Survivors of sexual abuse at a Croydon children's home have spoken out about their nightmare and pledged to expose the alleged paedophile ring that "stole their childhood".

Former residents of Shirley Oaks children's home this week urged victims to come forward and help fight for justice as a public inquiry prepares to investigate claims of a cover-up.

Three paedophiles have previously been convicted of abusing children at the home in Wickham Road in the 1970s and 80s, but campaigners say more perpetrators have escaped prosecution so far.

Two people abused as children while living at the home this week bravely waived their legal right to anonymity to speak to the Croydon Guardian about their ordeals.

Sandra Fearon, now 63, and Leigh Gocan, 54, said they hoped their voices would prompt others to speak out about three decades of abuse spanning from the 1950s to the home's closure in 1983.

READ MORE: 'They stole our childhood': Abuse survivors speak out about 'hell' of Shirley Oaks children's home

Mrs Fearon described "carrying the suffering for life" after being repeatedly raped as a 12-year-old at the home.

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Shirley Oaks Children's Home comprised of 52 houses and a school across a 70-acre site

She said: "I witnessed horrific abuse every day. I used to go to sleep hearing children crying.

"We want the truth to come out - the absolute truth.

"There are a lot of people who have committed crime who haven't been found yet but I believe they will be found. We have got to think about the children of the future."

Mr Gocan, who described being molested and beaten at Shirley Oaks in the 1970s, said staff turned a blind eye to the abuse, which left him with permanent psychological scars.

He said: "No one ever listened to the kids. 

"Shirley Oaks killed me basically. You don't have no self-esteem.

"Opportunities were taken away from us. It stole our childhood. It sets you up in the wrong way."

 Mrs Fearon and Mr Gocan are among more than 400 people who have provided testimonies to the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA), a group formed by former residents to investigate abuse and press for justice.

Campaigners say they have identified at least 32 paedophiles who preyed on children at homes owned by Lambeth Council, which ran Shirley Oaks until it closed in 1983.

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Lambeth Council ran Shirley Oaks from 1956 until its closure in 1983

SOSA plans to submit a dossier of evidence to the Goddard Inquiry, established by the Government this year to carry out independent investigations into child sexual abuse, including Lambeth's "institutional failures to protect children" from exploitation.

Raymond Stevenson, a former resident and now music producer who is involved in the campaign, said: "We have spoken to a lot of people and the story we have is worse than a nightmare.

"For too long we have lived with the shame of being in a children's home, and then the shame of being physically abused, and then the shame of being mentally abused, and then the shame of being sexually abused."

Mr Stevenson, who was drugged and beaten while in care at Shirley Oaks between 1967 and 1978, added: "We can't hide any longer. If we don't resolve the issues now there is going to be another generation of people who are going to be abused."

MP Chuka Umunna, whose Streatham constituency encompasses Lambeth town hall, described the abuse as "nothing less than torture" and called for victims to receive "proper compensation" for the abuse.

He said: "At best a blind eye was turned to what was going on at Shirley Oaks. At worst, corporately there was wilful disregard for what was happening and complicity amongst officers and others at the council.

"All the testimony I have heard from survivors points to the very worst. It was hell. It was torture of young, defenceless children."

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Chuka Umunna said abuse at Shirley Oaks amounted to "torture"

Lambeth Council has apologised for "historic failings that let down so many young people" and said it supported the independent inquiry.

The inquiry's chair, Dame Lowell Goddard, announced 12 branches of the investigation into child sex abuse last month. 

One will examine "the extent of any institutional failures to protect children in the care of Lambeth Council from sexual abuse and exploitation".

It will consider testimonies from victims to establish whether the council, police and other public bodies failed to protect children in Lambeth's care.

Lambeth council leader Lib Peck welcomed the inquiry into "very serious, historic failings" between the 1960s and 1980s.

She added: "I know how important it is for the victims of these offences that the suffering they experienced is re-examined, and I have apologised on behalf of the council for the historic failings that let down so many young people.

"Lambeth have previously investigated the crimes committed at its children’s homes prior to their closure in 1983. 

"But in the light of new national concerns about how child abuse issues were investigated following revelations about the abhorrent behaviour of high profile individuals such as Jimmy Savile it is right that the very serious events of the past are being looked at again."


Song gives voice to survivors

A music industry mogul who was beaten at Shirley Oaks has released a song to shine a light on child abuse at the home.

"Don't Touch It. It's Mine", written by Raymond Stevenson and performed by pop trio EtherMia, is based on the moving testimonies of former residents, who also feature in the track's video.

Mr Stevenson, who mentored Jessie J after discovering her when she was 15, lived at Shirley Oaks between 1967 and 1978.

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A still from the song's video, which is intended to shine a light on child abuse

He hopes the song will raise awareness of the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association and lead to more victims coming forward.

He said: "The campaign video must be the catalyst for discovering the truth.

"We hope that it will inspire many people to come forward from Shirley Oaks and other south London children's homes.

"We hope it will be the flag-bearer for other abuse victims.

"The reason we used video as a medium is because it can't be tampered with or edited. This is our story. It features the voices of survivors."

The song was released last week. The song can be streamed on YouTube and be downloaded from iTunes

You can find contact details for Shirley Oaks Survivors Association on their website. If you can have affected by child abuse, you can call the NAPAC on 0808 801 0331. To a report a crime, call the police on 101.

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