Police told of 11 new suspects in Cyril Smith abuse probe
- By Neal Keeling
The possible suspects are being investigated for abusing children at a Rochdale children’s home
Police investigating the sexual abuse of children by former MP Cyril Smith have been told of ‘at least’ 11 other suspects.
Seven alleged victims have given officers the names of men they say were behind the abuse linked to Knowl View School in Rochdale where Smith was chairman of the governors in its final year.
Next month a report is due to be published by barrister, Andrew Warnock QC, who was instructed by Rochdale council in January to ‘independently review all council decision-making’ related to the former special school in Bamford from the late 80s to mid 90s.
At least a dozen boys are said to have been victims of sexual abuse during that time and police are now sifting through 33 boxes of previously undiscovered archive material relating to the school.
Some of the suspects named by the victims may have died, but all had links to Knowl View.
Det Insp Caroline Ward said: “Following the publicity surrounding Sir Cyril Smith last year, seven people came forward to report physical and sexual abuse which occurred at Knowl View from the 1970s onwards.
“Those allegations relate to physical and sexual abuse that took place between pupils and adults at the school and these complaints are currently being investigated by officers from Greater Manchester Police’s Public Protection Division. These complaints relate to at least 11 potential suspects, but as not all victims knew the full names of their abusers we cannot as yet confirm the exact number of different suspects. Also, we are working to establish if any of the potential suspects are now deceased.
“The allegations we have received are building up a picture of the regime that was in place at Knowl View at that time. We have also been working very closely with Rochdale council and we are now examining boxes of files held about Knowl View as part of investigation.
“I would encourage anyone who was a victim of either sexual or physical abuse to come forward and speak to police as the more evidence we have the better the chances of bringing abusers to justice.”
Knowl View was shut in 1994 after a dossier detailing abuse was handed to police. Whistleblower, and former head of care at the school, Martin Digan, said he feared Smith was among those abusing boys and he verbally reported his suspicions to police and the council.
Smith was investigated twice in the 70s and 90s but never prosecuted and it wasn’t until 2012 that police admitted he had abused children.
Lawyers acting for victims of Smith, who was elected as Liberal MP for Rochdale in 1972, have started legal action against the town’s council.
Alan Collins, a specialist child abuse solicitor, working on behalf of Slater Gordon, which recently merged with Pannone, is representing six alleged victims.
A claim for one of the six, who was abused at Cambridge House, a hostel for deprived boys, has now been submitted to court.
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