Nine children were removed from four families in 1991 after allegations of abuse on South Ronaldsay.
The tiny Orkney island of South Ronaldsay became the centre of a worldwide media storm in 1991 when nine children were removed from four families following allegations of satanic sexual abuse. Two decades on, Esther, who was the child at the centre of the scandal, believes none of it would have happened if she had spoken out at the time.
Police officers and social workers arrived at dawn at four homes on South Ronaldsay and removed the nine children, who were taken to separate foster homes on the Scottish mainland and interviewed about ritual sex abuse.
Stories of satanic child sex abuse at a local quarry both mystified and horrified people who lived on the island, whose population is less than 1,000.
A woman says she believes she could have stopped the Orkney satanic abuse scandal if she had spoken out about her own abuse
For five weeks the parents had no contact with their sons and daughters but eventually the claims were dismissed by a sheriff as “completely unfounded”.
Esther, who was in her teens at the time but is now 39, feels that she was to blame for starting the ball rolling on a terrible chain of events which ripped apart a community and affected so many lives.
She believes that if she had spoken out earlier about the genuine abuse she was suffering then none of the satanic abuse scandal would have happened.
For almost 20 years, Esther did not tell her side of the story.
But after having her first child in 2006, Esther began counselling and was advised to face head-on her own abuse and her key part in the Orkney scandal. Esther W, who still uses the name she was given to protect her identity, has now written a memoir called If Only I Had Told.
The island of South Ronaldsay only has a population of about 1,000
He would make the children stand in a bin full of nettles and treated one of her brothers like a dog, keeping him chained and not allowing him to come into the house.
“The only time he seemed to be happy was when he was inflicting pain on my brothers and sisters,” she says.
In 1987, Esther’s father was imprisoned for offences against his 15 children, known as the W family.
He attacked them with weapons, kicked them with steel-capped boots, stuffed nettles inside their underwear and sexually abused the eight girls.
The family was “splintered”, Esther says, and the social work department on Orkney could not cope with taking so many children into care.
But despite being saved from her abusive father, Esther’s situation did not improve.
The Orkney abuse story was front page news for weeks
A care worker at the home in which she was placed was abusing girls and soon Esther became his latest victim.
“Obviously because of me being sexually abused in my life, it seemed like a natural progression of my life and I just thought it was my fault,” she says.
She had not told of her father’s abuse and she did not tell anyone in authority about the care worker.
“What then happened was, obviously I kept it to myself but I admitted to a friend that somebody was sexually abusing me,” Esther says.
“They then assumed it was my older brothers that was sexually abusing me because I would not say who it was.
“I couldn’t say who it was. I felt unable to say at the time.”
All seven of her younger siblings were taken into care on the strength of the suspicion of the Orkney social work department that her older brothers had been abusing them.
Esther, who says she had a mistrust of social workers engendered by her father’s hatred of them and her own experiences, knew they were wrong but thought it was “just the kind of things these bad people do”.
Her brothers and sisters, the youngest of whom was just four, underwent “disclosure therapy”, although Esther says it would be better described as “interrogation”.
The department of social work on Orkney decided to remove the children
It was this process which led to the the satanic sex abuse allegations against the four families whose children were taken away.
Esther believes her brothers and sisters were being “coached” into revealing something which had not happened at all.
She says: “Sheriff Kelbie himself (the man who threw the allegations out of court) said it amounted to repeated coaching. It was pummelling and pummelling over and over. Even an adult would have been broken by that type of interrogation.
“It is designed to break a person down, so a four or five or six year old does not stand a chance.”
Why didn’t Esther say something to stop it?
She says at the time she thought the situation had gone too far.
“It was a monster completely outside my control,” Esther says.
“It had evolved into these satanic sex abuse claims.
After five weeks, the nine children were allowed back to their families
“They had tried to look for evidence of sibling sex abuse and they had failed on that. But then, not content with that, because they didn’t want to return the children home, they looked to satanic sex abuse allegations.”
Esther also says that as an abused child she felt everything was her fault but learned to take that blame on her shoulders.
“It is very difficult to believe that anything you are doing or saying has any truth or is ok,” she says.
“You assume you are the bad guy.”
After the counselling in her early 30s she came to understand and forgive her younger self.
A £6m inquiry into the scandal of the removed children produced a 363-page report which “savaged” the way Orkney’s social work department handled the allegations and made 194 recommendations.
But the W children, Esther and her siblings, received neither.
“I just felt like we were very much an aside, as opposed to the people who were at the centre of it,” Esther says.
“I never felt the truth was told but now I feel the truth has been told and it’s out there.”
story from BBC NEWS Scotland