New witness tells of ‘professional men’ who had access to children’s home to abuse boys
By Tim Wood | 2 March 2015
Priest Tony McSweeney faces a fresh investigation over the sexual abuse of boys at a children’s home in the London borough of Richmond.
The Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit is investigating claims from a new witness who says that he was sexually abused as a 14-year-old boy at Grafton Close children’s home by McSweeney and two other members of staff.
McSweeney was found guilty last week of sexually abusing a boy at the children’s home, as well as three charges of making indecent images of children. He is due to be sentenced next month.
According to the new witness, detectives have contacted 70 ex-residents of Grafton Close.
He said that “professional men”, who were “well-dressed” in smart suits, often had access to the council-run children’s home when he was there in 1979.
As he or other boys were in the bathroom, these men came in and molested them.
“They would be taking photos of you. ‘Can you stand up, can you turn around,’ all that,” he said. “They would come in and be touching you… They would also make you grope them as well.” The visitors often put some of the younger children on their knees and fondled them.
McSweeney also watched and photographed him in the bath, he said. “The bathroom door would never be allowed to be shut, and they openly watched you in the bath.”
“McSweeney would take photos of you in the bath with no clothes on, getting changed and stuff like that. He takes photos of me when getting dry, and then there would be some fondling maybe.”
“Then, a bit later down the line, he gives you a cigarette.”
He also said that John Stingemore, who was the officer in charge of Grafton Close, sexually abused him. Stingemore died the month before he was due to go on trial with McSweeney.
He said that Stingemore took pictures of him, although not in the bathroom. “I do not know whether to say it was in a sexual way or not. But it was photos of you in your shorts and playing football out in the garden.”
And a third person who worked at Grafton Close is also accused of child sex abuse. However, the witness only knows the first name of this alleged perpetrator, and police are understood to be struggling to trace him.
He said that he was forced to give oral sex to this person. “He would hurt you and sexually abuse you. I feared him most.”
The three of them “worked as a team, each playing a different role.” McSweeney played “good cop”, while Stingemore was “bad cop”. The other staff member was “the muscle” who was used to frighten the boys.
The new witness said that he was at Grafton Close for around 12 weeks in 1979 for “assessment”.
If he told anyone about the abuse, he was warned, he would have to stay at Grafton Close permanently. “I was told, ‘You play with us otherwise you are going to be here until you are 16.’”
“There were a lot of kids who were sitting round and crying all the time.”
He spoke of being repeatedly molested at the home. “Things happening every day to you,” he said. “The scariest time was night time because you did not know who was going to come.
“You never had any privacy whatsoever. You had to be supervised at all times. That was what you were told, which was probably a load of rubbish.”
The children’s home has since closed and been turned into flats. His experience at Grafton Close cast a shadow over his life. Now 50, the witness said that he had suffered depression and alcoholism.
“What happened to me in that home when I was 14 was something that was horrific in my life. I put that to bed, put that deep down inside me,” he said.
“I have tried to hide it all away for so many years. But in January, when I heard that Stingemore had died, it was like a weight had been lifted off me. I did not realise what an effect that episode in my life was having on me until I heard that news.”
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