March 16, 2010

Child rapist worked at Maine camp

TREVOR MAXWELL

— By

In this undated booking photo provided by Derbyshire Constabulary, Nick Challis is seen. The BBC News reported that 35-year-old Neil Challis, who was sentenced Wednesday, also pleaded guilty to taking indecent pictures of a child and possessing thousands of explicit pictures of children. Police in Maine were cooperating with British authorities to determine whether Challis committed any crimes during his 14 years on the staff at Tripp Lake Camp in Poland, Maine. (AP Photo/Derbyshire Constabulary)

AP

Staff Writer

The director of a prestigious girls camp in Androscoggin County says she has not received any complaints against a former staffer who was convicted of child rape and possession of child pornography in England, his home country.

Neil Challis, 35, was sentenced last month to at least seven years in prison. He pleaded guilty to raping a girl repeatedly over a four-year period beginning when she was 5 years old, according to reports from the BBC and other media in the United Kingdom.

Challis was a substitute teacher in several schools in Derbyshire, England, and for the past 14 summers he traveled to Maine to work as a counselor and photographer at Tripp Lake Camp in Poland.

''We have received no indication from authorities or parents that Mr. Challis engaged in improper conduct while at camp,'' Leslie Levy, director of the camp, said Thursday in a written statement.

''In fact, we have not been contacted by the British, U.S. or international authorities in connection with this matter.''

Challis had no prior criminal convictions, so annual background checks never returned any red flags, the director said.

Leaders of Tripp Lake Camp, which was referred to as the ''Harvard of summer camps'' in a Wall Street Journal article this week, were shocked to learn about the prosecution of Challis, Levy said.

They notified all camp parents prior to the opening of this year's session on June 27.

According to press reports in England, Challis was arrested in January after the parents of an 8-year-old girl called the local police department in Derbyshire. He confessed and pleaded guilty to six counts of rape and four counts of indecently assaulting a child. The girl was not one of his students.

Challis also pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing child pornography. Police said they recovered 3,940 pornographic images of children on his laptop computer. Most had been downloaded from the Internet, but some depicted Challis' sexual acts with his victim.

Other images were photographs taken up the skirts of girls who went to schools where Challis taught.

Police said that the images might include photographs taken at Tripp Lake Camp and that they had found underwear of campers at Challis' home.

Levy said she has no knowledge about those claims.

British investigators said they intend to turn over files on Challis to authorities in the United States.

Detective Mark Knibbs of Derbyshire Police, who led the investigation, could not be reached for comment.

''He has made everybody believe he is Mr. Nice Guy when he isn't,'' Knibbs told the BBC after the sentencing last month. ''He is an evil, predatory pedophile that deserves to be locked up for quite some time.''

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said the agency has not been consulted about Challis.

It is not known whether information about Challis was turned over to one of several federal agencies that look into crimes against children, such as the FBI or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Spokespeople from those agencies do not discuss pending investigations.

Tripp Lake Camp, which occupies 260 acres along the lake in Poland, was founded as a camp for girls in 1911. There are about 330 campers between the ages of 8 and 16, and about 135 counselors, according to employment advertisements posted by the camp.

The camp is sports-oriented, with activities ranging from tennis to horseback riding. Tuition for the seven-week session is about $9,700, according to the Maine Youth Camping Association.

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

tmaxwell@pressherald.com

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)