A gang of convicted criminals allegedly prostituted teenagers from a children's home in Killadeas almost 20 years ago bringing them to houses around Fermanagh and other parts of Northern Ireland where it is claimed they were drugged and repeatedly raped by men.

Brindley House, which was managed by Care (NI) Ltd., a private company, was a home designed to provide specialised care for young people with emotional and psychological needs when it opened in 2000 amid a storm of protest.

Local residents in the quiet residential area off the Enniskillen to Kesh road took to the streets to object to the facility. One of the prolific protestors was Diana Armstrong, now an Ulster Unionist Councillor and Vice Chairwoman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, then secretary of the Killadeas Residents' Association.

But the home closed six years later when the Western Health and Social Services Board as it was known then said it was "no longer commercially viable to continue operations".

The truth however, according to well-placed sources, is that Brindley House was closed because staff could no longer keep the children safe from being abused and found themselves "threatened" by those men when they tried to step in to save the children.

Now an alleged victim of years of sexual abuse has broken her silence to claim that she and up to 12 other young girls were raped by up to 13 men and alleges that the authorities knew about it "but were too scared to do anything because of the men involved".

Laura (not her real name) first contacted The Impartial Reporter about five months ago to allege children like her were "prostituted out to men by known criminals" and her claims have been backed up by two former Brindley employees who say the allegations were reported to then Sperrin Lakeland Trust and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

This newspaper can also reveal that the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People conducted an investigation into the serious allegations but never publicly released its findings. The contents of that investigation which commenced in February 2006 following a complaint in 2005 still remains a secret.

"It was child prostitution," said Laura. "You were being prostituted out. You were in a relationship with this person who's portraying to be this person, but you were being prostituted out to all their friends and all their contacts... at 13," she said.

While a resident at Brindley House, Laura, then 13-years-old, recalls visiting Enniskillen for a day out with other girls when they were approached by three men. She has provided their names.

"We, the girls, we used to run away obviously from the home, and we fell into like a bad crowd. We were in Enniskillen and there's a bridge that we used to sit under and drink in the summer. And one day these men approached us, and they had this wee boat. They asked us if we wanted to come out for a spin on the boat and of course we just said we would go for the craic. So, we went out on that boat that first day and that's when it all started," she said.

The men then allegedly offered alcohol and drugs to Laura and the others.

"It was ecstasy was the big thing then, that really was the main tablet we would have taken. When that was over we were brought to a flat [provides location] and asked if we wanted to party with them," she said.

Laura says "nothing untoward" happened on that occasion but after swapping phone numbers she and the others would meet the same group of men again.

"I remember this one man [a known criminal] who would have encouraged us to meet with them again. He would say 'come on, come on down and meet us again and we'll get you drink, whatever you want'.

"And then we would meet them on a regular basis. What we didn't realise at the time was they were grooming us."

And that's when the situation intensified when Laura says she and her friends were brought to a two-storey house in Enniskillen where they were given more drugs.

"That night, that's when it all changed. There were a lot of men right, and we had been given like E's and stuff. One of the men kept saying 'I can get you this, I can get you that', We took the drugs there and then and we thought they were for free and all the rest, and thought this was great, that we could leave when we wanted to, but that didn't happen," she said.

Then while attending another party in a house in Maguresbridge Laura says she was given more alcohol and drugs before being sexually abused by multiple men.

"I was, yeah. I was raped three or four times by different men, not just one," she said, fighting back tears.

"It was sick, what happened was sick. I could take you to every one of the houses, I now where they are.

"They moved us from another house then another house and that went on for three solid days. We eventually at one point ended up in Irvinestown, but at that point the power in my legs had gone. I knew what was going on around me right, because my head was telling me I shouldn't be there, but I couldn't function right," she said.

Each time Laura and the others disappeared from Brindley House, staff members and police began searching for the missing girls. She says the men were aware of that.

"That's why they kept moving us to different houses," she said.

Laura says the men would have dropped her and the others off near the entrance to Brindley House and claims staff members were aware of the type of men they were associating with. "We would have got dropped off at the bottom of the lane and our clothes would have been been ripped," she said.

On another occasion she claims one of the men from Irvinestown pretended to be a relative to get her out of the home.

