North Wales paedophile ring  Police 
Eileen Fairweather

Award-winning journalist who helped expose the North Wales child abuse scandal calls for a proper police investigation

Powerful establishment figures accused of heinous crimes were unafraid but now live in fear of exposure


Eileen Fairweather
Dave McHugh
On Friday night a victim of the North Wales children's homes abuse scandal told BBC Newsnight he was prostituted in care by a senior Tory politician.

Steven Messham, now 51, had first publicly named this man 15 years ago at Sir Ronald Waterhouse's 1997 judicial inquiry into the care scandal.

But the Press was barred from reporting his shocking allegation.

I helped expose the North Wales scandal that led to the inquiry.

It is now agreed that at least 650 victims were horribly abused physically and sexually in nearly 40 care homes over 20 years.

Over several months at the inquiry, hundreds poured out their pain into a stark, modern, mostly deserted council chamber in the remote small town of Ewloe, far from the rich men's worlds of Westminster and Fleet Street.

But the Press bench was mostly empty.

Some tearfully described being raped or prostituted not just by staff but police officers, businessmen and politicians.

But reporting restrictions meant that the Press was barred from naming unprosecuted allegations.

Only seven staff were ever prosecuted and allegations against the powerful outsiders who allegedly picked up children outside the homes were never investigated by police or the inquiry, whose terms of reference were limited.

The courage and heart-breaking testimony of those who gave evidence therefore mostly went unreported.

The powerful establishment figures accused there of terrible crimes remained unafraid.

Now some ARE afraid. If you think Savile was conspiracy, the dam is about to burst on even bigger cover-ups.

The recent shocking revelations about how Savile and his pervert pals preyed for decades on defenceless youngsters in care homes and hospitals has made Britain realise that paedophile rings really do exist.

And they ARE probably protected by corrupt officials and police, not just by naivety.

For the past four decades, thousands of young people in care across Britain have described similar abuse and prostitution. Many have been dismissed as disturbed or just wanting compensation pay-outs.

Inquiries were held but their findings ignored, and no one joined the dots and asked if this was a form of well-organised crime.

The Savile scandal - which involves children of all classes and the sick, not just impoverished children abandoned to care - has made Britain ask: What if they were telling the truth all along? And what if some abusers were at the heart of Britain's Establishment?

At least 16 lads from these homes died in tragic or unexplained circumstances, several after revealing abuse. I vividly remember ringing the tribunal and asking if it would be investigating these deaths.

A very self-satisfied functionary told me it would not be and, when I angrily asked why not, he replied with an almost visible smirk: 'Well, if they're dead they can't give evidence, can they?'

I lost my professional cool and slammed down the phone and cried.

To this day no one has looked into how and why all those boys died.

Steven Messham's inquiry allegation on April 21 1997 may never be proven.

He admits he has spent time in a psychiatric hospital and received counselling, and he did not even give the inquiry the man's first name or describe him then as a politician.

He just knew that the man who abused him in posh cars and once at a hotel used by the local paedophile ring was wealthy enough to have his own driver. Young prostituted boys rarely know politicians' names or faces.

Another man who was also prostituted as a child in care in North Wales was shown a photo of the politician by another reporter and said he abused him.

I met and liked this former rent boy. But he knew that memory can play tricks and that such gossamer-thin "evidence" would hardly stand up in court.

It would be libellous and morally wrong to name the politician, given that the allegation against him has never been tested under cross-examination in open court.

But Steven's story makes one wonder what police might have found if they had really looked.

He claims police failed to put most of what he said about the politician and other man into his witness statement.

Steven Messham has asked to see David Cameron, and says these allegations ARE so serious that they must finally be made the subject of a proper police inquiry.

Much of the abuse took place at Bryn Estyn Children's Home in Wrexham, known to people as "Colditz".

All seven staff convicted of abuse were apparently picked for their similar tastes by the home's head Peter Howarth, who was jailed for 10 years in 1994 and died in prison.

Like other residents, Steven described being abused by a senior police officer who often visited Bryn Estyn. He sometimes gave him money afterwards.

On Friday's Newsnight, Steven also revealed the abuse extended outside the care home, saying: "In the home it was the standard abuse which was violent and sexual. Outside it was like you were sold, we were taken to the Crest Hotel in Wrexham, mainly on Sunday nights, where they would rent rooms.

"One particular night I always recall is when I was basically raped, tied down, and abused by nine different men."

Seven relatively lowly male care workers were convicted following an inquiry by North Wales police which many mistrust.

Victims say that a key figure in North Wales police was an abuser too and led a cover-up, while social services ignored complaints, victimised concerned staff, and aggressively suppressed 12 increasingly critical inquiry reports.

The outstandingly brave chairman of the council's social services committee, Labour councillor Malcolm King, was threatened by police, the council and their insurers with prison, bankruptcy, libel suits and forfeiting his home if he leaked the final devastating report by John Jillings to the Press.

Only 12 copies of the Jillings report were published and each was watermarked so the source of any leak could be identified. All were later pulped.

I wrote out the report's 300 pages by hand, to protect my source. It took me three days and, by agreement, I anonymously fed different sections to different papers. So did another whistleblower.

The resulting media firestorm led to the Waterhouse Inquiry.

Judge Waterhouse was horrified by the survivors' testimony, and his 1,000-page report is highly regarded.

Yet what people abused in these recurring care scandals really want is proper police investigation and arrests.

But to this day there has been no response to calls by the North Wales victims for a new investigation by an outside police force.

Steven's story makes clear why one is needed.