The governor of a borstal at the centre of a major abuse scandal was a leading member of a predatory sex gang, victims claimed last night.
James Millar Reid has been accused of preying on inmates and covering up the activities of a circle of paedophile guards at Medomsley Detention Centre.
Durham Police has reopened the investigation into the borstal after fresh allegations inmates were being ferried off the grounds and sexually abused by staff.
A Mirror probe has led to 94 people contacting police to say they were victims in the 70s and 80s.
It is fast becoming one of the worst cases of mass scale sexual abuse at a government-run institution seen in this country.
Durham Police have assigned 80 detectives and the full resources of its Major Crimes Team to investigate the claims.
Reid was found dead after being approached by officers who originally investigated the case. He is alleged to have personally taken part in the sexual abuse of inmates aged 16 to 19.
Abuse: Medomsley Detention Centre near Consett, County Durham North News
Senior prison officer Neville Husband and caretaker Leslie Johnson were convicted of sex abuse offences.
Reid is thought to have wielded his power as governor between 1976 and 1970 to cover up complaints by inmates and protect the likes of Husband, Johnson and other predatory guards.
A witness statement unearthed by the Mirror, made to police in 2002 by ex-prison officer Alan Reed, suggests abuse at the institution was common knowledge.
Mr Reed, who served while Reid was in charge, told officers: “At the time I was at Medomsley with Husband, who I believe left before me, I did hear rumours that he was interfering with the boys.”
Kevin Young, now 53, was sent to Medomsley at 17 for stealing a watch.
He is convinced Reid was also one of the paedophiles operating at the borstal.
Kevin said: “I’m positive he was in the room when I was being abused by guards, and was governor of Medomsley at the time.
"He was a key member of the group of abusers operating at the borstal while I was there. I’ve always believed the abuse was known by everyone at the jail.
“It was a huge cover up from the top down, including by the governor himself.“On one occasion, when I believe Reid was present, I was taken off the premises of Medomsley to a house in the village where I was abused.
“When I left Medomsley I went straight to the local police station and reported the sex abuse happening there.“But nothing was done about it. There was no investigation. It was brushed under the carpet.”
Victim: Former borstal inmate Kevin Young reported the abuse but nothing was done North News
Another victim, John McCabe, said he was 17 when sex beast Husband raped him every day for six months.
He has fought with senior Labour MP Michael McCann for the investigation to be reopened.
John said: “I’ve always maintained that everyone from the top down knew what was going on. I believe complaints were made and they were covered up.
“Everyone at the prison knew what was happening.
“There were only 12 full-time prison officers plus the warden.
“If abuse was going on at that scale, how could the management not know?
"Now the people who covered up the abuse, prison officers, governors, police, everyone who knew needs to be held accountable.”
He went on: “These people have gone unpunished for too long while those who were supposed to be in their care have seen their lives fall apart because of the abuse they suffered.
"Now it’s time for the full truth, however uncomfortable, to finally come out.”
Detectives knocked on Reid’s door in September 2000 and planned to quiz him over allegations of sexual abuse at Medomsley.
But he asked officers if he could come to the station the following day to make a statement.
Days later, Reid mysteriously disappeared and his body was discovered in a nearby wood.
An inquest into his death, held in February 2001, recorded an open verdict. But the cause of death was given as "unascertainable” because the body was badly decomposed.
One of Reid’s relatives said: “He never spoke about his work. It was all very secretive, we thought because of the sensitive nature of working in the prison service.”
Former managers at Medomsley continue to deny any boy made complaints about sexual abuse.
Jailed sexual predator Husband, who became a church minister after he left Medomsley, preyed on dozens of youngsters between 1974 and 1984.
He is fast becoming one of Britain’s most prolific sex abusers with dozens of victims contacting Durham Police to name him as their abuser.
Husband would use his position of authority in the prison kitchens to groom and rape youngsters on and off the premises.
He was eventually locked up for 12 years in 2003 and has since died.
Officers are also examining Leslie Johnson’s role in the sex ring and suspect his activities may have been wider and greater than previously thought.
Medomsley closed during the late 1980s after the abuse came to light. It has since reopened as a secure training centre.
If you have any information that might help the investigation, or if you were an inmate or worked at the borstal, call Durham Constabulary on 101.
But if you do not want to involve the police but are a victim of Medomsley and want advice and guidance you can call The Meadows: Sexual Assault Referral Centre on 0191 301 8554.
Top detective praises The Mirror as probe starts
The special police squad set up to crack the case granted us exclusive access to the heart of its investigation.
In the hushed briefing room, Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry announces: “We’ve taken the unusual step of inviting the Daily Mirror to be here with us.
“They have been absolutely crucial in getting us this far by putting the message out there to victims, so just trust me on this one.”
Operation Seabrook is now the largest police probe into historic sex abuse at a government institution - with 80 officers assigned to Medomsley.
Det Supt Goundry told us before we entered: “You need to be prepared for what you will hear.”
He goes on to provide everyone with a background to the case, saying: “We have 94 victims come forward so far...what they went through is horrific.”
Officers hope to compile a list of all prison officers at the borstal in the 70s and 80s and identify the abusers.
Det Supt Goundry invited detectives to speak about some of their experiences with victims - and some of the testimony is far too harrowing for a family newspaper.
One officer’s voice shakes with anger as he recounts what one victim told him, an account, like all others from victims that is being kept strictly confidential.
Det Supt Goundry leans over and whispers: “See what I mean? This is the tip of the iceberg.
"Every victim must now know they have an opportunity to contact us, tell their story and be taken seriously.”
Teenagers sentenced for petty crimes, abused in the worst ways imaginable. They were supposed to receive “short shock treatment” - creating a tough environment they would never forget. How true that was.