Investigation into abuse of children in Catholic church care widened

Lisa Davies
Source: 1News

The Royal Commission is widening its investigation into the abuse of children in the care of the Catholic church in Christchurch.

The inquiry will now include sexual abuse that happened at Marylands Special School, and two other Catholic residential facilities, The Hebron Trust and St Josephs orphanage between the 1950s and 90s.

1News spoke to one survivor who is encouraging more people to come forward before the six day hearing next February.

Hanz Freller was just 14 when he was abandoned by his parents and taken in by the Hebron Trust. It took just weeks for sexual predator, St John of God brother Bernard McGrath, to start abusing him.

After 30 years of therapy he wants his story known, and is relieved the Royal Commission will now look into the sex crimes committed at the Hebron Trust and St Josephs orphanage as well as the dozens of boys who were harmed at Marylands Special School.

"The younger generation in these establishments need to be looked after ... they were put there to be looked after," Freller said. 

Hanz Freller.

A six day hearing will be held next February — the first comprehensive independent investigation since the criminal convictions of two St John of God Brothers.

"We're looking forward to hearing from the Catholic church and the representatives of the Order of St John of God Brothers because part of our work will be looking at why these things happened and how we can avoid them ever happening again," Royal Commission investigator Tom Powell said.

Freller hoped that by sharing his story, other survivors who have never spoken of what they endured will come forward.

"Being a survivor and having to deal with guilt and shame which I think are part of the largest parts of having been abused. I think there's so much power in knowing you are not to blame. You’re not, you're not at fault and it took me a long time to realise that."

The Royal Commission is due to deliver its final report in June 2023.