The sister of a vulnerable adult who was a patient at a hospital at the centre of an abuse inquiry has been setting out how he was assaulted over the years.

The man, now in his late 30s and named only as Martin, was treated at Muckamore Abbey Hospital between 1990, when he was aged six, and 2015.

His sister Antoinette told how he had been assaulted by staff and how it totally changed his demeanour.

He had gone from a happy, vocal young man into a depressed and withdrawn person.

"We could see the [effect the] abuse was having on him. It was breaking our hearts."

The worst of the abuse happened after Martin moved into Muckamore as a full time residential patient at 16.

Antoinette said Martin had a bottle of water pointed over his head by a staff member "for a laugh".

He had been assaulted on another occasion, struck on the head and pushed violently into his wheelchair and pinned there by staff.

He had also been pushed in the shower and banged his head.

On another occasion he sustained a deep gash to his head in the night which required four stitches, even though he was supposed to be monitored 24 hours a day.

The family was never told how the injury had been caused.

His parents had witnessed him being forcibly restrained and complained, but their concerns were brushed aside, Antionette said.

They were told it was an acceptable form of restraint and that the use of arm splints was an appropriate way to prevent Martin self-harming.

"It was chilling that people knew but just accepted what was happening," Antoinette said.

"I worried about what was happening when people couldn't see."

'They controlled her whole life while she was detained'

Later the mother of a woman who had been admitted to Muckamore also gave evidence.

She told the inquiry that her daughter, known only as Kirsty, had developed paranoid psychosis after smoking cannabis from the age of 14.

She moved through various mental health facilities before she was admitted to Muckamore.

Her mother was never told why or on whose authority.

She said she had immediately gone "downhill".

She was on 22 tablets and began to gain weight, going from a size 10 to a size 20 in the space of just over a year.

Her mother said when she looked at the before and after photographs her daughter's "wee face breaks my heart".

Her mother said Kirsty reported hearing voices and did not like to be alone.

Despite that she was routinely placed in seclusion by staff, often by force, causing bruising to her arms.

Her mother said she believed that was done because Kirsty was very aware of what was going on around her and capable or reporting it.

Her mother said there was no routine or recreation during her daughter's 2 years at the facility.

"They controlled her whole life while she was detained. They were a law unto themselves.

"It was a disgrace what they put my daughter through. It was hell to watch her suffer."

Kirsty was eventually discharged from Muckamore but was found dead in a hostel two years later at the age of 31.

38 staff members charged with a range of offences

This is the first time the inquiry has heard directly from the families of patients.

It was set up to investigate how vulnerable adults in the care of the state were abused over many years.

Eighty-three members of staff at Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Antrim have been placed on precautionary suspension and a major police investigation is running alongside the inquiry.

Thirty-eight staff members have been charged with a range of offences including assault.

It is the biggest adult safeguarding investigation in the UK.

The police investigation is focused on a period between March and September 2017 when CCTV was operational in the hospital without the staff's knowledge.

But the inquiry will look at allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults at the hospital from December 1999 to June 2021.