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‘Shocked to the core’: Sex abuse victim commits suicide during trial – ex-BBC choirmaster cleared of Manchester rape

By Henry Vaughan & Jeremy Culley

The victim of disgraced ex-teacher and former BBC choirmaster Michael Brewer killed herself days after giving evidence in his trial, in which he was cleared of rape today at Manchester Crown Court.

Mother-of-four Frances Andrade is understood to have committed suicide aged 48 on January 23 at her home in Guildford, Surrey, after she gave evidence on January 16 and 17.

Mr Brewer, 68, of Selly Oak, Birmingham, was found not guilty of raping Mrs Andrade when she was 18 at his Chorlton-cum-Hardy home in 1982.

The former Chetham’s School of Music teacher was found guilty of five other charges of indecent assault, which occurred between 1978 and 1982, but was found not guilty of three other charges.

His wife Hilary, 67, of Rossendale, Lancashire was cleared of aiding and abetting rape but also found guilty of indecently assaulting Mrs Andrade at their Manchester home.

Judge Martin Rudland remarked on how the case had been extremely difficult for all involved and, after all verdicts had been returned, said: “We were all deeply shocked by the events.

“A lady tragically lost her life during the course of this case. She took her own life. She left no note.

“It is not known the circumstances in which she came to take her life.”

Mr Brewer resigned from Chetham’s in 1994 after an alleged affair with another pupil, aged 16 at the time.

Claire Moreland, the Head of Chetham’s, said in a statement outside the court: “What we have learned during the course of the last four weeks has shocked us to the core.

“The passage of time between the offences and now does not lessen this shock. 

“Mr Brewer has been found to have committed the most appalling acts during his time with the school.”

She added: “I wish to express the sorrow and sympathy we feel for the family of our former student who died under such tragic circumstances and had to endure so much.

Mr Brewer was found guilty of indecently assaulting Mrs Andrade four times in his school office, twice when she was aged 14, and a further two times when she was 15.

The other conviction related to an incident in his campervan, while his wife was found guilty of sexually assaulting her in their home when she was 18.

Mrs Andrade gave evidence in person, with no screen, over the course of two days.

She appeared shaken at various points and directly told Kate Blackwell QC, representing Mr Brewer: “You are hugely insulting. Even though it is your job.”

At the end of the trial, Judge Rudland made specific reference to this and said to Miss Blackwell and Bernadette Baxter, who represented Mrs Brewer, that no criticism could be made of their conduct.

After the verdict Detective Chief Inspector Dave Pester said: “His [Brewer’s] crimes were appalling and it is only right that they have both now been convicted.

“As with all cases of historic sexual abuse, the victim showed incredible courage in supporting a prosecution and giving evidence. 

“Tragically she is not here to see justice done and while we cannot go into details about that, on behalf of Greater Manchester Police I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to her family and friends.” 

The jury were only informed of Mrs Andrade’s death after they had delivered their verdicts and the court had been cleared.

The Judge told the couple as they were sent down that they had committed ‘very serious offences’ and said they would be sentenced on a later date.

He added, because of the seriousness of their offences, it was likely he will impose custodial sentences.

Mr Brewer directed the World Youth Choir and worked on the BBC’s Last Choir Standing Programme.  He divorced his wife, who is known as Kay, in 1998, three years after he received an OBE.

Chetham’s Head Mrs Moreland added: “I recognise that the repercussions of this case and the hurt Mr Brewer has caused will continue for some time and must never be forgotten.

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