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Victim comes forward after sex abuse at Winton House boys' school in Winchester
HE is 61 now with a life that has lurched between abject misery and despair, much of it a blur as he tried to block out the horror of his past with addictions to alcohol and drugs.
Yet ask Jim what happened when he was nine and his memory seems as vivid as if it happened yesterday.
He can tell you the first time he was raped, by whom and where.
He can describe to you the dormitory where he went to sleep each night hoping he would not be woken, stripped and abused. He can describe the fear that he lived with for the five years that he claims he was systematically degraded at the hands of those should have been caring for him.
Moreover, he can tell you the names of those men and how he wants them to know how they completely and utterly devastated him and any hope he had of a normal life.
Jim is one of at least a dozen former residents of the home making these allegations of abuse. But the county council that ran the home has made no admissions and those accused, if they are still alive, have not yet had the chance to defend themselves in public.
Except in one case, a previous police investigation did not uncover sufficient evidence to prosecute.
Jim was sent to Winton House in Winchester in the 1960s after the justice system ran out of patience with him. It was hardly surprising, as he began stealing at the age of five.
The son of an alcoholic, it was left to him and his older brother to find ways to feed his family.
Unfortunately this involved taking meat from the local butcher and putting his skill at breaking and entering to frequent use.
Describing himself as a boy, Jim says: “I was a little hooligan. They just got fed up with me and I was sent to the home.”
After a brief spell at another institution where he claims he was first raped, he was transferred to Winton House.
He remembers the day in detail even down to the car journey to Winchester.
As an already established smoker, he was offered a cigarette by the member of staff who was driving him there.
Thinking it was a promising start he accepted but then he realised it was part of a deal as he was then told what he had to do in return for it.
That was the start of the abuse that he says was to continue for five years. Many of his stories are too horrific to print. Just talking about it, Jim was himself unable to finish the sentences he started, and you did not want him to.
He claims he remembers being woken up in the night and being made to run around the school hall completely naked with a group of other boys. To add to the humiliation they were whacked with a cane as they ran past the man who was supervising the ordeal.
On the face of it the boys, who numbered up to 100 at any one time, were given every opportunity to better themselves with a strict school regime and access to extra activities like Scouts, church and sports clubs.
Yet for Jim and the other boys they were simply different forums for the abuse to take place.
“It was when you were told you were staying behind for lessons that you knew you were in for it,” says Jim. “It was at times evil, just pure evil.”
And it was not just the sexual abuse. Jim claims it was an incident peeling potatoes that sparked the hiding of his life simply because, being lefthanded, he was unable to use the peeler.
It was a perceived oddity that he was repeatedly beaten for. “I remember being beaten with the cane so badly. They didn’t just hit you, they beat you with it until your skin ripped.”
Jim tried many times to escape. He recalls one occasion jumping with a friend from the top floor of the building, in bare feet onto the gravel below. “We just ran, we ran and ran, but they caught us and brought us back. They always did.”
According to Jim, not even having an older brother on his dormitory could stop the abuse that was so systemic the older boys who had themselves been victims, became the tormentors.
“Early on one boy said he would take care of me, but he didn’t,” says Jim simply.
Although allowed home for a day visit every month he never told anyone about the horror he was enduring. “I couldn’t tell my mum, or anyone. It made me feel dirty, completely dirty. I was scum, that is how I felt about it. The fear of what would happen if I or anyone did tell made sure we kept quiet.”
Eventually he was eligible to leave the school but, inevitably, was not long out of the system before he found himself once again locked up. It was while waiting at Winchester’s youth prison to turn 16 so he could be officially moved to borstal that he received a visit from a teacher at the school who warned him never to say anything of what happened to him.
“Even then they were threatening what would happen if I did tell. So I never did,” said Jim, now a father of five.
And that is the way it stayed. Jim never said a word. Through three failed marriages, suicide attempts and drug addiction. Not until he was 50 did he seek the help he needed and finally he began the counselling that was to help him get his life back on track.
He did then tell some of his family but they did not believe the scale of the abuse he was claiming, something that would often send him back into decline.
It was a complete jolt back to his childhood when he saw the Daily Echo report about how a group of his former schoolmates were now suing Hampshire County Council over the abuse they suffered.
“In some ways I feel relieved that it is out there now. I can tell those people, ‘look’ that’s what happened to me’.
“I don’t know if I feel anything towards those people now but I do want them to know what they did to me and what they are responsible for. No one should have to go through what we did.
We didn’t deserve any of that.”