Cahal Milmo, Paul Peachey
Scotland Yard is pursuing more than 300 lines of inquiry in its investigation into allegations that a VIP paedophile ring abused children in care during the 1980s.
The figure suggests that Operation Fernbridge, the investigation centred on historic allegations of abuse at the Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London, is a bigger inquiry than previously acknowledged and could lead to the identification of dozens of potential victims.
Detectives are focusing on claims from former residents of a care home run by Richmond Council that they were taken to the suburban guest house and assaulted by prominent individuals.
The Independent understands that the 300 investigative lines include allegations of multiple assaults on single individuals and a list of “several dozen” potential victims is being drawn up.
A Freedom of Information response containing the figure also reveals that seven officers are involved in the investigation – compared with 77 on Operation Weeting, the inquiry into the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
Operation Fernbridge, which according to the FOI has so far cost £25,000 compared with the £11.2m cost of Weeting, was launched in January as a full-scale criminal investigation following an earlier “scoping exercise” – a preliminary assessment of evidence concerning the alleged paedophile ring.
The Elm Guest House became known in the late 1970s as a meeting place for gay men still stigmatised in a country where homosexuality had been legalised barely a decade earlier and the age of consent for gay males was 21.
Operated by a German-born manager, Carole Kasir, it was close to Barnes Common, a popular cruising spot for homosexual men, and was allegedly used by rent boys as a place to bring clients.
But officers are investigating material alleging that boys from the nearby children’s home in care of the local authority were abused at the guest house, which was allegedly frequented by public figures including politicians, judges and pop stars.
Two people have so far been arrested as part of the inquiry.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said last week he understood that the Fernbridge inquiry was “going well”, according to the investigative website Exaro. Mr Johnson said that because it was an operational policing matter he could not comment further.