JOHN DUKE WAS NOT THE FIRST former Bryn Estyn resident to seek compensation from Clwyd County Council for abuse he had allegedly suffered.
On the 11th of December 1991, less than two weeks after the ‘Independent on Sunday’ article (and the day after the police had paid their first visit to Martin West in prison), a story appeared in the Wrexham Evening Leader under the headline,”Men Sue Over Abuse Claims.”
The story was one of at least four similar pieces which appeared in the local press around this time. One of the other stories featured a prominent photograph of Darren Laverty.
The story which appeared on 11th of December, however, was printed alongside a picture of Peter Wynne.
MEN SUE OVER ABUSE CLAIMS..
Two men who say they were abused as youngsters in children’s homes are suing Clwyd’s social services department. Mr Peter Wynne and Mr Darren Laverty, both 24, claim they were victims of physical abuse and ritual humiliation at the Bryn Estyn Home in Wrexham.
They decided to act after widespread media publicity of an alleged police cover-up of abuse at the home.
They have contacted Wrexham solicitor Gwilym Hughes, who has confirmed he will be representing them.
Mr Wynne of Gwenfro, Wrexham, was a resident at Bryn Estyn between 1979 and 1984.
He said he was suing the Social Services for alleged neglect, alleging a series of incidents involving physical abuse. He said, “I was put in the home to avoid that sort of thing, but I ended up being subjected to it by members of staff themselves.”
Mr Laverty, of Napier Square, Wrexham, says he was physically abused at both Bryn Estyn and another children’s home in Gwynedd.
Mr Wynne, a machine operator with Brake Engineering, on the Redwither Industrial Estate, Wrexham, said life for many residents at the home was
He alleges a catalogue of incidents, including;
‘Having his face rubbed in splintered glass as a punishment for breaking a chandelier.’
‘Having a tattoo transfer on his arm rubbed off with a matchbox.’
‘Being picked up by the throat.’
Mr Wynne, who now has four young daughters, said he is acting to prevent another Bryn Estyn.
He said, ‘I went through five years of hell and I don’t want anyone else to suffer the same thing.’
This story suggests that Peter Wynne and Darren Laverty were now co-operating and were both being represented by the same solicitor.
To those that knew them this must have come as a shock.
During the time that they were at Bryn Estyn, Laverty constantly bullied Wynne, verbally tormenting him because he had no family and because of his supposed sexual underdevelopment.
Laverty would call him names such as ‘orphan’, ‘homeless’ and ‘pubeless’.
When I met Darren Laverty in August 2004, and asked him about Peter Wynne, he immediately admitted that he and the other boys at Bryn Estyn used to bully him partly because it was easy to provoke Peter into a spectacular frenzy, which they found highly amusing.
‘Dinky Wynne,’ Laverty recalled, ‘was our Playstation.’
Because Wynne was one of the younger residents of the main school, and because he was effectively without any family to care for him, one member of staff, Liz Evans, took him under her wing.
She persuaded Matt Arnold to allow Wynne certain privileges to compensate for his emotional deprivation. In particular, he was allowed to keep a Budgerigar which became his beloved companion.
One day, however, he found that the cage had been opened and the bird was nowhere to be found.
It was a measure of the way that Wynne regarded Laverty, that he always believed that it was Laverty who had opened the cage to torment him with the loss of his only friend.
Laverty of course, now says that he does not remember Wynne’s Budgerigar.
However, he did recall another incident involving another bird at Bryn Estyn.
When he was about fourteen, he found a baby Jay which had fallen out of it’s nest. He took it back to his dormitory and fed it; ‘I loved that bird.’ But after a week or so, in his words, ‘it croaked on me.’
Laverty, as expected, recalls that he was heart-broken. He recovered his composure however, and summoned his gang: ‘come on lads, get down the fucking bank; my birds died and there’s going to be a funeral.’
He led them to the grassy bank in the grounds, and he had them gather in a circle around him. As some twenty boys stood with their hands together and, in some cases, presumably, their eyes shut.
Darren Laverty said the Lords Prayer: ‘Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom Come……’
‘That was my bird’ he recalled twenty years later, ‘it meant a lot to me.’
Laverty also recognised that he bullied Peter Wynne and others in a manner, which was completely ‘out of order,’ and seems to accept that, while they were at Bryn Estyn, Peter Wynne despised him.
When Laverty left Bryn Estyn in June 1983, he was transferred to Y Gwyngyll in Anglesey.
After 18 months, he went into lodgings and was finally discharged from care in 1985, aged 18.
Soon after that he was sent to a Detention Centre for three months. ‘When I came out, I went to live in Wrexham and met a girl who’s mother turned out to be a drug dealer. I went to prison for ten months for drug dealing and came out a reprobate – drinking, fighting and taking drugs.’
