EXCLUSIVE: Institutional failures left Shoebury 'sex ring' victims 'disturbed and suicidal', whistleblowers claim

By Charles Thomson in Crime

CHILDREN who did not receive appropriate care after disclosing abuse by a ‘sex ring’ later developed mental health problems and took their own lives, whistleblowers have claimed.

Essex Police last week announced a probe into an alleged Shoebury paedophile ring ‘cover-up’ in the 1980s/90s, after a Yellow Advertiser investigation resulted in three whistleblowers reporting concerns to the authorities.

Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh and Police Commissioner Nick Alston announced the investigation last Tuesday, March 8, and called on victims to come forward.

Two whistleblowers – Rob West, who worked for young offenders’ charity the Rainer Foundation, and psychologist and former NHS manager Robin Jamieson – said victims who were denied counselling became ‘disturbed’, developed addictions and, in one case, went on to abuse children.

In May 1990, two men were convicted for their roles in what Essex Council described in official documents as a ‘sex ring’ targeting ‘adolescent boys’; Denis King, then aged 55 and living in Cunningham Close, Shoebury, and Brian Tanner, then 57 and living in Beedell Avenue, Westcliff.

Essex Police this week confirmed King was convicted of four counts of gross indecency and three counts of attempted buggery, while Tanner was convicted of three counts of gross indecency and three counts of attempted buggery.

King was jailed for four years, Tanner for three.

Tanner has since died and King no longer lives in Essex.

A report published weeks later by two local charities – the Rainer Foundation and the Children’s Society – said the handful of boys involved in the court case were ‘the tip of a large iceberg’.

It said the number of victims ‘could be as many as 80, aged 11 to their early 20s’.

The authors based their findings on assessments of 25 youngsters known to have visited King’s flat.

But Mr West – who attended court with some alleged victims in 1990 – said almost none received appropriate aftercare.

Mr West, now a probation officer, said Rainder received disclosures from ‘12 to 15’ boys, but institutional failures meant only two were ‘case conferenced’ – a formal process which would have made the children eligible for counselling.

He said: “Even boys that were in court with me couldn’t be case conferenced – couldn’t be seen as children in need and protected in formal ways.

“Only two people I know actually got case conferenced. All the others either committed suicide, died of overdoses, ended up on serious sentences. One became an abuser himself that I know of. Others are sleeping rough.”

The 1990 Rainer Foundation/Children’s Society report said the impact on the alleged victims was ‘enormous’.

It described how at least two attempted suicide, all suffered depression, some began self-harming, the majority were ‘exceptionally confused’ about their sexuality, some ‘graduated into the local rent boy scene’ and some began displaying ‘abusive behaviour’ towards younger children.

The report said local welfare agencies were ‘struggling to come to terms’ with the situation and had ‘only offered a patchy response’.

Mr Jamieson said: “Over the next few years I knew that some of those children got a bit older and ended up in the mental health service. They were very damaged children.”

Mr Alston said he felt ‘great sadness’ at the ‘troubled lives’ the alleged victims had gone on to live.

He said: “There’s an opportunity here to see whether any of those people are perhaps prepared to engage again, if not with police then a professional agency, to see whether there’s anything, even at this stage, which can be done to help them.”

Anybody with information can call Essex Police on 101.

Specialist helplines for victims:

National Association for People Abused in Childhood – 0808 801 0331.

SERICC (south and west Essex) – 01375 380609.

CARA (mid and north Essex) – 01206 769795.

SoSRC (Southend) – 01702 667590.

National Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – 0808 800 5000.