CRIME

THE MASTER SEDUCER

MARK BONOKOSKI May 7 2007
CRIME

THE MASTER SEDUCER

MARK BONOKOSKI May 7 2007

THE MASTER SEDUCER

CRIME

Students and parents loved him. Years later the true details about the cottage came out.

MARK BONOKOSKI

In the spring of last year, with no media present to put shame to his good name, John Inglis walked into Courtroom 508 at Toronto’s College Park courthouse with his lawyer, Todd White, law partner of famed criminal defence attorney Eddie Greenspan, and walked out a convicted pedophile. The punishment of publicity, however, had been successfully evaded. Inglis would be under house arrest for the next 15 months, but there would be no jail. His name would be added to the Sex Offender Registry, and he would have to surrender a sample of his DNA. But who would know?

Since preliminary hearings cannot be reported, they are rarely covered unless the case has major headline value should it ever come to trial. And so, because the case of Regina vs. Inglis seemed to lack this cachet, not a single reporter was in the courtroom when Crown

attorney Glen Crisp and Todd White agreed to a deal on John Inglis’s fate. And not a single photographer waited outside.

A plea bargain having been struck in advance behind closed doors, there was no legal cut-and-thrust to witness as Inglis’s preliminary hearing came to an abrupt end, and no victims present to watch this former private-school math teacher—and guidance counsellor, of all perverse things—suddenly plead guilty to sexually assaulting the young boys who had been so enamoured of him they gave him a warm-sounding nickname that was a play on his name. They nicknamed him Jingles.

The abuses he inflicted on the students all happened at Baptiste Lake, outside of Bancroft, Ont., where John Inglis had a wateraccess cottage. It was there, for almost a decade, he would bring the victims he would prey upon—young and trusting boys with good names from good homes, all students at Toronto’s prestigious Crescent School, a private school for boys where he taught and counselled and coached.

There was one victim, however, who would

never be called to testify against Inglis about the sexual abuse he endured as a young boy back in the ’80s when, like other young boys from Crescent School before him and after him, including his younger brother, he went to Baptiste Lake to help build Inglis’s log cottage. On Jan. 2, 1997—seven years before Inglis was finally arrested, and on the night he was supposed to meet that same brother to see Phantom of the Opera—this potential witness went to his Toronto apartment and hung himself.

“He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia two years before,” his brother said. “And, while I cannot tell you that what John Inglis did to him, or to me, had anything to do with my brother’s schizophrenia, I can tell you that John Inglis had everything to do with the voices my brother was hearing in his head, and every nightmare he endured.

“Two weeks before he took his own life, he had asked me out of the blue if John Inglis had abused me, too. I had somehow blocked it from my mind until that moment, and then it all came back. Next thing I know, I am walking into my brother’s apartment, worried

about why he hadn’t shown up for Phantom, and there he is, hanging from a chin-up bar in the corner of his room. How’s that for a permanent scar? When I see my brother hanging there, I see John Inglis.”

Today Inglis, now 6l, lives under house arrest in St. Catharines, Ont., in a home that once belonged to famed Canadian curler Marilyn Bodogh, twice a winner of the World Curling Championships. It is a house without a single window facing the street. Despite the fact John Inglis paid $463,000 for it back in 2000—the house was bought under his wife’s name four years before she died of cancer—his backyard offers a million-dollar view of Martindale Pond, site of the world-renowned Royal Canadian Henley Regatta and all the schoolboy rowing teams that come with it. For a convicted pedophile ordered by the court to have no contact with anyone under the age of 18, it is a perfect pedophile perch.

When he answered the knock on his bunker-like door recently, however, the smartly dressed Inglis—grey slacks, expensive sweater, face cleanly shaved, greying hair perfectly combed—did not wish to discuss either his conviction or the view from his backyard. “No comment,” he offered before closing the door.

It was basically a carbon copy of what he had to say when Mr. Justice Charles Vaillancourt of the Ontario Court asked him if he had anything to say prior to the passing of his sentence. “No,

Your Honour,” Inglis replied.

He let his lawyer, Todd White, do all the talking in court. Outside court, however, White is more muted.

Numerous calls were placed to his law office regarding the Inglis plea bargain and the subsequent sentence, but none was returned.

Det. Wendy Leaver has been a member of the Toronto police for almost 30 years, and has spent the last decade with the sex-crime unit. “If you received a call from police telling you that you are being investigated for a historical sexual assault and are about to be charged with sexual offences against children, what would your reaction be?” she asked. “Wouldn’t you protest loudly? Wouldn’t you say it’s ludicrous, outrageous? Wouldn’t you deny it all?

“Not pedophiles,” she said. “Once that call comes, it’s like a fait accompli. And that is what it was like with John Inglis. He was calm, and

he was cool—as if he was expecting our call.”

