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Living with the legacy of care - Angus Stickler. Today programme

7th Apr 2009 | in Kendall House Child Abuse News

The physical, sexual and emotional abuse in children’s homes through the 1970s and 1980s is well documented.

But it is possible that hundreds of women, who were in care homes across the UK in that period, have handed down a more devastating legacy to their own children.

A group of former residents of a children’s home, run by the Church of England, in Kent have revealed that the girls were given massive doses of tranquilisers.
Now those girls have gone on to have children of their own; children who were born with a range of birth defects.

Teresa Cooper was one of those girls. She arrived at Kendall House in Kent at the age of 14. Over the 32 months she was there, she was given medication at least 1,248 times - cocktails of 11 different drugs.

She says of her arrival: “I didn’t want to go in. I knew something was wrong. There was bars on the window.

“The first thing that they did in the morning when we woke up is that, we went downstairs and they made me line up for tablets.

“Nobody told me what they were, what they were for - they just told me that it was for my own good. I remember, one of the girls, the first thing she said to me is that I had better take the tablets and not argue it.”

Teresa also recounts being held down by up to six members of staff in order to be sedated.

But she had no mental illness - her “problems” were according to reports “caused wholly by very difficult home circumstances”. Rather than being placed in a recommended boarding school, she was placed at Kendall House.

Chemical cosh

The Home Office consultant psychiatrist in charge, Dr Perinpanyagam, has said in the past that the drugs used by the staff at the home were safe and did not have side effects.

Dr Perinpanyagam has since died.

However, evidence shows the girls were, for years, given drugs which had been strongly criticised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Teresa, for instance, was given major tranquillisers: Haloperidol, Droleptan and Depixol. She was also given valium, diazepam up to 10 times the current recommended dose and Sparine, another major tranquilliser.

Jeffrey Aronson, professor of clinical pharmacology at Oxford University, says he has not seen a situation to compare and that the amounts and types of drugs given to Teresa were “unacceptable”.

“That would act as what people used to call a chemical cosh if you like - a cosh - something that knocks you out…this girl is being given large amounts of drugs that act on the brain in many different ways. “Even in the 1980s, for a 14-year-old girl, with no history of psychiatric illness whatsoever, who is in a home for social reasons, to be given large doses of many different psychoactive drugs in this way is very, very unusual.”

Teresa says the effect on her was devastating. “Every single day I wanted to die and because I couldn’t die I’d cut myself up,” she says.
“I’d break pens, I’d break anything that could cut, anything, if I could pull a nail out of the bed or do something - I’d use that - I’d slice myself up.
“Because I didn’t feel the pain really - you don’t feel the pain - you’re so drugged you don’t feel it. You just know that when you’re doing it there’s some sort of relief - because you can physically see that you’re bleeding and that’s your pain coming out.”

Birth defects

Teresa left Kendal House in 1984 at the age of 16 - and went on to have a family

New evidence suggests that the drugs the girls were given may have caused genetic damage, which was passed on to their children in the form of birth defects. Teresa has had three children: her eldest son was born with respiratory problems, her second born blind with learning difficulties.
Her third, Sarah, is now 16, and has been in and out of hospital all her life. She was born with a small jaw, known as Pierre Robin Syndrome, and a cleft palate.

Teresa says: “I had literally just given birth [to Sarah] and all of a sudden all these doctors appeared from nowhere - and nobody would talk to me.
“You know, they were all just rushing around my baby - which was fine - I didn’t hear her cry - I actually thought she was dead at first and they took her off and took her to intensive care.”

The trauma of her childhood has affected Teresa. “I tried to commit suicide and I put myself in intensive care and my daughter went to the hospital with me. She watched them try and resuscitate me and I hated myself for it…because I saw what it done to her.”

Teresa decided to track down other girls from Kendall House to see if they were having similar problems.

She found that 10 of the girls had gone on to have children with birth defects. Those girls were all given drugs. Two girls she contacted who were not drugged had children without birth defects. “I noticed that they started having birth defects such as brain tumours - hydrocephalus, learning difficulties - and it wasn’t with one or two girls - it’s like four, five six and the numbers start going up.

“We were young girls - we were going through puberty as well - and I do believe those drugs did something and they affected us.
“If it’s happening to us there could be others out there it’s happening to. We don’t know whether it’s because we were so severely overdosed or whether it is just a normal problem if you give that to a teenage girl for example.”

Prof Aronson looked at the range and number of drugs Teresa was given and said that there is evidence that the drugs could have caused birth defects in her children. “Changes in genes and chromosomes induced by drugs may lead to birth defects or abnormalities later in life,” he says.
“But the fact that there were 10 of them affected in this is quite suggestive.”

The Church of England has issued a statement which said that it could not comment on individual circumstances.
“However, if the police, social services or appropriate legal body initiates an investigation, the Diocese [of Rochester] will cooperate fully with them,” the statement says.

