Beds, Herts & Bucks

Second sex abuse victim talks of 'evil' Shefford priest John Ryan

St Francis Boys Home - closed in the mid 1970s and converted into flats
Image caption St Francis Boys Home in Shefford, Bedfordshire, closed in the 1970s and was later converted into flats

A second man who says he was sexually abused as a child by a priest at an orphanage in Bedfordshire has said he hopes legal action will bring justice for former residents.

The man, now in his 60s, attended St Francis Boys Home in Shefford, near Bedford, in the 1950s and 60s.

He says he was repeatedly abused by priest Father John Ryan.

Fr Ryan was arrested in 2003 following other allegations, but released without charge. He died in 2008.

'Evil man'

The former resident of the home, who now lives in Woolwich, south London, spoke out about the abuse after a group of former victims pledged to take legal action against the Catholic church.

"The home was the personification of hell. He (Fr Ryan) was an evil man," said the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

He said Fr Ryan touched him in a sexual manner and sexually abused him repeatedly, as well as beating and kicking him.

The man said it had been beneficial to meet other residents of the home who knew what had gone on.

In May, another man, who is now in his 50s, told the BBC: "Father Ryan abused me. He 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'."

Both men said they have spoken to Bedfordshire Police, which has started a new investigation into physical and sexual abuse at the home.

'Blood blisters'

The force said its safeguarding unit was keen to hear from anyone about any possible offences at the St Francis Boys Home.

The BBC has also spoken to a number of former residents of the home who say they were physically abused by Fr Ryan, but not sexually.

Gordon McIntosh, 63, of Roehampton, south-west London, who helped organise a reunion of former victims, said they were consulting a solicitor and planned to take legal action.

Mr McIntosh, who suffered "blood blisters" from some of the beatings at the hands of Fr Ryan, said it was vital to get an apology from the church and compensation.

David Cox, 61, from Ipswich, Suffolk, who attended the home in the 1960s, was also at the reunion.

Speaking last month, he said: "Father John Ryan was the most brutal man I've ever come across in my life. He threw kids around like they were toys. We were all punch bags."

A spokesman for the Northamptonshire Diocese of the Catholic Church, which ran the home, said it "deeply regrets" any hurt caused, but stressed the "claims are not proven".

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