HUMBERSIDE Police missed the opportunity to investigate Father Joseph O’Brien when he was named in a 2002 witness statement from a former worker at the St William’s children’s home.
Noel Hartnett, a former member of the De La Salle Brotherhood – a Catholic lay order which ran the East Yorkshire home – told detectives he had witnessed Ambrose O’Brien, as he then was, being dismissed from the home.
He also named one of the victims of O’Brien’s abuse and named two other alleged abusers who had worked at the home but the potential lines of inquiry were never followed up.
The information was passed to police eight years before Father O’Brien’s death in 2010 which would have given the opportunity for a potential prosecution.
But as it stands – and despite a welter of abuse allegations swirling around the Market Weighton home – only one man has ever been convicted of abusing boys there. A chaplain who often gave mass there was also convicted of abusing boys elsewhere.
Humberside Police are engaged in the force’s third major criminal inquiry into the home in the past 20 years. St William’s former principal, James Carragher, was jailed for seven years in 1993 and a further 14 years in 2004 for a catalogue of horrendous abuse against boys. In 1993, Father Anthony McCallen was also jailed for three-and-a-half years, later reduced to two, for abuse and indecency in his parish in Hull.
A third inquiry, called Operation Reno, has now been running for two years with no charges yet brought.
The Yorkshire Post understands one of the people named by Mr Hartnett is now forming part of the current police investigation but he remains angry at the earlier failures and has lodged a formal complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
“He (O’Brien) was able to walk away,” said Mr Hartnett. “I gave them his name, the name of one of his victims – they had an abundance of significant leads and did nothing. That’s a dereliction of duty.”
Humberside Police has previously declined to comment while the current inquiry into St William’s continues.
The IPCC has previously carried out an inquiry into failures surrounding Operation Aldgate, which ran from 2001 to 2004.
The watchdog’s findings did not refer specifically to Father O’Brien but said police had failed to follow up lines of inquiry which may have cleared suspects and had also showed no rationale for why other suspects were not investigated.