Named headmaster found dead in island woods

A teacher who disappeared after being named as a child abuse defendant by his local newspaper has been found dead.

It is believed that Alastair Wilbee from the Isle of Wight took his own life.

He went missing in August, the day before a newspaper report of his first court appearance was due to appear in the Isle of Wight County Press. Wilbee denied a charge that he had sexually assaulted a teenage boy.

This week his body was found in woods near his home.

His widow Gail has argued that defendants in cases such as that of her late husband should have anonymity until proven guilty. And she has been backed by David Hart from the National Association of Headteachers.

He said: “There is no doubt at all that Mr Wilbee’s death was caused by the publicity he received.”

But County Press editor Brian Dennis said this week: “We didn’t treat Alastair Wilbee any differently from anyone else who is charged or appears in court.

“Part of our job is to report what goes on and when there is a public interest in reporting that a headmaster has appeared on charges like that.

“I do agree that it might have helped him if they could have held his case quicker and I have made that point to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Criminal Justice Board. He was originally charged back in April.”

He added: “If a headmaster isn’t at work people will wonder why – rumour and innuendo go flying around the island. It is better to come out in the open and say exactly what is going on.”

There was a further tragedy on the Isle of Wight two weeks ago when a former policeman convicted of drink driving is thought to have killed himself after reading a report of his court appearance in the IoW County Press.

By Dominic Ponsford

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