For many of the young children, their lives were a living nightmare, the report says. Even when in desperation they ran away to escape the abuse, their stories were not believed and they were almost always returned to their abusers.
The children placed in residential homes in Clwyd, North Wales, in the 1970s and 1980s, were not, for the most part, delinquents, juvenile criminals, or uncontrollable. They were the innocent victims of domestic problems, sometimes four and five years old, who had been abused in their own families, or youngsters who had simply been abandoned.
What they needed was love and protection. But the world they went into, as described in the report, was no safe haven. It was a brutal, abusive regime.
“The history of allegations of serious abuse of children by staff was frankly appalling in its extent and persistence down the years,” says the report by three leading and independent child care specialists – which has so far not been published.
Most damming of all is the list of 12 young men who have died and whose deaths were linked to their lives in care.
Most of these deaths were not when the abuse was occurring, the report shows, but took place around the time of the investigation and trials of the men found guilty of abusing children in Clwyd.
The list reveals that nine of the 12 died after the police investigation and in some cases after men had been charged. Some of the young men who died had been involved in making statements or giving evidence.
The team says: “We are of the opinion that perhaps insufficient thought has been given to the psychological or psychiatric stress of appearing in court as a witness in high-profile cases.”
The stark list of those who have died appears on one page of the 300- page report and the inquiry team says that even this list “is not comprehensive’.
R1: Fell to his death from a railway bridge. Former resident of Bryn Alyn Home.
R2: May, 1978, committed suicide aged 16 by taking an overdose of pain killing tablets. Former resident of Bryn Alyn.
R3: March 1985, was found dead in a flat in which he was living in poverty, aged 21. Former resident of Little Acton Assessment centre.
R4: April 1992, died in a fire aged 32 in premises in which he lived in Sussex. The inquest verdict – unlawful killing. Former resident of Bryn Alyn.
R5: June 1992, found dead aged 18 in a bed-sitter. Cause of death, acute respiratory failure due to solvent abuse. Former resident of Bryn Alyn.
R6: January, 1994, committed suicide by hanging, aged 27.
R7: April, 1994, died aged 27 from alcohol abuse. Allegations that he had been the subject of a serious sexual offence. Former Bryn Estyn resident.
R8: July 1994, found dead in a car, aged 18. Former foster child in Clwyd where he allegedly suffered from maltreatment.
R9: November, 1994, committed suicide aged 16 by hanging.
R10: February, 1995, died from and apparent heroin overdose aged 37. Former resident of Bryn Alyn where it was alleged he had been sexually abused.
R11: February, 1995, hanged himself aged 31. Allegations of sexual abuse against care workers.
R12: May, 1995, found hanging aged 27. Allegations that he had been sexually abused by a senior care worker. Former resident of Bryn Estyn.
The inquiry team members said they had interviewed some former residents who said their experience in the homes was positive “but on the whole, those interviews which we undertook and the statements which we read, gave a clear indication that the residential care experience for a significant number of young people was little short of a living nightmare”.
The inquiry team interviewed a number of young people as well as reading statements made earlier. One young man, now in his twenties, who spent some time at the Bryn Estyn home, told the team: “Bryn Estyn wasn’t fit for children. It has made my life since leaving a complete misery. I spent some time in hospital because of suicide attempts. It has made me unable to form a loving relationship.”
Another said: “It scares me now looking at kids of that age. I look at my kids and think, how could somebody do what they did. But I know it is true.”
Commenting on visits from headquarters officials to homes, one young man said: “It was always suits, always men. We were told to smile. It would have been nice if it had been a woman.”
Another said: “Bryn Estyn was the Colditz of residential care. If you ever rocked the boat you were left alone.”
Yet another said: “Years later I was talking to a cousin who was at the same home as me. I didn’t know he was my cousin then. He said, `I remember you, you were the boy with no shoes’. They wouldn’t let me have shoes because of running away.”