Grandad raped by Lytham nun as a 12-year-old 'meets his child' more than 60 years later

A former care home youngster whose abuse by a Lytham nun only stopped when she got pregnant has met his long-lost daughter for the first time, according to reports.

Saturday, 5th May 2018, 3:28 pm
Updated Saturday, 5th May 2018, 3:31 pm

Edward Hayes, 74, spoke out about his ordeal last month, with the grandfather telling how depraved Sister Mary Conleth, real name Bessie Veronica Lawler, sexually abused him as a 12-year-old.

And in a remarkable turn, his child's family got in touch, with Edward meeting his 62-year-old daughter and her four children - Edward's grandkids - in London last weekend, The Express reported.

He told the national paper: "It was the day I dared never believe would happen. This is it now, now that we have found each other. My twilight years are going to be good ones."

His daughter, who did not want to be named, added: "It was a day of pure joy for me and my family. After 20 years of looking for my father, I have finally found him at the age of 62."

After the tale of Edward's abuse hit the headlines last month, his daughter's family recognised the nun's name - and realised what she had done.

Edward added: "Of course it is a massive blow for her family. They are struggling to come to terms with being told their mother was a rapist.

"I don't think they believe it, that she was capable of that."

When Lawler fell pregnant, Edward was moved to a hostel in Carlisle, Cumbria, and believed his abuser had been sent to Ireland.

She actually gave birth in Surrey, the paper said, before returning to Lytham in a bid to find Edward, before giving up hope and building a new life across the Irish Sea.

She died in 2002.

Edward's abuse began in the laundry room, with the nun choosing not to wear underwear so she could lift her habit and straddle him.

By the age of 14, he was granted the unheard of privilege of having his own room, so the abuse could continue.

Edward later fought for compensation and received a paltry £20,000.

But he spoke out, saying the amount is derisory and doesn't atone for what he went through.

He waived his right to anonymity to lift the lid on his abuse and encourage other victims to come forward.

He said: “I have been through hell for the majority of my life, trying to hide what happened to me.

“Nobody should go through that. Seeking retribution has been great solace for me.”

Edward was just 10-years-old, and known as Billy, when he was taken to the now closed John Reynolds Home in East Beach, Lytham, in 1951.

The establishment was run by a Catholic congregation of nuns, The Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph.

Having grown up poor and neglected, with vulnerable parents and suffering from malnutrition, arriving at the home was a blessing.

He said: “It was nice to be somewhere warm, where I was eating food and having hot baths. My first years there created some great memories for me.”

"I was a great student, I sang in the choir, I could read perfect Latin and playing football – even being touted by local football clubs.”

This changed when Irish nun Sister Conleth arrived three years later.

She worked in the laundry room and asked for Edward’s assistance.

The laundry was outside the home - which was actually three separate houses facing the sea, joined by a corridor at the back - and was set well back from the houses.

Edward was left on his own with Conleth, then 27, giving her carte blanche access to him daily.

He said: “I had barely started work in the laundry when it happened. I was still twelve. She’d pull my trousers down, push me to the floor and lay on top of me.

“She would pull her habit up and she had no pants on. She’d talk dirty to me - saying things like ‘time for a pop up now’ - that’s what she called it.

“I would not let her kiss me. I thought babies were made by men kissing women.”

By the time he was 14, Edward was even allocated his own room – something unheard of at the home.

The reason for the perk soon became apparent when Sister Conleth started paying him visits after lights out, all under the watchful eye of a Virgin Mary picture on the wall.

The abuse came to an end in April 1956 – after the nun declared she was pregnant.

Edward, who now lives in Cumbria, said: “At the time I didn’t even understand how I got her pregnant because I never kissed her. We were more naïve back then.”

The nun was away, while Edward was banished from the home after Christmas 1956.

He was then adopted by another family and began his chaotic adult life where he was an alcoholic by the time he was 21.

Edward got married and had two children but his marriage soon failed.

He went into the Army and served in the Royal Artillery, but left five years later in 1969 after developing an ulcer, as a result of his drinking, and was given a medical discharge.

Edward said: “I couldn’t ever settle, every single day I thought about the abuse, I started drinking to try to blot everything out.

“I never told anybody what happened to me, not even my wife.”

It was only in 1998 that Edward, who worked as a printer after leaving the Army, started another journey - this time a long and arduous road to justice.

He said: “I read an article about a Catholic Church abuse survivor and thought, ‘I’m going to speak out, I need to do something about this’.”

He first went to the police then a social worker and his local MP and, years later, was directed towards a Catholic care charity.

But it was when Edward was directed to survivor group MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) through a leaflet he picked up at the local library, his life started to change.

Through the group, in 2010, Edward met MACSAS volunteer Noel Chardon, also a survivor of Catholic Church abuse, who was on a mission to help others come to terms with their abuse after experiencing failings in care for himself.

Retired English teacher and trained psychologist Noel, 72, also offers his own telephone befriender service, similar to the Samaritans, and supports survivors in his own time.

He said: “Victims of the Catholic Church are treated absolutely appalling. I know that first hand.

“Edward was set up in a cul-de-sac by the Catholic care charity who dumped him there. They are waiting for people like Edward, like myself, to die so they can say this all happened such a long time ago and they’re so very sorry.”

The meetings Edward had with the Church’s charity and safeguarding would be held in dusty church halls, with terrible facilities in surroundings reminiscent of the horrors of his youth – with walls adorned with Catholic regalia.

One hall even had a statue of two nuns inside.

“None of this was sensitive to Edward’s needs,” said Noel. “This was abusing him all over again, this is victimisation and traumatising for victims.

“He is being re-abused at every twist of the turn. This is not safeguarding."

Noel helped rehome Edward in a better area, claim benefits and build bridges with his family. In 2012 Edward was told he would receive legal aid, so he could make the Church accountable in court.

A breakthrough came in 2016 when Edward was offered £20,000 with £10,000 to go towards legal fees.

Edward said: “I was pleased to bring them to account but it was pittance. I worked out they were giving me about 22p a day for my ordeal.

“I had to pay £10,000 to the solicitor and then I had costs of around £5,000 myself so I didn’t come out with much at all.

“But at least I made them acknowledge what they had done to me. And now, as I speak publicly, I think will be the most satisfying of all.

“I am still speaking to organisations in Ireland. I have gotten used to being determined.”

Speaking of Edward, Noel said: “Edward has shown sheer determination throughout, he is one of the most motivated people in the survivor community I have ever seen.

“But why hasn't the church done everything they can to look after a man who was abused in their care?

“They have the finances but with adults with a pastoral obligation of care, they are not prepared to spend so much as a penny.”

A spokesman from the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph said: “I am desperately sad abuse took place to Mr Hayes while he was placed under our care.

“The Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph have offered our sincere and unreserved apology for the abuse he suffered whilst resident at the John Reynolds Home and all the subsequent pain and trauma which followed the actual abuse.

“There is no place for abuse in the Church and along with every other agency caring for children and vulnerable adults we now have stringent safeguarding policies which aim to prevent any possible recurrence of what happened to Mr Hayes.”