One of the first boys to enter a children’s home in the North has said he was abused by a religious brother the day after he arrived.
He claimed he was interfered with while having a shower at Rubane House, Co Down, in 1951, under the guise of “horse play”.
Once he went missing, he told a public inquiry, was brought home by police, beaten by members of the Catholic order which ran the home and had his hair shaved off in what he claimed was an act of humiliation.
He said: “It was just hell on earth.”
The witness’s evidence was that the abuse started the day after he arrived at Rubane and left him feeling extremely uncomfortable. He criticised some of the brothers.
“They did come into the dorms. It did not appear that they came in to check if someone wanted to go to the toilet, it was always something of a sexual nature.”
Rubane House is the subject of a government-ordered investigation into claims of historic physical and sexual attacks on boys.
It was run by the Catholic De La Salle order of brothers.
Between 1951 and 1985, about 1,000 children stayed at Rubane, near Kircubbin on the Ards Peninsula, a voluntary home for boys aged between 11 and 16.
About a fifth of residents claimed they suffered abuse ranging from watching boys in the showers for sexual gratification to rape or physical attacks, a lawyer for the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry has said.
Former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) detective chief superintendent Eric Anderson has said sexual abuse was rampant.
Rubane was the subject of a police investigation in the 1990s, the inquiry panel was previously told. Three religious brothers were charged, but none convicted after their trials did not go ahead due to legal issues.
The probe was established by Northern Ireland’s power-sharing administration at Stormont and is sitting in Banbridge in Co Down.
It is chaired by former British High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart and investigating what took place at 13 residential children’s homes run by religious orders, voluntary organisations and the state in the 73-year period up to 1995.
About 200 former residents made abuse allegations about Rubane, 55 have come forward to the inquiry and the majority are expected to give evidence.
Lawyers are to examine 40,000 pages of documents.