John Inglis had left Crescent School by then, having become a successful stockbroker with RBC Dominion, many of his clients reportedly being the trusting, uppercrust, well-heeled parents of some of the boys he had abused. It costs $21,685 in basic tuition in today’s dollars to send a student to Crescent School; the money in that gene pool runs deep. The stock portfolio that Inglis managed for 19 years is today owned, via RBC Dominion, by Caldwell & Holbrook Wealth Management. Derek Caldwell refused to discuss what was paid for the Inglis book upon Inglis’s “retirement” after being charged, or the number of the clients with connections to Crescent School, or to Ridley College in St. Catharines, a private boys’ school where Inglis taught prior to Crescent, and where one of the students was also named in court documents as a victim.

WHILE STATISTICS on hard-core pedophiles are difficult to come by, a U.S. study of sexual-abuse cases has estimated that a pedophile averages 244 victims in his lifetime. In Leaver’s experience, those who actually come forward to report their abuser are the tip of the iceberg in terms of those abused.

Whether Inglis’s wife, Vahita Ishkhanian, knew of her husband’s charges or his predilection for young boys is uncertain: she died after a battle with cancer only a month after Inglis got the phone call from Toronto police Det. Paul Gauthier, then Det. Leaver’s partner in the sex-crime unit, instructing him to surrender on what were then 15 charges involving nine victims. Inglis, who didn’t marry until into his late 40s, still has his St. Catharines phone number listed under his wife’s Armenian maiden namethree full years after her death.

According to Leaver, Inglis was a master seducer. “He was well-liked,” she said. “He was considered one of the teachers who was ‘with it.’ A lot of the boys felt they could go speak with him. You could go to his [school] office and smoke if you wanted. He was charismatic. He was a handsome man. He was approachable. He was their guidance counsellor. He was their squash coach.”

How Inglis managed to get away with what he did for so long, and why none of his victims warned others at Crescent School to steer clear of invitations to visit his cottage at Baptiste Lake, is explained by Leaver as simply being “the way it was” back in that era. “It was simply the times,”

THE BOYS. NONE OF WHOM HAD A LICENCE, DROVE THE CAR TO TORONTO

she said. “Every victim I spoke to believed they were the only one. Boys of that age—12, 13,14—are at a very vulnerable age. You’re entering puberty. The person who has done this to you is a person who has control and power over you. Who are you going to tell? Who’s going to believe you? Will the other boys make fun of me? John Inglis had all the control, and he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew none of them would

HIS DAD WAS ALSO IN THE HOT TUB, OBLIVIOUS TO HIS SON’S TORMENT

tell. They were like babies, and he preyed upon that.”

Documented in the massive file compiled by Leaver is an incident in which four Crescent School boys paid a summer visit to Inglis’s cottage. The game plan at the cottage never varied. Inglis, who was rarely ever photographed there without a drink or a cigarette, would ply the kids with booze, even to the point of playing chug-a-lug, bet-youcan’t drinking games that often ended with the boys vomiting and passing out.

It was after they passed out that Inglis went to work. If they passed out on their backs, he would pull down their pants and fellate them. If they passed out on their stomachs, they would often awake to find Inglis putting a finger up their anus while he masturbated.

In one particular incident, a boy, who awoke to the horror of Inglis’s head between his legs, jumped up, grabbed Inglis and, with the help of the other three students, locked him in one of the cottage’s bedrooms.

Then they grabbed the keys to both his car and his boat, and made their escape to the marina across the lake where Inglis had parked his car.

The keys to the boat were then tossed into the lake, and the boys drove Inglis’s car the 250-plus km back to Toronto. Not one boy had a driver’s licence. In fact, not one of them was even old enough to legally drive. Inglis’s car, a station wagon purchased from a fam-

ily who later found out that Inglis had abused their son as well, was left in the parking lot of the Granite Club, the expensive private club across the street from Crescent School where many of the boys’ parents were members—but not before it was bashed into the wall a couple of times. And then the boys made a pact never to tell anyone about what had happened.

Years later, interviewed by Leaver, the “boys”—by now all men in their thirties—were concerned about one thing and one thing only. “They worried about being charged with car theft,” said Leaver. “Despite all the years that had passed, they were suddenly 14 years old again.” Even today, one of the men did not want the story of the boat and the car to be told. “I made a pact with my friends,” he said. “We promised never to tell.”

John Inglis might have escaped his past if not for the case of Douglas Brown, a privateschool teacher at Toronto’s elite Upper Canada College, who was charged in 2004 with sexually assaulting students at that school

back in the ’70s and early ’80s. Brown, 55 at the time he was charged, was eventually convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, with Mr. Justice Harry LaLorme telling court that Brown “stole from [his victims] that which can never be retrieved—their innocence.”

It was the arrest of Brown that prompted one of John Inglis’s students to finally come forward with his story, leading Crescent School, in co-operation with the police, to send out a letter to its alumni asking for assistance. And, one by one, the “boys” of Crescent began talking—“boys” now in their thirties whose victimization at the hands of John Inglis had produced confused sexualities, psychological damage, marital upheaval, drug abuse and alcoholism.

At Inglis’s sentencing last April, Crown attorney Glen Crisp read what he called the “highlights” of two written victim-impact statements into the record. “I continue to work at this healing process,” reads one, written by a young man whose surname is among this country’s most prominent. “I hope this man gets the treatment he so desperately needs but hope he fathoms just how much innocence he has destroyed. My childhood ended that night, and my life became a survival from, of all things, myself.

