Thursday, 4 April 2013

Malcolm Osric Phillips.

My own personal memories of Malcolm Phillips:

I shall lay these out over the next few days, call it a diary if you wish. Every event is burned into memory so deeply that the words are indelible anyways....

He was slightly above 6". I know that because my dad is 6" exact and Phillips always puffed himself up in front of men similar size, kind of the way a peacock does. There again, it was a habit my dad also favoured so the few times my dad returned me to Skircoat Lodge, I got a brief comedy sketch before the punishments kicked in for the absconding from whence I had just been returned.
He ws very athletic in his build. His hair belied very little of his true age in the first few months of my time in Skircoat Lodge, although that changed quite rapidly as time progressed.
Phillips Needed to be in control. If something wasn't quite right for him, we all suffered, staff and kids alike. About the only person he doted on was his 8 yer old daughter Emma.

I remember my first night in Skircoat Lodge....my first night in Care.....

I'd been shown into the 6-bedroom. That literally meant....6 beds, 6 girls.....
I was horrified....I was raised as an only child!! The idea of having other people in my room, able to touch my stuff!!! 
I stalled for about an hour. If staff came to check on me, I pretended to be unpacking, or prowling the room, getting my bearings..... all the time staring out of the windows, checking the height from the hill at the back of the girls wing, making sure I could spot my exit route before the sun set.
Satisfied I could find my way into town, I threw myself down on what can only be described as THE most uncomfortable bed EVER and to add insult to what has probably contributed to soooo many aches each morning - injury, the matress was covered in plastic. I stood up to go find somebody to complain at and demand a proper matress, not a kiddy bed....and Miss Brunning appeared in the doorway. Told me I'd better get my things unpacked and put away and get my arse downstairs for supper.  NOW!!!

Five minutes later, supper turned out to be a half cup of  tea (to which I am highly allergic) and 2 Rich Tea biscuits with half a digestive.

Several of the girls took earliest opportunities to have quiet words with me, either in groups or singular. 
"Watch out for Phillips, 'specially at night. If you're in the 6-bedroom, watch that back door.."

Panic stricken, I wracked my brain for every euphemism I had ever heard at the Lurcher Club, the Canoe Club and Grammar School (all rather "spirited" establishments in their own, unique ways)....and the only back door I could bring to mind sounded rather painful to say the least and more to the point wtf would a grown man want a girls "back door"!!!!!

I made a hasty exit to the bedroom to ponder my current predicament.

Upon walking into the bedroom, I felt some relief, as I was staring straight ahead at a door set just into an almost invisible alcove in the far wall.
I walked over to it and gently tested it. Locked. 
As girls started to drift in for bed, I found out the door led to the stores for the Camping trips. It was where they kept all the waterproofs and tents, rucksacks and water bottles for some of Phillips' "famous" 3-peaks walks that we faced on a regular basis.
Even at 14 yr old, I found it heart breaking to see a 7 yr old boy, completely exhausted to the point of collapse, being kicked like a rabid dog and told "Get up you lazy little shit, there's only one more peak to go."

Accessible from both up and downstairs, it quickly transpired that Phillips was in the habit of using the Stores stairway as a hidden route to his second flat within the property. It allowed access to his flat based within the girls wing of the home.
His main family flat being based within the boys wing, where Emma (his daughter, then 8) and Mrs P would spend the occasional night. 
The rest of the time, they were at his main residence, a 15 minute drive away.

Within an hour I had been filled in completely as to the night-time activities of "Mr P" as he preferred to be called.
Disgusted came nowhere near.
Despite having been warned by my mum exactly what to expect from Staff in Care, I had not expected to be confronted with the possibility of sexual abuse on night One fgs!!

As "Light's out!" was called, one of the night staff appeared in the doorway and demanded every scrap of clothing I owned, as it was all to be washed or destroyed, accordingly.

As I opened my wardrobe and drawers, I noticed several items missing, but said nothing. I could deal with that afterwards. Right here, right now, my hastily still-being-formed escape plans were being destroyed by an unexpected force.
As I dawdled and tried every delaying tactic I could think of, I was suddenly rounded upon by two rather burly women who proceeded to empty all drawers and my cupboard of every item of clothing and march off with it.

