Rotherham child sex abuse: 'Hundreds' of potential suspects, including two current or former councillors, investigated

The National Crime Agency said Operation Stovewood had gathered huge amount of 'very disturbing' information

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of possible suspects, including two serving or former Rotherham councillors, have been identified so far by an investigation into child sexual abuse in the town, the National Crime Agency has said.

The inquiry, named Operation Stovewood, was started in December after Professor Alexis Jay’s report into the sexual abuse of 1,400 children in the town between 1997 and 2013.

Senior investigating officer Steve Baldwin said Professor Jay’s report, published in August last year, painted a “very good estimate” of the scale of the “horrific” abuse.

“We have gathered a huge amount of information which details some very disturbing events,” he told the Rotherham Advertiser.

Mr Baldwin continued that his team of 32 officers had identified more than 3,300 lines of inquiry after examining 47 boxes of material – including some 1,500 files from the organisation Risky Business, which attempts to help victims of abuse, alone.

The investigation, which is estimated to cost between £3 to £5 million and is expected to run for a number of years, has identified “around 300” suspects, according to Mr Baldwin. “This number is changing on a daily basis as we do more research."

He went on to say that the majority of potential suspects were Asian men, with most victims white girls and women.

The NCA also confirmed that two of those under investigation were serving or former Rotherham councillors.

Mr Baldwin, who emphasised his investigation intended to “listen to victims”, will reportedly “prioritise action against suspects who may continue to pose any risk of harm today and those who caused most harm in the past.”

NCA Director Trevor Pearce cautioned that some of the reported names “will be duplicates of other details, names, nick-names or street names.”

He continued: “Others may not prove to be offenders at all, or may be witnesses to abuse.”

Mr Pearce added that it would be “some time” before the investigation would be able to give “a precise figure” on the number of people directly and indirectly involved in the exploitation.

Professor Jay’s report led to a wave of high-profile resignations and recriminations as the horrific scale of the abuse was revealed.

Additional reporting by Press Association