Police investigating a child abuse ring in Devon have questioned 40 potential victims – but expect many more to come forward, it emerged today.
Most of the victims are vulnerable runaways who were preyed upon by older men, officers revealed.
Two men have been arrested and bailed in connection with the sexual exploitation of young people over the past three years in the Torbay area.
But the investigation by Devon and Cornwall Police – codenamed Operation Mansfield – still has a ”long way to go”, according to officers.
Detective Inspector Simon Snell said: ”The profile of the majority of them is that they are kids that go missing quite often. That seems to be the profile of our victims.
”Some of the victims don’t perceive they are victims because they have been groomed for so many years. That is a common occurrence in grooming.
”Young people and children shouldn’t be engaging in sexual relationships with people who are much older than them.”
He also revealed the investigation was initiated by concerns about the safety of children during a Missing Persons Forum.
Det Insp Snell said his team have interviewed 40 possible victims and 25 of them have provided police with potential evidence, with two being cared for by social services.
He said there was still a ‘large volume’ of children to see and the investigation could take months to complete.
”Forty is not a total number. We are not finished by a long way,” added Det Insp Snell.
”We will protect people who come forward and speak to us. That is what we are here to do, to protect life and property.
”Within this investigation the only performance I judge myself on is the amount of children that we are saving from abuse.”