October 1st, 2016

Man tells court of alleged cruelty and abuse at Coventry children’s home in 1980s

A MAN in his mid-40s choked back tears as he told a jury of the physical abuse he said he suffered at the hands of two staff members at a Coventry children’s home in the 1980s.

He was giving evidence in the trial at Warwick Crown Court of two former staff members at the now closed Wisteria Lodge home in Earlsdon, Kenneth Owen and Alan Todd.

Todd (70) of Tile Hill Lane, Tile Hill, Coventry has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of indecently assaulting three girls and six charges of cruelty to a child relating to one of those girls, three other girls and two boys.

Owen (70) now of Dickin Hill Road, Boston, Lincolnshire, has denied three charges of indecently assaulting one girl and five charges of cruelty towards two girls and three boys.

Giving evidence from behind the screen, the man said he was taken into care in the early 80s when he was ’12 or maybe 13,’ and first came across Todd when he was at another children’s home.

“He was a bully. He used to pick on the kids. He wasn’t actually at that home, he’d been brought in as emergency cover.

“The first time I seen him he was restraining and having a fight with another lad at the home. Todd had him by the throat.

“I became involved because I didn’t like the way he was treating him. He (Todd) hit me with a pool cue across my back, and then he had the cue pressed against my neck.”

When that home closed down, the witness said he was then moved to Wisteria Lodge; and when he was asked whether he also remembered Owen, he said he did.

“He was the same as Toddy. The pair of them would hang around together. I thought they seemed like they were ex-military, but I don’t know if they were.”

He said he used to run away from the home and go to his grandmother’s, and asked by Mr Heywood whether there was anything in particular he wanted to get away from, he choked back tears and replied: “The two people who are here. They’re the main reason.”

The man said that on one occasion when he was taken back to the home he was put into ‘the punishment room,’ which was cold, by the two defendants in just his underpants.

He said he lost consciousness, although he could not remember how that had been caused, and when he woke up he had a headache and had wet himself.

“I was slapped round the ear on another time I’d run away. I came back and was being mouthy, and he slapped me round the ear, Ken Owen.

“It perforated my eardrum. I didn’t realise that at the time, but when I went swimming and jumped in the water, I got a massive pain in my head.”

The man said he also recalled what had been a terrifying incident at the hands of both men after he and other children from the home had been taken by minibus for a night walk in Berkswell.

“It was pitch black. They held me over the well and said they would drop me. I was very frightened, and when they dropped me, it frit me even more.

“It’s embarrassing for me to say it even now, I wet myself when I was being held over the well before I was dropped.”

Asked how he felt as they let go of him, he replied: “Scared, scared like I’d never been scared before.”

Indicating a depth of just inches, he said: “I didn’t know there was only this much water in the well. I was just frightened. It was just a black hole in the floor.”

He said he was not given anything to dry himself with, and did not tell anyone at the time, explaining: “Back in those days no-one cared. No-one gave a sh*t. It’s a lot different now to what it was like then.”

He said that a few years ago someone told him about a Facebook page saying how great Wisteria Lodge was, so he put a message on the site saying it was ‘a sh*thole’ and that he had been ‘abused by these’ – but it was removed.

“I then forgot about it all until April 2014. I went to the shop that morning and saw it in the paper and bought the paper and then contacted the police.”

The trial continues.