21 suspects in Smith school probe

The Oxford Times: Police are investigating claims there was a cover-up of widespread sexual abuse at a school linked to the late politician Sir Cyril Smith Police are investigating claims there was a cover-up of widespread sexual abuse at a school linked to the late politician Sir Cyril Smith

Detectives investigating historical allegations of physical and sexual abuse at a school linked to the late politician Sir Cyril Smith have now identified 21 potential suspects.

Ten people have so far come forward to say they were abused at Knowl View residential school in Rochdale, of whom seven say they suffered at the hands of Smith.

Smith, who died in 2010, was said to have held a set of keys to the establishment where he served as a governor and later as chairman of governors.

A fresh investigation into Knowl View - which closed in the mid-1990s - began at the end of 2012 but as yet no arrests have been made.

It followed Greater Manchester Police's (GMP) announcement that Smith abused young boys in the 1960s in his role as secretary of the Rochdale Hostel for Boys Association.

He had been accused of abusing eight youngsters at Cambridge Hostel in the town by spanking and touching them. Three separate files regarding Smith's actions at Cambridge House were passed to the director of public prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service, although on each occasion no prosecution was pursued.

Last month, GMP and Rochdale Council said they would investigate claims of a cover-up of widespread sexual abuse involving the ex-Liberal MP. That followed allegations made in a book by Rochdale's Labour MP Simon Danczuk that Smith raped a number of young boys at Knowl View.

Police, spies and politicians helped to hide the historical child abuse carried out by Smith, according to Mr Danczuk's book Smile For The Camera: The Double Life Of Cyril Smith.

The 29-stone politician was left free to abuse children as young as eight despite 144 complaints by victims, he and co-author Matthew Baker said.

Police said the allegations from the 1970s onwards related to physical and sexual abuse between adults and pupils, and also between pupils themselves.

A total of 14 from the 21 potential suspects have been identified - including Smith.

The seven other potential suspects are yet be uncovered because complainants say they did not know the full name of their alleged abusers.

No arrests have been made.

Smith was elected a Liberal MP in 1972 and became a Liberal Democrat on the formation of the new party before leaving Parliament in 1992. He was knighted in 1988

In 2000, GMP carried out a "comprehensive investigation" into abuse claims at Knowl View which led to the conviction of one man for indecent assault and gross indecency. It was ruled there was insufficient evidence to charge any other individuals and no specific allegations were made at the time against Smith.

In the same period, police also investigated claims of child abuse at other care homes across Greater Manchester which resulted in a number of convictions.

Separately to the new Knowl View investigation, police are investigating fresh complaints from seven alleged victims who say there were abused at local care homes.

Another man has alleged he was abused at the now-closed Broome House care home in Didsbury, Manchester, which has led to three arrests, police said.

Broome House is one of 21 children's homes and schools in England where Jimmy Savile is claimed to have abused children.

Detective Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson, said: "We are working through the allegations and trying to understand if any of these matters form part of the earlier investigations into abuse at care homes, whether they have been investigated already and what action to take next.

"The passage of time makes these investigations difficult and complex but we are committed to supporting victims as best as we can.

"We totally understand that for many people they will not want to relive the abuse they suffered, but for those who do want to come forward, I want to give you complete confidence that your complaints will be treated seriously and thoroughly investigated.

"Greater Manchester Police takes allegations of abuse very seriously and continues to do so and if anyone has been a victim of abuse, we ask them to contact us."

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