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The Star: Tuesday March 31 1998, p29, Col 1. (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

Nuns' reign of terror unveiled

SYDNEY: Roman Catholic nuns committed some of the worst atrocities known in Australia in an orphanage they ran, according to an academic's report released yesterday.

For 90 years up to 1976, children who emerged from Neerkol in northern Queensland had to endure beatings, public floggings, sadistic torture, rape, and constant terror, Professor Bruce Grundy found.

The Order of the Sisters of Mercy Orphanage is now under official investigation by the Queensland state children's commissioner, Norm Alford, Who expects to release a preliminary report next month.

The Sisters of Mercy apologised this month for events in Neerkol, but a representative, Di-Anne Rowan, conceded yesterday that little had been done to ease the pain and suffering of residents.

They included 48 children who were part of a British government orphan migration programme now under investigation by a House of Commons Committee of Inquiry.

Former Neerkol resident Helen Carter, now in her Ms, told how the nuns once thrust a red hot poker down her back to exorcise the devil.

Prof Grundy's report said another survivor almost lost her legs which became infect- ed after a nun pulled out her troublesome ingrowing toenails with a pair of pliers while oth- er children were forced to hold her down.

Another child was severely scalded and permanently injured after her leg was thrust into a bucket of boiling water by a nun who thought the water the girl had been washing in was "not hot enough."

Boys and girls were routinely violated and sexually abused by priests or men who worked in the orphanage, Prof Grundy said. Some girls had miscarriages and the foetuses were flushed down the toilets.

To hide injuries from visitors, children were locked away in the "black hole," an underground cell without bedding, ventilation or light.

Prof Grundy, a former ABC journalist and foundation head of Queensland University's Department of Journalism, began his inquiries after police found no evidence to substantiate reports that stillborn babies and children who died of disease had been buried in unmarked graves in the Neerkol grounds.

"Madness, ruthless, and sadistic madness on the part of at least some of the nuns and a depthless depravity on the part of some of the men who inhabited the place are the defining characteristics of those who ran the orphanage," said Prof Grundy's report.

"There was, it seems, no obvious torment or torture some of the nuns were incapable of administering. There was no limit to the sexual deviance that could be engaged in with those who were unlucky enough to find themselves singled out as 'the chosen ones'."

Many boys it Australian orphanages and schools run by Catholic orders have won actions for damages over the last few years, but few allegations have surfaced concerning institutions run by nuns. - AFP

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