Manchester child abuse inquiry to go back 40 years

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Greater Manchester police yesterday appealed for people who had been abused in children's homes in the area to come forward and help them with their investigation.

An inquiry named Operation Cleopatra was launched yesterday in conjunction with social services and the force's family support unit after 40 people, mainly men, are believed to have made allegations of abuse about the time they spent in children's homes. The majority of the complaints, which date as far back as 1958, are allegations of sexual abuse.

Detective Superintendent Peter Stelfox said officers were investigating 48 complaints involving children aged between 11 and 18.

Such is the volume of complaints that the investigation is likely to take at least a year. But there are fears that the inquiry may be hampered by the difficulty in locating witness evidence and medical records.

"The volume of allegations is such that we are bringing them under one operation. Over the last 18 months ... 58 allegations have been made," said Det Supt Stelfox. "At the moment we are sifting through and trying to gather supporting evidence which means we can go out and interview offenders. Seven local authorities have been named so far within the area. A number of complaints are about the same abuser."

The allegations arise from other inquiries conducted in Cheshire, North Wales, and Merseyside, and from the Greater Manchester area itself.

Bob Lewis, director of social services in Stockport, one of the seven authorities, said yesterday: "I hope that the culture of children's homes will have changed. We now have a series of guidelines and reports which give clear guidance on recruitment and monitoring at children's homes."