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Children's home abuse: My brother couldn't live with the abuse and drank himself to death


John Christopher Magill died on the eve of 1999

John Christopher Magill died on the eve of 1999

John's sister Rosaleen O'Connor

John's sister Rosaleen O'Connor


John Christopher Magill died on the eve of 1999

It was a tragic waste of life.​

The sister of a man who claimed he was sexually abused as a boy at Rubane House in Kircubbin is speaking out for the first time about the torture he told her he suffered at the hands of the men tasked with caring for him.

Rosaleen O'Connor (69) from Larne is sharing John Christopher Magill's story, following his death in 1999, as the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) hears disturbing witness testimony from ex-residents of the former Catholic care home, run by the De La Salle Brothers.

"He didn't get any justice in this world," Rosaleen said.

John's alcohol addiction began after he emerged from Rubane House, at the age of 14, following what he told his sister was nightly episodes of abuse.

On New Year's Day 1999, aged just 48, John was found dead with a large quantity of alcohol and three types of prescription drugs in his system.

An open verdict was recorded at the inquest into his death but Rosaleen told the Belfast Telegraph she knows in her heart he took his own life as he was unable to cope with the trauma of abuse.

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Rosaleen says sharing John's story will be his "small bit of justice" as he cannot give evidence to the HIAI and she wants people to realise her brother "wasn't just some drunk".

After leaving Rubane House in the early Sixties, John worked as galley boy on the boats and later as a chef before a chronic addiction to alcohol took over the father-of-two's life, leading to arrests for being drunk and disorderly and stealing wine from a shop. In his 20s, he confided in Rosaleen of the abuse he had suffered as a boy.

"He cried very sore when he was telling me," Rosaleen said.

"He told me the boys would be put to bed every night and then not long after a brother would come in and rape him or force him to perform sex acts.

"He was given cigarettes, told to keep his mouth shut and threatened not to tell. He was terrified of one brother in particular, he shook when he spoke about him.

"I tried to get him to go to the police but he said, 'Who is going to believe me?'"

Rosaleen revealed that some years before his death, John had attempted to take his own life and ended up in Holywell mental health facility for a period.

"John was a good person," she said. "It will be a relief for people will know why he behaved the way he did. He had told me the drink wasn't making him sleep any more.

"He said when he was sleeping he didn't have to think about what had happened to him. It's an awful waste of life."

She added: "He last spoke to me at 6.30pm on New Year's Eve 1998.

"He called to wish me happy New Year and to thank me for all the help I had given him, as he might not be able to later... On New Year's Day he was found dead."

Patrick Corrigan, programme director of Amnesty International in Northern Ireland, said it was tragic that the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry came too late for so many children abused in residential homes.

"We know of many children who suffered horrendously while in so-called 'care', and for whom the pain was too much, who went on to take their own lives or to drink themselves into an early grave," he said.

"That is the deadly legacy of abuse in our children's homes.

"A fitting memorial to boys like John, who did not live to see justice, is for truth and accountability, including prosecutions if possible, to flow from this inquiry."

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