EXCLUSIVE: 'New alleged victims come forward' in re-opened probe into Humberside child sex grooming
AT least two new alleged victims are said to have come forward as part of a a major child sex grooming investigation that was re-opened following pressure from campaigners, Essex News and Investigations and other media.
Sources close to the investigation said there could soon be charges in respect of two women who have reportedly come forward following a fresh police appeal for information.
One source said: "There have been new victims come forward."
Another said: "There could be charges in respect of two women later in the year."
Humberside Police confirmed last August (2022) it had re-opened its investigations into the alleged grooming of school girls in Hull more than a year after it closed the case following 34 arrests but no charges after a two-year probe.
It came after we revealed a month earlier that the case was under review by Operation Hydrant, which looks at historical sex abuse cases for local police forces.
A Humberside Police spokesman said last August: "An investigation entitled Operation Marksman was launched in Spring 2019 in relation to allegations of child sexual exploitation against two victims in Hull. The investigation was conducted over a two-year period and whilst 34-arrests were made, to date, no charges directly relating to these allegations have been secured.
"However, the investigation has remained under review and continues to be a priority for the force."
The statement said that Humberside commissioned Operation Hydrant to carry out a review of its investigations in October 2021, three months after it closed the case.
However, we also revealed that Operation Hydrant expressed interest in looking at the case from July 2021 when our editor Jon Austin wrote a series of reports about the victims' disappointment at the case being dropped.
After these reports officers from Operation Hydrant made contact with the Maggie Oliver Foundation, which had been supporting some of the Hull alleged victims.
The foundation was set up by former Greater Manchester Police detective Maggie Oliver after she resigned from the force and turned whistle-blower over its failings in investigations into child sex grooming gangs in Rochdale.
The force spokesman added: "In order to assist the force and ensure that every opportunity to bring offenders to justice has been explored, the Deputy Chief Constable invited the external Hydrant Programme team to provide a full evidential review of the investigation so far, in order to inform the force with their next steps.
The Hydrant Programme is the national lead for the policing response, oversight, and coordination of child sexual abuse investigations.
Assistant Chief Constable David Marshall said: "We have continuously reviewed the investigation and in 2021, chief officers commissioned a review of the investigation so far by Hydrant, who are national experts in this complex area of investigation.
“Based on Hydrant's evidential review of Op Marksman, Humberside Police have taken the decision to establish a new investigative team and recommence the investigation.
“The investigation team will focus on a number of lines of enquiry, with the victims being updated and receiving our full support.
“Humberside Police understand the significant public interest in any allegations of child sexual abuse and exploitation within our communities. As the investigation is active, it is imperative we protect its integrity. When we are at a stage where releasing further detail will not impact or jeopardise any criminal or judicial proceedings, we will of course look to communicate this information."
In November 2021 Sky News followed up on our reports with its own series of documentaries examining evidence in the case.
In response to the news, Ms Oliver tweeted: "I want to stress Humberside police (& Op Hydrant) were dragged kicking/screaming to this “review!” The victims came to us,"
In November 2022 Humberside Police's Chief Constable Lee Freeman spoke for the first time about the re-opening of the investigation and its rebranding as Operation Conference.
He said: "For me, the decision to look again at these allegations is an example of how we are going about turning the 'good' grading we received from His Majesty's Inspectorate for providing a service to victims of crime into 'outstanding'. This enquiry remains a priority for us and we are not going to let it drop.
"It should not be forgotten that the Operation Marksman investigation saw over 30 individuals being arrested and over 200 devices being seized. Unfortunately, despite that, we were unable to secure enough evidence to take any offenders to court.
"I then decided to commission the external review and pledged to act on its findings. It wasn't because I had concerns about the previous investigation, it was about doing the right thing for the victims.
"I've now done that by fully resourcing a new investigation team over the next two years. The officers involved have all been drawn from our major crime team and dedicated funding has been put in place to enable it to happen. It's an investment of just over £500,000.
"I can understand why some people were critical of Marksman because ultimately there were no charges but that doesn't mean we should pack up and go home. I have made a commitment to carry on with a new investigation and I'm sticking to that."