Claims against Belfast children's home matron untrue, says ex-resident
A former resident of a south Belfast children's home has rejected claims that the woman who ran it physically assaulted a youngster in her care, branding the allegations "a load of c***".
A trial is currently being held at Belfast Crown Court where the former head of Bawnmore Road Children's Home has been charged with six counts of child cruelty between September 1974 and December 1976.
Ruth Colvin - who at the time of the alleged incidents was the home's 'matron' or 'auntie' - has denied all the charges against her. Formerly of Glendhu Manor in Belfast but now residing in a nursing home in the east of the city, the 75-year-old is attending court in a wheelchair.
As the trial entered its second week the jury heard from a former resident who, after reading Press reports on the trial, came forward to refute allegations made by the complainant, who alleges she was beaten by Colvin with a wooden Scholl sandal and a stick, and had her hair pulled.
The 54-year-old woman, who at one stage shared a bedroom in the home with the complainant, said the allegations left her "disgusted".
She told the court she was shown an online newspaper report last Friday about the trial and the charges faced by Colvin.
Questioned by David McDowell QC, representing Colvin, the Belfast woman was asked why she wanted to come forward after reading the report. She replied: "Because it's not true."
Referring to the defendant as "Aunt Ruth", the woman said she loved both her time in Bawnmore and the former head. And when asked if she had any memory of the complainant being hit by Colvin or any other member of staff, the woman said "no".
Asked to describe Colvin when she was a resident, the woman said: "She was great."
Asked about discipline, she replied: "She would have been stern, but in a good way."
She elaborated by saying that pocket money may have been reduced, or children who misbehaved may have been told they weren't going on a day trip.
She also said Colvin "spoiled us rotten", and that a highlight for her and other residents was being taken out shopping with "Aunt Ruth".
The witness was asked about a conversation she had with the complainant's brother at a funeral three years ago. When asked about this, she said she was told the complainant "is going to take Aunt Ruth to court for abuse and we could all get money off it".
Mr McDowell then asked about her reaction, to which she replied: "It was just ridiculous.
"It was at a funeral, and he was coming off with c*** like that."
The woman said she was contacted by the complainant herself, who told her she was taking Colvin to court, and asked that she go to the police.
The woman said: "We had a bit of a conversation and I said to her: 'That's not happening. You are full of it'.
"I told her: 'I'm not going to do that'. And said to her: 'You weren't even there that long. What are you talking about? Nothing happened to you. Wise up'."
She was then asked how she felt when she read about the current trial, and replied: "I was disgusted. I couldn't even go to work. My head was spinning."
Mr McDowell then asked the woman if she ever saw Colvin pull the complainant's hair, or hit her with a shoe. She replied "no" to each question.
The woman said she loved her time in Bawnmore, and described Colvin as "a good person, 100%".
Asked how she felt about Colvin now, she replied: "I love her. I always loved her. I still call her Aunt Ruth."