Piano teacher on trial made students feel uncomfortable, court told

Alleged victims of a music teacher accused of raping a student and sexually abusing schoolgirls in charges spanning three decades have given evidence at his trial.

Peter Antonelli faces 25 allegations involving 15 different females between August 1978 and March 2005.

Antonelli, 66, has denied all the charges against him, which are said to have taken place in schools in East Lothian, as well as a flat, a car, and a community centre.

One alleged victim told the High Court in Edinburgh how Antonelli made her feel uncomfortable when he leant over her as she played piano, touching her back with his body and putting his head next to hers as he did.

She said she found him “quite an unattractive man” but felt she was judging him because of this.

The woman told the court she accepted the physical closeness as it “happened all the time”.

“It felt wrong. No other person in authority did that. It felt like he was too close,” she said.

She described the relationship she had with Antonelli as “almost like a friendship”, and she would tell him about her life, her boyfriend, and they would tell each other sexual jokes.

The court heard she went to his house for piano lessons which she did not remember paying for.

She told at break and lunch times there would often be a number of pupils in his music room, typically only girls, and he would encourage them to come in.

She also said he would help them miss certain lessons, and even much of the school day, by telling their teachers they had piano exams.

Brian McConnachie QC, representing Antonelli, put it to her that she considered the teacher a “confidant” and nothing dissuaded her from spending time in his company.

He also asked her about how she came to make the allegations against her former teacher, which came about after an exchange on an instant messenger.

Another alleged victim gave evidence on Tuesday, telling the court: “I have kept it deep inside and didn’t want another child to go through what I went through, that’s why I decided to talk about it.”

The 52-year-old, who the Crown alleges was victim to Antonelli touching her bottom, body, and breasts, told the hearing another piano teacher of hers used to hit her fingers with a ruler when she made a mistake.

But when asked how she felt when Antonelli made contact with her when he put his hands on her fingers, she told the court: “I wish I was being hit by a ruler.”

The jury was also shown a photograph of a third person, who took to the stand, which Antonelli is alleged to have taken.

The then teenager was asked to go to his house by either Antonelli or a friend, she told the court, and was asked to take a change of outfits.

When she got there, she said, “he was getting us to undo the buttons” and asked them to pull the collar over her shoulder.

The jury of nine men and six women heard that Antonelli, of Vardon Road in Gullane, East Lothian, has lodged special defences to three of the charges, claiming his alleged victims had consented.

The trial, before Judge James Gilchrist QC, continues.