x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Parents welcome news of fugitive Dubai school boss arrest

Christopher Reynolds, who is accused of absconding with fees paid to a special needs school, was arrested in Oman and deported to Dubai.

St Andrews has since been rescued by Dubai Education and is operating normally under a new name, the Universal Academy of Excellence.
St Andrews has since been rescued by Dubai Education and is operating normally under a new name, the Universal Academy of Excellence.

DUBAI // Parents of special-needs children yesterday welcomed the arrest in Oman of the fugitive school boss, Christopher Reynolds.

Dr Reynolds, 60, an Australian, is accused of absconding with Dh200,000 of funds from St Andrews special-needs school in Dubai, which he owned.

He was detained with his partner, Anne Geddes, 62, an occupational therapist from Brisbane who moved to Dubai this year.

Dr Reynolds, who denies any wrongdoing, was deported from Oman and was in custody at a police station in Dubai.

“We have referred the case to the public prosecution,” said Col Mohammed Nasser of the CID.

One parent described the arrest as a “very pleasant surprise”.

Another, whose nine-year-old daughter attends the school, said: “A court is the proper venue now to determine who’s at fault here and who should take the blame for what.”

Parents and children turned up at the school in Al Safa on September 5, the first day of term, to find the gates locked. A notice said it would not be reopening “as the owner, Christopher Reynolds, has left the country and absconded with all the funds”.

Dr Reynolds’s passport was being held by a court in Sharjah that is hearing a child-custody case
involving him and his ex-wife, Sheena.

In an email sent to The National soon after fleeing Dubai, Mr Reynolds denied any wrongdoing and said the Dh200,000 he had taken was part of the money he had invested in the business.

He also claimed he had returned to Australia – although it is now clear he was in Oman.

Ms Geddes told an Australian newspaper they had paid to be smuggled over the Omani border at Buraimi by two men in a LandCruiser, but jumped out of the car when they demanded more money and the vehicle turned onto a side road.

They were arrested at a hotel in Sohar on September 8 and held without charge, she told Sydney’s Sun-Herald. She said she had shared a cell with 35 women, sleeping side-by-side on the floor.

St Andrews has been rescued by Dubai Education and is operating normally under a new name, the Universal Academy of Excellence.

Parents said they were pleased with the way the school is being run by the new management.

Sarah Phillips’s son Samuel, 7, who has autism, was pictured in The National trying to open the school’s locked gates on September 5. She said: “Both my husband, Keith, and I – and more importantly Sam – are very happy with the new direction the school has taken.

“I feel it has all turned out to be a positive thing, as the school is going to become a fully fledged and recognised school. From a curriculum and therapy point of view, we are very happy. Sam has settled in so well, it’s almost as though he has always attended the school. He is now receiving speech therapy and occupational therapy throughout the week.”

She said this was a great improvement on the help Samuel received in the UK before the family moved to Dubai during the summer.

Another parent said: “The school is moving along, the teachers seem very happy, the children are getting a good education. They are introducing new activities.

“It’s a sea change in management in the way the school has been run. It has improved and it will continue to improve, you can see that.

“We are very, very grateful to everyone who showed support through those difficult times. To come out of this better, considering what we went through there, is a rare thing.”

csimpson@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Wafa Issa