A HEREFORDSHIRE social services head says his fears over a nationwide paedophile network in the1990s were brushed off by Department of Health officials.

Ledbury’s David Tombs, 80, was a nationally recognised figure in social work – heading up Hereford and Worcester for 20 years – but when he took a report on sexual abuse in children’s homes to senior civil servants was told nothing would be done.

“I was told I was probably wasting my time and that there were too many of ‘them’ over there,” said Mr Tombs, who retired in 1994.

“I was talking about paedophilia and the ‘over there’ to me indicated ‘within government and Whitehall’.

“I wanted to raise the alarm but – there was a kind of inability to believe that this was happening.”

Mr Tombs’ fears came in part from five suitcases of letters found by West Mercia officer Terry Shutt when police raided the weekend home of Peter Righton, a founder of the Paedophile Information Exchange, in 1992.

Righton was convicted of child pornography, but the letters linked him to a wider paedophile network of “establishment” figures.

An expert figure in children’s social care at the time of his arrest, Righton was hiding in plain sight Mr Tombs said.

He said: “He was regularly lecturing on the subject – most people in social work had met him.”

Last week the Home Office launched an investigation specifically targeting how historical allegations of child abuse like this were handled, or mishandled.

Because of this the Department of Health were unable to comment on the Mr Tombs’ allegations.

He said: “There were names from within Hereford and Worcester, but it went bigger than that and I thought it need to be investigated nationally.

“I don’t remember the names, but I was concerned with how they were connected to the establishment.

“Herefordshire was a minimal part of the network but I don’t believe Peter Righton worked directly there.”

There was however issues of child sexual abuse in the area at the time.

Following the Cleveland report in 1987, Herefordshire began recording instances of sexual abuse separately to other child abuse.

When this happened, the annual numbers leapt from between 20-30 to almost 100 said Mr Tombs.

He said: “It was a drastic increase.

“I went to government to try and change how it was being looked at by the courts, and by the health department.”

Peter McKelvie, 65, headed up Mr Tomb’s child protection team at the time, and put together the report following Righton’s arrest.

Two years ago his comments around the case formed a key part Operation Fernbridge, an investigation by Scotland Yard into a paedophile network linked to Downing Street.

Now, with Teresa May announcing two separate inquiries last Monday, Mr Tombs hopes the truth will come out.

He said: “These high-profile celebrity cases have begun to force change.”

Ina statement released yesterday Herefordshire Council confirmed that while Righton was a teacher, he was never employed by Hereford and Worcester County Council.

Spokesman Jo Davidson said: “From the information on record, there is no evidence of any involvement of anyone linked to Herefordshire Council or Worcestershire County Council and we are not aware of anyone connected with either Council implicated in this investigation.”