Shefford's St Francis Boys Home abuse inquiry files missing

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

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Police investigating abuse at a Catholic orphanage in Bedfordshire have been unable to locate files relating to the original 2003 investigation into the home, the BBC can reveal.

Former residents have alleged they were abused by Father John Ryan at St Francis Boys Home in Shefford, near Bedford, in the 1950s and 1960s.

Fr Ryan, who died in 2008, was arrested in 2003 but released without charge.

Bedfordshire Police confirmed the files that led to his arrest are missing.

The revelation about the files came after the BBC asked what advice the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) gave the police over the original investigation.

A CPS spokeswoman said: "It is believed that the CPS did provide charging advice to Bedfordshire police in 2003 and advised no further action due to insufficient evidence.

'Personification of hell'

"The advice will have been returned to the police and filed with their case papers. However, the police are unable to locate the file, so we are unable to determine any more details."

A Bedfordshire Police spokeswoman said the "files have not been located... at this moment in time" but officers in the new inquiry were talking to officers involved in the old investigation.

The BBC has spoken to a number of people who say they were abused either sexually or physically by Fr Ryan.

Last week a man, now in his 60s who lives in Woolwich, who attended the orphanage in the 1950s and 1960s, said he was repeatedly sexually abused at the home which became "the personification of hell".

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.

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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