Manager in homes scandal found dead

Care inquiry: Death as charges brought over alleged assaults
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The former manager of two private homes in which mentally handicapped residents were allegedly sexually and physically abused has been found dead shortly after being told he was going to face charges of ill- treatment.

Gordon Rowe, who set up and ran the homes in Stoke Poges, near Slough, Buckinghamshire, for 10 years until 1993, is believed to have taken his own life. His body was found in a car in Crowthorne, Berkshire, early on Monday morning. A tube had been fitted from the exhaust pipe into the vehicle.

Mr Rowe was at the centre of an 18-month police investigation, in which 700 people were interviewed following allegations, first reported in the Independent, that mentally handicapped adults were raped, beaten and humiliated.

It is understood that a few days ago Mr Rowe learnt that he was about to be charged for ill-treatment of residents under the Mental Health Act. Mr Rowe has had a total of 40 allegations of assault levelled at him by 13 people.

The police have been investigating about a dozen people who worked at the homes, run by the company, Longcare, while Mr Rowe was in charge. Several people are expected to be charged in the next few weeks. The families of at least four former residents are trying to sue for damages for the severe traumatic stress they claimed to have suffered from their alleged abuse at the homes up to 1993.

A confidential report by Buckinghamshire County Council, which was leaked to the Independent in 1994, contained allegations which, if substantiated, would amount to one of the worst residential care scandals since systematic child sex abuse was discovered in Leicestershire homes in 1991.

It alleged that men and women at the homes were raped, forced to eat outside and locked in their rooms - sometimes for days at a time.

The document, compiled by the council's social services inspection unit, reported that one man suffered severe anal bleeding for days before he was taken to a doctor.

The inspectors' report, which was passed to the police, concluded that residents were "continually subjected to a catalogue of abuse, deprivation, humiliation and torment"'.

Among further allegations made against Gordon Rowe were that in 1992 staff saw him kick a young man, who had the mental age of a child, in the stomach; force-feed a 47-year-old woman suffering from Down's syndrome; and hose down with freezing water in mid-winter a 39-year-old man who had incontinence.

Buckinghamshire County Council's report on the allegations was completed in June 1994 but the council's social services department kept its findings confidential.

They agreed to let the homes remain open, providing that Mr Rowe severed all ties with them. It added that the present management has made improvements.

The two homes, Stoke Place and Stoke Green, are now run by Mr Rowe's son, Nigel, who was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Detective Superintendent Jon Bound, who led the investigation, said yesterday: "More than 12 people were investigated during the inquiry. I anticipate in the next few weeks we will be taking action as a result of the wide-ranging allegations of sexual and physical abuse and ill-treatment."

A spokesman from Buckinghamshire council, said that the police investigations resulted from information obtained by the council's social services department. He added that the council had acted in the best interests of the home's residents at all time.