I sank to the floor and burst into tears.

Ten minutes later, the "Original Big Hairy Bikers" had gone again, and a small pile of my belongings appeared at my feet. Clean jeans, clean T-shirt, jumper, trainers and most importantly, my waterproof jacket that still stank ever so slightly of the River Aire. Rats pee is a smell you can NEVER get out of something, no matter how diluted it is. After around 6 years throwing myself down extreme rivers in a little bit of glassfibre, my rat-pee steeped, waterproof jacket was about as safe a place as I could imagine at that point. I quickly dressed and was at the back window within 2 minutes.

To choruses of "You'll break your neck. See ya tomorrow. See ya in an hour. When ya get lifted, remember to tell the coppers to go f...."

My feet hit the ground and i auto tucked and rolled down the gentle slope of the grass banking behind the home, raised to a half crouch, scurried to the end of the building, hit the treeline and was gone.

November 2001
Lives ruined by legacy of secret abuse

Malcolm Osric Phillips (68)
Phillips arrived in Calderdale from Birmingham in 1976.
He had been housemaster for four years at an establishment for boys aged 12-17.
He qualified on a training course for social workers and took up the post of principal at Skircoat Lodge in 1976.
He remained there until 1994.
He was dismissed by Calderdale Council in 1996.

In 1990, his ex wife Anne moved out of the matrimonial home, with their daughter, Emma and took up a post at Close Lea Children's Home in Rastrick, Brighouse.
She quickly began a relationship with the Head of the establishment and openly refused to acknowledge any conversation containing even the mere mention of her estranged spouse.
It is unknown as to whether or not Anne Phillips participated in the legal proceedings in any way.

Andrew James Shalders (54)
Shalders arrived in Calderdale in 1976 and took up the post of care worker at Skircoat Lodge.
18 months later he was appointed senior residential social worker.
In 1985 he was suspended after allegations were made by a number of boys but was reinstated a month later.
In 1988 he moved from Children s Services to Adult Services and worked with people with learning difficulties.
He was arrested in December 1997 and suspended by Calderdale Council.

THE reign of Malcolm Phillips and Andrew Shalders at Skircoat Lodge ruined lives and created damaged children who grew into scarred adults.
In the witness box at Bradford Crown Court, their victims told of broken relationships, mental illnesses, criminal convictions and nightmares dominated by their abusers.
But they kept their abuse secret for years.
When Calderdale Social Services officials decided to investigate their children’s homes they hoped to clear the air of long-standing suspicions. They can hardly have imagined the sort of monsters they would uncover.
With police, they found a nightmarish world where frightened children could be humiliated and raped, shipped off to secure units at a moment’s notice or kept as sex toys for months while they begged to be sent to foster families.

The investigation began as a general inquiry into all Calderdale’s children’s homes, but soon became closely focused on Skircoat Lodge, Halifax, which opened in 1976 with Malcolm Phillips in charge to assess vulnerable children.
But once in charge Phillips, who previously worked at a Birmingham boy’s home, established a “climate of fear” in which he could do as he liked for 18 years.
Described as powerful, domineering and charismatic, he alternated affection with explosions of anger that terrified children and staff.
As well as using his position to assault girls, police were also told he sexually harassed female staff and on one occasion went to a woman’s room at night to make unwanted advances.

Meanwhile, social worker Andrew Shalders took advantage of the situation to abuse the boys. Described as laid back and even weak compared with Phillips, he could be sadistic and vicious in private.He particularly targeted bedwetters, as he could wake them in the night when no one else was around, but sometimes buggered boys on the spur of the moment.
One boy was told he would be sent to another children’s home, where his brothers were living, if he complied. Shalders then threatened to renege on the deal whenever the boy tried to refuse. He was never reunited with his brothers.

The abuse scandal was not the first to hit Calderdale social services.


In 1982, assistant social services director Rod Ryall (pic below) – who worked near Phillips in the same Birmingham authority in the 1970s – was given a warning after photographing two boys in running kit at his home. Six years later, Ryall, by then promoted to director, was convicted of abusing two boys over four years.

