Former Charity Boss Recalls 'Shock' of Uncovering Shoebury 'Paedophile Ring'
Weds 20th April 2016, Yellow Advertiser
A FORMER charity boss has spoken about how he learned a 'paedophile ring' was operating in Shoebury in the late 1980s.
Chris Hickey – former manager of the Rainer Foundation, a young offenders' charity in Weston Road, Southend – is the fourth whistleblower to voice concerns over Essex Police's investigation into the abuse of dozens of boys.
Mr Hickey, now a HR consultant, is believed to have received the first abuse disclosure from one of the victims.
He said: "The first time I had any real sense that something really strange was going on, I was working with this young lad. He slowly started to burn himself with a cigarette, rather than tell me what was going on."
Mr Hickey was tracked down by the Yellow Advertiser and is now cooperating with an Essex Police review, announced last month, into whether the case was properly investigated.
Two men were jailed in 1990 but whistleblowers say the victims reported abuse by more paedophiles who were not prosecuted. They also claim police failed to interview multiple victims and that most of those who were interviewed never received appropriate after-care.
Mr Hickey co-authored a 1990 report criticising the 'patchy' response by local agencies, which said victims had already suffered problems including self-harming, displaying 'abusive behaviour' towards younger children and 'graduating into the local rent boy scene'.
Recounting the moment the first boy – a 'cheeky chappy' and 'prolific car thief' – disclosed his abuse, Mr Hickey said: "It was late afternoon. He was getting less and less responsive. The silences were getting longer and longer. I knew I just had to sit there.
"The room was going dark and I wouldn't even get up to turn the light on because I knew if I moved the spell would be broken – and if he was going to say something, he was going to say it now.
"I'd been working with him for well over a year and I knew there was something going on. I waited and waited and I watched him burn himself with a cigarette – and then he told me."
Mr Hickey said the disclosure left him 'shellshocked'. In the coming weeks the boy revealed he had become a 'recruiter' for the paedophiles to stop his own abuse. Soon afterwards, more boys began coming forward to local charities, including 12 to 15 who disclosed to Rainer.
Mr Hickey said: "It was terrible when you realised what had happened. We had no idea this was going on and then it all unfolded before our eyes. It is an experience seared into my memory."
Essex Police urged victims and witnesses to call 101 and ask for DCI Tracey Harman.
Alternatively, call one of these specialist victim helplines:
National Association for People Abused in Childhood – 0808 801 0331.
SERICC (south and west Essex) – 01375 380609.
CARA (mid and north Essex) – 01206 769795.
SoSRC (Southend) – 01702 667590.
National Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – 0808 800 5000.
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