A woman beaten and abused by nuns at an orphanage in Aberdeen has broken her silence as she sues the Catholic order for £750,000.
Annemarie McGuigan has now spoken publicly of her ordeal for the first time.
Ms McGuigan, from Renfrewshire, was taken to Nazareth House in Aberdeen with her sister and brother in 1969 when she was eight.
She was separated from her brother and became a target for Sister Alphonso, who was convicted of assaulting children in 2000.
Ms McGuigan spent five years at the orphanage where she was beaten with a wooden stick, locked in cupboards for hours, force-fed stovies and, when she was sick, forced to eat her vomit.
She said: “They knew I hated that food and couldn’t eat it – it’s like they enjoyed my suffering. At the end of the third day when I still couldn’t eat the stovies my arms and legs were pinned down by two members of staff and forkfuls of it were shovelled into my mouth.
“It made me sick and everything that came up landed on the plate because of the way I was held. Then more forkfuls were shoved in and it only stopped after I ate everything – even the vomit.”
Ms McGuigan was also locked in a cupboard for 12 hours because nuns said she didn’t polish shoes properly and only escaped because her sister passed by and heard her cries for help. On another occasion she was forced to stand on a table all night with a bar of soap in her mouth for saying the word “bloody”.
She was beaten with fists and with a wooden stick for not being dressed properly for school lessons and when she refused to kiss the forehead of a dead nun before a funeral.
Ms McGuigan said: “It was horrific. We were small and had little experience of the world but we all knew this wasn’t right. But what could we do?
“These were nuns – the very people the entire world believed would care for us. Yet we were tortured, ridiculed and isolated – and it was all by nuns. Smiling, evil nuns. They ruined my life and the lives of so many others.”
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry heard evidence from survivors of physical and sexual abuse suffered at institutions run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
A report released last year by the inquiry concluded that children had to endure miserable and fearful lives while in the care of the order.
In 2000 Ms McGuigan gave evidence in court against Sister Alphonso, whose real name is Marie Docherty. She also provided anonymous testimony to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry last year.
Ms McGuigan is seeking £750,000 in damages because she is still traumatised and has been unable to work. She has battled depression and suicide attempts, and is too scared to go outside.
She has lost contact with her sister and has little contact with her brother. In the early 2000s she started a counselling qualification to help others who suffered like she did, but was forced to stop when the coursework prompted flashbacks to her own trauma.
She now stays at home with her two dogs, who are walked by a trusted friend, and she spends her days obsessively cleaning.
Ms McGuigan said: “We cannot let the Sisters of Nazareth simply say sorry to the abuse inquiry and walk away. They have to help victims repair their lives and they have to be seen to do it – otherwise none of us can ever truly get justice.
“It’s not enough to give evidence at the inquiry – they have a legal and moral duty to right the wrongs of the past, not try to hide them.”
Kim Leslie, specialist abuse lawyer at Digby Brown Solicitors, is leading a personal injury legal action for survivors of abuse at institutions run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
She said: “I cannot praise Annemarie enough for taking the selfless decision to share her story and inspire others.
“Even if dozens of people are subjected to the same abuse, the lifelong impacts can be entirely different because each survivor is different.
“My team is now raising multiple court actions to help survivors gain access to justice. The passage of time does not dilute the suffering of victims, nor does it dilute our resolve to redress the past.”
The Sisters of Nazareth said no one was available to comment.
Sister Alphonso was convicted of four charges of assaulting children, including Annemarie, at Aberdeen Sheriff Court in 2000.
Incidents at Nazareth House in Aberdeen included dragging and pulling a child by the ear, striking a child against a radiator, punching and slapping a child, striking a child with a hairbrush, knocking a child to the ground, and force-feeding.
Sister Alphonso was convicted and admonished.
She issued a statement last year which said: “I would like to state now that I acknowledge and accept the findings of the court and the convictions for the offences which I committed.”
Abuse inquiry to resume with probe into victims sent abroad
The next phase of Scotland’s harrowing inquiry into the abuse of children in care is to resume next month when the suffering of young Scots sent abroad will be examined.
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, led by Lady Smith, yesterday confirmed its fifth phase will restart next month as child migration programmes are put under the spotlight.
The probe into the abuse of children who were sent from Scotland to countries including Australia, New Zealand and Canada started before Christmas.
Evidence will be heard via video-link from witnesses unable to travel from overseas. The hearings will restart next month after the findings into allegations of mistreatment of vulnerable youngsters in the care of three charities is published on Tuesday.
Judge Lady Smith, who is leading the inquiry, heard harrowing evidence last year from survivors of abuse at homes run by Quarriers, Barnardo’s and the Aberlour Child Care Trust. More than 360 people have made complaints of physical and sexual abuse at homes run by the three voluntary organisations.
The inquiry’s findings will be released at midday on Tuesday after Lady Smith announced she had completed her case study of the three organisations.