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Shefford Catholic orphanage abuse: Victim writes book

Father John Ryan, photographed in the early 1960s on a trip to Lourdes with some of the residents of St Francis Boys Home
Image caption Father John Ryan was photographed in the early 1960s on a trip to Lourdes with some of the boys of St Francis Boys Home

A former resident of a Catholic orphanage who waived his right to anonymity to urge others to contact the police over abuse at the home has written a book about his experiences.

Tony Walsh, 65, was sent to St Francis Boys Home in Shefford, Bedfordshire, in the 1950s.

He says he was sexually abused by Father John Ryan, who died in 2008.

His book Is Sadness Forever? charts his experiences at the home which he says was "horrendous".

'Nightmares every month'

Image caption St Francis Boys Homes closed in the mid 1970s and was later converted into flats

Tony Walsh, who now lives in Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, said he started writing the book to put down the "many nightmares I was having".

He said the process of writing had helped to heal him.

"I used to have nightmares every month. Since writing the book, over the last three years I've only had about four nightmares," he said.

"The writing has been a great help. It has been marvellous. I would not have believed it would help at all, but it has."

In the book, Mr Walsh, who was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, describes a catalogue of abuse by Fr Ryan, who he describes as the "Evil Priest".

His allegations led to the priest's arrest in 2003 but he was released without charge and died in 2008.

He said he hoped to find a publisher for the book as it was important the physical and sexual abuse was "made really public".

'Deep regret'

The BBC has also talked to a number of former residents who were physically and sexually abused at the home during the 1950s and 60s.

Bedfordshire Police has started a new investigation into abuse at the home, which closed in 1974, and said the safeguarding unit was keen to hear from anyone about any possible offences.

At the same time, a group of former residents at the home has contacted lawyer Tracey Emmott, a specialist in cases of childhood sexual abuse, to bring an action against the Catholic church.

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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