Grandfather, 74, breaks six decades of silence to reveal he was raped by Irish nun who fell pregnant with child he's never known
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Grandfather, 74, breaks six decades of silence to reveal he was raped by Irish nun who fell pregnant with child he's never known

A GRANDFATHER has told of how a depraved Irish nun raped him in a care home as a young boy before becoming pregnant with a child he has never met.

Edward Hayes, 74, was sexually abused by Irish nun Sister Mary Conleth, real name Bessie Veronica Lawler, as a vulnerable youngster in the 1950s.

The horrific crimes occurred while he was growing up at the John Reynolds Home in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, which was run by The Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph – a Catholic congregation of nuns.

He arrived at the home as a 10-year-old after being neglected by his parents. He initially viewed the move as a blessing, but it turned out to be a curse.

While the vile historical sex abuse of young boys by priests has been widely exposed, Mr Hayes believes his case could be the “tip of the iceberg” in revealing how nuns may also have abused children en-masse.

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He decided to speak out over the Easter weekend to encourage other victims to finally come forward after decades of torment, the Express reports.

Mr Hayes, who now lives in Carlisle, 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 was even playing football – being touted by the local football clubs.”

Edward, who was then known as Billy, began being abuse by Sister Mary Conleth in 1953 (Picture: Stock)

An initial bright beginning to Edward's life in care turned hellish after Sister Conleth arrived from Ireland in 1953.

Mr Hayes continued: “I had barely started work there when it happened. I was still 12. She’d pull my trousers down. She’d push me to the floor and would lay on top of me.

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“I hated doing it but she said she’d tell on me if I didn’t, that I’d been a bad boy and I’d be punished. She’d talk dirty to me. I would not let her kiss me. I thought babies were made by men kissing women.”

Mr Hayes' abuse started in the care home's laundry room, with Sister Conleth choosing not to wear underwear so she could lift her habit and straddle him.

By the age of 14, he was granted the rare privilege of having his own room, all so the young nun could continue his abuse in more comfortable surroundings during the night.

But in April 1956, the abuse came to a sudden end after the then 27-year-old Sister Conleth became pregnant with his child and was sent back to Ireland in disgrace.

“I didn’t even understand how I got her pregnant because I never kissed her. We were more naive back then."

Mr Hayes, now a father-of-two and a granddad, was expelled from the care home and sent to a hostel in Cumbria – all for the crime of being raped on a near-daily basis.

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While abuse by priests has been exposed in recent years, abuse by nuns largely hasn't (Image: Getty)

There, he was greeted by a man claiming to be his grandfather, who took him to another home. He never saw the man again.

Mr Hayes was later adopted and began a chaotic adult life as an alcoholic before joining the Army – but left after five years in 1969 because of his alcoholism.

He married and had two children but the family left him because he was unable to build “normal relationships”.

He has no idea what happened to the child he fathered with Sister Conleth and the nun is now dead.

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

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

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It was only in the late 1990s that Mr Hayes decided to confront his past, after reading about the abuse of young boys by Catholic preists.

But he struggled to find anyone to listen, having initially tried the police, a social worker, his local MP and, years later, the Catholic charity Caritas Care.

Pope Francis recently rejected calls to apologise for the clerical abuse of indigenous Canadians (Image: Getty)

It was only when he discovered the survivors' group MASCAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) through a leaflet at his local library in 2010 that his life began to change.

There he met Noel Chardon, a fellow survivor of Catholic Church abuse, who helped him come to terms with his past.

The retired history teacher and trained psychologist, 72, continues to offer support to his fellow victims.

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

“They have no interest in self-empowerment, they don’t want victims to heal because they do not want to face up to what they did.

“They sent Edward up a cul-de-sac and dumped him there. They are waiting for people like Edward, like myself, like the Magdalene women, to die so they can say that this all happened such a long time ago and that they’re so very sorry.”

With Noel’s help, Edward managed to get rehoused and over time, he has built bridges with his family and is now on good terms with his ex-wife, sons and grandchildren.

Edward said he only told his ex-wife about his abuse in 2016, and she said: “That explains a lot.”

In 2012, the granddad was granted legal aid so he could hold the Church accountable in court, but after becoming disillusioned with the efforts of his solicitor, both he and Noel took on the case themselves.

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Mr Hayes was recently awarded the paltry sum of £20,000 in compensation by the Church (Picture: Stock)

A breakthrough came two years ago when, with the help of a new lawyer, Edward was offered £20,000 in compensation – although most of the sum was subsequently spent on legal fees.

“I was pleased to bring them to account but it was a pittance. I worked out they were giving me about 22p a day for my ordeal. But at least I made them acknowledge what they had done to me," Edward said.

“But now, as I speak out publicly about what happened to me, I think it will be the most satisfying of all. I might not be able to win, but I can get even.

“I never thought I would hate people as much as I hate those in the Church for what they allowed to happen to me.

“They have acknowledged what happened but I don’t feel like I’ve ever had a proper apology from those in positions of power. I think they are terrified about what else might emerge.”

Mr Chardon added: “Edward has shown sheer determination throughout, he is one of the most motivated people in the survivor community I have ever seen.”

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A spokesman for the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph said they were "desperately sad" about the abuse Mr Hayes suffered while placed under their care.

They added: “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.”