England

Nursery worker held in Birmingham sexual abuse inquiry

The rear of the Little Stars Nursery in Nechells
Image caption The investigation centres around accusations of "a series of sexual offences"

A male nursery worker from Birmingham has been arrested on suspicion of the sexual abuse of a child.

Officers arrested the 20-year-old man at his home in Nechells in the early hours of Wednesday.

The man is an assistant at the private Little Stars Nursery in Nechells. He has worked there for 18 months.

Supt Matt Ward said evidence suggested "a series of sexual offences" against one child had taken place at the nursery.

A number of items, including a computer, were seized from the man's home and were being examined by specialist investigators.

The nursery, which currently has 55 children attending and 14 members of staff, has been closed.

'Very angry'

A telephone line for parents has been opened with specialist staff on hand to offer advice and support. The number is: 0121 675 4806.

The nursery is run by the Nechells Regeneration Project and is based at a complex which includes a credit union and community initiatives.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSupt Matt Ward said parents with children at the nursery are being contacted by police

John James, chief executive officer of the project, said: "We were shocked to hear of the allegations made and we are of course co-operating fully with the police inquiry".

The nursery assistant was initially arrested on suspicion of grooming a teenager over the internet after a warrant was executed at his home address.

Police said this was "an ongoing investigation and had no connection to the nursery".

However, material found led to further allegations.

Supt Ward said: "As a result of that unrelated warrant being executed we recovered material which, when it was forensically examined, led us to believe a series of serious sexual offences against a child had taken place at the Little Stars Nursery.

"At this stage, all our evidence suggests there is one offender and one child."

Assistant Chief Constable Anil Patani added: "The family of this child have been told and police are supporting them at this very difficult time."

Supt Ward said he had spoken earlier to parents of children at the nursery, who were "clearly very angry and very shocked".

A joint investigation is being carried out by the force and Birmingham City Council's children's services.

'Horrible things'

Several mothers arrived at the nursery as normal in the morning unaware that it had been closed.

Sahra Said, who is originally from Somalia, said she took her children to the nursery while she learnt English.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionEleanor Brazil, from Birmingham City Council, said it was unclear when the nursery would reopen

She described the allegations as "horrible things" and added: "I thought it was open - nobody called me."

Police said a meeting would be held for parents with children registered at the nursery where senior officers and council officials would provide an update on the investigation.

Mr Patani added: "West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council do not underestimate the significance this news has on parents and the local community."

The nursery was issued with an improvement notice by Ofsted in August after an unannounced inspection revealed it did not have an effective safeguarding children procedure.

It was given a good rating after a subsequent inspection in November.

Ofsted said the nursery "supports children who speak English as an additional language".

The facility is also open to children with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Ofsted said it was working closely with the police and the local authority to assist and consider what action needs to be taken.

Mr James, of the Nechells Regeneration Project, said: "We have been successfully operating this nursery for five years and are an established part of the community and are grateful for the support we are receiving from that community during this time."

He said the safety and welfare of the children and community was the group's first priority and it supported the decision to temporarily close the nursery during the initial stages of the investigation.

Birmingham City Council said it was working closely with West Midlands Police and would continue to keep parents informed.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites