One of NZ’s worst abusers hired on Catholic ‘reference’

One of New Zealand’s worst child sex offenders once got a job at a King Country school as a result of an alleged reference from a Catholic school.

Robert Selwyn Burrett, 64, pleaded guilty to 21 child sex abuse charges last month.

His 40-year career in New Zealand’s education system came to an end last year after he was arrested and charged while working as a special needs bus driver and school caretaker in Christchurch.

His victims were as young as 5; some were intellectually disabled and one was wheelchair-bound.

He is due to be sentenced next month.

The New Zealand Herald reported that in 1994, Burrett got a job as deputy principal at Pukenui School in Te Kuiti.

Former principal Keith McKenzie said Burrett was hired on the strength of a glowing reference from a Catholic school in Rotorua.

However, two Catholic schools in the city have no record of Burrett ever working there, reported the New Zealand Herald.

Parents, board members and former students from the two schools Burrett was removed from – Lake Rotoma School and Pukenui School – were brought to tears when they learned of his crimes, citing red flags as early as 1990.

They believe the abuse in Christchurch could have been prevented if his employment history was properly recorded.

The only black marks on Burrett’s record were two drink-driving convictions.

Pukenui School tried to fire Burrett for incompetency – alleging he was drunk, unkempt and inept – but a teacher’s union became involved and the case ended in a mediation hearing and confidential Board of Trustees payout in 2001.

When Burrett was convicted last month, the education ministry said it checked all records for any historical complaints received during Burrett’s employment, but none were found.


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