UPDATE: 5PM The former school principal of the Katanning Senior High School says he was "totally and utterly conned" by convicted paedophile Dennis John McKenna.
Ian Murray, appearing before the Blaxell inquiry into child sex abuse at St Andrew’s boarding hostel in Katanning, said the entire community was conned.
"I supported him totally in his job as a warden because I thought he was doing an outstanding job as a warden," Mr Murray said.
He said before arriving in Katanning to take up the high school principal’s job he had been told by the Country High Schools Hostel Authority that McKenna was an "exemplary person".
"I was totally and utterly conned by the man," Mr Murray said.
"Everybody was conned."
The principal gave a glowing character reference of McKenna in 1991 when the paedophile stood trial for molesting five boys at the hostel.
He also conceded for the first time that the word "sexual abuse may have come up" when a student came to see him with a complaint about McKenna.
Mr Murray gave a conflicted account on Thursday of a meeting with student, Todd Jefferis, and his mother, who he said “almost barged” into his office to make allegations of sexual abuse against McKenna.
Mr Jefferis previously told the inquiry that he went to Mr Murray for help but he offered “zero guidance“, which Mr Murray denied.
He said the boy was upset and emotional while his mother was angry during the meeting, which put him in a defensive position.
“I thought that he was telling me that he had been physically abused,” he said.
Mr Murray said the issue of sexual abuse may have come up but he did not recall it.
He said he told the boy and his mother that they should take their allegations to the police.
When a transcript from 1991 was presented to Mr Murray with him saying Mr Jefferis alleged McKenna had made “sexual advances“ towards him, Mr Murray maintained he still believed he was referring to physical abuse.
Mr Murray said he did not ask McKenna for his version of events when the allegations were made because he did not think it was a matter for him, but for the police.
He said he spoke to McKenna the next day and told him to also go to the police because McKenna alleged that Mr Jefferis had stolen money from the canteen.
However, in evidence he gave in 1991, he said he spoke to McKenna that same day to tell him about the complaint.
Mr Murray said he was not aware that Mr Jefferis was ostracised by other students at the school after he made allegations against McKenna.
He said that in hindsight he should have done more to help Mr Jefferis but denied the school should have offered him an apology.
“The school did not accuse him of anything,” he said. “If the school had said he was lying we would have offered him an apology.”
Mr Murray denied it was embarrassing for him because he was such a strong supporter of McKenna.
However, he said he had an “immense sense of regret” that the school could not have done more for Mr Jefferis and other victims.
When counsel assisting the inquiry, Philip Urquhart, suggested Mr Murray had let Mr Jefferis down badly, he replied: “In hindsight, yes.”
The inquiry is continuing.with AAP
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.