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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 13:07 GMT
When Satan came to town
Rochdale family separated after false abuse claims
Five families in Rochdale were wrongly separated
In 1990 the Devil came to Rochdale.

Families woke up to every parent's worst nightmare when, with no warning, police and social services came to take their children away.

Social services believed that they had uncovered evidence that the children were being forced to take part in ritual devil worship.

It was the most notorious of a series of similar claims made against families across the country.

Catalogue of mistakes

Allegations ranged from the sacrifice of human babies and robed devil worship to locking the children in cages and caves. None of the claims were ever proved.

It was Britain's Salem Witch Hunt.

This programme reveals the real story of how, at the end of the 20th Century, hysteria swept through our social services.

This was a total failure of "due process" and common sense with horrific results.

Sixteen children were kept in care without any contact with their parents for months and it took 10 years before the last child was released from care back to his family.

Because the children at the heart of the story were made wards of court it has not been legally possible to identify them. Only now that they are adults can the story be told - and they are telling the BBC exclusively.

The corporation has challenged Rochdale Council through the family courts and has obtained video evidence of the interviews with the children taken at the time, as social workers desperately tried to prove their unfounded theory that the families had been worshiping the devil and abusing their children.

They show the catalogue of mistakes and manipulations of the truth by social workers that resulted in the enormous personal cost to the families caught up in this satanic panic.

This year, the children take Rochdale council to court in an attempt to get an apology for one of the biggest mistakes ever made in social work.

When Satan Came To Town: The Real Story - BBC ONE on Wednesday 11 January at 2100 GMT.

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