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Beechholme: Police investigate historic abuse claims at children’s home where ‘hundreds’ of Islington kids went

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 September 2017

Graeme Sergeant, founder of the Beechholme survivors group. Picture: James Morris

Graeme Sergeant, founder of the Beechholme survivors group. Picture: James Morris

Archant

A home where up to 200 Islington kids were sent between the 1950s and 1970s is being investigated by police over allegations children there were raped and tortured.

Graeme Sergeant, founder of the Beechholme survivors group. Picture: James Morris Graeme Sergeant, founder of the Beechholme survivors group. Picture: James Morris

This week the town hall agreed to meet survivors’ group organiser Graeme Sergeant, who says Islington children were regularly sent to Beechholme.

Beechholme, in Banstead, shut in 1974. Surrey Police has confirmed it is investigating allegations of abuse spanning 17 years.

Mr Sergeant – who has waived his right to anonymity for this story – formed the Beechholme survivors’ group six months ago. He has already spoken to eight victims who were sent there from Islington, and is now appealing for more to come forward.

Speaking to the Gazette at his home in Beltinge, Kent, on Thursday last week, Mr Sergeant said he “wants to know why this happened” and demanded a meeting with Islington Council chiefs.

And the town hall agreed on Tuesday. A spokesman said: “We are arranging a meeting with the Beecholme survivors’ group. We will always take new information, allegations or evidence about abuse extremely seriously, and we encourage survivors to take evidence to the police so that those responsible can be brought to justice.”

Mr Sergeant, 62, was originally from Wandsworth. He was sent to Beechholme at the end of the 1950s. He said: “You would be received into care if your parents couldn’t cope, or if you were being neglected. You would assume local children would go to a local council children’s home. Yet kids from all over London, including Islington, were allocated to Beechholme.

“Islington was a hub for sending children to Beechholme. When we finally narrow down the figures, I reckon it will show there were a couple of hundred children who went there between 1950 and 1974.

“We want the truth from Islington Council. The biggest thing for me is an admission it made mistakes and sent children into this home.”

Of his own experience, Mr Sergeant said: “I was there between the ages of six and eight. I had various penises put into my mouth, being told to suck and lick. I was locked in a cupboard. I was paraded naked around a room.

Graeme Sergeant pictured at Beechholme children's home. Picture: Graeme Sergeant Graeme Sergeant pictured at Beechholme children's home. Picture: Graeme Sergeant

“And my experiences were nowhere near as bad as other people I’ve heard from.

“I look at a photo of my granddaughter on my living room wall. She’s four. I wasn’t much older when I was abused. No one should suffer this. It’s just not right.”

Of his survivors’ group, Mr Sergeant urged: “I would say to Islington survivors: ‘Please, come forward. Tell us your stories.’ We need the people of Islington to help us make the council face the truth: the extent of abuse, and the extent that officials of the time let it happen.”

A Surrey Police spokesman said the force is “investigating non-recent allegations of sexual offences alleged to have taken place at Beechholme children’s care home. The alleged offences are reported to have taken place between 1957 and 1974. This is a large and complex investigation and will take time. Enquiries are ongoing.

“Surrey Police takes all allegations of sexual assault extremely seriously and any allegations made against individuals will be investigated thoroughly, whether they are current or historic. The force has a dedicated team of officers who investigate public protection matters and we would encourage any victims or anyone who has concerns about potential sexual abuse to contact us.”

Beechholme was under the control of London County Council until 1965, when it was transferred to Wandsworth Council. A Wandsworth spokesman said: “We are doing everything we can to support and assist the police investigation.”

For more information about Beechholme survivors group, email sergeantgraeme54@gmail.com

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