Former teacher who filmed 90 females showering loses name suppression

*NOTE: This article contains the information & viewpoint from one of the victims.

NIGEL EDGECOMBE has been named as the former teacher who used a two-way mirror concealing a secret camera to record 90 females showering in his home. His interim name suppression was lifted early this morning as he reappeared in the Wellington District Court for final sentencing, after having been remanded on bail for the past several months.

He previously plead guilty to 54 charges of intimate visual recordings and objectionable publications on Friday 15th February.

After receiving an initial sentencing starting point of 4 years, Mr. Edgecombe’s final sentence was reduced to 2 years and 9 months. The offender received a standard 25% deduction for an early plea, as well as further deductions for a variety of factors which included showing remorse and offering to partake in restorative justice.

Victims and police called for the law to recognize the unprecedented gravity of the harm Mr. Edgecombe’s actions caused. Aggravating features recognized before the court included premeditation, high sophistication of offending and particularly enormous breach of trust.

One of the defining features of this case is the very fact that all victims experienced a gross manipulation of their trust, which extended beyond the physical filming and violation of their bodies.

With many of the victims it was an established, prolonged period of sexual grooming. Mr. Edgecombe operated by targeting specific young girls whom he took a special sexual interest in, building up very carefully planned relationships over a span of years.

His actions were extremely calculated, pre-meditated and long-term.

For many victims, it started with friendship. On the surface, Nigel was incredibly friendly, outgoing, and helpful. As a teacher, he was held out by schools as the first port of call for students to discuss issues like bullying. He became a mentor to many of his victims. He was kind. He was supportive. He handed out lollies if it was your birthday. He enthusiastically praised you for an impressive school achievement. He offered private lessons if you were a top achiever. He was your biggest moral supporter in competitions you’d entered. He did everything to firmly settle himself as a key dominant figure within the young person’s life.

He was a teacher and you were a student. There was a power imbalance and in a school environment you did what he suggested.

The grooming would mature. Mr. Edgecombe would find ways to constantly reference sexual topics in casual conversation. He aimed to normalize such behavior for the youth, to make them think of such conduct as normal. It was pedophilia expertly disguised as an eccentric sense of humour.

He exploited students’ emotional vulnerability when experiencing relationship or family difficulties. He said he was a safe person to talk to during school time. He invited you into his school office for hot chocolate if you were going through a rough patch. He wanted you to fully trust him, to go talk to him first before anyone else. He’d tell you empathetic stories of himself. He’d subconsciously force a closer than usual bond between you and him than that of student and teacher.  

Nigel ingratiated himself amongst the victims’ families so parents would feel comfortable having their children around him. To him, it was easy access to the child. Family outings, family lunches and family dinners all together at each other’s house.

It made physical contact like hugging easy for him to obtain. Hug the female as a welcome or goodbye, even in a room full of other people. Hold hands as a group as you say a prayer around the dinner table. During a serious conversation put a hand on their shoulder for comfort. Offer a neck massage for a bad headache. Seemingly innocuous contact on the most basic level, but really the groomer was working hard to desensitise the future victim to his touch. And it so often occurred in public social situations where the child felt like they could not refuse, no matter whatever degree of discomfit they felt.

It is true that the most sinister nature of grooming lies in the fact that on the surface it so closely mimics genuinely positive relationships. Nigel Edgecombe built up a huge wealth of supposedly safe experiences over years. In reality he was just progressing in incremental steps, slowly inching the young females towards one shower at his home.

It is said he had an established method of finally persuading girls alone to this house by offering paid babysitting jobs for his youngest daughter.

Holistically, the end game is clear: Nigel cultivated skills in deception to grow relationships built on trust. He put forward a convincing pretense of being a friendly, supportive man part of his own very happy, normal family. But the reality could not be any darker. His family were sometimes in the house while he filmed victims. He was a master manipulator weaving and operating within a highly intricate web of woven lies. Virtually everything he ever said and did was all for his perverse gratification.

It is of vital importance that we, as a community, now question how this ever transpired. How did we let a pedophile close enough to our students? How did we fail each individual victim? There were girls as young as 12.

Questions need to be asked:

How did our local schools hire a pedophile, facilitating an environment for Mr. Edgecombe to move in extremely close proximity with their students for years?

How did the teachers and families fail to recognize or appropriately act on clear signals of sexual grooming?

Under exactly what circumstances did Nigel eventually leave the schools at which he taught?

What measures have the schools taken to reach out to victims in apology and what preventative mechanisms have been implemented to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

How does one have 90 different females showering in their house but fail to realize something is so blatantly wrong?

Simply expressed, how did all the adults interacting with Nigel Edgecombe unforgivably choose to ignore the warning signs?

A 14-year-old cannot be expected to recognize sexual grooming. An adult is. There were obvious indications and there was an overarching, long-term pattern of excessive attention directed towards young females. Students are implicitly told to trust teachers – it is adults who have the responsibility to ensure their safety. Yet any suspicions regarding Mr. Edgecombe’s behavior were either promptly dismissed, or perhaps even more unforgivably, insufficiently addressed. As a community, we did not do it, but we certainly have allowed it to happen.  

Undoubtedly it is so, so wrong to have young girls victimized through the failings of responsible adults.

So, as 90 victims now horrifically have to come to terms with being survivors of sexual abuse, only one thing is clear: we must all apologetically come together as a community to collectively ensure this never happens again.

AN IMPORTANT REMINDER:

Victim blaming/shaming is the harmful behavior of attributing partial fault to the victim. Individuals victim blame to distance themselves from the crime; it is a self-preservation tactic to assure yourself that it could not have happened to you, that you do not need to face your fear that you also could have been a victim. It can be a disillusioned way to rationalize your failure to intervene in the crime. However, this is psychological abuse for the victim. It is never the victim’s fault. Being conned by a master manipulator is not being stupid. It could happen to anyone.

Do not distort abuse, thereby undermining it, by transferring blame away from the perpetrator to the victim to placate yourself. By condemning the victim’s actions, you stand for the perpetrator’s conduct: blaming the victim protects the guilty. Survivors deserve support, not scrutiny.

If you would like to donate to support victims of sexual abuse and assault across Wellington, Porirua & Kapiti visit:

www.wellingtonhelp.org.nz

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