Mail on Sunday Newspaper and TV
- January 2015
For nearly 30 years Teresa Cooper has campaigned for justice for the dozens girls who suffered abuse at a Church of England care home.
Girls at Kendall House were routinely sexually abused and used in drug trials which have had debilitating long terms effects on their own health and that of their offspring.
In 2014 the Church agreed to set up a review but then decided to exclude Teresa from the process.
Teresa decided to blow the whistle on how she had been treated and tell her full story.
Victims of the Church care home Dr Mengele: For Teresa and her children, the damage of horrific drug experiments inflicted on girls in Church of England care homes 30 years ago can never be undone
- Teresa Cooper was force-fed prescription drugs at Kendall House home
- The mother-of-three was tranquilised more than 1,000 times and raped
- She is one of scores of children who endured the same horror at the home
- The mother-of-three's children were all born with health defects as a result
- Care home is being investigated by the Church of England after 30 years
- Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, she reveals her ordeal here
It should be her moment of triumph: a longed-for victory that has taken her the best part of 30 years and £70,000 of her own money to achieve.
Mother-of-three Teresa Cooper has finally pushed the Church of England into launching an investigation into one of the most cruel and bizarre episodes ever in the grim history of British children’s homes: how scores of children at a CofE institution were force-fed huge quantities of prescription drugs by a Dr Mengele-like charlatan seemingly bent on conducting unauthorised medical experiments.
Teresa herself was tranquillised – more than 1,000 times.
Other children were given drugs designed for Parkinson’s sufferers, or adults with severe psychiatric problems.
The consequences for the girls such as Teresa who lived at the church-run Kendall House home in Kent were terrible, not just for their health and state of mind, but for their own offspring, many of whom, like Teresa’s, were born with strange abnormalities.
Yet there is no satisfaction, let alone consolation, in the announcement of the inquiry, issued by the church authorities amid the chaos of Friday’s Paris shootings. For her, the damage is never-ending.
Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, she explains how, in her three years at Kendall House in the early 1980s, she was drugged with tranquillisers 1,248 times despite having no history of violent behaviour.
She was raped on several occasions. Fellow residents of the home have suffered severe ill health following their time there.
More frighteningly, she and more than 90 per cent of the Kendall House residents who have so far come forward had children with birth defects, which the church has privately acknowledged are a result of the drugs that were forced upon them.
More than 20 have had financial compensation from the church, yet there has never been an official explanation of how such an outrage could have happened, let alone an apology.
‘Our children have had brain tumours, cleft palates and learning disabilities,’ Teresa says.
‘Most of the boys have some form of autism, others have had water on the brain, heart defects and bone growth defects. Children have died from their birth problems. One child of a Kendall House girl recently died because of his heart defect.
Teresa first went into care at six months old, but remembers clearly the moment she arrived at Kendall House as a 14-year-old in 1981.
From the outside, it seemed like a lovely country house, but Teresa describes it as like a prison with bars on the windows, reinforced glass and wire mesh on the doors.
In fact, the house was a secure unit large enough to house 18 teenagers. Operated by the CofE, it catered for girls diagnosed by local authorities as ‘disturbed’.
Teresa remembers how, the day after her arrival, she was told to line up for tablets. When she asked what they were for, the nurses refused to tell her.It's what you would see in one of Hitler's death camps According to her case files, Teresa was given drugs including the anti-psychotics Haloperidol, Droleptan and Depixol. She was also given the tranquillisers valium and diazepam at up to ten times the current recommended dose.
If she refused to take the drugs, Teresa says she was held down by up to six people and injected against her will.
‘At the slightest provocation, the nurses would pile in and inject me with more drugs and knock me out cold. I would hallucinate, seeing triangles with wings flying and imagining that huge insects were climbing up my bed.
‘I don’t even know how to describe it. It was your worst nightmare. You’re being drugged and abused and your mind is telling you you’re in severe pain but you can’t stop them because you’re too drugged up.’
She has had jaw problems throughout her adult life as a result, she says, of having her face forced on to the floor. ‘If you were walking down a road and six men jumped you, you wouldn’t stand a chance.
The drugs were prescribed by consultant psychiatrist Dr Marenthiran Perinpanayagam, who referred to himself as ‘Psychotherapist to the Home Office,’ on his notepaper. ‘That’s what they did to children in care and called it therapy.’
No one has yet established what his motives were, who permitted him to do this, or if anyone profited from his behaviour. The episode remains as baffling as it is disturbing.
In 1980, his methods caused a sensation after being exposed in a TV documentary, yet somehow Kendall House was allowed to continue operating its shameful regime. Teresa left at 16 in 1984, traumatised and barely able to read or write. Two years later the home was closed down following a Government report that expressed ‘extreme concern’ at the ‘administration of psychotropic drugs’ and said girls were ‘stripped of basic human rights’.
Dr Perinpanayagam died in 1988. He was never prosecuted.
