July 2013

‘Childhoods were stolen and victims learned to trust no one’

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MORE than a dozen people have contacted police in the last week with new information about alleged abuse at Notts children’s homes.

The Post reported earlier this month that an inquiry into Beechwood Community House, in Mapperley, which began in 2011, had been widened by detectives.

Officers said they were talking to 56 people who said they suffered sexual or physical abuse at Beechwood and four other former council-run homes.

The investigation has been named Operation Daybreak.

The Post broke the story on Saturday July 13 and told the story of former Beechwood resident James Cleverley, of Netherfield, who waived his right to automatic anonymity to encourage other potential victims to come forward.

Since then a further 17 people have contacted detectives with more information.

And 11 people have contacted the Post to tell their story.

Today, one of them, Michael Summers, becomes the second person to waive his legal right to anonymity.

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Abuse claims: Pictured above: Mr Summers as a child

Mr Summers said he arrived at Beechwood, which was in Woodborough Road, in 1966 as a young boy.

He said he decided to come forward after reading of Mr Cleverley’s claims of abuse at Beechwood; Wood Nook, in Beechdale Road; and Bracken House, in Thames Street, Bulwell.

Mr Summers said: “Readers will cringe at reading this, but it doesn’t come one per cent close to having been there and they need to know. Childhoods were stolen and trust issues were formed where victims learn as a defence mechanism to trust no one.”

Mr Summers, 59, lived in The Meadows before he went into care. He now lives in New York.

He said he suffered physical and emotional abuse at Beechwood.

He was later moved to another home in Nottingham where he claims he was molested by a member of staff.

The same member of staff then later raped him in a car, he said, and he also alleges he was physically abused at another Notts home and at Risley Hall, Derbyshire.

Mr Summers, who left care when he became old enough to join the Army, said: “My experiences will not be others’ experiences, but there will be very few from that era if any who have not been affected.”

He added: “I wholeheartedly applauded Mr Cleverley’s decision.

“I believe, for me, this will help close the book after putting all the final chapters together.”

Police said earlier this month the inquiry now included claims of physical or sexual abuse from 1973 to 2000 and involved allegations at the former Bracken House, Ranskill Gardens, Bestwood, Wood Nook and Risley Hall homes. None are operating as children’s homes today.

A Notts Police spokeswoman said the force is following up all of the new claims. She added: “Anyone with information relevant to the operation should call us.”

Twelve people have been questioned as part of Operation Daybreak so far. Five were arrested but later released with no further action.

A statement released previously by the chairman of Nottingham City Safeguarding Children Board, Paul Burnett, and the vice-chairman of Notts County Safeguarding Children Board, Julie Gardner, read: “We are aware of a number of historic allegations relating to issues at Beechwood Community Home and other related establishments and, where identified, appropriate actions have been taken.

“A full and robust investigation led by the police and involving relevant agencies is being undertaken.”

Anyone with allegations relevant to the inquiry should contact Notts Police on 101.

July 2011

Beechwood Children’s Home abuse claims investigated

Six allegations of systematic physical and sexual abuse at a former children’s home dating back 36 years are being investigated by police.

Beechwood Children’s Home, in Mapperley, Nottingham, was run by Nottinghamshire County Council.

Solicitors Uppal Taylor, acting for 11 complainants, said the allegations ran from 1975 to the late 1980s.

A police spokesman said investigations were at a very early stage.

Uppal Taylor added their clients’ allegations ranged from maltreatment, bullying, intimidation and sexual abuse by staff and residents.

Police said there had been no arrests and they were keen to quash rumours of digging going on at the site of the former home.

‘Serious’ allegations

Margaret McGlade, independent chair of the Nottingham City Safeguarding Children Board, said: “We are aware of allegations relating to issues at Beechwood Community House dating back to the 1980s.

“Our primary concern is to ensure that there are no outstanding safeguarding concerns and consequently we are co-ordinating the responses of the appropriate agencies, including the police, to ensure that a full and robust investigation is undertaken into these allegations.

“This establishment closed in December 2006 and no children have been placed within the unit since then.”

Steve Edwards, Nottinghamshire County Council’s children’s social care service director, said: “Nottinghamshire County Council is aware of these allegations and is working in partnership with the city council and the police regarding the investigation.”

During the 1980s and early 1990s, four or five staff would be on duty at any one time and at Beechwood’s maximum capacity it was a 15-bed unit.

The unit generally had 100% occupancy with a high turnover due to its historical function as a remand home.

‘I was raped within a week of arriving at kids’ home’

 

FORMER residents of a city children’s home have spoken of the alleged systematic abuse they suffered at the hands of staff.

Beechwood Community House is being investigated by police over claims that residents were physically and sexually abused between 1975 and 2000.

