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Survivor demands probe into the Whiteabbey sex ordeals

He was a Jimmy Savile character who came to our training school in a clown outfit.

By Liam Clarke

Published 30/07/2015

Victim Dorothea Brown
Victim Dorothea Brown

A Jimmy Savile-type figure who visited a training school in Northern Ireland where he sexually abused young girls must be fully investigated by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA), an ex-resident has said.

Claims of horrific psychological, physical and sexual abuse have emerged about a children's entertainer who visited Whiteabbey Training School on Belfast's Shore Road.

He would come dressed as a clown, but he was allowed to return and meet the girls privately.

Former resident Dorothea Brown (64) said the pervert would give the youngsters cigarettes before abusing them.

"I was sexually abused by this man who originally came into the home in a clown's outfit," she added.

"Then he started coming in at the weekend - a Friday night - and maybe about three or four of us were taken from the common room to what was then the classroom.

"He wasn't dressed as a clown on these visits. He abused us there for a cigarette each.

"I stopped going because I thought the risk of getting caught with the cigarette was too great. He was really smelly and repulsive.

"I never thought of reporting him, it was just the way things were. There were kids in that place from 11 up."

Whiteabbey Training School is now a pharmacy with no connection to its former use.

Ms Brown stayed there from 1967 until the early 1970s. She said that other friends she knew had been physically, but not sexually, assaulted by the staff.

"Some staff were very, very hard, harsh people," she added. "It was just a prison regime. I can still remember their names."

Ms Brown told how she had suffered physical and sexual abuse from an early age and how she ran away from the home on two occasions. The native of Donaghadee, said: "I was abused from I was about four. I was abused by the headmaster of a school, the minister of a church. I was abused left, right and centre. I kept running away from home but not telling people. I went to London when I was about 14.

"An abuser can spot and abuse someone who is vulnerable, and of course one abuser can tell another about you."

In time Ms Brown came to rely on sexual abuse as a sort of coping mechanism - a reason people might give her attention or assistance.

She claimed to have been abused by police officers in Glasgow, London and Portadown.

And she said it continued when she ran away to Glasgow at the age of 15.

"There was like a white van that came round at night for runaways," she added. "I was taken to a police station in Glasgow where there was a big desk sergeant who made me do a sexual favour for him and then he sent me on my way.

"I had a horrible, horrible time. Landlords asked you to pay the rent in favours - it was par for the course for runaways. I was also raped outright."

Ms Brown and another friend who wishes to remain anonymous have given statements to the HIA. However, individuals who tell their story to the body's acknowledgment forum, rather than its statutory inquiry, recount their experiences on a confidential basis, and all records will be destroyed after the inquiry has concluded.

In a 2013 speech HIA chairman Sir Anthony Hart said: "Now that we have received more information from the applicants who have been seen, so far the inquiry has decided that it would not be justified in continuing to investigate a number of those institutions".

A spokesperson for the tribunal refused to discuss individual cases but explained the general process.

"Individuals who come forward to the acknowledgment forum are in a completely different position to individuals who come forward to the statutory inquiry or wish to attend both," they said.

"By way of example, as the acknowledgment forum is entirely confidential, what is said there is not disseminated beyond it unless the person is also an applicant to the statutory inquiry."

The spokeswoman stressed that the list of institutions being investigated was kept under review and could be changed.

The last changes were announced on May 11 but Whiteabbey was not included. However, Ms Brown believes the training school should be investigated.

Padraigin Drinan, a retired human rights lawyer who advises some of the victims, said "that is what the HIA said to us in a letter. I am now urging Sir Anthony Hart, the chairman, to hurry up and consider it (for inclusion)".

"Dorothea's case is not unique - other people have had even worse experiences in this institution."

Ms Brown has only partially recovered from her teenage experiences.

She also has a history of substance and alcohol abuse, as well as suicide attempts.

"I can get set back very easily, but I am able to bounce back more quickly now," she said. "I realise that when I tried to take my own life I didn't want to die, I just didn't know how to live."

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