Care worker 'drove child victim to the edge of suicide'

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The Independent Online
A former resident of a North Wales children's home told a hearing yesterday that he had been forced to have oral sex with a care worker and that his life in care had led him to attempt suicide many times.

The man, now 35, told the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal there were pyjama parties in the flat of the then deputy head of the now closed Bryn Estyn home, Peter Howarth, when boys were banned from wearing underpants. Mr Howarth would drink wine or spirits while five or six boys on the so-called "flat list" had treats and watched television at night. On each occasion, one of the boys would be asked to stay behind.

The witness said: "I was asked to stay behind on three or four occasions. The first time, he sat me down and then I sat on his lap. On another occasion, he made me have oral sex ... He asked me if I was going home that weekend and he said he could stop me if I didn't do what he told me to do."

Describing other events, he said: "On one occasion I had an asthma attack and he got a bowl and a kettle for me to breathe the steam. He started rubbing himself against me and tried to have sex with me. I started crying and told him I didn't like what he was doing."

Asked what effect Bryn Estyn had had on his life, he said: "Devastating. I couldn't trust anybody. I ended up in mental institutions and tried to commit suicide on many occasions. I have had counselling for years and I'm still receiving it."

A second man, who also testified yesterday said two of his brothers had been subjected to serious sexual assault. The tribunal chairman, Sir Ronald Waterhouse, heard one witness tell of boys being humiliated in the communal shower, and being made to scream when the water was switched from hot to cold. Asked what effects being at Bryn Estyn had had on him, he said: "I've been lucky enough to have a 13-year relationship and have children, but often I think that my partner was a victim of what happened to me.

"How can you ever take anyone for what they say, or what they do, after what has happened to you during your adolescence? I don't talk about Bryn Estyn to anyone." The tribunal, taking evidence about allegations of widespread abuse at homes in North Wales, yesterday heard more complainants who allege abuse at the Bryn Estyn home.

One witness said: "Bullying was the norm by various members of staff. It is hard to pick out the good staff from the bad."

Of Peter Howarth, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1994 for assaulting seven boys between 1974-84, he said: "He often humiliated boys in the showers. He humiliated them for not having pubic hair."

He said Stephen Norris, a care worker at the home who was sentenced to seven years in jail in 1993, talked about sex and wanted to know when and how often he masturbated.