Officials apologise to members of family raped by 'British Fritzl'

Two sisters who were repeatedly raped by their father and gave birth to nine of his children were given an apology yesterday by the authorities which failed to protect them.

An investigation found that the family had contact with 28 different agencies and 100 members of staff over 35 years. The Sheffield man, who cannot be named, was given a life sentence after admitting 25 counts of rape.

The unreserved apology came in the aftermath of the publication of an executive summary of a serious case review by the Lincolnshire and Sheffield safeguarding children boards. The father, now 56, was jailed for life in November 2008 after one of his daughters alleged incest. He repeatedly impregnated the two daughters, and nine children were born – two of whom died on the day of their birth. The case has echoes of that of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian who imprisoned and raped his daughter.

The man began his attacks in 1980 and they continued daily until 2008. The daughters became pregnant 18 times and, between 1975 and 2008, the family came into contact with 28 different agencies, involving more than 100 professionals.

The serious case review showed that the family moved home 67 times between Lincolnshire and Sheffield so that the father could avoid detection. Professor Pat Cantrill, who wrote the independent report, said there had been a culture of social workers "having a quiet word", which contributed to the failures to help the family.

Sue Fiennes, the independent chairman of Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board, said: "We want to apologise to the family at the heart of this case. It will be clear that we failed this family. This report will not make comfortable reading for any of the organisations concerned. Lessons are being learned by the agencies involved."

Her counterpart from Lincolnshire, Chris Cook, added: "We are genuinely sorry. We should have protected you." He said he wanted to reassure people in Sheffield and Lincolnshire that the boards had significantly improved their work in protecting vulnerable children and families.

The father's trial at Sheffield Crown Court was told the daily abuse began when the daughters were aged between eight and 10. When they got older, he would rape them two or three times a week, even if they were pregnant. One daughter would have to babysit all the children while the other was forced to have sex with her father.