that he has spoken on camera, and certainly, he thought very carefully before deciding to do this.

“I respect the others, the other boys that I’m in contact with. They don’t feel that they can. This is my story, but it’s the story of all of us and I feel that I have to represent them. It’s not easy, this is a massive deal,” he said.

“John Owen started grooming me at a very young age when I first started at Ysgol Rhydfelen. I didn’t know that the trap I was in was going to turn so sinister. I enjoyed performing, singing reciting and competing – I remember thinking – right, I must get him to notice me. He was an incredibly charismatic man and you wanted him to praise you.”

Certainly, Ysgol Rhydfelen was famous for being a good school, and they succeeded in getting children from non-Welsh homes to feel passionate about the language. The school produced high quality shows and nearby schools would regularly travel to see Rhydfelen shows.

“We worked hard in those shows. John Owen always insisted upon loyalty from you. If you weren’t 100 per cent with him – you were against him and you were the enemy. That was one of the ways he manipulated us. He could help me with what I wanted in my life and I had to make that bargain with the devil.”

“I started staying overnight at his house and he’d say – it’s a cold night – you might as well share a bed with me, and he started touching me.”

“And when all the sexual abuse started, I’d just switch off, and try and take myself to another place.”

Even though now, many years later, he could hate John Owen for what he did to him, he admits that there was a likeable side to the man who abused him.

“He was a man who gave me a lot of of advice, there was a very caring and kind side to him and he could get some great work out of me.”

“Emotionally, I am still angry with him. I blame him for injuring me but I can also make excuses for him and to see him as a victim.”

John Owen killed himself in 2001 before standing trial for the sexual assault of former pupils. This led to the Clywch inquiry in 2004, an investigation by Peter Clarke, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales at the time.

The report found that no-one who heard the evidence in the inquiry would doubt that John Owen was guilty of acts of gross sexual indecency against some pupils at Ysgol Rhydfelen. It notes also that the evidence had showed that Mr Owen, in all probability, had abused pupils under his care over a number of years.

John Owen also scripted and produced a drama series for young people Pam Fi Duw (Why Me God) for S4C between 1997 and 2002.

As well as hearing about the painful experiences of the survivors, we also hear from some of the Pam Fi Duw actors and the reporter Eifion Glyn, who reported on the story and has researched into John Owen’s history for many years.

It is now nearly 20 years since John Owen killed himself in a caravan in Porthcawl after failing to appear at his trial in Cardiff Crown Court, but the scars are still very much alive in the minds of the victims.

“The night we heard that John Owen had killed himself, we all went for a drink. At last, the whole thing was over.”

Cadw Cyfrinach
Wednesday, 7 April, 9.00
English subtitles available
On demand: S4C Clic, BBCiPlayer and other platforms
A Wildflame Production
for S4C

Cadw Cyfrinach – un o ddioddefwyr John Owen yn siarad am y tro cyntaf

“Roedd e’n galw fi draw i’w swyddfa i drafod ryw sgript neu speech ro’n i’n gweithio arno. Roedd e’n cloi y drws a thynnu zip fy nhrowsus i lawr. Roedd fy nghalon i’n suddo achos ro’n i’n gwybod beth oedd yn dod nesa.”

Dyna eiriau ysgytwol un o’r dioddefwyr a gafodd ei gamdrin gan yr athro drama John Owen.

Mewn rhaglen ddogfen newydd, Cadw Cyfrinach fydd i’w gweld ar S4C nos Fercher 7 Ebrill am 9.00 bydd un o’r dioddefwyr a oedd yn gyn ddisgybl i John Owen yn rhannu ei brofiadau, ei feddyliau a’r effaith a gafodd blynyddoedd o gamdrin ar y disgyblion hynny yn Ysgol Rhydfelen rhwng 1977 a 1992.

Dyma’r tro cyntaf iddo siarad ar gamera, ac yn sicr, mae wedi meddwl yn ddwys cyn penderfynu gwneud hynny.

“Dwi’n parchu y gweddill, y bois eraill wi mewn cysylltiad gyda nhw. Dy’ nhw ddim yn teimlo bod nhw’n gallu. Fy stori i yw hwn, ond stori ni gyd hefyd a dwi’n teimlo bod rhaid i fi gynrychioli nhw. Dyw e ddim yn hawdd, ma hwn yn massive deal. “ meddai.

“Fe wnaeth John Owen ddechrau groomio fi yn ifanc iawn wrth i fi ddechrau yn Ysgol Rhydfelen.  Do’n i ddim yn gwybod pa mor sinistr oedd y trap o’n i ynddo yn mynd i droi. Ro’n i’n joio perfformio, canu, adrodd a cystadlu – fi’n cofio meddwl reit – I must get him to notice me. Roedd e’n foi hynod o charismatic a roeddet ti eisiau iddo fe dy glodfori di.“

Yn sicr, roedd Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen yn enwog am fod yn ”ysgol dda”, ac roedden nhw llwyddo i gael plant o gartrefi di-gymraeg i deimlo’n angerddol am yr iaith. Roedd yr ysgol yn cynhyrchu sioeau o’r safon uchaf a byddai ysgolion cyfagos yn teithio yno yn rheolaidd i weld sioeau Rhydfelen.