"He came into the home, walked round the home with us, met the staff. And the staff were a bit suspicious about it. in my head now I think why did they not phone the police? Why did they not just you know, think this isn't normal or ordinary.

"And they were starting to listen to him saying that you know, he was our long-lost uncle and he didn't realise we were in this home, and he was coming to get me out of this home, and stuff like this. So, he knew, he basically knew the way in, the back way into the house, he knew the front way into the house; and he knew every exit way into the house and stuff like that. And he wanted us to know what he could get away with," she said.

Laura claims the men noted the number plates of Brindley staff members who would regularly have taken to the roads in search of the missing children. She recalls staff members expressing their concern about their constant contact with these men.

"They were worried about us, but we were still being taken away by the men.

"It got to the point where the men had given me a mobile phone. You weren't allowed mobile phones unless the staff were fit to check them. But I was given a mobile phone, so were the others, so that these men could contact us.

"And one night one of the staff members heard a phone ringing. She said to me 'have you got a phone? I hear a phone ringing'. I said no.

"The rest of the girls had gone out, I didn't because she was still searching for this phone. Those men were waiting at the bottom of the lane. I couldn't go anywhere. I was scared and petrified that night, because I knew I was in trouble for not leaving the home and meeting them," she said.

Laura says one of the staff members stayed in her room with her that night and was visibly upset at what was going on.

"She locked the door and there was another member of staff outside the room so I couldn't get out. I remember she was in my room crying that night, and saying to me how dangerous this was, how dangerous it is.

"She said to me 'why are you jumping out of your skin?' and there was a conservatory where my bedroom window was and one of the girls tried to climb the conservatory glass up to get me out of the room because she knew that because I didn't go with them that night that the next night I went out it would've been ten times worse for me," she said.

She claims again and again that Brindley House was aware of what was going on.

"They knew because they questioned us about it. They knew about it, there was clothes that we were getting, they couldn't understand it; and they were like 'how are you all getting these clothes, we're not giving you the money, where are they coming out of?' They knew about the prostitution.

"I think that they were in a situation where they thought 'we can't stop them doing it, we've tried to stop them doing it and we've no control over it'. But then one of the girls got raped really badly by one of them, and they were aware of that and who abused her and something had to give," she said. She says staff at Brindley tried in vain to protect them by bringing them to other homes for respite or away on days out. 

"They tried to take us out of Brindley, and away to Donegal or whatever place because they didn't want it going on."

She also alleges to have also been abused by a taxi driver while asking for a lift back to Brindley House.

"We drove to Brindley and there was chat down the road, there was a conversation between the taxi driver and the other girl that was in the car. I went to get out of the car but he had spun off at the bottom of Brindley with me in the car. 

"There's a road as you go up right, a layby, and he pulled the car in there and he ripped my whole clothes off me, and I tried the electric lock, I tried kicking to get out of the car, and he had grabbed me by the throat and lifted me by the hair. I was badly raped that night. When he was finished, he dropped me off. I was crying my eyes out, he dropped me at the bottom of Brindley and he just threw me out of the car," she said.

She also recalls being allegedly abused down a laneway near the Manor House Hotel, not far from Brindley House.

"That memory haunts me to this day and I will never ever forget it."

"We were also brought to places like Lurgan and Lisburn and were farmed out to men that we never even knew and being molested and raped over and over again," she said.

Laura believes the management "couldn't control what was happening" and says one of the staff members begged them to close Brindley House. 

"I know the staff did all they could to try and help Brindley and to try and stop what was happening to the other girls. But they were being followed down the road at night by those men. Even their number plates were recognised, they were scared," she said.

Laura says she has been "failed" by those who should have been keeping her safe.

"We were vulnerable children, no matter what, we were vulnerable." 

Laura says eventually the police called her in for an interview which she says took place at Enniskillen Police Station.

"I remember being taken by one of the staff in Brindley and I remember them saying to me 'you need to do this, you need to do it because we need this to stop'. There were younger girls in the home right, that had moved in, and they were at the age I was when I first went; and I remember the member of staff going to me, 'you don't want that to happen to them, and they're only young.

"God forgive me for saying it, but I thought do you know what, I was that age and nobody gave a **** when it was happening to me."

She gave a statement to police but later opted out of pursuing it further as she feared for her personal safety. 

"They wanted to for me to go to court with other girls out of Brindley, and for this to go to court, and these names had to be given. I was too scared," she said. 

