Senior investigator to lead review into historic abuse allegations at Shefford boys’ home

St Francis Boys' Home, Shefford

St Francis Boys' Home, Shefford - Credit: Archant

A senior investigator is to lead a review into historic allegations of abuse at St Francis Boys’ Home in Shefford.

Op Haryana will look into claims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s at the boys’ home, which was run by the Catholic Church until it closed in 1974 and was turned into flats.

An investigation was opened in May last year after complaints were received against the home, but was closed in November after Bedfordshire Police concluded there was insufficient evidence to take the case forward.

A month later the case was reopened after 28 ex-residents came forward with allegations that they were physically or sexually abused at the home.

Two surviving suspects have now been identified and are the subject of further investigation.

Mark Ross, who will lead the review, said: “The investigation has evolved due to the large number of victims and witnesses. We are now in a very different era and social attitudes and the criminal justice has changed significantly in the last 50 years. I aim to provide all of the victims involved with an outcome.

“Investigating abuse of any kind will always involve issues of a sensitive nature, victims will be kept fully informed of any progress in relation to their case and given the support required. Many of the suspects have since died but police forces still have the responsibility to investigate these crimes and consider organisational responsibility at the time of the abuse.

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“Much like Op Yewtree, complainants have now felt able to contact the police where they had not done so before. Unfortunately, as with Yewtree, the historical nature of the events means that there may be limited prosecutions.”

A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said: “We are committed to safeguarding the most vulnerable. It is vital children and adults feel able to come forward and report any incident that they are concerned about and know that they will be taken seriously, listened to and investigated by a specialist team, trained in complex enquiries. We investigate child abuse as a priority, working closely with agencies in doing so.”

In the course of this review, the investigation team will be contacting all victims and witnesses of previous and present investigations.

Anyone who has been a victim of child abuse or thinks they may have information to assist with this investigation can contact the officers at Op Haryana on 01582 473395 in confidence, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.