Victim of 'sexual abuse' at orphanage speaks out

St Francis Boys Home -  closed in the mid 1970s and converted into flats St Francis Boys Home closed in the mid 1970s and was later converted into flats

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An ex-resident of a Catholic orphanage at the centre of a police investigation has spoken of his alleged abuse by a priest.

The man, who lives in north London, was a resident at St Francis Boys Home, in Shefford, near Bedford, in the 1960s.

He has told police he was abused at the home, which closed in 1974, by priest Father John Ryan who died in 2008.

He told the BBC that Father Ryan said he could get out of punishment if he allowed the priest to abuse him.

The victim, who is now in his 50s and cannot named for legal reasons, said: "Father Ryan abused me. He used to make up reasons to punish us.

'Ruined years'

"He (Father Ryan) used to get me up to his office. Then he turned round and said 'If you let me fondle you, I won't hit you'.

"It took place every six months. I was a pet. He ruined those years. It was terrible."

He said he hoped the police investigation uncovered the truth about the abuse and hoped the church would apologise to him and other boys who were abused.

Bedfordshire Police said: "We have received a complaint concerning St Francis Boys Home and are in the early stages of an investigation."

A Northamptonshire diocesan spokesman, who also represents the St Francis Children's Society, said it would be inappropriate to comment as there could be "legal and police implications".

Another ex-resident of the orphanage Gordon McIntosh, 63, of Roehampton, south-west London, said a group of former residents were looking at starting legal action and a reunion was taking place on 22 June.

He recalled regular physical beatings by Father Ryan.

Damian Chittock, 51, of Tower Hamlets, east London, who said he was physically abused by staff at the home, added: "What we want is justice. We want people to stand up and say, 'it is not acceptable'."

He called on the charity which ran the home - now called the St Francis Children's Society - and the church to issue an apology to boys at the home who were allegedly abused.

Mr Chittock previously took the home to court in the 1990s and received a settlement of more than £30,000 over alleged physical abuse by Father Ryan.

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