The parents of four children involved in unfounded “satanic abuse” allegations 14 years ago are planning legal action against the council that snatched the youngsters from them.
More than 20 children aged between three and 12 were kept in care, while lurid allegations that they were being ritually abused by a ring of devil worshippers were investigated.
Sensational claims emerged of satanic rituals including sacrificing babies in cemeteries, children being locked in cages and being drugged by occult followers, and the slaughtering of animals.
Then 18 months later, a judge ruled that there was no evidence to back up the bizarre claims and branded social services staff “amateurs” – but it was a full eight years before the last of the care orders was lifted.
Now the original family whose four children were the first to be taken away and were in care for seven years, have retained one of Manchester’s top legal firms to sue Rochdale council.
It is not known why they have decided to sue after all these years over the scars left by the affair, but their solicitor has indicated that they are considering not only a corporate case, but also going after named individuals.
The family was the first to get involved after teachers became concerned about claims by a six-year-old boy.
Teachers and then social workers acted quickly and the boy’s two brothers and sister were snatched from their schools.
The eldest at the time was a girl of 11, who was taken by social workers from school with her three younger brothers, who had been collected from other schools and from a nursery to be whisked away for a medical examination.
The four children, now aged between 17 and 24, say they can’t forget their ordeal. The eldest daughter, now 24, said: “It was a terrible ordeal, they were looking for signs of sexual abuse. We didn’t know what was going on and were frightened, especially because our parents were kept from us.
“We were under a lot of pressure from the council workers who kept insisting that they were bad parents and made us agree.
“They shoved us in foster homes and for nine months we were not allowed to see our parents. It was a nightmare. All I wanted to do was to go home and be with my family.”
Two months after the four children were taken into care, the police, Rochdale council social workers and NSPCC officials raided eight homes on the Langley estate in Middleton on June 14, 1990.
A total of 17 children were taken kicking, screaming and crying from their beds and separated from their parents in dawn raids on the estate.
This was quickly followed by a High Court hearing, at which the children were made wards of court and the council took them into care, putting them in children’s homes before finding them foster parents.
But when the judge ruled 18 months later that all the children were to be returned to their parents, the original four were kept in care.
The eldest daughter eventually ran away from the home she’d been placed in at the age of 16 when she fled to her parents.
But it was another year before her brothers were released from care after a long campaign.
Her father, who now wants and apology and an explanation, said: “We have all been through a nightmare and it won’t end until someone at the council admits they got it wrong and says sorry.”
Steve Titcombe, head of child care for Rochdale council, said: “We acknowledge the families’ right to seek legal advice . . . and the council will respond accordingly.”
Solicitor Richard Scorer, from Pannone and Partners, said today: “We are considering our legal options, which may include pursuing the local authority and, possibly, individuals.”
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