‘Priests were devil incarnate’ – Shefford boys’ home abuse victim bravely speaks out as Old Bailey trial proves guilt of 80-year-old paedophile

St Francis Boys' Home, Shefford

St Francis Boys' Home, Shefford - Credit: Archant

Victims of sexual and physical abuse at a Shefford care home have bravely spoken out after a man in his 80s was proven guilty at the Old Bailey of abusing 25 boys during the 1960s – at a place visited by the notorious paedophile Jimmy Savile.

James McCann was found guilty of historic sex offences at St Francis Boys' Home, Shefford

James McCann was found guilty of historic sex offences at St Francis Boys' Home, Shefford - Credit: Archant

James McCann, 80, of Swaffham in Norfolk, was deemed unfit to stand trial over abuse at St Francis Boys’ Home – but a trial of facts regarding 50 charges was heard in his absence. The jury found on Monday that 42 charges were proven.

They included 30 charges of actual bodily harm and 12 counts of indecent assault. He was cleared of a further eight charges – four indecent assaults and four physical assaults.

Victim Gordon McIntosh, who was at the home from 1959 to 1966, said: “My treatment at the home has left mental scars that continue to this day.

“It was run like a prison camp. It was a living hell. It was systematic abuse. It was torture.

“They used to drag me from my bed in the middle of the night and take me to their rooms and make me undress. I was a young boy, what had I ever done to them? Boys used to disappear for hours in the middle of the night after being dragged to priests’ rooms in the dark, and returned traumatised.

“McCann used to go into the bathroom cubicles while boys were showering and forcibly wash their genitals. It was dreadful. It was pure hell.”

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Mr McIntosh also insisted he saw serial paedophile Jimmy Savile visit the home – though he was told by a priest it was his ‘twin brother’.

He added: “I’ve long lost any respect I’d had for the Catholic Church and priests. All the victims ever wanted from the church was a full apology.

“Even now all I see in my head are those cruel priests. They were the devil incarnate.”

Mr McIntosh also spoke of the physical abuse he and many others experienced, which included McCann and others clapping theirs hands next to children’s ears.

Victims reported excruciating pain, nausea and dizziness – some suffered long-term damage to their hearing.

The Old Bailey heard that McCann also used weapons including a belt and sticks to beat the boys.

Another victim, Damion Chittock, said: “If the police had taken this seriously 20 years ago when I first complained – when many more of the priests were alive – then these people may have been brought to justice.

“My mother sent me a letter apologising that I was sent to the home, but it was not her fault. She trusted these people too.”