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Witness saw baby being 'beaten by staff member' at Shirley Oaks

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A WOMAN who was at Shirley Oaks Children's Home in the early 1970s claims she witnessed a six-month-old baby being beaten by a member of staff.

More allegations of abuse at the Lambeth Council-run home emerged this week as a result of the Advertiser's ongoing investigation.

Joanne Davies, 51, from Sutton, was placed at the home in the early 1970s and spent a few years there.

She said although she never witnessed or heard of sexual abuse during her time, she recalled seeing an horrific incident during her stay.

"I was the eldest in my house," she said.

"We had a family of children staying because their mother had killed one of their siblings. But I remember seeing this six-month-old baby being beaten repeatedly by the man in charge of our house.

"I went and told someone and all that was done was the man was moved to another house which we used to walk past every day.

"I have no idea what must have gone on in there."

Abuse at Shirley Oaks was investigated between 1998 and 2003 as part of Operation Middleton which looked at sexual and physical abuse allegations at Lambeth care homes between 1975 and 1994.

Ms Davies supports the call of the other victims the Advertiser has spoken to reopen the investigation properly and said she was disappointed with Operation Middleton.

She also said the abuse was clearly widespread and felt the operation was too focused on specific allegation.

Ms Davies said: "I was mad. When Operation Middleton was going on I got in touch and said they shouldn't just be focused on what went on in the swimming pool – there were 34 different houses in the place, there was a lot more to look at.

"The woman took my contact details but never got back in touch. When I read the Advertiser last week, I was so shocked."

When she attempted to gain access to her file in 2000, Ms Davies was denied access until the Freedom of Information Act was passed in 2001 – although the file was said to contain limited information.

Alex Wheatle, whose account of the sexual abuse he suffered when at Shirley Oaks made national headlines, told the Advertiser this week he did not want to go "tit-for-tat" with Gerry Coll, 53, who co-authored a book on the history of Shirley Oaks and who disputes Mr Wheatle's claim that sexual abuse was rife within the home.

"For the last eight years, nothing has really happened. There are still a lot of questions which need answering," Mr Wheatle said.

"I have said what I have to say about this, I don't really want to talk about it much more."

The police investigation into the abuse at Lambeth's children's homes is still ongoing as Operation Trinity. Two men and a woman were arrested as part of the operation last year and are the most recent arrests.

One man has been charged but the offences do not relate to Shirley Oaks.

Anyone who wishes to report an allegation of past sexual abuse is urged to contact specially trained police officers on 020 7161 0500.

Witness saw baby being 'beaten by staff member' at Shirley Oaks


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