First witness to waive anonymity alleges abuse by priests

Inquiry told of beatings by senior girls and nuns at Derry care home

An internal view of the courtroom at Banbridge, Northern Ireland where  public hearings into allegations of historical child abuse  are taking place. Photograph: : Paul Faith/PA Wire

An internal view of the courtroom at Banbridge, Northern Ireland where public hearings into allegations of historical child abuse are taking place. Photograph: : Paul Faith/PA Wire

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 14:46

The first witness to waive her right to anonymity has told the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry of allegations of beatings and sex abuse at the hands of senior girls and two priests at a care home in Derry.

Kate Walmsley, now in her late fifties, further alleged that a nun facilitated the abuse by one of the priests. She said when the girls at Nazareth House residential care home queued for confessions on a Saturday, this nun would ensure she was at the end of the line.

She alleged that the priest brought her into his side of the confessional and abused her.

The witness repeatedly broke down and was very distressed. At one point, inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart suspended proceedings for a time to allow Ms Walmsley to recover.

When she returned, the witness confirmed various allegations contained in a lengthy statement which has been submitted to the inquiry.

This included allegations of beatings carried out by senior girls at the institution and by nuns.

She told the inquiry how a nun had force-fed her during a meal time causing her to get sick. The nun, she alleged, then forced her to eat her own vomit. She said nuns told her she was carrying a mortal sin on her soul.

“I thought my mortal sin was the biggest mortal sin,” she told the inquiry. “I thought the devil would come and take us away.”

She told the inquiry’s junior counsel Joseph Aiken of sex abuse by her peers over a three-month period. She said some other girls touched her sexually and forced her to touch them. She said they also blackmailed her and threatened to tell a nun that it was all her fault if she did.

“I felt I could not report it to anyone at the time,” she said.

She told the inquiry of the horrors of having a bath after having been abused by a priest.

“If you could understand an 8-year-old who had just been sexually abused by a priest then put into a bath with Jeyes Fluid and it stinging my insides,” Ms Walmsley said.

“I had to sit in the bath and suffer the pain. It was worse than any labour pains I ever had. You had to take that and not scream because you would have been beaten.”