It was around this time that his relationship with Peter Wynne flared into violence. There are conflicting accounts as to why this happened, but it’s easy to work out why this happened.
Wherever the truth may lie, however, it would seem that Wynne resolved to turn the tables against the person who had humiliated, bullied and tormented him in the past.
The first Laverty knew about it, was when there was a knock at the door of his Wrexham flat. When he opened it he found Peter Wynne standing in front of him brandishing a twelve-inch bayonet.
Wynne said ‘Time for it, Laverty!’ and raised the bayonet upwards to stab him in the neck or face.
Laverty, who now claims that he believed that Wynne had come to murder him, managed to deflect the blow with the result that, although he sustained injuries to his face, he remained standing.
Laverty also alleges at this point, one of Wynne’s friends also advanced on him wielding a meat cleaver.
Laverty says he managed to get back inside the flat and barricaded himself in with a wardrobe.
He then called the police.
Peter Wynne was subsequently convicted for this attack and served a short prison sentence.
When Wynne came out of prison, Laverty met up with him again in circumstances and for reasons which have never been satisfactorily explained.
As the Bryn Estyn investigation gathered pace in the autumn of 1991 in the wake of Dean Nelson’s article, Wynne and Laverty appear to have forgotten their differences and were frequently seen together.
It was during this period that Peter Wynne’s portrayal of Bryn Estyn, underwent it’s dramatic change.
His original verdict on Bryn Estyn, that it was the best home that he had ever been in, and that he had enjoyed his time there, was communicated to the police on 12 September 1991.
By the time he gave his second statement, on 6 January 1992, the account he gave of the home had been utterly transformed.
He now gave a vivid description of an incident which he had not even been mentioned in his first statement.
This incident, in which, incidentally, Darren Laverty played a key role, involved a horrific punishment which Wynne said had been inflicted on him by David Birch.
‘On another occasion I was involved in an argument with one of the other lads called Darren Laverty. I remember we were in the dining room and Laverty called me names, and because he was a lot bigger than me I decided to hit him with a chair. I took hold of the chair and as I was swinging it over my head I hit a chandelier above my head and it shattered all three bulbs in it. The glass from the broken bulbs landed on the floor behind me and the next thing I remember was David Birch grabbing hold of the chair and he took it off me. When the chair had gone he still had hold of me and he told me to clean up the glass from the floor. I was in a temper so I refused to do it, saying that Laverty had started it so he should clean up the mess. Anyway he told me about four times to clean up the glass and I kept on refusing so he took hold of my legs and lifted them up in the air and held me face-down towards the floor. He then got me in such a position where he was holding both my arms and both my legs so that I could not move. He then pushed my head towards the floor until my face was right up against the broken glass with my legs pointing towards the ceiling. He pushed my face into the glass on the floor which caused me to receive about 10 small cuts on my forehead. Two of these were quite deep and the others were only scratches. When he was doing this I kept on struggling and he kept saying ‘Are you going to pick it up?’ I think he held me there for some five or ten minutes although I can’t be specific about the time. When he did let me go he just dropped me on the floor away from the glass, I got up, ran off in a craze and into the entrance to the dining room where, in a temper at what he had done to me, I smashed about six or eight small panes of glass in the sliding doors at the entrance to the dining rooms. I broke all these with my fists. I am not sure but I may have cut my hands doing this and I believe I had both my head cuts as well as the cuts on my hand treated by the Matron, Mrs Williams. When this incident occurred I believe that Darren Laverty was present and saw what happened but I don’t know if anyone else was.’
Although Wynne refers to a ‘chandelier’ it is clear from his reference to ‘three bulbs’ that what he had in mind was a simple light fitting. This aside, there are a number of features of the statement which raise questions. In the first place, it is barely credible that the incident that Wynne describes would, if the account is accurate, have been omitted from his initial statement. It is also curious that, at a time when both were making claims for compensation, Wynne should identify Laverty as the sole witness to what happened.
Laverty would later tell the police that he had indeed witnessed the incident which Wynne described.
More than five years later he repeated this claim in his evidence to the tribunal, and gave a vivid account of what had supposedly happened.
This account however, was never properly tested because the tribunal had failed to find the entry in the Bryn Estyn log book which referred to the incident.
As the tribunal report would later note, this entry was discovered only after the hearings had been completed.
The entry is dated 22 March 1984:
“[Peter Wynne] refused to wash his hands for Mr Birch at tea time. He was told he’d have his tea as soon as he did, but still refused. Peter said he didn’t want any tea and went out of D/Room. I found him later in the kitchen waiting for Cook to make him some toast. When he was told he couldn’t have any, he stormed back into the D/Room and smashed a light bulb, which he refused to sweep up.”
