|Investigation: Michael Carroll has been jailed|
Detectives are investigating claims that a minister in Tony Blair's government sexually abused children in the 1980s, Scotland Yard have revealed.
Officers from Operation Overview have interviewed a number of witnesses in connection with an alleged cover up of child sex abuse by the politician in Lambeth, south London.
The Daily Mirror can reveal they are examining claims that photographs of the Labour star with a convicted paedophile disappeared after they were handed to police.
The images allegedly included the politician pictured on caravan holidays with the pervert, who was first convicted of child abuse in 1966, and vulnerable youngsters in the 1980s.
The latest allegation comes from a youth worker who says he gave the police 100 photos along with a 30-page signed statement in the late 1990s.
The witness claims he was told by a detective a year later that his evidence had disappeared.
He said: “We were not talking about some historical documents, this was a statement I had given them just 12 months earlier.
“As soon as I discovered it had disappeared I refused to say anything else to the police. I was very alarmed. It blew me off the planet to think it had gone.”
The police team was set up following a series of articles in the Daily Mirror revealing how retired detective Clive Driscoll was removed from investigating a paedophile ring in November 1998 in Lambeth, south London, after naming politicians among the suspects.
The inquiry has been operating in secret at the headquarters of Scotland Yard's child abuse command at Empress State Building in Earl's Court, London.
The Met stressed the operation was a "scoping exercise" aimed at a preliminary assessment of the evidence rather than a formal inquiry.
The team have been told by the former youth worker that he took photographs of holidays between 1986 and 1994 after starting his first job as a youth worker with the Association of Combined Youth Clubs, partly run by convicted paedophile Michael John Carroll.
The former youth worker said two senior detectives spent a day quizzing him at Walworth Road police station in south east London after Carroll was arrested in June 1998.
He said: “They told me he was part of a paedophile ring and had turned supergrass and was giving evidence against (others). They wanted to know who I knew in the organisation who was involved in the children's holidays and which guys were coming down.
“I have worked in criminal justice for many years and am clear it was a standard MG11, a statement, signed and dated and tape recorded.
“I told them everything I knew. I took in a stack of pictures and the police removed about 100 that showed the adults who had visited.
“I gave them detailed information and photographs of all the men who had stayed in the caravans. I named names and gave information about where the men worked and sometimes where they lived.”
|Revelation: Labour MP Tom Watson says senior politicians and police must be questioned|
“I will be writing to both the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police and the chief constable of Merseyside police to demand an urgent inquiry into what happened to these photographs and the witness statement.
“If evidence has been deliberately destroyed or hidden then those who were involved in this must be held to account.
“Senior politicians and police officers must be questioned about what they knew and criminal charges should be brought if evidence is found of a cover up.”
Referring to missing Home Office files, Mr Watson added: "This appears to be yet another example where potential evidence relating to child abuse, apparently given to the police, has gone missing."
Carroll was said to be on a committee that hand picked around 60 deprived boys and girls, aged five to 14, to go to the Havens caravan park in Christchurch, near Bournemouth, for two weeks every summer.
Many came from Catholic children's homes and had already suffered sexual abuse.
A group of men, including the rising Labour star, would allegedly travel down on the Friday evening and sleep in the caravans with the children over the weekends.
The new witness said he cut his ties with the ACYC in the mid 1990s when he learned some colleagues were convicted paedophiles. It changed it's name shortly afterwards before shutting down.
He claimed: “It became quite clear that the organisation had been infiltrated by a group of paedophiles.
“This was a paedophile ring protected by the police and people connected to Lambeth council who were taking away very vulnerable children every year for a decade. It was like a conveyor belt feeding children to abusers.
“Sometimes kids would wet the bed and then they would sleep with in the adult's room. At the time I didn't have a problem with it. It was totally plausible.
“Carroll would always say he was untouchable. He was a kingpin in Lambeth.”
Carroll was jailed for a string of child sex offences at Liverpool Crown Court in 1999 following an investigation by Merseyside police.
He had eight counts of indecency and rape against three girls dropped in 2000 at Liverpool Crown Court after the the Crown Prosecution Service abandoned the case. The court heard the case was dropped because of “evidential difficulties” and that the three women stood by their stories.
The paedophile denies ever meeting the Labour politician or being connected to a paedophile ring in Lambeth.
The new witness is speaking to the Metropolitan police after he was tracked down by the Mirror. They are understood to have so far been unable to find the photographs or the statement.
The force's Department for Professional Standards are investigating if anyone should face criminal proceedings over the alleged cover-up.
The witness is prepared to give evidence at any possible future trial as well as to the public inquiry into claims of an establishment cover up of child sex abuse.
Home Secretary Teresa May announced the inquiry after it emerged a dossier handed to Leon Brittan by Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens detailing allegations of a 1980s Westminster vice ring is one of 114 potentially relevant Home Office files that have disappeared.
The Association of Combined Youth Clubs was founded in 1977 and funded by the Inner London Education Authority, local councils and the Met police. Princess Anne became the patron and BBC presenter David Dimbleby was a director. There is no suggestion they knew anything about the abuse.
The ACYC had strong links with the Catholic church, senior politicians and police officers.
Records seen by the Daily Mirror show Carroll was a board member in the early 1980s.
The former youth worker said four or five other members of the organisation were later convicted of child sex offences or found to already have convictions. The Mirror has so far been unable to find details of the offences.
A spokesman for Merseyside police said they had conducted a thorough search and could find no record of the new witness having given a statement or photographs to them. A spokeswoman for the Met refused to comment about the statement and pictures.
It said in a statement: “Officers from the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command are conducting a scoping exercise, Operation Overview, in response to the Mirror's reports of historic sexual offending in Lambeth.
“This has not yet reached the threshold for a criminal investigation and we have no victim allegations at this time.
Any victim of abuse in the UK is urged to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.