Coach accused of giving naked massages claims it was alternative therapy - court

A sports coach accused of giving students at a top private school naked massages said he was practicing alternative therapy on them, a court heard.

Ajaz Karim denies ever sexually assaulting teenage girls while he worked at Christ's Hospital School, West Sussex, between 1985 and 1993.

But when giving evidence on Friday at Brighton Crown Court and asked what he was doing, he said: "(I was using) the Bowen Technique."

The remedy has been used to aid ailments like sports injuries by applying gentle pressure to muscles.

Karim told the court he did conduct some one-to-one sessions with students to teach them breathing exercises and would have on occasion touched their shoulders with his thumbs or pressed on their
lower back while using the alternative remedy.

But said he never touched them while they were naked or gave them massages.

Christ's Hospital School in Horsham, West Sussex (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Christ's Hospital School in Horsham, West Sussex (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The 63-year-old, of Hammersmith, West London, denies nine charges of indecent assault and one attempted indecent assault against six girls aged 14 to 18 at the prestigious Horsham school.

The accusations range from unnecessary contact with students, to pushing one girl up against a wall and kissing her, and giving another a naked massage while she lay face down on the floor of his locked study.

Karim left the school after complaints from four pupils surfaced between 1990 and 1993, the court previously heard.

During the trial he was described by former headmaster Richard Poulton as a Christ's Hospital "success story" because he was taught there after leaving Uganda as a refugee.

He and his family were forced to leave the country in 1972 when President Idi Amin expelled Asians, Karim told the court.

He said they arrived in the UK with British passports and lived in a camp near Uckfield, East Sussex, adding: "We had lost everything."

His academic potential was soon realised when he attended a nearby school and he was recommended for a scholarship at a public school. His application was accepted by Christ's Hospital.

Who paid his school fees was kept secret until years later he discovered it was someone "very famous" - Sir Barnes Wallis, inventor of the Dambusters' bouncing bomb and fellow former pupil.

Karim was welcomed back as a teacher, also working at Champneys health club in London and later at Eton College, Queen's Club, and The Hurlingham Club.

Divorced Karim, who has a 26-year-old son, described himself as an "arrogant young coach" at the time who felt he could be a "psychologist" for students.

He said his job was different from being a teacher. His role was to be "inspirational" and to "bring out the potential in students".

He said: "My relationship with the girls and boys was of friendship. I wanted to treat them like young adults. I was approachable.

"Teachers at Christ's Hospital were like gods. You really could not approach them.

"There was a saying, if Mr Karim teases you that means he likes you.

"My relationship with the pupils was very comfortable. There was absolutely not anything sexual."

He denied locking students in his study with him and claimed to have never known one of the complainants. He said he did not recall some of the alleged incidents as it was a long time ago.

He conceded he was warned by the headmaster in 1990 not to talk to the girls while they were on their own and that he "unfortunately" disobeyed this later on when he spoke to another of the alleged
victims, claiming he felt the girl needed help.

He said things then became very difficult for him as he felt he was "treated like a criminal," adding: "It broke my relationship with a wonderful headmaster. I really don't know why I did that."

The trial continues.