Beds, Herts & Bucks

Shefford's St Francis abuse inquiry: Statement 'rejected by police'

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Media captionThe late Father John Ryan is accused of sexually and physically abusing boys under his care at a Bedfordshire orphanage

An ex-resident of a Catholic orphanage who says he was sexually abused as a boy has been told by his lawyer that police do not want to hear from him.

Tony Walsh, 65, of Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, alleges he was abused at St Francis Boys Home in Shefford, Bedfordshire, in the 1950s.

He was interviewed by police in 2002-2003, but officers revealed last month these records are "presumed destroyed".

Detectives have started a new inquiry and only want to hear new complaints.

'Wanted to co-operate'

Mr Walsh, who has waived his right to anonymity, says he was abused by Fr John Ryan, the priest who ran the orphanage. He died in 2008.

Mr Walsh said he had contacted Bedford solicitor Tracey Emmott, who is co-ordinating a claim by a group of former St Francis residents, and wanted to talk to police.

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

Ms Emmott spoke to Bedfordshire Police and officers told her they had been informed by their superiors they were not to re-interview former residents who had been spoken to during the previous inquiry.

In July, Bedfordshire Police revealed they were trying to locate files on 1993 and 2002-2003 investigations into Fr Ryan, who was accused of physically and sexually abusing boys.

However, in October police said the documents could not be located and the "assumption is that the paperwork has been destroyed".

Fr Ryan was arrested in 2003 but released without charge.

Bedfordshire Police told the BBC inquiries were continuing and said there would be no comment on Mr Walsh's specific concerns because the main officer was away.

Mr Walsh said: "I am a bit disappointed by the police. I wanted to co-operate with the ongoing inquiry."

'Not proven'

He said with the apparent destruction of the original files, he could not understand why police "have said they do not want any more statements from people who have previously given statements".

Ms Emmott said: "I think it is disappointing that they do not want to interview those who have already been interviewed."

She said she had some sympathy with the workload the police faced and she herself had been approached by more than 20 former residents of the orphanage - many of whom have given statements to police.

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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