A former school groundsman has been jailed for 17 years for ruining the lives of two vulnerable boys he abused more than 25 years ago.

Peter Weyman worked as a handyman at Chelfham Mill School, near Barnstaple, where he preyed on a 12-year-old pupil and groomed him with cigarettes, alcohol and gifts.

He became a father figure to the boy, who was in care and struggling at school, but abused his trust by sexually assaulting him in his caravan, in fields, and in woods.

Weyman had come to Devon after moving from South Yorkshire, where he had also abused a boy over more than two years.

At Chelfham Mill, he encouraged his second victim to run away from school and move back to Sheffield with him for seven weeks until the boy, who by this time was aged 14, saw himself featured on a television show about missing children and returned to Devon.

Chelfham Mill. Picture: Nicholas MuttonChelfham Mill. Picture: Nicholas Mutton

Weyman was jailed for life after both boys, now adults, wrote heart-rending impact statements detailing how the abuse had ruined their lives and caused depression, broken relationships and drink problems.

Weyman, aged 67, of Cleveland Close, Carlton in Lindrick, Nottinghamshire, admitted seven offences of indecency against the first victim and four against the second.

He was jailed for a total of 17 years by Judge Geoffrey Mercer, QC, at Exeter Crown Court. He was also put on the sex offenders’ register for life and made subject of a sexual harm prevention order which restricts any future contact with children.

He said the sentence reflected the fact that one of the assaults would now be classified as rape.

Peter Weyman. Picture: South Yorkshire Police.Peter Weyman. Picture: South Yorkshire Police.

He told him:”I have read the victim impact statements. I am moved by them, as anyone who heard them would be. You knew both boys to be vulnerable and in need of care and support and you sexually abused both of them.

“Your abuse of each has caused untold damage. Each of them says that you have quite simply ruined their lives.”

Joss Ticehurst, prosecuting, said the abuse of the first boy took place in the late 1980s in the Rotherham area and started with grooming from the age of about ten.

The boy was vulnerable because of very difficult family circumstances which led him to spend a lot of time with Weyman, who abused him from the ages of 11 to 13.

His assaults happened when the boy was visiting his home, while taking him to work with him on a digger, and at his allotment. He even abused the boy on his 12th birthday after giving him alcohol at a working men’s club.

Weyman moved to Devon after the first victim went into foster care. He lived in a caravan and worked at a farm next to Chelfham Mill School, where boys were allowed to visit as reward for good behaviour.

He went on to work at the school itself and befriended the second boy who he abused from the ages of 12 to 14 at his caravan, on farmland and in woods.

Chelfham Mill was a private boys’ boarding school with catered for troubled children in care or from broken families.

He carried on seeing the boy when he was moved to another school and took him with him back to Sheffield when the boy ran away at the age of 14.

Mr Ticehurst said: ”He took advantage of the boy’s feelings of isolation and rejection. The victim saw him as a father figure. Taking the boy to Yorkshire demonstrated the level of influence he had come to have over his life.”

Neither victim came forward for more than 20 years. The boy from Devon went to the police first and the one from South Yorkshire did so after Weyman contacted him to say he was in trouble.

He did an internet search and when he found out about the allegation in Devon, it gave him the courage to come forward.

In his victim impact statement, the first victim said: ”My life has been totally ruined and destroyed. I cannot even bear to walk past the house where he abused me. I am a nervous wreck. I cannot sleep. When I think about him touching me, my flesh crawls.”

The second said: ”I saw him as a father figure but he took advantage of me. When I was with him in Sheffield I saw myself on a programme about missing children and realised that other people loved me after all.

“I had to tell the police to get things sorted in my life. I don’t think he will ever know how much he has ruined my life. I will never be able to cope with what he has done.”

Katherine Goddard, defending, said Weyman was truly sorry for the damage he has done. She said he has deliberately kept away from boys since 1994 and spent his time working in menial jobs in which he had no contact with children.

Chelfham Mill School was a privately run boarding school for 40 boys with behavioural difficulties, aged seven to 18, until in closed last year following an Ofsted investigation.