I cannot know of the pain I have caused my parents or the heartache they feel at knowing what has happened. I also cannot remedy the relationships I have broken for fear of getting too close to any one person. All I can do is move forward.”

When that young man was a boy, his parents so trusted John Inglis that they allowed him to “babysit” overnight at their home when they went away on holidays, as well as provide private tutoring for their son.

The second victim-impact statement came from a young man whose parents were also enamoured of John Inglis. They visited him often at his Baptiste Lake retreat and even threw a big party for him when he married in the early ’90s—unaware of the abuse he had inflicted on their son until his behaviour became more and more destructive.

This is what their son wrote in his statement to the court: “There has not been a day that has gone by since I was 14 that the memory of some aspect of my encounter with Mr. Inglis hasn’t entered my mind. It is only the last few years that I have allowed myself to believe that I was a victim. Prior to that I spent my entire teenage years, and most of my twenties, being angry with myself, hating myself. I was depressed and incapable of forgiving myself for not having done more to protect myself from Mr. Inglis.

“I no longer trust anyone. I had suicidal thoughts and fantasies,” he continued. “The one friend I opened up to about the abuse couldn’t handle it, and distanced himself. I felt alone. I felt unloved and unlovable. I drank more and drugged more with anti-social consequences. I poured my energies into my work and obliterated my feelings and thoughts. The net result, 15 years after the abuse, was that I was full of shame, guilt, fear and anger. I was a chain-smoking, drug-addicted alcoholic who was coming apart at the seams, unable to feel at peace with myself.

“I have been clean for six years now,” he concluded. “With the help of therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, I have finally begun to feel better of myself and let go of my anger.”

In an interview, the young man recalled being in the hot tub at Inglis’s cottage and Inglis reaching across the hot tub to “finger” his testicles with his toes—despite the fact the boy’s father was also in the hot tub, drink in hand, oblivious to Inglis’s brazen torment of his son.

‘THE NEXT DAY, VIRTUALLY, INGLIS PUT HIS COTTAGE UP FOR SALE’

“He was a predator to the core,” the young man said. “He believed he was untouchable.”

Quiet and picturesque, Baptiste Lake is considered one of the jewels of the Hastings Highlands, with property values constantly on the rise as the Muskokas and the Haliburtons run out of waterfront. It is the summer home of at least one Canadian rock star. Group of Seven artist A. J. Casson painted his famous Blue Heron on Baptiste Lake, among other works. The late David Milne was another world-renowned artist who summered and painted on Baptiste.

Camp Ponacka, a high-end summer camp for boys, is also located on Baptiste Lake, although Leaver has no evidence of John Inglis fishing off that dock.

One day, in the summer of1999, five years before he got his call from the Toronto police sex-crimes unit and voluntarily surrendered at Toronto’s 51 Division, John Inglis received

an angry phone call from the mother of the boy who became a “chain-smoking, drugaddicted alcoholic.”

“It had finally sunk in,” the young man said. “My mother finally believed that John Inglis was what he was, and she threatened to expose him. The next day, virtually, he put his cottage up for sale.”

It sold quickly that summer for the bargain price of $235,000, all-inclusive. The furniture. The boats. The hot tub. All bought, as it turned out, by a successful Toronto res-

taurateur whose son had spent the summer at Camp Ponacka, and who saw the For Sale sign go up on the waterfront property while out paddling a canoe. “Putting my name in any story might be titillating, but it’s irrelevant,” the restaurateur said. “No one was aware at the time of anything this John Inglis had done. The cottage certainly deserves to see better days.”

IN SENTENCING John Inglis to 15 months’ house arrest, Mr. Justice Vaillancourt oddly described the abuse of the boys of Crescent School as “fortunately at perhaps the lower end of the scale involving sexual assaults,” and that it was “encouraging to observe that the accused has put his alcohol problem behind him.”

“The accused,” opined the judge, “has expressed his guilt and remorse through his plea, as well as to his psychiatrist. I have no doubt that, in hindsight, the accused truly is remorseful for his actions and the harm that his actions have brought upon his former charges.”

How Judge Vaillancourt had “no doubt” of Inglis’s remorse is a mystery because he never explained it in his sentencing. Nor did Inglis speak to it.

If remorse can be expressed through a guilty plea, or through words protected by the privacy of a psychiatrist’s couch, then that is the total extent of the remorse John Inglis ever displayed. Not one word of true remorse was ever publicly offered when the opportunity presented itself.

Not in court. Not when there was a knock at his door. And certainly not to any of his victims. And he did have at least one chance.

The young man who found the hanging body of his brother and who himself was abused by Inglis finally mustered the courage to confront Inglis at his Toronto investment office. “I went to tell him that my brother hanged himself,” the young man said. “He just stared at me blankly, as if I were trash walking through the door. I don’t know what I was expecting him to say. That he was sorry perhaps? But no. Instead, he looked at me almost mournfully and said, ‘Don’t you know my wife is dying of cancer?’ He could not have cared less about my brother or me. He expected me to feel sorry for him.” M