Wales child abuse: Operation Pallial inquiry finds evidence of 140 claims
An independent investigation examining claims of historical child abuse at children's homes in north Wales has found "significant evidence of systemic and serious sexual and physical abuse".
Investigators in Operation Pallial have found evidence of 140 allegations of historical abuse between 1963 and 1992.
Seventy six new complainants have also come forward.
The claims centre on 18 homes involving offences against boys and girls aged between seven and 19.
A total of 84 suspected offenders have been named - 75 male and nine female. Of these, 16 have been named by more than one complainant.
It is believed that 10 of the 16 may be deceased.
Home Secretary Theresa May ordered this inquiry following a Newsnight report in November, that as well as leading to a Tory peer being falsely accused of paedophilia, alleged that child abuse in north Wales in the 1970s and 1980s was far more widespread than had previously been investigated.
North Wales Chief Constable Mark Polin said: "Offenders quite rightly should have to look over their shoulders for the rest of their lives."
Keith Bristow, director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA), has agreed to continue investigations at the request of Mark Polin, the North Wales chief constable.
"I took the decision to ask the director general of the National Crime Agency to investigate these allegations last November conscious that some victims of historic abuse may not have the necessary level of confidence in North Wales Police to report these matters directly to us," Mr Polin said.
"Operation Pallial has now secured accounts from almost all victims who are willing to support an investigation and it makes absolute sense for the officers and staff involved to date to be the core of phase two and to move matters forward as quickly as professionally as possible."
At a news conference in Colwyn Bay, Mr Polin told victims: "It's never too late to report abuse."
He also sent a message to offenders, saying: "If you believe the passage of time will reduce the resolve of Operation Pallial or any police force to identify people who are still alive and to bring them to justice, you are sorely mistaken."
Det Supt Ian Mulcahey of Merseyside Police is leading the day-to-day investigation.
He said: "We're prioritising our work focus on those individuals who pose the greatest risk to the public.
"I want to reassure the community that we are taking their allegations seriously and my officers are dedicated top ensuring that people who are responsible for these offences are held to account regardless of the passage of time."
Mr Bristow said the rest of the investigation would be conducted as quickly as professionally possible.
He said he believed it was "very positive" that so many people had come forward and that he hoped victims would receive more support than perhaps they had done in the past.
A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyer has been appointed to assist Operation Pallial.
The CPS lawyer has advised "the priority should be given to the most serious allegations and the prioritisation process has been agreed with them".
The investigation involves police officers and staff, primarily from forces in north-west England, supported by members of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP Centre).
By December it had heard from 105 victims of alleged abuse.
At the time, Det Supt Mulcahey said the investigation would "follow the evidence without fear or favour".
A separate review by Mrs Justice Macur is investigating the terms of the Waterhouse abuse inquiry, which began in 1996.
It examined the abuse of victims in former north Wales care homes such as Bryn Estyn in Wrexham dating back to the 1970s.
The new inquiry followed a victim's claims that Sir Ronald Waterhouse only uncovered a fraction of the abuse.
Those claims surfaced in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Last week, one man was arrested in Ipswich, Suffolk, as part of Operation Pallial and questioned on suspicion of serious sexual offences against a number of people. He has been bailed until July.
Des Mannion, NSPCC national head of service in Wales, said: "This latest investigation is a major step forward investigating claims of wide spread child abuse.
"Many who have been waiting decades for justice and for their voices to be heard have now finally found the courage to come forward and we mustn't fail them this time."
Keith Gregory, a Wrexham councillor who alleges he was abused as a child while in care at Bryn Estyn, says victims will feel they are now being believed.
"To bring justice these allegations need to be looked at," said Mr Gregory.
"It feels like at last we are starting to be believed."
Malcolm King, who was chair of social services at the former Clwyd county council and who campaigned for a judicial inquiry, called for a royal commission on the issue of child abuse.