Laura says she has suffered from mental health issues as a result of what she says she experienced at a child. After speaking with a counsellor she was encouraged to speak out. 

"For years and years I've gone through this whole thing thinking it was my fault, and you know what those boys did, they only did it because we were up for it. But that's not what it was like, we were children.

"And it's only because I went to Nexus that I am able to talk about it. I had been told to go to Nexus for years and I was like 'no I'm not going; I don't need Nexus'. But then my doctor diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder due to the life events."

She claims to have spent months trying to access her records from the Western Health and Social Care Trust, even enlisting the help of a local solicitor, but is still waiting for the information. 

"Everything about me in Brindley will be logged in those files. Those files would show the minute of me arriving into Brindley House, until the minute I went out. Every day would be dated and logged and what happened later on that night. 

"Yet all these months later I am still waiting to get my files," she said.

She says is now prepared to speak with specialist detectives who are currently reviewing historical child sexual abuse cases in Fermanagh. 

"Yeah I am, big time. I am a mother now myself and I wouldn't let anyone harm my children. This needs to be stopped from ever happening again," she said.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Departmental records indicate that allegations relating to Brindley House were brought to the Department’s attention by the NI Children’s Commissioner in March 2005.

"The Department sought a response from the Western Board and was subsequently advised by the Board that there had been shortcomings in the operation of Trust child protection procedures, including a failure to notify the Western Board and Department.

"An inspection of child protection services was initiated by the Department in early 2006. The inspection was conducted by the Social Services Inspectorate and was undertaken in 5 [then] HSS Trusts. As indicated in the inspection overview report, Our Children and Young People – Our Shared Responsibility, published in December 2006, an inspection of the interface between residential and fieldwork childcare services was conducted in both the Sperrin Lakeland and Foyle HSS Trusts due to issues identified within theirchildren’s residential care provision.

"Also, as acknowledged in the overview report, the Department continued to work with those Trusts where inspections took place to ensure that actions identified to address recommendations were robust and applied with appropriate urgency to address improvements. Individual inspection reports and associated action plans were also published."

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "In December 2006 The Social Services Inspectorate published a report ‘Our Children and Young People – Our Shared Responsibility’, which made three recommendations for the PSNI to improve public protection arrangements in each district to ensure the rights of children and vulnerable people are protected.  Those three recommendations were implemented.

As a result of a review carried out by police and Social Services following the publication of this report, at the beginning of 2007 Detectives from Crime Operations launched a criminal investigation into the allegations of organised child abuse at the former Brindley House children’s home in Fermanagh between 2000 and 2005. 

In 2008 a number of properties were searched and 11 people were arrested  in counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh and interviewed for child abuse offences, as part of a long and protracted investigation. A comprehensive file was prepared and submitted to the PPS. The PPS directed no prosecution after concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.  

If anyone has a complaint about the actions of police during this investigation they can contact the Office of the Police Ombudsman for an impartial investigation of the matter.

We would encourage anyone who has been the victim of any sexual or physical abuse, whether recently or in the past, to speak with our specially trained Detectives in our Public Protection Branch or to one of partner organisations specially trained to support victims. Please contact the police service on 101 or through our dedicated email address at historicalabuse@psni.pnn.police.uk where you will be put in contact with a specially trained officer."

NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma said:

“In 2005, the office of the Children’s Commissioner became aware of potential breaches in child protection procedures at Brindley House residential home where it was alleged children were being put at risk. These were raised with the relevant authorities and as required by law, rather than open his own inquiry, the then Commissioner, was assured by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety that they would take the appropriate action.

"A review of child protection arrangements in the relevant Trust was subsequently published by The Social Services Inspectorate in December 2006 and following a review, police opened a criminal investigation.”

The Impartial Reporter contacted Paula Kane who owned the now defunct Care (NI) Ltd  and asked her to respond to the claims that children from Brindley House were sexually abused by men. 

She replied: “Every single incident of concern and of a child protection nature was recorded and reported to the Western Board. We had no powers to investigate. 

“When our concerns heightened, we took the decision as a staff to report the issue to the Children’s Commissioner as we weren’t satisfied with the response around the ongoing issues with Brindley. 

“Once we did that we took the decision to close it as it was clear the children were of significant risk.”