Police investigating sexual abuse at the Medomsley detention centre in Durham believe they have uncovered an organised paedophile ring which operated in the 1970s and 1980s, it has been reported.
Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry, the senior investigating officer leading the 70-officer strong inquiry into the abuse claims, told the Guardian that they are now looking into a complex paedophile ring.
He added that many more victims are thought to have been affected than previously thought.
“We always knew this would be a major inquiry but the scale of it, and the sheer number of victims who have come forward, has been a shock.”
He told the newspaper that the team has also found evidence of a “brutal regime where violence was both extreme and routine.”
The officers aim to pursue prosecutions against the people who committed offences, some of which reportedly occurred over 40 years ago.
Almost 100 men have already come forward as victims and had started to receive therapy.
Police officers had thought that two men who were imprisoned for abusing boys and have since died, Neville Husband and Leslie Johnson, were “bad apples” at the centre.
Husband was imprisoned for eight years in 2003 for sexually abusing five young male inmates between 1977 and 1984, and had his sentence increased in 2005 when new victims came forward and he admitted to attacking four more boys.
Following an investigation by the newspaper, it later emerged that Husband had raped boys at the centre on a daily basis for over 15 years.
Storeman Leslie Johnson was jailed for similar offences in 1977, according to the newspaper.
But the latest findings led Durham Police to believe that Husband was part of a group of paedophiles who systematically preyed on vulnerable teenagers, particularly those who had been in care and did not have family who would visit them.
Goundry told the Guardian his officers had been shocked and sickened at evidence given by former inmates.
"From the statements, there is growing evidence to suggest there was an organised paedophile ring operating in Medomsley. This will form a major part of our operation and future discussions with the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service]."
He added that the purpose of the investigation was to encourage victims to come forward, to prosecute abusers, and to give victims after-care.
Many of the men who suffered abuse were detained for petty crimes, but some were so severely affected by abuse that they have been unable to work or leave their homes.
The team is also investigating physical abuse and the allegedly culture of violence at the centre.
Anyone with information which may assist the inquiry can contact Durham police on 101 or 0345 60 60 365.