Police Vow To 'Provide Justice' Over Abuse

Tom Parmenter, Sky News Correspondent

Police say they are "in the early stages" of investigating claims that a woman was sexually abused while she was a young girl, as uniformed police officers stood guard.

Waiving her right to anonymity, Esther Baker, 32, spoke exclusively to Sky News about her tormented childhood that saw her sexually abused by men at various locations.

She claimed police officers would stand guard for the perpetrators and on some occasions even joined in the abuse in woodland on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.

She said: "I got the feeling very much that they were protecting somebody, that they were with one of the men.

"One of them (police officers) I knew from church. There were a few occasions where they would be in uniform and I kind of knew, I learnt that when they were in uniform that it was going to be a rough night.

Responding to the claims, Staffordshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Jon Drake said officers were in the early stages of investigating the case and interviewing Ms Baker.

He added: "We are determined to thoroughly gather any evidence which will allow us to bring those who may have been involved to justice, while taking a sensitive approach to supporting the victim throughout.

"We will continue to interview her over the coming days, recognising the horrific nature of what we are investigating.

"To be clear, anyone, regardless of role, who has been involved in criminal offences will be investigated to provide justice for the victim."

He encouraged anyone with information about the allegations - or any other victims of sexual abuse - to contact police on 101 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

While Ms Baker has chosen to waive her legal right to anonymity, Mr Drake said police would protect the anonymity of anyone who came forward as a victim of child or sexual abuse.

From the age of six, Ms Baker was taken to be abused by different men on Cannock Chase, at various properties around Staffordshire and beyond.

Other children were often there and sometimes they were given alcohol: "We were all pretty much the same, same ages, we never spoke."

She says the sexual abuse was often filmed and involved men of varying ages from different parts of the country.

She said: "I was brought up in a religious household and one thing that kept me so sure that what they were doing was right was that there were references to people, Lords and a judge.

"I picked up on those names, because I thought one of them must have been God because one of them was 'Our Lord'.

"I just thought that they were on God's authority."

Decades on, Ms Baker has decided to speak to Sky News in the hope of finding other victims or the police officers who were involved.

She said: "I need them to fill in the gaps that I just don't know, I need people that were adults then but they couldn't stop it for whatever reason, it is time for them to stop it now."

The other children who were allegedly abused on Cannock Chase may also hold vital information.

Ms Baker added: "Every one of us that comes forward will hold a different piece of the puzzle. I can't fill it in on my own."

She said: "I always swore I would never go near the police again - never ... but I have hid it for 20 years, that has not worked, that hasn't taken the fear away - I have got nothing to lose anymore."

Gabrielle Shaw of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said Ms Baker’s story was “absolutely harrowing”.

She added: "It's not easy for anyone to come forward and tell their story…but with every survivor who comes forward like Esther Baker, it helps other survivors come forward as well, chips away at the wall of silence."

Ms Shaw said she had seen a "real seachange" in the way police worked with victims of sexual abuse, adding: "They're not swept under the carpet".

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Home Secretary set up the independent inquiry, under the chairmanship of Justice Goddard, to examine the extent to which abuse has taken place in state and non-state institutions in England and Wales.

"She is confident the inquiry will establish why it was possible for such abuse to take place and challenge individuals and institutions without fear or favour."