EXCLUSIVE: Yellow Advertiser prompts Essex Police to reopen Shoebury ‘child sex ring’ investigation for a second time

THE YELLOW Advertiser has been instrumental in reopening a historic child sex abuse inquiry for a second time, by delivering a dossier of fresh evidence to Essex Police.

Detectives called the YA to police headquarters in Chelmsford last week, to announced the end of Operation SANDS.

But when it arrived for the briefing, the YA handed over a document containing detailed allegations about more than 10 men and women based in and around Southend in the 1980s.

The detailed allegations were made by a man who said he was abused over a years-long period as a teenager. It was compiled and handed to police with his consent. In it, he named multiple childhood friends he believed were also victims.

Expert child protection officer Detective Superintendent Tracey Harman confirmed the man was known to police as a suspected victim and said his information would be followed up.

The force has since confirmed that it is pursuing ’multiple new main lines of inquiry’ based on the document.

Essex Police announced in spring 2016 that it was reviewing an almost 30-year-old investigation into child abuse in and around Shoeburyness.

Dubbed Operation SANDS, the review was launched in direct response to an 18-month YA investigation.

The investigation began in late 2014, with the YA raising questions over 10 secret compensation payments authorised by Essex Council for ’alleged abuse’ in the 1970s and 1990s.

It resulted in four whistleblowers – all child protection workers in the Southend area during the 1980s and 1990s – raising concerns with the YA over a ’sex ring’ they felt had not been properly investigated.

Two men were convicted of child sex charges, relating to six victims, after the original Essex Police investigation in 1990.

But the whistleblowers said they knew other men had abused the same children, and possibly dozens more, yet appeared not to have been pursued.

Nick Alston, then the county’s police commissioner, described the whistleblowers as ’eminently credible’. He and Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh ordered the creation of Operation SANDS.

Det Supt Harman said the review found a number of files connected to the original investigation had been destroyed, in line with the force’s retention policy.

In the records which did remain, some victims did make reference to other men, said Det Supt Harman, but they did not identify them in enough detail for police to trace them.

But the complainant who spoke with the YA said he had named several other abusers, by either their full names or their first names and places of work, to police at the time. He named them again in the document handed to Det Supt Harman by the YA last week.

Det Supt Harman said three fresh complainants had come forward after Operation SANDS was announced, each making allegations about one man, now in his 80s, who was arrested and interviewed.

She said: “However, based on all the information gathered and witnesses spoken to, there was insufficient evidence to charge in this instance. If anyone has further evidence in connection with this or any other investigation, I need them to come forward to us.”

Det Supt Harman said that in addition to prompting complainants to come forward to Operation SANDS, the YA’s reporting on historic allegations had emboldened victims to come forward in other, unrelated cases.

Anyone with information about abuse in and around Shoeburyness in the 1980s and 1990s was asked to call Essex Police on 101. The officer leading Operation SANDS is DC Laura Williams.

By Charles Thomson

October 30, 2017

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Charles Thomson

Chief ReporterEmail: [email protected]