The failure of the tribunal team to locate this entry is difficult to understand, not least because the police had already discovered it during their 1992 investigation.
In August 1992 they checked with Wynne, who confirmed that he could only recall one incident that involved breaking a light bulb. They then interviewed the House Mother who wrote the entry. She said that she did not recall Birch having to restrain Peter Wynne on any occasion and added “I do not recall Peter having any injuries at all on that day.”
Judging by the statement they took from Wynne in August 1992, which discussed the date Laverty had left Bryn Estyn, the police had noticed a significant anomaly in the evidence before them.
For Darren Laverty had not been present in the dining room on the occasion recorded in the log book.
Indeed he had not been at Bryn Estyn at all….
He had left the home on 6 June 1983, a full nine months before the dining room incident took place.
From other statements taken shortly after Wynne had made his allegation, it would appear that there probably was a physical confrontation between him and Birch.
But the log book entry which records the incident makes no mention to any injury.
Given that the House Mother on duty, whose integrity and reliability have never been questioned, would have been the first to know about any significant cuts or bleeding, and that Wynne himself had not mentioned the incident at all in his first statement, it seems likely that the injuries which he claimed to have sustained were a product of his imagination.
One thing which is certain is that the relationship between Birch and Wynne was exceptionally good, that it remained so after the incident in the dining room, and, indeed, after Wynne left Bryn Estyn. Liz Evans had confirmed this: ‘Peter Wynne loved David Birch,’ she told me.
‘He used to look up to him like a dad.’
Wherever the truth about the incident may lie, there can be no doubt at all that the version of events that Wynne gave to the police, in January 1992 was simply untrue. Wynne’s claim that the incident had it’s origins in a clash between him and Laverty was clearly false. In this respect perhaps the most telling piece of evidence comes from another former resident, Christopher Hands.
While being cross-examined at the tribunal, Hands was referred to a statement he had made in August 1992 in which he had offered his version of events (which did suggest that Wynne had sustained some minor injuries). In this statement he had specifically said ‘I do not believe that Darren Laverty was there.’ Hands confirmed this: ‘I do say that and that’s true….. I thought he’d left.’
Hand’s evidence on this point removes all doubt about the status of the testimony given by Wynne and Laverty. All the evidence indicates that they had arrived jointly at this version of the incident which Wynne related to the police in January 1992.
Whether Laverty had by this time become so highly suggestible, and so prone to imagining incidences of abuse, that he quite genuinely believed he had witnessed this one seems possible. It was also the case though, that Wynne and Laverty were both using the same solicitor to make a claim for compensation.
The untrue story which which they both now told would make a successful outcome much more likely.
The fact that both Wynne and Laverty appeared to have a financial motive for making up stories, however, should not be taken to indicate that this was their only motivation.
Laverty in particular, appears to have been driven by the kind of zeal which is sometimes shown by those who have a disadvantaged, or, indeed criminal background. He frequently acted in the manner of a campaigner – or even as a born-again evangelist, convinced of the need to do battle with all that is evil.
If Darren Laverty had by this point, embarked upon a crusade, it would seem that he had succeeded in enlisting the services of Peter Wynne to help him. In her evidence to the tribunal, Liz Evans said that she had kept in touch with a number of former residents after Bryn Estyn had closed in 1984. While she was being cross-examined by David Knifton, the following exchange took place:
KNIFTON: Did you ever from your dealings with any of the boys obtain an understanding that any of them were collecting allegations, if you understand what I mean by that, going round other boys bringing forward further allegations?
EVANS: Yes… Liam Hempnall told me that a couple of boys had gone to his house to…… Encourage him to make allegations.
CHAIRMAN: This is a rather serious allegation. What did he say?
EVANS: He told me that a couple of boys had gone to his house.
CHAIRMAN: Did he name the boys?
EVANS: He did, yes.
CHAIRMAN: Who were they?
EVANS: Darren Laverty and Peter Wynne.
During this period Darren Laverty and Peter Wynne spent a great deal of time together and frequently talked to other former residents about their time at Bryn Estyn. In one particular case, which involved a former resident of Bryn Estyn, the part played by Darren Laverty would, as we will eventually see, have very serious consequences….
It is not clear to what extent the North Wales Police were aware that their evidence was being contaminated in this way. In relation to some allegations they continued to show a degree of scepticism. But their principal concern at this stage of their enquiry seems to have been less with investigating the complaints they were collecting, than with attempting to confirm them. The easiest route to such apparent confirmation was to go out and collect more allegations. This approach was a novel one. But they were now taking part in one of the most unusual operations in the history of British policing.
This operation would have a decisive influence on the methods adopted during the next decade by practically every police force in Britain….
The Secret of Bryn Estyn’ the making of a modern witch hunt – Richard Webster @2005