Matthew Smith, 35, instructed boys aged eight and ten to perform sexual acts on camera, sending money and promising to pay for school fees as rewards.
But his work at the UK school came to an abrupt end in November last year, when he was arrested and charged with a catalogue of abuse of children in India, together with possession of more than 120,000 indecent images and videos.
“Clearly I have an addiction, probably in this area”, he said, during his police interview. “I don’t like the person I am. I would give anything to be normal. Anything.”
Judge Martin Griffith, sitting at Southwark crown court, told a hearing on Friday that Smith is not accused of committing any crimes at the Battersea school.
He was arrested by National Crime Agency officers in a raid on his home in East Dulwich, southeast London, when he was caught red-handed on his computer speaking to a boy in India.
He had dark web forums dedicated to child sexual abuse open on his laptop, while evidence showed he had paid out more than £65,000 to abused children between 2017 and his 2022 arrest.
Details of the Smith’s offending were revealed at Friday’s hearing, as Judge Griffith told the former teacher faces a “substantial prison term” when sentence is passed next week.
Prosecutor Martin Hooper told the court: “His history is important. At the time of his arrest in 2022, he was employed as a teacher. He was the deputy head of pastoral care at a preparatory school in Battersea, where pupils were aged between four and 14.
“Prior to that, he was a teacher in Nepal between 2017 and 2022.”
Smith lived in India between 2007 and 2014, and was volunteering in orphanage where children were aged from two to 15.
The court heard Smith sent requests for photos and videos of a ten-year-old boy being abused, and transferred £7,500 in payment for the images and videos.
Other material indicated Smith had bathed naked and engaged in sexual activity with a boy in India.
When the boy was older, Smith – referred to as “uncle” – encouraged him to lure an eight-year-old boy away from his family “with the express intention that he would be sexually abused”, said Mr Hooper.
“The defendant said he would pay their school fees in return”
Images found on Smith’s laptop show the boy being explicitly and repeatedly abused according to Smith’s instructions. In one of the recovered messages, Smith asks if the young boy is “ready for some fun”.
Smith’s barrister told the court he has written to relatives and close friends “to explain to them exactly what has happened, to express to them the fact that he does not expect so much as a response, but to apologise to them for the distress that this news may well have caused them”.
She said Smith has spent time in prison so far teaching reading, writing and maths to fellow inmates, and he has committed to seeing treatment for the causes of his offending.
“He is keen indeed to make changes, and he understands that change can’t be made simply by making verbal commitments”, she said. “He will continue to devote himself to searching for appropriate intervention wherever it is properly available to him.”
Smith pleaded guilty to three counts of encouraging the rape of a child under 13, three charges of causing a boy under 13 to engage in sexual activity, arranging and encouraging the sexual abuse of a child, possession of an extreme pornographic image, and 11 charges relating to the possession, making, and distribution of indecent images of children.
After the guilty pleas were entered, Thomas’s prep school said in a statement: “We have been shocked and appalled beyond measure by this matter and are grateful for the work of the police and courts in bringing this man to account.
“Mr Smith’s employment at the school, which commenced in September 2022, was terminated with immediate effect when the school first learned of the charges against him in November.
“While the National Crime Agency has confirmed that none of the matters under investigation related to the school or its pupils, these deplorable actions constitute an unforgivable breach of trust and our thoughts are with those who have been impacted or damaged by them.
“As always, we remain absolutely committed to the ongoing safety and wellbeing of our pupils and our whole school community.”
Smith remains in custody ahead of sentencing on Wednesday.