A former Halifax professor accused of multiple historical sexual offences has died, a month before his first trial was set to begin.
Wayne John Hankey, 77, was charged with sexual assault, gross indecency and indecent assault involving three male complainants for incidents between 1977 and 1988.
Hankey, a longtime professor at the University of King’s College and a former Anglican minister, had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
In a statement on Sunday, King’s president Bill Lahey said the university had been made aware of Hankey’s death and extended condolences to his family.
“With this news has come some inquiry regarding the independent review process that was established by the university in February 2021. This review, which has always been separate from any criminal justice matters, will proceed,” Lahey said.
“King’s remains committed to learning from the findings of this process.”
CBC confirmed through multiple sources that Hankey died on Saturday.
Trials were set to be held in coming months
The three trials were all set to take place this year.
The trial involving the first complainant was scheduled for March 3. In that case, Hankey is accused of sexually assaulting a student in his dorm room at King’s in 1988.
The complainant, who was 23 at the time, alleges that Hankey entered his room, straddled him on the bed and grabbed his buttocks and genitals.
The trial involving the second complainant was set for June 6-10, where he was facing charges of indecent assault and gross indecency.
In that case, the complainant, who was 18 at the time, alleges Hankey invited him to go swimming at the campus pool in 1977 and touched his genitals in the shower afterward. Other encounters involving sexualized contact between Hankey and the complainant followed over the next couple of years.
The third case was set for two half-day trials on May 24 and June 23, where Hankey was also charged with indecent assault and gross indecency.
The complainant, who was 18 at the time, alleges he went to Hankey’s office on the University of King’s College campus for a tutoring session with the professor one day in September of 1982. He says Hankey moved his chair closer to the complainant and put his hand on the complainant’s leg under his shorts.
The identities of the complainants are under a publication ban.
Teaching continued after earlier allegations
Hankey taught classics and philosophy at both the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University for years. He retired from King’s in 2015, but continued teaching at Dalhousie up until the first sexual assault charge was announced last February.
But Hankey, who was also once an Anglican priest, faced this type of allegation decades ago.
In late 1990, a former King’s student and family friend of Hankey’s told the Anglican Church he had been sexually abused by Hankey for two years in his late teens, from 1977 to 1979, including while he was a student at King’s.
The church convened an ecclesiastical court session to deal with the matter, and while the details of the case were never released, Hankey was found guilty.
Hankey was deprived of his religious office, meaning he would not be permitted to carry out any duties in any Anglican church for at least two years and until the bishop decided Hankey could be reinstated. That never happened.