Paedophile network abused 200 children (19.2.00)

The Independent, February 19th 2000
By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent

MORE THAN 200 children are believed to have been abused by a network of paedophiles in London care homes.

Seven people have been arrested and 11 council workers suspended in the on-going police inquiry covering 20 years of sexual and physical abuse.

Scotland Yard is still trying to trace suspected paedophiles who worked in up to 25 children’s homes in the south London borough of Lambeth.

The inquiry, codenamed Operation Middleton, was set up last year after a former care worker in Lambeth was jailed at Liverpool Crown Court for abusing 12 boys. He admitted 35 offences both on Merseyside and in Lambeth. The London-based inquiry focused initially on Lambeth children’s homes, but has since expanded to local authorities nationwide.

The investigation is examining alleged abuse in Lambeth homes from 1974 to 1994.

So far the team has traced about 200 children who have claimed they were abused, including allegations of rape, buggery, and physical assault. The youngest victims were only nine at the time of the alleged assaults, which are said to have taken place from the 60s to the late 80s. In the past 24 hours another five victims have contacted the police.

Scotland Yard disclosed yesterday that they were still seeking the whereabouts of dozens of former care workers.

About 1,400 people worked at the children’s homes in Lambeth – which were all closed down by 1995 – but police are concentrating on tracing the alleged abusers named by the victims. About 7,000 children stayed at Lambeth’s homes during the relevant period.

So far police have arrested five men and two women during the 14-month inquiry. Eleven employees of Lambeth council have been suspended and face disciplinary charges for a range of offences including mismanagement.

A small number of people accused of child abuse have been found working in local authorities outside Lambeth, and have now been suspended.

Links have also been discovered between several of the key suspects. They were found to have worked together in the same homes, given each other references and carried out training courses together.

Detective Superintendent Richard Gargini, who is leading Operation Middleton, said: “There appears to be some linkage between people who were operating in the care system between 1974 and 1994.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Hugh Orde, of the Metropolitan Police, said he estimated the number of likely victims to be about 200, although more were being identified all the time.

Because the alleged abuse took place so long ago it has been difficult to obtain enough evidence to bring charges. “It ends up with almost word against word,” he said.

All the victims have been offered counselling. Anyone with information about the case should contact the police on 0171 926 3050

Two key workers at a children’s home were sentenced yesterday to a total of 23 years in prison for a string of sexual assaults on boys in their care.

Former Deputy Principal Barrie Alden, 66, from Norwich, and ex-house master John Wright, 56, from Talgarth, Powys, were sentenced at Newport Crown Court. Alden and Wright committed the offences on a total of eight boys at the Ty Mawr residential home, near Abergavenny, South Wales, from the 1960s to the 1980s.

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