Abuse inquiry seeks children

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The Independent Online
Detectives are trying to trace hundreds of former residents of a home run by a leading children's charity after allegations of abuse have surfaced.

The police inquiry was launched after complaints of alleged abuse of youngsters staying at the Holmwood children's home in Bristol, which was run by National Children's Homes, now NCH Action for Children.

A woman who was there during the 1970s contacted Avon and Somerset Police three weeks ago, claiming she and other children were subjected to sexual abuse at the home. The woman, now in her 30s, had kept her alleged ordeal a secret for more than 17 years.

The alleged offences date back more than 20 years and a special hotline has been set up for people with information, including former residents, to contact police.

Hundreds of boys and girls up to the age of 16 from all over the country are believed to have stayed at the home, set in a large manor house next to Westbury Wildlife Park, until it closed in 1985. It was also the regional headquarters for National Children's Homes. An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman said officers were investigating allegations of child abuse at the home between 1970 and 1980.

A spokeswoman for NCH Action For Children said yesterday: "NCH Action For Children is co-operating with Avon and Somerset Police in the investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse ... NCH Action For Children takes any such allegations very seriously indeed."

She added: "Before 1989, voluntary organisations such as NCH Action For Children were not able to obtain police checks on potential employees."

A round-the-clock helpline is available where people concerned about the investigation can speak to counsellors. The freephone number is 0800 800500. The police hotline number is 0117 9454688.

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