“It would be inappropriate for the Diocese to initiate any internal enquiries since we are not qualified to do this. In any event, it would be essential for any investigation to be conducted both professionally and impartially.”

In all, the BBC investigation identified six other children’s homes using drugs. Tracking them down is more difficult - the records simply do not exist.
Mike Lindsay, chief adviser at the office of the Children’s Rights Director based in Ofsted, is currently on secondment as national co-ordinator for the Children’s Rights Alliance, England. He worked in an assessment centre in south London in the early 1980s.
He confirms that there could be hundreds of children in care whose behaviour was controlled with the use of drugs.

“Using drugs to control the behaviour of children was perfectly acceptable as far as their own professional understanding at that time went,” he says.
“I think there was a lot of it going on.”


  • On 7th Apr 2009 at 08:25 PM Tracy said...

    It’s time this came to light and the people who were involved including Mrs V Tapping and patricia peasley amongst other staff and social services who were there and saw and helped abuse these girls should be made to stand up and say why they didn’t do or say anything about what was going on, it was obvious that the pindown regime and drugging of the girls was not normal and anyone with a heart who saw these girls suffer would have said something but i guess it was a place where the staff were stone hearted and spawn of the devil himself, BRING THESE PEOPLE AND PUT THEM UNDER INVESTIGATION AND GET THESE GIRLS JUSTICE FOR WHAT THEY HAD TO ENDURE YEAR AFTER YEAR. A PUBLIC INQUIREY IS CALLED FOR HERE AND THE SOONER THE BETTER.

  • On 7th Apr 2009 at 09:18 PM Kelly said...

    There should be a public inquiry my mum had me when she was at Kendall house and from what I can gather she must of been there from a yr and a half up until 2 yrs.I was there a couple of weeks with her then went home to my grandparents who took over my care a few weeks later.
    My mum went to Kendall house with problems she had been abused she kept running away because she never had help with her problems.
    My mum sadly passed away 3years ago she had problems with alchol she drank to clear her demons and I do believe Kendall house had a hand in her demons she never mentioned that place it was only when she died I found her diarys and she mentioned it there.
    My mum died aged 43 she had 4 children sadly my brother died of a cot death aged 10 weeks.
    She left 3 children behind who she dearly loved and who loved her back justice needs to be done I cannot believe there was so much evil in one place I pray justice is done to get rid of the demons that I have been left with .So let’s please have a public enquiry!

  • On 7th Apr 2009 at 10:23 PM Amanda said...

    Hi Teresa,
    I have just watch the programme and want to add my support for an investigation. I was appalled, although not surprised, at the Rochester Diocese response - and this been Easter week as well. Why is it the Church are so negligent at taking responsibility for their abuses?  The Church just took the money (no doubt charging the local authories for the placements) and did not concern themselves about how the children in their care were imprisoned. The children who were supposed to be looked after were drugged, bullied and then virtually ‘abandoned’ by the placing Social Services. I also think it is significant that it is young women who are being controlled by drugs use, same old chestnut.

  • On 23rd Aug 2009 at 02:37 PM katy said...

    Does anyone know of any new investigations are under way in to abuse at Bourne Place Childrens Home Kent?

  • On 5th Dec 2009 at 06:31 PM gary hanrahan said...

    i was a pupil at bourne place between 93-96, i wasnt aware of investigations going on nightmares best forgot. but now im intrested. i remember mr hunt deffo peodo, i got loads to tell about that man.

  • On 6th Dec 2009 at 07:59 PM Susan Richards said...

    i have just finished reading trust no one, i had already read the article which was featured in ‘take a break’magazine and looked out for the book.i had bought and read ‘pin down’sometime ago and didnt realise that both books were written by Teresa Cooper.i feel so disturbed by both of the books.i had lent pindown to a friend who didnt return the book so didnt realise both books were by the same author.
    i have worked in mental health since 1985 and been nursed myself after having a breakdown in 2004 in a mental health ward, but it is so disturbing to read this sort of thing one can believe it could go on, but sadly it does. it makes me wonder if some patients who i looked after in th 80s really needed sedating, secluding,given ECT or was it the effects of bad nursing care,bad medical intervention and treatment.its so scary.

  • On 24th Jan 2010 at 04:09 PM Katy said...

    re gary hanrahan post soz for slow reply there is a facebook group on bourne place that i set up feel free to join there was investigations in to abuse in the 1998 up to 2001 mr davis was head teacher then I suffered neglect while there and my parents sued then shortly after it closed down

  • On 30th Sep 2010 at 06:41 AM Elizabeth Crowe said...

