SEX predators who prey on vulnerable children in care in Oldham and across Greater Manchester will be “hunted down”, city mayor Andy Burnham has vowed.

Mr Burnham’s pledge came with publication of the first phase of a damning report into how children in care in Manchester were let down by police and social services and subjected to appalling abuse by groups of Asian men 15 years ago.

And the historic cases in which suspected perpetrators were known to the authorities will be newly investigated.

This is in addition to a separate probe into claims of more recent child sexual exploitation in Oldham which the mayor’s office has been asked by council leader Sean Fielding to undertake.

The report published at a press conference at Mr Burnham’s central Manchester headquarters on Tuesday was written by child protection specialist Malcolm Newsam and former senior police officer Gary Ridgway and into Operation Augusta.

Operation Augusta was launched by GMP following the death of 15-year-old Victoria Agoglia, who – after years of abuse and days after she was injected with heroin by a 50-year-old m an – died in hospital of an overdose in 2003.

Former detective Margaret Oliver, who was part of the Augusta team, turned whistle-blower to raise concerns about the abrupt closure of the investigation in 2005.

Mr Newsam said, at the time it was closed, the operation was judged to be a success.

“The entire investigation team received commendation from the Chief Superintendent and were nominated for a force excellence award,” he said.

Mr Newsam went on: “Victoria was a child in the care of Manchester City Council. A report recalls how she was subjected to multiple threats, assaults and serious sexual exploitation prior to her untimely death.

“This was known to both the police and the children’s social care, but none of these incidents led to an investigation to protect her from significant harm.

“Although Victoria was cared for by the council, a man who had been previously identified as sexually exploiting her was given permission to visit her in her accommodation three times a week.

“Only weeks before her death, Victoria disclosed to her social workers that she had been injected with heroin by an older Asian man in return for sexual favours.

“No form of action was taken to investigate this matter or prevent it occurring again.

“Within two months of this revelation, Victoria died in hospital after a 50-year-old man injected her with heroin. The men who sexually exploited Victoria have never been brought to justice for their crimes, even though her family have been campaigning for many years for her case to be reopened.”

Mr Newsam said an examination of the available records identified at least 57 children believed to be potential victims of child sexual exploitation.

They undertook a detailed analysis of 25 of these children.

“These vulnerable children were subjected to the most distressing sexual and physical abuse,” he said. “The children in our sample were aged from 12 to 16.

“Children as young as 14 were reported to have boyfriends in their mid-20s and were said to be placing themselves at risk.

“In social care records, there was clear evidence that professionals at the time were aware that young people were being sexually exploited and that this was perpetrated by a group of older Asian men.

"There was significant information known at the time about these men’s names, their locations and their telephone numbers.

“But the available evidence was not used to pursue the offenders.

"The perpetrators appeared to be operating in plain sight, hanging around in cars outside care homes and foster homes and returning young people to their care addresses.

“A key concern was that agencies focused on encouraging young people to protect themselves rather than providing protection for them.

“We have concluded that there is a significant probability that 16 in our sample were being sexually exploited and we can offer no assurance that this abuse was appropriately addressed by either GMP or the responsible local authority.

“Fifteen of these children were in the care of Manchester City Council. In respect of the remaining nine children in our sample, we conclude that there was insufficient available information on the files for the review team to form a view as to whether the children had experienced sexual exploitation or not.

“Our report has established that most of the children were failed by GMP and Manchester City Council. The authorities knew that many were being subjected to the most profound abuse and exploitation but did not protect them. This is a depressingly familiar picture seen in many other towns and cities across the country.

“However, familiarity makes it no less painful for the survivors. Our report recommends that they be afforded the opportunity to ask that the crimes committed against them now be fully investigated.

“We also apply the same expectation to the family of Victoria, who have been asking for her abusers to be investigated since her tragic death in 2003.”

Meanwhile, Mr Ridgway detailed how the Augusta investigation unfolded.

He said that following Victoria’s death, care homes in the south Manchester area were approached and a total of 11 children in care were identified as having been the subject of sexual exploitation.

Each child portrayed a profile similar to Victoria, prior to her death.

He continued: “The decision to allocate a major incident team to the operation demonstrated a commitment at the highest level to tackle these crimes and from the outset an acknowledgement that Operation Augusta needed to be a joint investigation with social services in accordance with the area child protection committee procedures at the time.

“However, there were fundamental flaws in how it was resourced. Within a few weeks of the outset, the team was insufficiently resourced to meet the demands of the investigation.

"The responsibility for resourcing the operation was split between three Manchester divisions resulting in challenges between divisional commanders as to who should put resources into the investigation.

“Difficulties were experienced in staffing the operation with a small team, some of them part time and most of them loaned from other areas.

“As a result, the investigation strategy placed too heavy a reliance on the victims’ willingness to make a complaint.”

He said the decision was taken by senior officers in April 2005 to close down the investigation and this was premature.

“As resources and time ran out the laudable intention to investigate the sexual exploitation of a significant number of looked after children became reduced to closing down the majority of the cases because the child wasn’t able to make a complaint,” he said.

“Very few of the relevant perpetrators were brought to justice, and neither were their activities disrupted.”

Mr Burnham said the review will now proceed to its next phases.

He said: “In the second phase, we will look at historic abuse in Rochdale and at the request of Oldham Council it will be expanded to look at more recent allegations there and that has been at the request of the council leader Sean Fielding.”

He added: “My goal in commissioning this review was to banish permanently from Greater Manchester any possibility the old institutional mindset that said young people with problems putting themselves at risk still exists.

“Young people in care should be the highest priority, not the lowest. Any form of child sexual exploitation in any community will be hunted down and rooted out.

"And any perpetrators of it listening to this press conference today should be in no doubt whatsoever of my resolve on that point.”