A new inquiry into a historic paedophile ring in North Wales care homes has uncovered “significant” fresh evidence of “systematic and serious sexual and physical abuse”.
Detectives involved in Operation Pallial, which was launched last November, said they had identified 140 allegations relating to 18 care homes between 1963 and 1992, including fresh claims by 76 new complainants.
The number of alleged victims and care homes, and the duration of the period involved, is much wider than previously thought.
Detective Superintendent Ian Mulcahey, the senior investigating officer, said: “These are serious allegations that will be thoroughly investigated.
“Many have provided graphic accounts of abuse, in some cases of very serious criminality.”
The publication of today’s report on phase one of the inquiry comes less than a week after a man was arrested in Ipswich, Suffolk, accused of “a number of serious sexual offences against a number of individuals”, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) said.
He was arrested last Tuesday and taken to a police station in North Wales where he was interviewed over recent allegations of historic abuse and then bailed to the end of July, pending further inquiries. Soca refused to give his age.
He is the first person to be detained so far as part of the inquiry.
Today’s report said a total of 84 individuals - 75 male and nine female - had been named by complainants.
Of these, 16 were named by more than one alleged victim and 10 may now be deceased.
Operation Pallial was set up to re-examine claims of sex crimes and look again at the original police investigations into abuse at care homes in North Wales.
It came about following allegations broadcast on the BBC’s Newsnight programme that a public inquiry which looked at the scandal had failed to uncover the full extent of abuse.
The Waterhouse Inquiry was set up in 2000 to look at claims linked to homes in the former council areas of Gwynedd and Clwyd since 1974.
Victims have since said that the inquiry examined only a fraction of the abuse which took place.
High Court judge Mrs Justice Macur is leading the review, which will look at whether specific allegations were not investigated, and urged alleged victims and all other interested parties to give further evidence.
Operation Pallial is being conducted by the National Crime Agency, at the request of North Wales Police, to ensure its independence.
North Wales Chief Constable Mark Polin said he had asked the NCA to continue the work to phase two.
He said: “I took the decision to ask the NCA to investigate these allegations, conscious that some victims of historic abuse may not have the necessary level of confidence in North Wales Police to report matters directly to us.
“Pallial has now secured accounts from almost all victims who are willing to support an investigation and it makes absolute sense for the officers and staff involved to be at the core of phase two and to move matters forward as quickly as possible.”
Phase two will involve further investigations, he said, in liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service.