Police fear 10 girls were victims of a child sex ring

Chief Inspector Helen Roberts, deputy area commander for Cherwell and West Oxfordshire

Chief Inspector Helen Roberts, deputy area commander for Cherwell and West Oxfordshire

First published in News

MORE than 10 girls may have been victims of an organised child sex ring disrupted by police in Banbury.

Six men were last night in police custody after being arrested on suspicion of serious sex crimes against vulnerable girls.

Thames Valley Police said the 6am raids, which involved 45 officers, came after the biggest child sex exploitation investigation in the county since Operation Bullfinch in Oxford.

The men – aged between 18 and 21 – were held on suspicion of grooming and abusing three girls aged between 13 and 16 in Banbury from 2011 to this year.

Chief Inspector Helen Roberts, deputy area commander for Cherwell and West Oxfordshire, said potential victims had been identified and approached by the Cowley-based Kingfisher team set up in 2012 to improve police and social workers’ approach to child sex exploitation.

She said: “This is the first operation the Kingfisher team have put together and this is the first significant operation since Bullfinch.”

Following Operation Bullfinch, seven men were last year jailed for a total of 95 years for playing part in the Oxford gang that groomed and abused vulnerable girls living in council care.

Ch Insp Roberts said the raids did not mean there was a bad problem with grooming in Banbury – rather police were tackling it there.

Police refused to reveal the street addresses of the five properties raided under Operation Reportage but Ch Insp Roberts said they were spread across the town.

Neighbourhood police were also patrolling yesterday to reassure residents about the arrests.

Cliff Kisby, 56, said he saw officers in the Orchard Way and Cromwell Road area at 6am, adding: “I have never seen so many police.”

A door panel to a flat in Warwick Road was yesterday smashed through and neighbour Bert Dowler said he had seen a lot of police at about 7am.

He said: “It really was a very lively scene.”

National award for Kingfisher team

The Kingfisher team – made up of about 20 staff from police, social services, and the health sector – was launched in November 2012 to better fight child sex exploitation.

Last week the team won the children’s services award at the national MJ awards – a trade magazine for local government.

Anyone who is a victim of child sex exploitation, or know anyone who is, can call the Kingfisher team on 101.

Fake car paint

Fraud police investigating fake car paint products also arrested two men in dawn raids in Banbury yesterday.

The City of London police unit arrested men aged 44 and 33 in Banbury and a further man aged 60 in Gwent, South Wales, on suspicion of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud, and trademark crimes.

Computer equipment, documentation and more than 200 boxes of suspected counterfeit products were also seized. The men have been released on bail.

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