Two whistleblowers were punished for trying to expose Britain’s worst child abuse scandal which affected up to 1,000 girls for 40 years, the Mirror can reveal today.
A Labour MP last night joined calls for a public inquiry after girls as young as 11 were lured from families to be drugged, beaten and raped in an epidemic that, say victims, continues today.
Three were murdered and two others died in tragedies linked to the scandal.
As our case histories show, many were ignored after reporting rapes to police.
But, despite similar high-profile cases in Rochdale and Rotherham, authorities in Telford did nothing for years to stop the horrific abuse network exposed yesterday by The Sunday Mirror.
Hundreds of victims have been failed. Police even told one victim they had destroyed evidence of her rape claim after they tried to contact her.
A council-commissioned report told how social workers knew of the child sex crimes in the late 90s. And in 2016, whislteblowing police chaplain Keith Osmund-Smith was suspended after passing papers to the Mirror.
We asked police what was done about allegations of abuse in the 150-page report and they said they had not been properly logged.
A second whistleblower employed by Axis Counselling – a charity helping sex abuse victims – was forced to leave her post after speaking out.
Notes of her disciplinary meeting show officials admitted she had done nothing wrong but feared funding from authorities would be cut if she kept expressing views about the lack of action over the scandal by the council and police.
The majority of Axis Counselling’s funding comes from West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion – who has opposed calls from an MP and the Sunday Mirror for a Rotherham-style inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Telford.
In September 2016, Tory MP for Telford, Lucy Allan, called for an inquiry after an abuse victim told her that many of the worst offenders had not been prosecuted and still lived in the area.
The same month, Tory Campion and nine others on the Labour-run council wrote to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, saying the inquiry was not necessary.
The whistleblowers’ concerns came on top of complaints from victims who were ignored or treated like criminals.
Becky Watson, 13, died in a car crash described as a “prank”. But she had suffered two years of abuse by an Asian grooming gang.
Her mum Torron Watson said she repeatedly told police Becky was being abused and named suspects.
But, she said: “Girls like Becky were treated like criminals.”
In another case, Lucy Lowe, 16, was killed with her mum Eileen and 17-year-old sister Sarah in an a house fire set by her abuser Azhar Ali Mehmood, 44.
Cabbie Mehmood targeted Lucy in 1997 and she was just 14 when she gave birth to his daughter. He was jailed in 2001 for murdering Lucy, her mum Eileen and 17-year-old sister Sarah.
But he was never arrested or charged over child sex crimes concerning his illegal relationship with the schoolgirl.
Police said there could have been as many as 200 abusers. But Professor Liz Kelly, of London Metropolitan University’s Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, estimated the number of victims, based on our investigation, as up to 1,000.
Freedom of Information Act papers revealed two predatory paedophiles had begun targeting girls from a local children’s home in 1981.
Today we can also reveal officers were allegedly told as early as 1996 about one of the key players who is said to have made thousands grooming girls and selling them for sex.
One victim gave so much evidence to police in 2010 that officers launched a probe, called Operation Thesis, around her evidence. But this led to no prosecutions.
When the victim last year asked for her police files to understand why nobody had faced justice, the officer handling her request admitted she had “expressed concerns” to a senior detective.
He also played a leading role in Operation Chalice. He sent an officer to the victim’s home who allegedly tried to discourage her. When files were provided months later, the first disk was unreadable.
Whistleblower Chaplain Osmund-Smith has returned to work.
Police said: “An internal investigation was carried out and made a number of recommendations which we have worked with him to address.”
The second whistleblower won an out-of-court settlement on a no fault basis. Axis Counselling declined to comment.