Six held in child abuse inquiry

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The Independent Online
Former members of the St John Ambulance Brigade were arrested in a series of dawn raids yesterday by Hampshire police officers investigating a paedophile ring.

Six men, aged 38 to 69, were seized at addresses in Aldershot and Farnborough after a four-month investigation into alleged child abuse between the 1960s and 1980s. They were being questioned at different police stations across the county yesterday.

The inquiry, codenamed Operation Grandee, unveiled a catalogue of alleged abuse and comes just a month after a Hampshire-based paramedic was sentenced to four years for repeated indecent assaults on teenage girls he met through St John Ambulance.

Officers from the 25-strongsquad have interviewed hundreds of alleged victims from as far afield as Australia, Thailand and the United States, but believe many more have yet to come forward.

Detective Inspector Peter Swan, who is leading Operation Grandee, said: "We have identified a large number of alleged victims and possible offences. But this is an ongoing inquiry and we are anxious to speak to any former St John Ambulance members from the Aldershot and Farnborough areas who may have helpful information."

Harry Dymond, Commander of the Hampshire region of St John Ambulance, said: "We are devastated by this news. We believe that all those involved were ex-members of the organisation but we have already begun a full internal inquiry.

"We already have a stringent child protection policy, but if the inquiry shows any weaknesses then we shall certainly tighten our screening procedures."

A spokesman for St John Ambulance said: "We are extremely distressed and concerned about this case and will do everything we can to support the police. We and social services have been working closely with the police since the beginning of the year to assist their investigations."