“Roedden ni’n gweithio’n galed ar y sioeau yna. Roedd John Owen wastad yn mynnu teyrngarwch gennych chi. Os nad o’ch chi 100% gyda fe – ro’ch chi yn erbyn e a chi oedd y gelyn. Dyna un o’r ffyrdd roedd e’n maniwpiwleiddio ni. Oedd e’n gallu helpu fi gyda beth o’n i moyn yn fy mywyd ac roedd rhaid i fi wneud y fargen yma gyda’r diafol.”

“Fe wnes i ddechrau aros dros nos yn ei dŷ a dyma fe’n dweud, mae’n noson oer – man a man i ti rannu gwely gyda fi, a dechreuodd e gyffwrdd a fi.“

“A pan ddechreuodd yr holl gamdrin rhywiol ro’n i’n switcho off a trio rhoi fy hun yn rhywle arall. “

Er ei fod erbyn hyn, flynyddoedd yn ddiweddarach yn gallu casáu John Owen am yr hyn a wnaeth iddo, mae’n cyfaddef fod na ochr hoffus i gymeriad y dyn wnaeth ei gamdrin.

“Mi oedd e’n ddyn oedd yn rhoi llwyth o gyngor i fi, oedd na ochr addfwyn a charedig iawn iddo fe ac roedd e’n gallu tynnu pethe gwych allan ohonai. “

“Yn emosiynol, wi dal yn ddig gyda fe. Wi’n beio fe am anafu fi, ond hefyd ro’n i’n gallu neud esgusodion drosto fe a gweld e fel victim.

Fe laddodd John Owen ei hun yn 2001 cyn sefyll ei brawf ar gyhuddiadau o ymosod yn rhywiol ar gyn ddisgyblion. Fe wnaeth hynny esgor ar ymchwiliad Clywch yn 2004, sef ymchwiliad gan  Peter Clarke, Comisiynydd Plant Cymru ar y pryd.

Mae’r adroddiad yn nodi na all unrhyw un a glywodd y dystiolaeth yn yr Ymchwiliad amau, â didwylledd, fod Mr John Owen yn euog o weithredoedd o anweddustra rhywiol difrifol yn erbyn rhai disgyblion yn Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen. Mae’n nodi hefyd fod y dystiolaeth wedi dangos i Mr Owen, yn ôl pwysau tebygolrwydd, gam-drin disgyblion yn ei ofal yn rhywiol dros nifer o flynyddoedd.

Bu John Owen hefyd yn sgriptio a chynhyrchu cyfres ddrama i bobl ifanc Pam Fi Duw i S4C rhwng 1997 a 2002

Yn ogystal a chlywed profiadau anodd y dioddefwr, byddwn hefyd yn clywed gan rai o actorion Pam Fi Duw a’r newyddiadurwr Eifion Glyn, fu’n gohebu ar y stori ac yn ymchwilio i hanes John Owen am flynyddoedd lawer.

A hithau bellach bron yn ugain mlynedd ers i John Owen ladd ei hun mewn carafán ym Mhorthcawl wedi iddo beidio ymddangos i sefyll ei brawf yn Llys y Goron Caerdydd, mae’r creithiau dal yn fyw ym meddyliau’r dioddefwyr.

“Y noson glywon ni fod John Owen wedi lladd ei hun, fe aethon ni gyd am ddrinc. O’r diwedd, roedd y cyfan drosodd.“

Cadw Cyfrinach
Nos Fercher, 7 Ebril 

Isdeitlau Saesneg
Ar alw: S4C Clic, BBCiPlayer a llwyfannau eraill
Cynhyrchiad Wildflame
ar gyfer S4C

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With a background in current affairs and factual programmes, Abbie has been able to apply her research and organisational skills to a wide variety of projects in both English and Welsh. These include S4C's Nyrsys, Dim Byd i Wisgo and more recently Beasts - a series on the 'top 10' animals for children which is being sold internationally.

Adrian Grant

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Carrie filmed, produced and directed The Greatest Gift which won Best Factual Series at the Bafta (Cymru) awards. Carrie has also produced behind-the-scenes content and created high-concept digital features for drama co-pro series for the BBC, Netflix & HBO, winning an International Webby award for her work on 'The Ballad of the Peaky Blinders'. Before joining Wildflame Productions, Carrie was a Senior Producer on a brand-new primetime competition format for Channel 4.

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Megan has joined the team on the international Vikings series and will be working across all Wildflame’s specialist factual programming

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