HUNDREDS of former pupils and parents rallied together to release balloons across Southampton's sky line as a show of support for an ex head teacher acquitted of sexual offences.
Richard Hilary, former head at Chamberlayne Park in Southampton, formerly known as Weston Park Girls School, was unanimously cleared of three charges of historic sexual abuse of a teenage girl at Winchester Crown Court on Friday.
His supporters, predominately former pupils, had intended to attend court to support him but he told them through a social network site that he did not want them present.
But as a final mark of solidarity for their favourite teacher they decided to gather together for one very visual gesture of support.
At the front of a crowd of more than 200 people, a banner was held up that read “we believed”.
Mr Hilary had been a PE teacher at Winchester's Montgomery and Alamein school before teaching in Farnborough and then going on to become head teacher at Chamberlayne Park in Southampton, formerly known as Weston Park Girls School.
The victim, whose identity cannot be revealed, claimed that Mr Hilary had sexually assaulted her three times when he was 28 and a teacher at Winchester's Montgomery and Alamein School.
But Mr Hilary denied three counts of indecent assault between December 1977 and December 1979. And after retiring for just three hours, a jury of six men and six woman unanimously cleared him.
The court heard from two colleagues of Mr Hilary who had worked with him at Winchester and at Chamberlayne School, formerly known as Weston Park Girls School, who described him as “the best teacher” who was highly regarded by staff and children.