    I lived at the same home as Theresa, and want to make a comment the staff Patricia she is talking about.She only worked there for around a year or just over because of her I changed my life round at the time I was sleeping around taking illicit drugs and I was not the only one,she never condem us but would say girls you must try and turn your lives round,we use to laugh at her you also joined in she was never unkind to us.One xmas we were the only two girls left at the home ,she asxed us if we woud like to spend xmas day with her,she collected us took us to her home made us laugh with her singing she just coud not sing,she also advised us that if we were unhappy at kendall house we should tell our social worker we were silly enough at the time we informed miss law when Patricia took us back .Miss law did not look very happy with what Patricia told us to do
    Patricia left s short while after that;Because of Patricias advised I spoke to my mother who really did not want me around but got me into a foster home I went to college turned my life round and because of my past changed my name .None of this woud have happened if I did not take Patricias advise. The most important thing we were violent to the staff the only thing Patricia use to say you would not hit a coward girls would you.



  • On 11th Oct 2010 at 06:53 PM Angie said...

    Maybe you were one of Patricia’s favourites, as I was there at the same time as Teresa was and I remember Pat well, she was very bitchy towards some of us girls, she was one of the staff that did give injections and on many occasions threaten me with a syringe filled with water just so I would just sit down and do as I was told. The word “control” comes to mind….She never had any good advice for me except when she was shouting at me to keep still while she injected drugs into my leg or bottom so she wouldn’t inject in the wrong place…ohhh I remember her well.

  • On 19th Feb 2011 at 02:50 PM Esther said...

    I was also there the same time as Teresa & Angie (if it’s the Angela I remember - you’re best friend was Caroline B?). I think that a lot of the staff were two-faced and spoke with a fork tongue, so there were times when it SEEMED as though they were on your side and helpful and other times it’s clear they were not.  Thankfully, I escaped the ‘chemical cosh’ but you would have had to been blind, deaf and dumb to not know it was going on.  Unfortunately, I did not escape all the horrors that went on at KH, but through faith in Jesus Christ, I have been healed from the past and it no longer haunts me.

  • On 13th Mar 2011 at 07:06 PM Teresa said...

    Hi Esther

    How are you? Yes it is the same Angela grin

    I agree on the staff and they would pretend to be our friend JUST to get info out of us on other girls or to use it against us. The staff were always playing one off against another and I remember Pat doing that to us once which caused a major situation and I will never forget it because she 100% lied xxx the staff liked to play us all off against each other and if only you could see my KH files just to see how manipulative they were to the girls many of who are mentioned in my files. The things the staff wrote about me and girls in my files is beyond shocking and I am disturbed that Kent police sat drinking cups of tea with some of them and being fed the same lies by those staff members who always somehow looked innocent and yet I can honestly say most of them were so manipulative and abusive they should be put in prison. The scale of the abuse went back to the 70’s with social workers writing in girls files what they themselves witnessed and it was so bad yet none of them tried to stop it. They just observed the abuse, documented it and left it at that. There were the odd staff members who were so shocked at what was happening they went to MIND and reported it to them because the government, social services and others blatantly ignored them. MIND took it upon themselves to take it further and that was in the late 70’s. Every social services knew exactly what was going on and girls died as a direct result of the abuse at KH.

    I am not sure if your aware but Caroline was sent to a MH hospital for adults by Mrs T and wandsworth (same SS I was in care with) and she threw herself under a train at tooting beck and died aged just turned 18 and she blamed KH until she died. She suffered the chemical cosh at KH in a bad way and the reason she was at KH was because she was raped on her way home from school and got depressed apparently. The fate of many of the girls is unknown as most were sent to MH adult wards or prisons never to be seen again.

    Mrs T showed no remorse. She laughed about it to me and my daughter and she admitted to the police, me, my daughter and the BBC that she knew what was going on was wrong and she was involved a lot more than girls realised.I can prove that. There are some things that are hard to forgive and when our children have all suffered the consequences of the drug abuse forced on us as children it makes it even harder to forgive.

    I honestly believe God kept me alive for a reason because I should not of lived those doses and I believe he done it for a reason.

  • On 15th Mar 2011 at 05:05 PM Angie said...

    Hi Esther, Yes I am the same Angela and was best friends with Caroline B, who is no longer with us and who I miss dearly and she is no longer here because of the way she was treated by Wandsworth SS and the abuse she suffered at KH.

  • On 26th Jun 2011 at 10:26 PM Esther said...

    Hey Teresa & Angie - wow, it is amazing to hear from you both.  Angie, how can I ever forget your laugh?  Teresa - have any of the other girls from our era been in contact.  Incidentally, do you know what KH is used for now?
    Hope you are well. Esther

  • On 12th Oct 2011 at 07:15 PM Teresa said...

    Hi Esther

    Sorry for the long delay in replying

    Yes a few girls have come forward and with similar problems re their children and most of us are now ill sadly.

    Angela does have an infectious laugh and she still has it lol grin

    Its great to hear from you too Esther. How is life treating you?

    KH is now for homeless people

    Hugs and love xxxx

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