It wasn’t until her mid-20s that Teresa started to investigate her past. It took years for her to obtain her case files from Wandsworth Council in London, which had first referred her to the home, and then church records of her time at Kendall House.
She was shocked by what she discovered in the CofE’s own documents. Church-employed staff at Kendall House kept extraordinarily detailed notes; every drug and dosage was accounted for.
After sifting through hundreds of pages, Teresa realised with horror the extent to which she had been abused. In further research, Teresa also discovered that Dr Perinpanayagam had described his ‘experiments with tranquillisers on behaviourally disturbed girls’ in the British Medical Journal.
She now believes she and the other Kendall House girls were used as guinea pigs for drugs.
She wrote a book, entitled Trust No One, and when it was published in 2007, other girls from Kendall House began coming forward.
They, too, were suffering ill health, including auto-immune problems and menopausal symptoms. But shockingly, the women’s children were displaying similar birth defects to Teresa’s youngsters.
‘My eldest son, Robert, was born with breathing difficulties,’ she says. ‘As a teenager he had loads of lumps in his lymph nodes.
‘The doctors warned me he might have cancer of the lymph nodes. They showed me his X-ray and there were lumps everywhere. I thought he was going to die. They turned out to be benign but no one knows what they are. He has also suffered from temporary blindness in his early-20s.
‘My youngest son, Paul, was born blind. I noticed he wasn’t looking at me when he was breastfeeding. Now he has learning disabilities.
‘My daughter Charlotte was born with a cleft palate and Pierre Robin (small jaw) syndrome. As a newborn she was hooked up to a machine that warned me if she stopped breathing – her jaw was small but her tongue was normal size so she had difficulties breathing. She’s now 22.
‘I remember being in a post office queue with my daughter as a baby. She had all sorts of wires coming out of her.
'A lady behind came up and asked me what I had done to get a baby like that, as though I was some alcoholic mother. I was horrified. Now it makes me feel guilty. I feel terrible that my abuse as a child has caused my children to go through all of that.’ Now I want Justin Welby to apologise to my face It is understood that Teresa received more than £50,000 in an out-of-court settlement from the church in 2010.
And, thanks to her efforts, more than 20 other former Kendall House residents have also received compensation.
But her battle to get the church to admit liability, to issue a public apology and crucially, pledge support for future Kendall House women and their children and their children’s children, has been frustratingly slow. On Friday, the church finally announced a review, yet Teresa feels she has been excluded from the running of the inquiry and believes the church is attempting to silence her. She is convinced, too, that the findings will be affected by the church’s insurers and a wish to limit overall liability.
‘I’ve done all the work and now the church wants to exclude me. I’m beyond devastated,’ she says. ‘It’s the most un-Christian, un-Godly thing they could ever do. I hold all the information and that scares them. The church has wrecked my life and my children’s lives.’
Teresa’s hopes that she would be at the heart of the proceedings were raised late last year when the church asked her to discuss how a review into Kendall House might work.
‘I’d spent my whole life waiting for that moment,’ she says. ‘I thought God, we might finally get justice, and started squealing with joy.’ The meeting took place at Church House, Westminster. According to minutes seen by The Mail On Sunday, Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, who is now lead bishop for ‘safeguarding’, explained that a full apology from the church would be issued when matters had been dealt with more fully.
It was recognised that Teresa would need to be ‘central in feeding in information having devoted 27 years of her life to the case’.
The Bishop also discussed the long term health consequences of the drugging regime at Kendall House on the women and acknowledged the birth defects which had been passed on to their children.
It was the admission Teresa had been waiting for. ‘I was totally shocked but excited,’ she says. ‘When I got home I broke down in tears.’
But Teresa says that, since then, her phone calls and emails to the church have not been returned. She is merely invited, like other former residents, to get in touch if she chooses.
Teresa also claims that in a heated conversation with Bishop James, he told her that the church’s insurers have advised it not to admit liability.
She says: ‘It’s not the Christian thing to do, especially when they own millions of pounds worth of drug company shares. The question I want answered is: how big a part do the insurance companies play in child abuse cases?’
Now, she says, she is living through a new nightmare. ‘They’ve driven me to the point where before Christmas I wanted to kill myself. I hit rock bottom. It felt like vultures picking at my bones. The Church have ruined my life all over again.’
Last night a spokesman for the Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, whose diocese, along with the diocese of Canterbury, is leading the review, said: ‘Bishop James is very genuine in his desire to encourage all former residents to contact the review. Former residents or those who have concerns about Kendall House are encouraged to participate fully.’
Teresa promises to do just that. ‘We want recognition and an apology. I want to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury. I want him to apologise for what the Church did.
'I want Justin Welby to stand in front of my face and say, “I am sorry on behalf of the Church of England that we did that to you and to your children and possibly your grandchildren”. I’m going to see this through to the end.
‘I’m going to die fighting for this.’