August 2007

Jailed, music teacher who filmed girls undressing


A MUSIC teacher who secretly filmed schoolgirls undressing has been jailed for 18 months.

Christopher Bell, 39, used a pinhole camera to photograph the girls, aged between 12 and 15, as they changed clothes at school and at his home.

The offences came to light after his estranged wife discovered the pictures andinformed police.

The victims included a 13-year-old who was persuaded to take off her clothes inhis office and put on a corset for a musical production.

Others were told to put on leotards in his bathroom which would help with’posture and breathing exercises’.

Bell – a child prodigy who sang at Princess Diana’s wedding in 1981 – also filmed three women at his Norwich home without their knowledge.

The married father of two targeted pupils at the £11,000-a-year private school where he worked in Norfolk.

One of his roles was taking pupils on tours across the UK and abroad.

Insiders at the school yesterday said he left last October, two months beforehis arrest, amid a scandal after leaving his wife to set up home with ateenager.

He also quit his post as master of music at St John’s Roman Catholic Cathedralin Norwich in July last year.

Jailing Bell at Norwich Crown Court, Judge Peter Jacobs told him the offenceswere ‘a violation of children’ and said his teaching career was ‘finished’.

He added: ‘This wasn’t simply peeping through a keyhole. This was planned voyeurism involving a breach of trust and setting up of photographic equipment.’ Bell began his musical career at the age of nine when he was admitted into the choir of St Paul’s Cathedral.

This led to an audience with Pope John Paul II at the Sistine Chapel ‘Plannedvoyeurism’ in Rome. In a varied career, he went on to make several appearanceson television.

His voice features on a wide range of recordings, both religious and secular,including one with Sir Paul McCartney. He has also toured America playingtrumpet and piano with a jazz band.

He became part-time master of music at St John’s Cathedral in 1998 and rancourses for choristers across East Anglia as a member of the Royal School ofChurch Music.

A police investigation was launched last year after indecent images werediscovered on his computer by his wife Sally, a former alto singer in one ofhis choirs, after they separated.

Mrs Bell, 36, declined to comment yesterday.

Prosecutor Douglas Mackay told the court on Tuesday that Bell had placed apinhole camera in his shower at home.

The disgraced teacher admitted making indecent photographs of six girls between1997 and 2006 and three counts of voyeurism involving the women.

None of the victims’ names or the school involved can be revealed for legalreasons.

Bell’s victims had no idea about the filming until they were contacted bypolice. An elder sister of one said after the case: ‘He used his talent to pickup and choose his victims.

‘He has destroyed a lot of happy memories of schooldays.’ The mother of anothervictim said: ‘My daughter feels violated by what happened and we feeldisgusted.

‘We knew he was close to the girls but we never dreamt there was anything untoward.’ A spokesman for the East Anglian Roman Catholic diocese said: ‘Mr Bell left his position as master of music over an unrelated matter.

‘The diocese has co-operated as fully as it can with the authorities.’ Theschool’s headmaster said he was pleased Bell was ‘going to face theconsequences of this gross misconduct’.

Bell was also placed on the sex offenders’ register for ten years and banned from working with children or having contact with girls under 16.