David Cameron announces inquiries into ‘dreadful’ Tory child abuse claims
David Cameron has ordered an investigation that threatens to expose a senior Tory politician as a member of a child sex ring in North Wales.
The Prime Minister said the “truly dreadful” allegations of abuse from the 1970s, including some involving the unidentified senior Conservative, could not be left “hanging in the air”.
The announcement, during a trip to Abu Dhabi, was made three days after a victim told BBC’s Newsnight that he was raped “more than a dozen times” by the man when he was just 13 years old.
Mr Cameron’s swift action highlights the political sensitivity surrounding the issue after the BBC was accused by its own journalists of covering up a programme about sex abuse by Jimmy Savile.
The investigation will examine whether a judicial inquiry ordered in 1996 by William Hague, the then secretary of state for Wales, was “properly constituted and properly did its job”. Mr Hague could appear as a witness in any new inquiry.
Separately, Downing Street confirmed a second inquiry into the police handling of the scandal, which could be led by a retired Chief Constable or the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
Detectives were last night poised to reopen the criminal inquiry into abuse at children’s homes in North Wales.
Mr Cameron said: “Child abuse is an absolutely hateful and abhorrent crime and these allegations are truly dreadful and they mustn’t be left hanging in the air, so I’m taking action today.
“I’m going to be asking a senior independent figure to lead an urgent investigation into whether the original inquiry was properly constituted and properly did its job and to report urgently to the government.”
Yvette Cooper, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said a “robust and thorough” criminal investigation into the allegations at child homes in North Wales must be launched.
“It is deeply troubling if once again the victims of abuse have not been believed or taken seriously,” she said.
On Friday, Steve Messham, a sex abuse victim, told BBC’s Newsnight that he had been taken out of a care home and “sold” to men for sexual abuse at a nearby hotel and that a senior Tory from the time was among the perpetrators.
The senior Conservative was described at the original public inquiry as a “shadowy figure of high public standing”.
Mr Messham will now meet David Jones, the Welsh Secretary, this afternoon, to discuss the allegations in detail.
A number of government departments, including the Home Office and the Wales Office, have also been asked to report to Number 10 with historic records of any allegations.
The senior Tory accused of child abuse has strenuously denied the allegations. He told The Daily Telegraph that he has only visited Wrexham in North Wales, where the abuse took place, on one occasion.
He said: “Some guy said I was in the habit of taking young men from Wrexham in my Rolls-Royce.
“But I have only been to Wrexham once and I didn’t visit the children’s home, I made a speech to the constituency. I was with an official at all times. I never had a Rolls Royce.
“When the inquiry was taking place I hired a lawyer to watch it in case there was any mention of my name. The point is that it is totally without any grounds whatsoever.”
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, abuse was endemic in children’s care homes in North Wales.
Children were systematically raped by paedophiles entrusted by the state with their care, or ferried by to hotels and country homes where they were abused.
In 1996 Mr Hague, announced a judge-led inquiry, describing the abuse as one of the “saddest chapters” in the history of social care.
The inquiry, led by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, heard evidence from more than 650 people who had been in care from 1974 and took three years to complete.
While the final report appeared exhaustive, however, critics said its remit to examine abuse on care home premises was too limited.
Victims were even more concerned by an order made at the time of the publication of the inquiry in 2000, which banned the identification of 28 alleged abusers.
They included the senior Conservative accused of abusing Mr Messham. Mr Messham says that when he went to police in the 1970s, he was accused of being a liar and his evidence was ignored.
At the public inquiry, he said he had received threats and that both his house and car had been “destroyed”. “He was not taking chances any more,” the report found.
His allegations about the senior Tory were supported by a second victim, who said the politician had taken him for a meal which he paid for with his “gold credit card” before he abused him. The man also had a Harrods account card”.
Sir Ronald dismissed the allegations as “embarking on the realm of fantasy”. “It is obvious on this evidence that we cannot be satisfied that any member of the X [the politician’s] family was involved in paedophile activity.”
While the Newsnight investigation was unable to name the man for legal reasons, over the weekend he widely identified via hundreds of messages on Twitter. Several other politicians not suspected of any involvement were also included in the messages.
Tom Watson, the Labour MP, last night urged Mr Cameron to go further. In an open letter to the Prime Minister he claimed there was evidence liking a No. 10 aide to a paedophile ring.
He said: “Your advisers will tell you to be wary of ‘opening the floodgates’. They are wrong. Their decorous caution is the friend of the paedophile. Narrowing the inquiry equals hiding the truth. That is the reality and it is not what you want.”