Wales child abuse: Steve Messham's plea to more victims

The man who wrongly believed a Tory peer sexually abused him says he hopes the controversy will not stop other victims of abuse in North Wales care homes coming forward.

A man who wrongly believed a Tory peer sexually abused him as a child says he hopes the controversy does not stop other abuse victims coming forward.

Steve Messham hopes to apologise in person to Lord McAlpine, who last week was forced to publicly deny any wrongdoing.

It came after a discredited BBC Newsnight report led to him being wrongly accused of abuse online.

Mr Messham and the BBC have apologised unreservedly to Lord McAlpine.

In an exclusive interview with Tuesday night's BBC Wales Week In Week Out programme, Mr Messham said he hoped other victims of historical abuse in north Wales will come forward, despite the controversy surrounding the Newsnight story.

The abuse scandal centring around the former Bryn Estyn care home in Wrexham has received huge media coverage after Mr Messham said the whole truth had not emerged following the Waterhouse Inquiry report in 2000, which looked into the allegations.

In the Newsnight programme of 2 November, he also said a Conservative politician from the Thatcher era had abused him a number of times.

Start Quote

The real issue here is abuse that went on and about getting justice, and getting justice not just for me but for everybody”

End Quote Steve Messham Abuse victim

Although not named by the programme, this led to incorrect speculation on the internet that the man in question was former Conservative Party treasurer Lord McAlpine.

The peer denied the reports, describing them as "wholly false and seriously defamatory".

Mr Messham then said that after seeing a picture of Lord McAlpine on Friday, he realised he was not the person who abused him.

Andrew Teague Andrew Teague, who was abused at the Bryn Estyn care home, says there needed to be closure

He said police had shown him a picture of his abuser in the early 1990s but incorrectly told him the man was Lord McAlpine.

The BBC issued an unreserved apology for the Newsnight report and director general George Entwistle subsequently resigned.

Mr Meesham told Week In Week Out: "People have got to realise it's a genuine error on my part.

"The real issue here is abuse that went on and about getting justice, and getting justice not just for me but for everybody and for the ones who sadly committed suicide.

He says: "What I would say to people is come forward, speak out - you will be listened to, we've now got the National Crime Agency investigating, please come forward please speak to them."

'Painful memories'

Two new inquiries have begun into historical allegations of abuse.

One will look at the way North Wales Police handled their investigations. Another will examine whether the remit of the Waterhouse Inquiry into the north Wales child abuse scandal was wide enough.

Bryn Estyn care home in North Wales in 1992 The child abuse allegations date back to the 1970s and 80s

Other victims say while they welcome the renewed interest in the story, it has brought back painful memories.

Andrew Teague from Swansea was one of those sexually abused while at the Bryn Estyn care home near Wrexham in the late 1970s.

His abusers were jailed for offences against other children.

He told the programme: "I don't think it's like a light switch that you can press the switch and then it's gone, I don't think you can - ever.

"It's always something that will come up, I've tried to get it off, when I think about it. The nightmares I have had in the past over it, and everybody else.

"We want to close this and end the story. If there's all these people involved in it then find them, sort it out and then close the book. Give everybody else closure as well."

'Encouraging developments'

The Children's Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, said he was optimistic that the new inquiries will be worthwhile.

Week In Week Out understands that 40 people have so far contacted his office to talk about abuse and that some have not given evidence before.

He said: "There have been many encouraging developments since the Sir Ronald Waterhouse Inquiry but there are still I feel unanswered questions and we need to get to the bottom of these questions.

"So if there are allegations flying about of cover-ups, suppression, or not being given a chance to speak out or were denied.

"If somebody wants to come forward now and talk about the abuse they suffered in the 1970s or 80s, we have a duty to respect their right to be heard."

Week In Week Out: Legacy of Abuse is on BBC One Wales at 22:35 GMT on Tuesday.

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