Music teacher jailed for sex offences against pupil

Dara De Cogan
Dara De Cogan

An internationally-renowned musician has been jailed for a string of vile sexual offences against a female pupil at a prestigious private school.

Dara De Cogan, 58, groomed and sexually exploited the girl for two years while working as a music teacher at Ampleforth College near Helmsley, which has been rocked by a series of sexual allegations against former teachers.

De Cogan, one of Ireland’s leading classical musicians and a former star violinist with the Halle Orchestra, lost his job at the Roman Catholic co-ed school when the victim came forward eight years after the abuse took place.

York Crown Court heard that the victim, now a young woman, had endured years of agony keeping her dark secret until she finally came forward to police in April last year.

She was now a broken woman who had difficulty forming relationships, trusting people or leading any kind of normal social life.

De Cogan, of Kilburn Village Street, Kilburn, appeared in the dock on Tuesday after admitting 10 counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust. Many of his friends, family and former colleagues watched from the public gallery as the musical virtuoso sat head bowed waiting to learn of his fate.

Prosecutor Dan Cordey said De Cogan was head of strings at the leading independent school when he began grooming the teenage girl, described as “very bright, gifted and articulate”.

He added that the girl saw De Cogan as a “substitute father figure” in whom she could confide because she had difficulties fitting in at school and had family problems.

“The defendant told her she could talk to him about anything, that he would be her friend and be there for her,” added Mr Cordey.

The barrister said the “close” relationship between De Cogan and the girl eventually became “more physical” as the violin teacher began making suggestive remarks and showering her with compliments about her looks.

“He told her, ‘You know you are such a flirt. I bet you think about me sometimes’,” said Mr Cordey.

De Cogan first began tickling the girl but the sexual activity progressed to more serious abuse including bondage. The offences took place inside the music studio and other parts of the school. De-Cogan also drove the girl out to isolated spots in the countryside.

De Cogan started sending the girl texts and emails saying she was “really special”, by which time the victim had become “confused by the defendant’s behaviour”.

On one occasion, De Cogan - who claimed to be in love with the girl - approached her in the corridor and “pressed her against a wall”, where he kissed her and began touching intimate parts of her body.

He told her she was a “temptress” and that he had fantasises about tying her up, added Mr Cordey.

On another occasion, in the recording studio, he persuaded her to perform a lewd sexual act upon him.

De-Cogan was arrested and admitted he had a consensual sexual relationship with the girl. He told police the sexual activity “just happened”.

The distraught victim said the effects of the sexual abuse had been “extremely painful”, adding that she had been manipulated by a man she considered to be a “proxy parent”, at a most vulnerable time in her life.

“He constantly second-guessed (me) and caused me such incredible pain and confusion,” she added.

“I have not had any sort of normal relationship since the events, nor have I had any desire for one. I have problems cultivating even the most basic friendship.”

The woman said she had since suffered from mental-health difficulties and had panic attacks and flashbacks.

Defence barrister Rod Hunt said De Cogan was otherwise a man of “impeccable” character who had been highly-respected by friends and colleagues, and admired for his musical ability.

He said De Cogan - who became leader of the Irish Youth Orchestra in 1978 and represented his country on the European Community Youth Orchestra - had toured the world as a musician and was once second violin leader in the Halle Orchestra.

Jailing De Cogan for 28 months, Judge Andrew Stubbs QC said had groomed and manipulated a vulnerable girl.

“You are plainly a very talented musician (but) you lost all sense of self-control and responsibility,” added Mr Stubbs.

De Cogan was also placed on the sex-offenders’ register for 10 years and given a restraining order which bans him from contacting the victim.