Boy who fled Salvation Army home fell into pedophile ring

A MISSING boy, who ran away from a Salvation Army children's home, fell into the hands of a pedophile ring and likely ended up "at the bottom of Sydney Harbour" the royal commission heard.

In some of the most chilling evidence before the inquiry into abuse at four of the army's boys homes, Salvation Army Major Cliff Randall recalled a time in the '70s when a regular runaway from the Indooroopilly home went missing and never returned.

The commission heard he and his wife Marina had been outraged by the treatment of children at the Indooroopilly home and were trying to get management to step in when a boy returned from a long stint away and confided in him.

He said the boy told him that he and a victim who can only be referred to as "HT" had been picked up by unknown men outside the home, taken to a millionaire hardware store owner in Brisbane, given chocolates and drinks and flown to Sydney where they were to have sex with a "top chef" at Paddington.

The boy said he had managed to escape from Paddington and hitchhike back to Queensland and that a truck driver has sexually abused him on the way.

Major Randall said he later heard that HT was the "one boy" who could link two people connected to the child sex ring and that, when he spoke to a police officer about the boy's disappearance, he was told he was "probably at the bottom of the (Sydney) Harbour".

He also said his superiors dismissed the boy's claims as "some kind of fantasy story" and labelled him "gullible" for believing it.

The Randalls had been at odds with their house managers - Captain Lawrence Wilson and Major John McIver - since word got out that they had travelled to Salvation Army headquarters in Sydney and complained about what was happening to the boys.

At the time, they were yet to become officers and were serving as "house parents" at the home.

Major Randall told the commission he had refused to sign a punishment book on the grounds Major McIver was dealing out corporal punishment based on which boys he "didn't like" and went "far beyond" what he believed was acceptable.

He said he had witnessed Major McIver telling boys to bend over with their hands on the desk and spread their legs before flicking his strap upwards so it hit his subject in the testicles.

He was also concerned Capt Wilson was using his apparent credentials as a nurse to medically "inspect" boys for his own sexual gratification.

He described Capt Wilson's "sick parades" - a process where, armed with a "doctor's bag", the Captain would perform health checks which included "anal examination".

When none of the boys attended the line-up, names would be called individually to go to Capt Wilson's office and boys could be heard saying, "It's your turn today".

There was also a "sick room" under the chapel where boys were apparently treated for their illnesses but no one but Capt Wilson was allowed to enter.

After a year at the home, the Randalls were allowed holidays.

They went to Sydney and informed senior army officers of their concerns but by the time they returned back, management had been made aware of the complaints and the couple was accused of being "disloyal".

Major Randall said he was simply told "everything has got to stay within the house".

The commission will explore why the Randalls were "suddenly dismissed" from their positions and whether the process reflected the Salvation Army's attitude towards whistleblowers at the time.

The hearing continues in Sydney.

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