Smith abuse claims at school for vulnerable boys

Cyril Smith Credit: PA wire

Rochdale council will begin trawling through its records of a former local authority school after another alleged victim of Sir Cyril Smith said today he was abused by him there in 1979.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said yesterday that the late Liberal Democrat MP sexually and physically abused young boys in the 1960s as there was "overwhelming evidence" against him.

Three separate files regarding his actions were passed to first the director of public prosecutions (DPP) and the Crown Prosecution Service but on each occasion no prosecution was pursued.

Sir Cyril was secretary of the Rochdale Hostel for Boys Association and was accused of abusing eight youngsters at Cambridge House hostel in similar fashion by spanking and touching them.

He is now linked to similar allegations at council-run Knowl View school for vulnerable boys, which closed in 1992.

One of two recent complaints made to GMP about Sir Cyril is in relation to Knowl View in Rochdale, police sources confirmed.

The force had previously investigated his involvement with the school in the 1980s and 1990s but no claims of sexual abuse were made against him at the time.

Chris Marshall, 40, waived his anonymity today as he told the Manchester Evening News he was forced to perform a sex act on Sir Cyril - known as "the fat man" - when he was aged seven or eight.

Rochdale Council is trawling through its manual files on Knowl View and will pass on any relevant information to the police, who have encouraged anyone else who was a victim of Sir Cyril to come forward.

The council's chief executive, Jim Taylor, said: "If anyone has any information relating to this inquiry I advise them to contact Greater Manchester Police who are investigating the abuse allegations about Cyril Smith. We are co-operating fully with their investigation and any relevant council records will be given straight to the police."

Mr Marshall said that he was brought from his dormitory late at night by a member of staff at Knowl View.

He told the newspaper: "He took me into this flat. The fat man was on the bed and another kid was there too.

"It seemed for ever but we were probably there an hour, or maybe more. We were told to go back afterwards to our rooms, not to wake anybody else up and have a good breakfast in the morning."

He added he did not realise who "the fat man" was until he later saw his photograph in a newspaper.

"The truth needs to come out," he added. "People need to know this is what he was like - he was a paedophile."

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, who brought the Cambridge House allegations to light in the House of Commons earlier this month, said he believes Sir Cyril went on to abuse more boys after police decided not to prosecute him in the 1970s.

He told ITV1's Daybreak: "I am confident in saying, having met a number of the victims, that he went on to abuse into the 70s, 80s and even into the 90s, so he was empowered by the fact that he hadn't been prosecuted."

Sir Cyril's family say they are "deeply concerned and saddened" about yesterday's developments but pointed out he was not around to defend himself and added they would play no part in "a trial by media".

Meanwhile, Manchester law firm Pannone is preparing legal action against Rochdale Council on behalf of two alleged victims who were based at Cambridge House in the 1960s.

Alan Collins, an abuse case specialist, said: "We are looking at pursuing cases for two alleged victims of Cyril Smith against Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, which is the successor to the Rochdale Borough Council of which Cyril Smith was both the Alderman and chairman of the education committee.

"The Cambridge House home was partly financed by the council.

"A duty of care was owed to the boys which would appear to have been broken by Smith when he allegedly abused them. We will be advising them accordingly as to possible legal action."

Mr Collins added that his company would be talking to a further five alleged victims who have come forward to them.

A council spokesman said: "Cambridge House was a privately run hostel, although the owner did receive £150 of financial support from the council in 1962. It closed in 1965. Requests were made to the council at this time and prior to closure for further funds but these were declined."

Yesterday, both GMP and the Crown Prosecution Service said if Smith had been accused today over Cambridge House then he would be charged and prosecuted.

It is understood that when Lancashire Police quizzed Smith, who died two years ago aged 82, he told them he was in charge of the boys and was entitled to hand out corporal punishment.