Child abuse accuser gives cautious welcome to Welsh inquiry

Steve Messham
Image caption Steve Messham has said there is no point in having an inquiry into an inquiry

A man who claims he was abused by a senior Conservative in the 1980s has given a cautious welcome to the inquiry into abuse in north Wales announced by prime minister.

But Steve Messham said the inquiry must look at the abuse that took place - not focus on the previous public inquiry into the abuse, held in the 1990s.

Home Secretary Theresa May is to make a statement to MPs later.

And Mr Messham is set to meet Welsh Secretary David Jones.

According to Mr Messham, the inquiry led by Sir Ronald Waterhouse covered a fraction of the alleged assaults carried out at children's homes in North Wales during the 1970s and 80s.

Speaking on Tuesday, David Cameron said he wanted the inquiry to be "a rapid investigation" to get to the truth of these "dreadful allegations."

It comes the day after he said an independent figure would investigate the way the allegations were dealt with.

Downing Street is to hold talks with the Welsh government to establish the scope of the fresh investigation.

The issue is also expected to be discussed at first minister's questions in the Welsh Assembly on Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking ahead of his meeting with David Jones, Mr Messham told BBC News it was important that there was an investigation into how the police handled the original reports of abuse.

He said: "I welcome the announcement as long as it's an inquiry into the abuse that took place. There's no point in having an inquiry into the inquiry.

"I think we need that done by an outside police force, maybe the Met could come in and look at that."

He also said he believed the investigation into the way the Waterhouse inquiry was conducted should be headed by an expert, unlike the original inquiry. "I just hope that he does not appoint a judge," he said.

Allegations of abuse centring around the Bryn Estyn care home in north Wales, and involving almost 40 children's homes in Wales, began to emerge in the 1990s.

'Shadowy figure'

However, a report commissioned in March 1994 by Clwyd County Council was never published because of legal concerns.

William Hague - who was Welsh secretary at the time - ordered an inquiry in 1996 into the abuse, which heard over three years from 650 people who had been in care from 1974.

A report was published in 2000 by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, who died in 2011.

Concerns have now been raised that the remit of the inquiry was too narrow, and that it failed to consider allegations about children being taken out of the homes to be made available to abusers.

A source close to Mr Hague - who is now foreign secretary - has told the BBC that no concerns were raised with him about the terms of the inquiry he established.

Keith Gregory, a Wrexham councillor, told the BBC he was sexually, physically and mentally abused at Bryn Estyn in the 1970s, by staff and others from the local community.

He said the abusers included MPs, solicitors, judges, factory directors, shopkeepers and serving police officers.

Counsel for the Waterhouse inquiry mentioned the existence of a "shadowy figure of high public standing", but said that there was no substantial evidence to support the allegations.

The inquiry identified 28 alleged perpetrators but they were never identified in public.

Correction 10 November 2012: The BBC has apologised unreservedly for broadcasting a report on Newsnight on 2 November over allegations of child abuse which transpired to have involved a case of mistaken identity. As a result the video of the original report has been removed from the website. More details can be found here.

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