In 2010 - A former County Durham school house master has been cleared of sexual abuse charges after a judge concluded police handling the case acted improperly.

In 1988, at Leeds Crown Court, Roderick Ryall admitted four offences of indecent assault, two of gross indecency and a serious sexual assault charge.


Rod Ryall, 68, of Wheatley Drive, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, had denied 10 counts of indecent assault on three children in the 1960s and 1970s


Meanwhile, warning signs went unheeded.


In 1985, Shalders was suspended after a Skircoat Lodge boy and four former residents said he had sexually assaulted them. The case was dropped because of insufficient evidence and Shalders was reinstated.


Police papers relating to the investigation have since been destroyed and, though none of the boys withdrew their allegations, their testimony could not be heard in the trial for legal reasons.

In 1985, Shalders was suspended after a Skircoat Lodge boy and four former residents said he had sexually assaulted them. The case was dropped because of insufficient evidence and Shalders was reinstated.
Police papers relating to the investigation have since been destroyed and, though none of the boys withdrew their allegations, their testimony could not be heard in the trial for legal reasons.


In 1994, an NSPCC report criticised Skircoat. It said bathroom doors were missing locks, staff walked into children’s rooms unannounced, meals were eaten in silence and children and staff seemed dominated by Phillips, who was later suspended.


A year later, a former resident accused Phillips of rape. No charges were brought, but Phillips was dismissed a year later as a result of the NSPCC investigation and the home closed.
In 1997, new social services director Chris Brabbs decided to hold an investigation, expecting it to finish within months, to help make a fresh start. But within weeks, a man arrived at a Surrey police station and accused Shalders of rape.


The team of two grew to 16 social workers and police, who interviewed 2,500 people including 600 former Skircoat Lodge residents.
Shalders, who had left Skircoat in 1988 to work with mentally handicapped adults, was suspended by Calderdale social services and arrested. No adults are thought to have been abused.


The inquiry also uncovered sexual abuse at other homes, including Dobroyd Castle, a secure boy’s home in Todmorden. Retired staff member Terence O’Hagan, 67, was charged with assaults on boys aged 14 to 16 between 1973 and 1975. Before the trial, he died of natural causes at his home in Bootle, Merseyside.


Two men and a woman from Mixenden children’s home and two women and a man from Skircoat Lodge were also arrested in connection with sexual and physical abuse, but there was insufficient evidence for charges.


The first social worker involved in the investigation, Deborah Wortman, said independent support workers were hired for each of the 31 victims. She said: “Most of the victims hadn’t even told their partners they had been in care, let alone about the abuse, and a lot of relationships were shattered.


“During a major inquiry in North Wales, they lost 19 victims to suicide in the run-up to the trials and the tribunal and we didn’t want that.
“The women remembered Phillips as being a 6ft tall, muscular, omnipresent giant. The men were just as frightened of Shalders. It was a terrifying experience for them to meet their abusers in court.”


The victims will now be offered counselling, which they couldn’t have earlier for fear of contaminating their evidence.
Ms Wortman said she was saddened but not surprised by the abuse they uncovered.
She said: “It was a different world then. Children weren’t listened to and they didn’t have rights. We heard over and over again that they didn’t know who to turn to. They were lost.”
Calderdale’s new social services director, Phillip Lewer, said children going into care were now given packs about their rights and Freephone helpline numbers.


He said the department now checked police records of all new staff, which did not happen in the 1970s and 80s.
There were activities to raise awareness of abuse and independent social workers visited homes to talk to residents. Children leaving a foster or care home were now offered exit interviews.
Mr Lewer said: “I’m 99.9 per cent sure that it will not happen again. I can’t give assurances, but we have done everything humanly possible to make sure it does not.”

11 comments:

  1. Heartbreaking. The sense of the beginning of your new journey at Skircoat Lodge, your first night in care, but also that it's but a seemingly endless continuation of trauma, self preservation, red alert, as you immediately plot your escape route on arrival. You speak so vividly of the cruelty and emotional impact this would have on anybody, least of all a vulnerable child.
    I'm crying that such evil exists.

