A millionaire businessman bought a boarding school in order to abuse pupils on his country estate, a court heard.

Brian Martin, 71, sexually abused a boy and girl boarder after appointing himself "Provost" of the £37,000-a-year Queen Ethelburgers School, near Harrogate, North Yorks.

The businessman later mothballed the building and moved pupils into a new school on his country estate at Thorpe Underwood Hall, at Ouseburn, near York.

He was jailed for three years and three months following the end of a third trial at Leeds Crown Court, where he was charged with sexual assault and indecent assault.

Detective Sergeant Graeme Bevington, who led the North Yorkshire Police investigation, was horrified by what happened next.

He said: “Brian Martin was a well-respected member of society and a successful businessman.

"It was due to his success as a businessman that he was able to purchase the school, which he moved from Harrogate to the Thorpe Underwood Estate where he lived with his family.

“The students who attended the school considered it to be safe and family oriented, and Brian Martin was a key figure at the school.

“Despite significant investment being made in the school, all this served to do was to create an environment that Martin could exploit for his own sinister gains.

“He preyed on the vulnerability of the students and was able to manipulate circumstances which allowed him to sexually abuse two children who were boarding students and therefore isolated from their families.

"The school was supposed to be a safe place for the victims, and they should have been able to trust all adults and staff at the school."

The court heard Martin made his fortune in insurance and ran a string of companies including entertainment and equestrian businesses.

Thorpe Underwood Hall, dating from 1912, stands close to the site of the old Thorp Green Hall, which had been destroyed by fire at the end of the 19th century, and which is remembered now for its connection to the Bronte family.

Anne Bronte lived at Thorp Green as governess to the Robinson family. She was joined by her brother Branwell, but his time there was to precipitate the crisis that led to his death.

One of Martin’s business addresses was the Monk’s House which was the home of Branwell while he was tutor to the Robinsons’ son.

The conviction of sexually assaulting a boy in the late 2000s followed a retrial of a case that was put before a jury in 2018, when Martin was acquitted.

Martin was also found guilty of indecent assault on a girl in the early-to-mid 1990s at another retrial held in 2019.

He was acquitted of six other child sexual abuse offences at the original trial in 2018, when he was accused of abusing boys and girls aged 13 to 17 between 2005 and 2010.

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