Two former residents of the home have told the Post of the alleged abuse, which they say has overshadowed their lives.

A woman who lived there as a teenager tells the Post today that she was raped during her first week at the home. And a male former resident says he was taken into a dark cellar by a member of staff, who put on a Freddie Kruger mask and beat him.

Police are investigating claims by six former residents but a local solicitor is preparing a compensation claim on behalf of 17 people.

She was just 16 when she moved into Beechwood Community House in Mapperley.

Kate, not her real name, hoped her troubled life would be put back on track.

But the next 11 months shattered those hopes.

“I was raped in the first week I was there and physically assaulted by staff at different times,” says Kate, now in her 40s.

As she stands looking at The Lindens, one of two residential units within Beechwood’s grounds, Kate talks about the impact of her alleged ordeal.

“I worked as a prostitute and was a heroin addict for 15 years.

“We had our hearts and souls taken from us. At least 12 of the children I was there with have since overdosed or committed suicide.”

Kate says she has been clean of heroin for more than a year and is turning her life around.

“I’m doing voluntary work with charities. I feel I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve brought my children up really well. I’ve met some caring people along the way.”

Despite getting her life back on track, Kate says she is determined to get justice for herself and all others alleged to have suffered during their time at Beechwood.

She is one of six people who have made allegations to Notts Police of systematic child abuse suffered at the home.

She added: “If anyone, whether it’s a former child who lived there or a member of staff, has information that can help with the police inquiry they should contact them immediately.”

Notts police have confirmed they are investigating allegations of systematic child abuse at Beechwood made by six individuals over the last four months.

They stressed that inquiries are at an early stage and no arrests have been made.

Seventeen ex-Beechwood children, including Kate, intend to pursue compensation actions against Notts County Council, the home’s owners in the 1980s and early 1990s before its transfer to Nottingham City Council in 1998, on conclusion of the police investigation.

John, not his real name, is another ex-Beechwood child who has made allegations to police and is intending to lodge a civil compensation claim against the county council.

He says he was regularly taken to a cellar and beaten by a member of staff while living at Beechwood.

“He used to take me down to the cellar, put on a Freddie Kruger mask and chase me around the cellar.

“I would run into posts and pillars because it was pitch black. When he caught me he would punch and kick me.

“He did it hundreds of times. Because I was a bit boyish I did not say anything to anybody.”

Beechwood was John’s first experience of a children’s home.

“I saw one lad tied by his ankles and hung upside down from a curtain pole. He was screaming. There was nothing I could do.

“I was on a minibus once. We were going swimming and someone shouted abuse at one staff member.

“He looked straight at me and then got up and stamped on me, on my chest. One member of staff had to pull him off.”

John said because of his timid nature and skinny frame, he would also get bullied a lot by other children in the home.

It led to him repeatedly running away, only to be brought back by the police.

“Staff would give us a smack to teach us not to run off. One member of staff used to shout ‘he’s back’ to the other boys in the home and then they would attack me. It made me more determined to keep running away.

“I went to another children’s home after about eight months. They cared for me. It was completely, utterly different. I was there six to eight months then it closed down and I was sent back to Beechwood.

“When they [social services] told me I had to go back I was crying my eyes out. I was begging social workers not to send me back. It all started again the second time I was there.

“I started sniffing glue just to block out everything. I just used to block the day out.”

After enduring a further year at Beechwood, John left and admits his life spiraled out of control.

“I got involved in car crime, breaking into shops and fighting.

“I went into young offenders institutions. I hated everybody, especially the authorities.

“I’ve spent around 20 years of my life in and out of jail.

“I went from smoking dope to taking amphetamines and then doing heroin.

“I’ve been clean of drugs for four years. I stopped because of what it was doing to my family.”

John said he has given a statement about his time at Beechwood to Notts Police.

He is among the 17 former Beechwood children who are set to make a civil compensation claim against Notts County Council at the end of the police investigation based on the alleged suffering they endured at the home.

“This is not about money. It’s about getting justice for those that suffered.

“Because of my history, I’ve always hated bullies and [certain Beechwood staff] have got away with this for so long.

“I still get upset talking about it now. I’d like to help others like me talk about what happened to them.

“This is not grassing. It’s telling what you’ve been through.”

The 17 ex-Beechwood children set to seek compensation for their alleged ordeals are being represented by Chris Ratcliffe, of Uppal Taylor Solicitors, in West Bridgford.

Mr Ratcliffe said: “This was not one rogue member of staff. It was systematic abuse.

“The claimants are making allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

“Had they received appropriate care in an appropriate environment, their lives could have been substantially different.”

Anyone with information that could help the police inquiry into alleged child abuse at Beechwood Community House is asked to contact Notts Police on            0300 300 99 99      .