“TAKE it to the grave,” he told one child. “No comment,” he repeated to police officers. Neil Foden may have thought he was an esteemed, untouchable headteacher, but he is now a disgraced convicted sex offender.

It was almost exactly 24 hours after they retired that 12 jurors at Mold Crown Court unanimously found Foden guilty of 19 sexual offences, inflicted upon four different children, on May 15. His denials and explanations in vain, the former Bangor secondary school head’s 45-year teaching career in ruins.

The extent of Foden’s depravity was laid bare before the court for three gruelling weeks – the “road trips”, the sexually charged WhatsApp exchanges, the “unsettling” shows of affection – yet throughout, he protested his innocence.

“Why should he suddenly go from a well-respected, law-abiding man to a sexual predator?,” his barrister, Duncan Bould, asked the jury. Prior to this, the court had heard Foden being described as a “firm and almost autocratic” school leader, who had also been an executive member for the National Education Union.

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Yet Foden’s career had not been without its controversies before these crimes came to light. In 2019, concerns were raised by those who knew him about him being seen alone with teenagers, fearing he was opening himself up to a “false accusation”. “You just need to be very careful… think about your own safety,” Foden said he was told. Gwynedd Council was informed but held no formal investigation, and its director of education has since resigned, though the local authority said post-verdict that it will conduct an independent review.

The following year, Foden was reprimanded by the Education Workforce Council after he was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by its fitness to practise committee, who felt he had unfairly singled out a young teacher for disciplinary action after a school trip was called off at short notice. The hearing was told of claims of a “climate of fear” at his school, with Foden accused of picking on members of staff who were “not in his gang”.

At a 2017 employment tribunal he gave evidence at, meanwhile, the panel chairing it found that Foden had “demonstrated the hallmarks of an individual who was used to controlling situations”. In 2021, he drew criticism for refusing lunches to pupils whose school meal accounts were more than a penny in debt.

Most galling of all, though, for four years, married father Foden lived a lie. He performed sex acts upon one child he called “ST” (“sex toy”), and who later accompanied him on trips to South Wales and lent him hundreds of unrepaid pounds. She said they contacted each other using code-words, referring to their sexual activities as “therapy” and alerts of his wife’s presence as “compost”.

Devastatingly, more childhoods were still to be scarred. With another child, Foden sent messages telling her that he loved her and discussing oral sex, the two having saved each other’s mobile numbers under false contact names. Foden instructed her to delete many of their messages daily. She complied.

On his birthday last year, not for the first time, he engaged in sexual activity with this child. She told police: “He would say he loved me. After a while it got a bit more sexual… I got really nervous because I have never had a boy do that before. He said it was fine. He carried on anyway. He was just carrying on if that makes sense, so I just let him do it.”

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He would “innocently” hug a third victim before physical contact took a more sinister turn, while the fourth child he abused he also called “beautiful” and “gorgeous”. Foden, prosecutor John Philpotts said, “believed he had become adept at covering his tracks” in concealing his “grooming process” and upholding his reputation. He was, the barrister told the jury, “careful to proceed slowly, step by step, with his abuse”.

But September 6, 2023 proved the day Foden could no longer stay one step ahead. Early that afternoon, he was arrested at his place of work after one of his victims, having researched signs that a child is being groomed months earlier, made disclosures that morning. The child had also made such searches as “why do I get upset over an older man that gives me a little attention?” and “why am I attracted to older men?”

It transpired that, roughly an hour before police arrived, 17 indecent still and moving images of a child – 16 of which were in a PIN-protected folder – had been deleted from Foden’s phone, which was seized. This, Mr Philpotts suggested, was “no coincidence”, because Foden knew by then that “the game was up”.

This was not the only harrowing discovery. Mr Philpotts said Foden had exhibited a “fetish for urination” during the course of his alleged misconduct – and when his laptop was interrogated, he was found to have accessed material related to “girls, urine and urination” between 2010 and 2012. A search of his car also revealed a pair of handcuffs which, when forensically examined, found DNA consistent with being from Foden and a victim.

It was only when Foden took to the witness stand on May 7, having spent the last two weeks in the dock staring impassively with the occasional shake of the head, that he first answered questions concerning any of the allegations. When he was spoken to by officers on multiple instances last year, he either replied “no comment” or gave prepared statements denying sexual contact with children.

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Giving evidence, he began by telling of how he had considered a career in the police or banking in his teens, before an “inspirational” teacher compelled him to pursue the path he eventually took. After studying at Bangor University, he taught English, drama and French, as well as working as a school librarian, before working his way up to deputy head and latterly headteacher.

He had been convicted for driving without due care and attention at “about age 19”, but said he had “never been in trouble since”. Mr Bould asked him if, in the case of one of the children, there was ever any sexual contact between them. “No,” he said. When it was put to him that she had talked of a “relationship” between them, he answered: “It’s not true.”

There were references to Foden as “Mr F”, and his BMW as “Foden’s Taxi” – he was aware of these, but reiterated that “nothing happened”. He admitted telling one of the girls she was “beautiful”, but answered “absolutely not” when asked if there was ever sexual contact between them.

He spoke confidently in court, but paused before tearfully telling the jury of his health issues, which he claimed meant he could not have had sex with one of the children even “if I wanted to”. One allegation, of sexual activity with a child on the bonnet of his car, he described as “lurid”. Again, he became emotional when discussing his “completely incommunicado” first five days in custody. “I couldn’t even contact my own family,” he said.

His explanations, labelled “absurd” by Mr Philpotts and which Judge Rhys Rowlands said “beggared belief” post-verdict, persisted. The DNA found on the handcuffs was supposedly secondary. The conversations regarding oral sex, he claimed, were for educational purposes. Messages he sent late at night to one child were, he accepted, “inappropriate”, but said they were to improve her self-esteem.

A text he sent one child referring to him being “slightly horny”, meanwhile, Foden said had been taken out of context, because his health issues rendered him incapable of feeling as such. “The sad reality is Mr Foden couldn’t feel slightly horny if he wanted to,” he told the court, adding that he wanted to be “complimentary” by sending the message. While he admitted the text was “extremely stupid”, he insisted he was not “an abusive adult”.

Ultimately, though he was cleared of a 20th sexual offence charge against a fifth child, his versions of events did not wash with the 12 people whose opinions mattered.

Now, Foden has six-and-a-half more weeks on remand in custody before he learns his fate at his sentencing on July 1. He left the dock with the words of Judge Rowlands ringing in his ears, warning him to expect a “lengthy” jail term for behaving as an “arrogant” and “controlling” man who “just carried on” offending.

“He was Neil Foden,” the judge said after sending him down. “A man who thought he could do no wrong."