Beds, Herts & Bucks

St Francis Boys' Home abuse inquiry: Police identify new suspect

Fr Ryan and children from the boys' home on a trip to Lourdes Image copyright Other
Image caption Many of the residents have alleged they were abused by priest Fr John Ryan, who ran the home in the 1960s and died in 2008

The senior investigator looking into claims of physical and sexual abuse at a former Catholic orphanage says a new suspect has been identified.

Retired detective chief inspector Mark Ross has been brought back to head up an inquiry into abuse at the St Francis Boys Home in Shefford, Bedfordshire.

The abuse took place between the late 1940s and the early 1970s.

Mr Ross said 80 "potential victims" had been identified and 35 statements taken in a worldwide investigation.

Image caption St Francis Boys' Home closed in the mid-1970s

Police have already interviewed two suspects.

"Each week, we are identifying more victims," said Mr Ross.

"If they are still alive they should be brought to justice. These victims have been battling for justice for years.

"We have found another suspect and are making inquiries as to whether this person is alive.

"Victims we have already been in contact with are in Australia and America and we have been taking statements.

"We have assigned two of our team to go to Europe to talk to a UK citizen about the potential suspect."

Image copyright Other
Image caption Father Wilfred Johnson ran the home from 1945 to 1954

He added: "Obviously we are dealing with some horrendous cases. Certainly both the physical and sexual abuse has been quite horrendous.

"What happened to them as youngsters has affected their entire lives. Some have been incapable of having relationships because of the abuse."

Mr Ross, who spent 30 years in the force before his retirement, said he was "pleased and honoured" to be leading the inquiry.

The BBC has spoken to former residents of the home who allege they were physically and/or sexually abused at the orphanage, run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Northampton.

Many have said they were abused by priest Father John Ryan, who ran the home in the 1960s and died in 2008.

Others say they were abused by Fr Wilfred Johnson, who ran the home between 1945 and 1954 and died in 1994.

The Diocese of Northampton has said it "deeply regrets" any hurt caused but stressed the "claims are not proven".

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