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  2. It was November 1983 when I was taken to Skircoat Lodge. My grandfather had died in the May and I went "out of control". I always played my grandparents and Dad up but if I had known what the future would hold for me I never would have be un ruly at home. Linda Brunning, Evil as they come. I lost count of the amount of times she would sit on the back of my kneck until the blood vessels in my face burst then I would be watched by her or Phillips while I had a bath. Humiliating doesn't cut it!! But what Phillips would go onto do to me was the most sickening and depraved act of violence. I was taken into care because I had been abused and was to give evidence at crown court against my abuser. My bad behaviour became unbearable for my family so Skircoat Lodge seemed to best option, in their eyes and my then social worker, Jackie Hanson. Phillips took away my dignity, self-respect and marked the beginning of the end for me emotionally and psychologically. Of course I ran away from Skircoat, like the lady above I too was in the 6 bed dorm. Out the window and along skircoat into Halifax. Straight into the police station to report the rape. But I was called a liar, taken back to skircoat where phillips and the night officer were waiting. Need I say what my punishment was..NO!! That bastard ruined my life. I have never to this day been able to hold a steady relationship, abusive ones, yes, happy and stable, NO!!! In 1997 the police contacted me completely out of the blue about my time at Skircoat Lodge, It hit me like a bolt of lightening. I reluctantly agreed to talk to them. I had burried the memories of that god forsaken place firmly in the back of my mind. In the end I finally blurted out the words that Phillips had raped me. He was charged but then a few months down the line Maggie Fox, the police woman who visited me said there were discrepencies in my statement. WTF???? I know what happened to me, what phillips, brunning, wright, Shalders and all those other animals did to me. Sexually (Phillips) and physically but even in 1997 because I could not remember exact details I was accused of lying about phillips. The case against him raping me was dropped and again, I was accused of lying by the police. Yet all my explanations of his scent, his control, his habitual bullying was believed. My agreeing to talk to the police tore my relationship with my family apart. My own brother even gave evidence for the defense counsil of Phillips. un f*****g believable. My life is destroyed because of Skircoat Lodge and Calderdale social services and Phillips gets away with Raping and abusing me for over 18 months. Brunning will get her commupance one day and the only consolation for me is that Shalders is rotting in Hell, where he belongs and if he isn't already then I have the satisfaction of knowing that one day, sooner rather than later, Phillips, Brunning and Pam Wright, (Now Helliwell) will be heading for the same fate.

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  3. Thank you for your very brave account.
    please may I use this comment as a full post?

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  4. if you wish to add any further info, or speak with me in private, my email is kaztgray@gmail.com

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  5. Hi Kaz, were you referring to me? If so you can also email me @ katemufcholmes@hotmail.co.uk. Since 2007 I had my name changed by deedpole but I will be more than willing to chat further with you (If you were infact referring to me) If not, Love and best wishes and I truly hope your life is a happier one now. I have been advised to write down all my experiences of skircoat lodge so this weekend I am going to write my account and experiences from start to finish and then post it on here. It may finally release all that pain that I have kept burried for 30 years (Thats when I was at Skircoat)

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  6. Please feel free to use my comment.

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    Replies
    1. I was abused by Phillips but never believed .until 3years later

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  7. I have a son, now 18, suffering in care. I feel his pain even though I'm thousands of miles away.

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  8. The abuse in Halifax "care" facilities went on in the 40's & 50's as well, wrong type of person put in charge of very vulnerable youngsters.

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  9. I was in Skircoat lodge in 1976,aged 14-15. I remember Philips very well,i was on the end of more than one beating from him, despite me reporting it to my social worker and running away, i was returned to suffer my punishment. I hold Calderdale council in contempt for my and others abuse. I was then placed into Close Lea in Brighouse until i ran away from there in 1978. I was placed in the care system along with my siblings in the early sixties after my mother died and having a drunken violent farther.

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    1. Can I ask why you ran away from Close Lea?

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Thanks for your time and interest