MEDOMSLEY Detention Centre, near Consett, was supposed to help young people to rejoin society as well-balanced, law-abiding individuals. Instead, youths were physically and sexually abused. Gavin Engelbrecht reports.
WHEN John McCabe arrived at a new detention centre as a young tearaway teenager he was eager to get a job in the kitchens.
Faced with an unusually long six-month stretch in what was otherwise supposed to be a “short, sharp shock”, he thought it would make his time go quicker.
But, in an awful irony, his decision placed him in the clutches of the prolific sexual predator Neville Husband, who was an officer at the centre.
The 17-year-old faced daily abuse by the officer during his time at Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett Durham – and a life sentence of guilt and shame for something which was not his fault.
The father-of-three of East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, said: “I was told it was a tough detention centre, but it never bother me I had been in tougher places.
“When I first saw Husband he looked a cheerful man – laughing and joking with everyone.
“On my first day in the kitchen I was rolling dough when he told me I wasn’t doing it right and came up behind me and grabbed my hands with the rolling pin and pressed himself right up against me.
“I got the fright of my life and jumped back . . .and he did. He never said anything and just walked away.”
Mr McCabe said Husband later held a knife to his throat and said "you’ll never refuse me again”. The following day he says he was raped. Afterwards, Husband handed him a bag of cakes.
The terrified youth says Husband used intimidation to make him keep quiet: “I did not believe I would get out of Medomsley alive. He once told me “I could kill you and put you in one of these boxes and bury you and nobody would know”.”
The abuse continued almost daily, both in the centre and off the premises – once by another man, who has not been brought to justice, said Mr McCabe.
Today he cannot understand why other staff did not have suspicions or raise concerns. "They wouldn’t allow searches of the kitchen which was being used by Husband to distribute contraband alcohol and cigarettes.
“And within weeks of arriving at the centre I was upgraded to a red tie, which classed me as a trusted trainee.
“It was which was strange because it was on my record that I was an escapee and had done a runner, but, for some unknown reason, that was overlooked.”
In the depths of depression, Mr McCabe stopped writing to his mother.
He said: “When Husband took me to the priest I feared I was going to get abused by him as well.
“But I was wrong. The priest just wanted to see me because my mother had called and she was concerned I was not writing.
“After that Husband would call me to his office and sit there while I wrote her a letters. He would read every one before posting them.”
Mr McCabe received two months remission. The abuse he suffered had terrible repercussions when he got out. "I felt guilty," he explained. "I would attack groups of four people just to prove I was a guy.
“I got myself into so much trouble with police and authority and was involved in prison riots.
“One thing I was never going to do was go to the police about the abuse, because I didn’t think they would believe me."
In 2003, Husband was sentenced to ten years in jail for raping several teenagers and after his release died of natural causes at his home in nearby Shotley Bridge in 2010.
Mr McCabe happened on his tormentor again by chance while carrying out online research for work in 2009.
He said: “The adverts were rolling when all of a sudden I saw Husband’s face pop up. I slammed the laptop closed and almost fell off my chair. My heart was going like anything.
“When I later typed his name I couldn’t believe what came up (about his convictions) or that nobody had contacted me, when I had lived that shame and guilt all those years.
“I was going to leave it there, but my conscience got to me about other guy who has not been charged.
“I thought what would happen if I saw a year later he was being prosecuted for more abuse and so contacted the police.”
He added: “Detective Sergeant Wayne Barrigan of Durham Police came to speak to me he was really nice. He calmed me and helped me through the interview.
“He asked what counselling I was getting I said none and I didn’t think any other victims were. What happened after the interview was the pinnacle for Durham Police. He arranged off his own back for me to see a psychiatrist.”
Months after reporting the matter, Mr McCabe mustered up the courage to tell his wife about the abuse for the first time.
He said: “It was really difficult, but when I told her she turned around and said “I knew something had happened”. She just didn’t know what it was.”
Mr McCabe praised Durham Police for the network of support ithad put in place for the latest victims to come forward.
He said: “Everything they are doing is victims focussed. They have done so much for the other victims and it means a lot me. That comes even above prosecutions.”
“When you look at the network of help they have put in place it is totally unbelievable.”
Mr McCabe said he had stopped seeing a psychiatrist and would only go back once the investigation was complete.
He said: “I support Durham Constabulary 100 per cent, whatever the outcome When it is over will go see psychiatrist – not until then. Only then will I hopefully get some closure.”
Anyone with information can call the police on 101, visit a page set up on durham.police.uk or call The Meadows on 0191-301-8554, or in crisis contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808-800-5000.