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Elderly nuns are among a dozen people arrested in connection with allegations of child abuse at a Catholic children’s home in Scotland.

Eleven women and one man aged between 62 and 85 have already been charged with crimes relating to incidents said to have taken place at the Smyllum Park orphanage in South Lanarkshire before its closure in 1981.

Police Scotland say that several nuns are among those being investigated in relation to claims of sadistic physical, mental and sexual abuse at the home, which was run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul religious order.

High Court judge Lady Smith is due to publish a report into the allegations in the coming weeks, following the Scottish government’s probe into institutional child abuse last year.

During the hearings, former inmates of the orphanage gave graphic accounts of deprivation, mistreatment and neglect at the hands of the nuns in charge.

A witness who spent time at Smyllum Park in the 1960s condemned what he called “a culture of evil around religious orders at that time”, recalling sadistic punishments and hunger so acute that he ate grass, the BBC reports.

Others told the inquiry that nuns “beat them, forced them to eat vomit and ritually humiliated them for bed-wetting”, The Times reports. One former resident compared the sisters to “Nazi commanders”.

Smyllum Park attracted notoriety in 2003 when a mass grave containing the bodies of around 400 children was discovered on the property.

Records showed that the majority of the deceased had died between the 1870s and 1930s, mostly from diseases like tuberculosis and pleurisy.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Twelve people, eleven women and one man, ages ranging from 62 to 85 years, have been arrested and charged in connection with the non-recent abuse of children”.

She added: “A further four individuals will be reported today”.

The spokeswoman said that it would be “inappropriate to comment further” while enquiries are ongoing. 

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