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I've turned mv life of hord knocks oround 'We're inr.estigating St Lconard's.' thc1, told me.

'\,\'hr'l It's e loscd.' l

suid.

'We've had complaints.' they explained. 'It scens lhere was a paedophile ring operating therc.' A chill wcnt through me - I'd been lucky to escapc with just beatings.

I gave a statement and,

'.r*.1 hufffin-s along the

r'..corridor.Itried

I

,. 'nr)'best not to be noticed.'ConnollcyI Wherc have -vou becn'l'velied my honsemaster. Mr Starling. 'Toilet, sir"'I licd. I'd becn hiding, tryirrg to figure out how to ,set Out of St Lconard's Homc tbr Boys. I'd bccn orphancd whcn rry nlum abandoned me at just two u,eeks old. and I'd spcnt the tirst cight years of lile in a home run by. nuns. sate and happy. St Leonarcl's. in

Hornchurch. Essex. though. rvas a dittircnt kcttle of fish. . Ml Starling bore down on me. 'Don't lie to me.' .

he sneered.

Suddenly. I l'elt a searing hot pain through my scalp and my t'eet were lifted ot} the ground.

'No... sir... please...' I

be-eged. but he wasn't Iistenin_q to me.

Dragging me by nty haiL up a fli-uht of stairs. he let

go. ancl

I fell back clown.

Laying at the bottom in agonv. his siradoq' loomed. 'That u,ill teach you to obey the rules.' he spat. That wasn't the first time I'd been thrown dorvn stairs. and it wouldn't be the last. As rvell as beatin-us. I was fbrced to strip naked and had lighted ciglreftes stubbecl ollt on me. But rt ivas the mental lbuse I cor.rldn't handle... 'You'r'e nothing. no one loves you.'Mr Starling would sneer. 'You're worthless. You'll be the nexl one in prison.' I believed him. too. Leaving St Leonard's at 18. unable to read or write. m1' lit'e llls coing rror.r hclc. In the late 80s. I heard that the place closed and. over the years. I heard snippets about other boys.

Prison... overdose... jumped in lront ol ir tririn.... Then. when I was 35. thele was a knock at my door. lt was the police.

a

couple ol months later, my houscnaster Bill Slarlin_s, norv 7.1. rrppearcd in court. He was sentence.l to 14 1,cars in priscn tbr sexr"rally abLrsing I I gills and boys. Suddenly. I rcaiised it was tirre I madc the most

ol'lil'e after nry luck1, escape at the honre.

I'd been boxin-e fbr ycars, so I decided to go into personal training. I r.vent back to college. too. and lcarned to rcad and write. Soon. I rva-r tcaching boxcrcrsc. and I cr.cn nradc a titness vicleo with niodel Elie Macphcrson! Just befbre nrv 40th birthday. I met Jo through work. We've been togethcr eight -vears and have tn'o lovely boys. Harley. six. and Archic, onc. With her support. I'vc written a book about nry

lile - A,qair.rt

A

ll

Odds.

Sometimes. it's hard to believe I'r,e come so f-ar'. i'm just glad I didn't let St Leon:rrd's rulc my lit'e. r-,/ l] i.i I t:,.. r.;3.,:- : r:: i -._: " /t t

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Paul Connolly Full House magazine June 2010