Mystery of the vanishing plaque

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A PLAQUE dedicated to a notorious choirmaster who was convicted of abusing young boys has gone missing in the middle of a two-year fight to have it removed.

The memorial stone was erected on the wall of St John the Baptist Church, in New Springs, shortly after the death of Stanley Holleywell, who was found guilty in 1997 of abusing three boys who were part of the church’s choir in the 1960s.

Holleywell was jailed for four years in 1997, when he was aged 69, for the offences that date back to 1965 when the boys were between just eight and 10 years old. He was released after two years.

Soon after his death a plaque was erected at the church where he had been a choirmaster as well as a church warden.

But days after the Wigan Observer was first made aware of the plaque, it mysteriously disappeared.

One of his victims, whose identity is protected by law, says he has been desperate to have this haunting recognition to the man who ruined his life removed for years especially as his cousin, who was also a victim, is critically ill.

The 55-year-old man said: “When Holleywell died I finally thought that it was the closure I had been waiting for all of my life and then this plaque was erected and my life has been a living hell ever since.

“I’ve been doing everything I can to get it removed but nobody seemed to care about the distress and upset that this caused for his victims.

“The plaque overlooks the graves of all my family, which is where my cousin and I will be buried. I was desperate to have it removed because we just could not rest thinking that he was watching us.”

But now following its disappearance, the church and the Diocese of Liverpool, which had both previously said there was nothing they could do to help the victim, said they would not be seeking to re-erect the plaque if it is found.

A statement from the family of Holleywell, who was also heavily involved in the Wigan scouting movement, where he was once an assistant commissioner and stalwart of the local amateur dramatic theatre scene, said: “Had we known that the plaque was causing distress we would have had it legitimately removed.”