Abuse Victim Recounts Horror of Living in Temuka Children's Home

By Joanne Holden
December 10, 2020

Darrin Timpson has told the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care about the sexual, physical, and psychological abuse he endured at The Salvation Army’s Bramwell Booth Home in Temuka. (File photo from 2013)

A Timaru man abused in state care was just four years old when his parents dumped him at The Salvation Army’s Bramwell Booth Home in Temuka and disappeared.

Chatham Islands-born Darrin Timpson recounted the sexual, physical, and psychological abuse he and others endured over his more than 11 years at the children’s home to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care in Auckland on Thursday.

“My time in the home, and the abuse I experienced, shaped my entire life,” Timpson, 54, told the Inquiry.

“It still affects me today.

“I don’t go out, I stay at home. I feel a need to control my environment. I don’t go to where people gather – to theatres, or swimming pools, or pubs. I hate having anyone standing behind me. I struggle to form relationships with people. I don’t trust anyone.”

Timpson’s siblings were already in The Salvation Army’s care when their parents tried to admit him as well, only to be told they were not allowed.

“Apparently, they went to visit my siblings for the weekend and left me there. Then, they disappeared.”

Their parents never came back.

Timpson, who lived at the home from 1971 to 1982, said a staff member often whacked him in the head with part of a wooden towel roller – knocking him unconscious on one occasion, requiring a trip to the doctor.

The staff member would circle the dining room with the stick, striking children for “stupid things” such as having their feet up on a chair or not doing chores on time.

Timpson said he was strapped or slapped about the ears whenever he was caught sneaking into his sister’s bed after having a nightmare, forced to wear nappies around the home and to school after wetting his pants, and was thrown into a pit in the garage – a car parked over it to trap him inside – for refusing to eat his porridge.

“Punishment was often excessive.”

He also saw a child in the bath beaten so badly he nearly drowned, and two of his brothers – egged on by staff – fight nearly to the death.

Timpson said a Salvation Army captain sexually abused him for about a year, starting when he was eight or nine years old.

“It first happened when he offered to change my room. He told me I could move out of the dorms into a double room by myself ... He told me that I knew the price of it.

“I never told anyone. I just shut my mouth.

“I’d known it was going on with the other children. It felt like more of a case of it was now my turn. I didn’t feel like I was offended against as much as some of the other kids at the time. I didn’t like it, but I think I had become a bit immune.”

Timpson said while former captain John Gainsford – who was convicted in 2006 on 22 charges of sexual abuse committed at the home in the 1970s – never touched him, he created a culture of abuse among the children.

“It did continue after he left, between us kids. It was the older kids doing it with the younger. The older male residents would rape the smaller, younger residents. They became the abusers,” he said.

“I didn’t sexually abuse the other kids, but I did bully them. It would get physical on occasion.”

Timpson said he had a couple of encounters with the Department of Social Welfare after he left the home when 16 years old.

“One time they gave me some clothing. The next time I remember seeing them, I was signed off.”

Timpson, who now lives in Christchurch, was 17 or 18 when he first went to jail. In and out of prison for much of his adult life, he amassed more than 500 convictions for fraud or dishonesty.

“I don’t think I would have gone to prison at all if I’d had a different upbringing.

“I think early on, my reoffending was related to a desire to return to prison. I felt unsafe outside of prison.

“It wasn’t until late 2000, after I received some counselling, that I decided to move forward and try and stay out of prison.”

Timpson said he was never a violent offender.

“I didn’t want to repeat on anyone else what had happened to me. I knew how it made me feel at the time, how it screwed me up.”

Timpson said his time at the home prepared him for jail.

“I learnt to be quiet, not to trust people, not to go into a dark room alone. Prison was like the home, but without the abuse. I got told when to go to bed, when to wake up, and my meals were provided.

“It was easy. I got told what to do.”

Timpson was eight years old when he began having panic attacks. He had attempted suicide three times and while he had dabbled in drugs, he never drank alcohol.

“Bramwell Booth taught me one thing: to control my own environment. Don’t let people get close. Being under the influence didn’t let me do that, so I don’t drink.

“I’m not getting any help now. There is no help anyone can give me. I’ve talked it all out to a degree. I’m now in a position with my life that I’ve accepted what happened. I can’t change it.”

Timpson did not feel anyone would believe him about the abuse until Gainsfield was arrested.

Hiring a lawyer and going through The Salvation Army’s redress programme between 2003 and 2009, Timpson was awarded $20,000 for the abuse he suffered.

“At the time, I needed the money. It was made clear that it was take this or get nothing. I had spent most of my adult life in and out of prison, and I owned very little. I also had a few debts.

“I don't remember getting an apology.

“I wasn’t too fussed about getting an apology. I wouldn’t have believed it even if they came up to me to say sorry. More than an apology, I want an acknowledgement by The Salvation Army of the abuse that happened while children were in their care.”

Timpson said many of the children he knew from the home were dead, from suicide or drug abuse.

“A lot of them are doing life lags in prison.

“I’ve been through a lot. I can’t change what happened to me. It screwed me up. But maybe telling my story will help some of the kids coming through the system now.”








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.