A retired teacher who sexually abused children in the 1970s has been convicted of 17 offences.

Kenneth Francis assaulted four boys who were pupils at a school in the Chelmsford area.

The attacks took place at locations including the school and his then home in Boreham between 1972 and 1979.

On some occasions he gave alcohol to the victims – who were all under 16 – before assaulting them.

The offences came to light in April 2017 when one of the victims reported that Francis had sexually assaulted him.

Further allegations were uncovered during the course of our investigation.

Two of the men he abused when they were children have spoken of the impact his actions have had on their lives.

One said: “This has been a very long, hard journey and it has taken its toll on myself, my family and friends.

“To get to this point where truth and justice have been upheld is an immense relief.

“I would like to thank the police who have worked so tirelessly on this case, the support staff who have helped me to come to terms with what happened, and my family and friends who have supported me on this journey with love and prayer.”

The second man said: “I never planned to speak out about these things that happened to me so many years ago but am now proud that I was brave enough to do so.

“It’s possible the victims in this case are just the tip of the iceberg and there may be more out there, harbouring their scars and trying to move forward as best they can - just as I have.

“The psychological scarring is something that I have had to struggle with growing up, but it never heals.

“You just learn to live with it, as a dark part of yourself that you try to keep hidden away.

“Now I am able to let it rest for what it is.

“I’d like to thank the person who was brave enough to start the proceedings that led to charges being brought.

“A lot of children’s lives have been harmed and it’s such a positive message that justice can prevail - and that everyone is accountable for their actions in the end.

Essex Police and officers from my local force have been diligent, professional and supportive.

“I have also been touched by the warm support from my family and friends, who were brave and loving enough to stand up and speak my truth.

“And as we all know, the truth can set you free.”

Francis, now 72, of Akasaka in Tokyo, was voluntarily interviewed in July 2017 and was arrested and further interviewed in July 2018.

In October 2018, he was charged with 13 counts of indecent assault and four counts of committing an act of gross indecency.

He stood trial at Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday 15 July and was convicted today, Friday 2 August, of all the charges.

Francis is due to be sentenced on Tuesday 27 August.

Investigating officer DC Siobhan Murphy said: “I want to thank the victims in this case for their strength in coming forward after suffering what they went through all those years ago.

“I can only imagine the trauma they have endured, having suffered at the hands of someone they trusted and who had a duty of care for them.

“They have remained dignified throughout the investigation and trial, and have supported us throughout our enquiries.

“Finally today they have justice.

“I hope today’s verdicts will help them move forward with their lives, and I will be meeting them again after this court process has finished to make sure they have any continuing support they need.”

A second man, Malcolm Archer, 67, of High Street, Odiham in Hampshire, was charged with indecent assault and indecency with a child. A jury found him not guilty of both charges.