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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 21:11 GMT
Reporter exposed abuse claims
Shy Keenan
Shy Keenan: Secretly filmed her stepfather

By BBC News Online's Robert Fielding

Shy Keenan had complained to police and social services about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather and his friends.

Yet for years her cries for help went unheeded - until a BBC reporter listened to her horrifying story.

And within days of the full details emerging on the Newsnight programme, Stanley Claridge was arrested by Merseyside Police.

The journalist who met Claridge described how the paedophile invited her into his living room and calmly discussed "strawberries, budgies, and his sex abuse."

When he delivered animal feed in Wales he would also deliver the girls to men

Sarah Macdonald

Producer-director Sarah Macdonald, 36, first met Claridge while investigating for herself his stepdaughters claims she was forced into child prostitution.

Ms Macdonald, 36, told BBC News Online: "With my new-born baby in arms I went up to Liverpool to research in the Summer of 2000, and over the next seven months we put a secret camera on Karen.

"She had already sent an explicit and disgusting tape recording of her father talking about abusing children to the police and social services - they did nothing."

Claridge had adopted Ms Keenan and her two sisters when they were very young.

It took some time for Ms Keenan to ingratiate herself back into her stepfather's circle of friends, as she had been away for 13 years.

But while she did it Ms Macdonald was sitting listening from a van outside the paedophile's house.

Five months after the investigation began police turned up and went away again.

The day before the Newsnight film went out on 20 November 2000, Ms Macdonald knocked on Claridge's door.

Loose talk

She told BBC News Online: "The house on the big estate was clean.

"There were pictures of his grandchildren all over the walls.

"He wasn't cautious - he asked me in and I talked to him about Karen being abused in care homes.

"We talked about how he grew strawberries and his budgies and about sexual abuse of young children in the same breath.

"I told him she said he was having sex with her when she was three.

Shy Keenan
Shy Keenan as a young girl

"He said: 'She ought to get her story right, I only had her from nine, and it wasn't just me, lots of men were involved.'

"There was a massive ring on the estate and other girls would be sent knocking on doors.

"When he [Claridge] delivered animal feed in Wales he would also deliver the girls to men."

Representatives of Merseyside Police and Wirral Social Services have since offered their sympathies to the victims saying they were pleased "they had at last been vindicated".

Kevin Miller, director of Wirral's social services, said: "We are committed to continuously improving our procedures to protect young and vulnerable members of the community."

Mr Miller defended social services' role in the scandal saying the abuse took place "pre-Cleveland and pre-Rochdale".

Describing the subject as difficult, he said: "There is a very different climate that exists now".

However Ms Macdonald remains unconvinced.

She is relieved that Claridge and his friends have been jailed but she thinks the authorities should "stop making excuses."

Ms Macdonald said: "She has been treated as the enemy - which is further abuse."

The BBC's Nick Thatcher
"It took some drastic measures to finally expose the extent of the abuse"

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