PROBE into historic paedophile ring with links to the gang who killed Jason Swift re-opened


A PROBE into an historic paedophile ring with links to the gang who killed tragic Jason Swift is being reopened after a police review found a string of failings with an earlier investigation. Delays with Essex Police's last probe into the "Shoebury Sex Ring," which is thought to have abused up to 60 boys as young as ten around Southend in the 1980s, meant the chief suspect Dennis King, 83, died before he could be re-interviewed. An investigation into other suspects is now set to resume after several complaints made by one of King's victims to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), about the force's handling of the probe, were upheld. The police case began in 1989, when children’s charities in Southend reported that dozens of local children had been groomed and abused by a suspected paedophile ring over the previous years.  Children were taken to properties along the Thames corridor in Essex to be abused, filmed and photographed. Charges followed against two ringleaders – King and Brian Tanner, who also died aged 73 in 2006, but in 1990 they received extremely light sentences after making plea bargains at the last minute. On the day of the trial, buggery charges were changed to "attempted buggery" and a wider conspiracy charge was allowed to lie on file. The perverts' lawyers claimed the victims had been the instigators, which was accepted by the judge. Tanner got three years, with King getting four, despite already having 20 convictions for sex offences and 19 for dishonesty. An investigation by Essex-based journalist Charles Thomson for the Yellow Advertiser later discovered that a police officer who worked on the case had described King ‘as a registered informant’ in 1993.

TRAGIC: Jason Swift was murdered by a paedophile gang known as the "Dirty Dozen"

The complainant also named Lennie Smith, a former suspect in the killing of Jason Swift, as being known to his abusers, without having any idea who Smith was. Smith was one of the paedophile gang known as the "Dirty Dozen," whose members raped and killed three children – Jason Swift, Mark Tildesley and Barry Lewis.  Smith was investigated in connection with all three killings, but never prosecuted because the witnesses against him were all fellow paedophiles and seen as unreliable by the CPS. He was convicted of other serious child sex offences but was released and died aged 51 in a care home in 2006.

EVIL: Sydney Cooke led a twisted paedophile ring

Jason, 14, was killed during a gang rape organised by serial paedophile Sydney Cooke in November 1985. His body was later discovered in a shallow grave. Dirty Dozen leader Cooke, 93, was sentenced at the Old Bailey to 19 years, reduced on appeal to 16, in 1989 for the manslaughter of Jason. In 1999 he received two life sentences for historic child rapes and remains in prison. Leslie Bailey also got 15 years for his role in Jason's death and was killed aged 40 in 1993 in a prison attack.. During 2018 interviews with Essex Police, the complainant told officers that Tanner often referred to a mystery man called "Lennie Smith," and warned any victims who tried to escape the ring's clutches they would be taken "to see him."

LINK: Thompson discovered Lennie Smith had lived at an address where the victim said he was abused

It was also established that during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lennie Smith lived in Westcliff, not far from Tanner. The victim pointed out a property where he said he was abused and it was later established through prison records that Smith had used the address in 1983/4. A late man known as Jack Parsons, who ran a Southend amusement arcade where young boys were groomed, and who was described as Smith's "Sugar Daddy," was on the electoral roll at the property for years at the relevant time. During interviews, the complainant named or gave details on about 12 other suspects and a further ten potential victims.   But, in June 2018 police again closed the case, saying the complainant had given insufficient information to identify any of the other suspects.

The IOPC referred the victim's complaint to Essex Police's professional standards department (PSD), which, after a year-long review, has now said three officers will face management action and further enquiries should be undertaken.    The PSD found the investigation was handed to an inexperienced officer, who was then not properly supervised. She was a PC who said it was her first case with the sexual offences unit. "It also found “inexcusable” delays with more than a year passing between him coming forward and being fully interviewed.

The victim’s allegations against a named retired police officer were also never logged as a crime or investigated. This was despite entirely separate, but similar sexual allegations, being made by another alleged victim about the same man to another organisation a year earlier. The PSD report said: “There are many enquiries that have not been completed. These enquiries may have uncovered new witnesses, who may have been willing to give evidence to the police. “His mother was not spoken to. His medical records were not obtained, despite having a signed consent form. Social Service records were not obtained. He was not taken on a drive around to identify addresses. “No attempts seem to have been made to locate the people he talks about in interview, whether they may be suspects, victims or witnesses.” The case has been referred for re-investigation by Operation Quest, a specialist task force that handles

historic cases.

An Essex Police spokesman said: "In February 2016 Essex Police launched a review of a previous investigation into allegations of historic child sexual abuse.

"During the course of that review, specialist detectives from our Child Abuse Investigation Teams carried out extensive enquiries, interviewing numerous witnesses and victims.   "As a result of our review, in April 2017, a further allegation of non-recent child abuse was reported. Sadly, despite extensive investigation, this has not resulted in criminal charges. "We received a formal complaint from the victim about the way in which their case was handled. His concerns were investigated, and the findings have been provided to him. "Three officers are to receive management action. "A review of the allegations made by the victim is being carried out and remains ongoing. "If anyone has further evidence in connection with this or any other investigation we need them to come forward."

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