Nursery worker on child porn charges

Police meet with parents in bid to identify possible victims as Plymouth woman arrested after tip-off from another force

More than a hundred parents in Plymouth are being contacted by police to find out if their children were sexually abused at a nursery by a female employee who was yesterday charged with a series of sexual offences.

Vanessa George, 39, who worked at Little Ted's Child Day Care Unit in Laira, was charged with four counts of sexual assault and making and distributing indecent images of children.

She was arrested at her home in nearby Efford at about midnight on Monday, after Devon and Cornwall Police received a tip-off from another force. During the raid on her home, officers seized her mobile phone and computer equipment. A cursory search of the phone uncovered a "small number" of indecent images but officers said they feared her computer may hold "hundreds or even thousands" more. They uncovered a computer disc at the nursery which contained more than a dozen images of "a serious nature".

Ms George, who lives with her husband, Andrew, and their two teenage daughters, has worked at the nursery for at least two years. She is charged with two counts of sexual assault by penetration, two counts of sexual assault by touching, and three counts of making, possessing and distributing indecent images of children.

At a press conference yesterday, Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed that some of the images had definitely been taken inside the nursery but said it was "impossible to say" where all of them had originated.

Their investigation is focusing on the alleged exchange of material between Ms George and Colin Blanchard, 38, from Littleborough, near Rochdale.

Mr Blanchard appeared at Trafford magistrates' court on Tuesday charged with the possession and distribution of indecent images.

It is understood that police investigating Mr Blanchard contacted their colleagues in the Devon and Cornwall force at about 9pm on Monday, after discovering emails containing images of abuse allegedly sent by Ms George.

In some of the images, Ms George can also be seen wearing a T-shirt with the nursery's logo on it.

Police said they had struggled to identify the children in the pictures, many of which were shot in close-up, and admitted it may never be possible to correctly identify some of the victims.

Chief Superintendent Jim Webster, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "This investigation is fast-moving and now confirmation has been received of evidence leading to the charges today.

"It is a significant and disturbing situation, and the position is made even more difficult that identification of the children in the images is very difficult. There are many that contain the images of torsos.

"As we go through the painstaking task of identifying who may be concerned, we are focusing on communication with the families we believe are involved."

Russ Middleton, the head of the criminal investigation department at Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "It's safe to say we believe some of the images were taken in the nursery.

"At this time we have been unable to identify any images of individual children and it is right to say some images may never be identified. Our priority is to build up a close relationship with potential victims and focus on children contained within the images."

On Tuesday, police called a meeting in Plymouth during which they spoke to about 100 concerned parents and people associated with the nursery.

The director of children and young people's services at Plymouth City Council, Bronwyn Lacey, also addressed the gathering.

The nursery is responsible for the care of 60 babies and toddlers aged between one and five years, but children up to the age of 11 may also attend its breakfast and after-school clubs.

Parents arriving at the nursery with their children on Tuesday morning were handed letters telling them it had closed after the arrest of an employee. The nursery has yet to reopen.

Ms George remained in custody at Charles Cross police station in Plymouth yesterday.

She is due to appear at Plymouth magistrates' court this morning.

Residents of the street on which the nursery worker lived described her as a "nice neighbour" who was "never any trouble". They said they had been shocked to hear of the allegations against her.

"She always seemed lovely," one said. "She always says hello. I hope it is just a big mistake. The last thing we expected was for her to be involved with this."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
Travel
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
News
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
News
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect