The grandmother of Victoria Agoglia, whose death sparked the police’s heavily-criticised Operation Augusta investigation into child sexual exploitation across south Manchester, broke down in tears as she revealed how the teenager was regularly beaten and left bruised by her abusers.
It’s a harrowing chapter in the tragic story of a girl who suffered the sudden death of her mother, only to be let down by those appointed to protect her.
Joan Agoglia bravely spoke at a press conference today to mark the publication of a damning report focusing on Greater Manchester Police’s inquiry and the extent of the abuse of vulnerable youngsters in care more than a decade ago.
She told how she was forced to bathe her granddaughter to ease the bruising inflicted by her attackers – but nobody listenned.
Victoria, who was living in a home under the responsibility of Manchester city council, died aged 15 after she was injected with heroin by a man then aged 50.
Her death in 2003 led GMP to launch the probe, and it emerged she had told repeatedly of her suffering at the hands of older, Asian men, who the report’s authors said appeared to ‘operate in plain sight’ in and around care homes.
The report found Victoria suffered ‘severe abuse and exploitation’ for two years before her death.
She was threatened, assaulted and taken back to her residential unit ‘intoxicated’.
Victoria – who wanted to become a model and a hairdresser – gave information that she was being sexually exploited and even alleged rape.
But the report concluded Operation Augusta was dropped by the force in July 2005 for resource reasons, despite at least 57 potential victims being identified and up to 97 suspects.
Despite victims telling police, social workers and other professionals what was happening, the abusers weren’t stopped, and seven of the men identified went on to be convicted for rape or sexual assault.
Police and council bosses have now apologised and admitted children were let down.
“She had her bad points, a lot of them, but she didn’t deserve to die with nastiness,” said Mrs Agoglia of her granddaughter, who was known as Vicky.
“And that’s want happened.
“I used to have to give her a bath because she was so bruised. She told me she was being beaten.
“I promised her…there’s no way they are going to get away with this.”
Holding the arm of Maggie Oliver, the retired GMP detective who has spoken out about child sexual exploitation for many years and today alleged a ‘cover-up’, Mrs Agoglia welcomed the findings of the report as ‘wonderful’, but said she couldn’t feel that Victoria could rest in peace until her abusers were brought to justice.
“I have been fighting for this all my life. All my life it seems,” she said.
“I have had the police down.
“I’ve had care workers come down and social services come down, but where were they?
“Where were they when Victoria was being abused? I told them and I told them.
“She told me herself what these men had done to her.
“I can’t feel that she can rest in peace.”
The mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who commissioned the report, revealed he would write to the Attorney General to ask for her inquest to be reopened.
Mrs Agoglia claimed she wasn’t even told about Victoria’s inquest, never mind invited to it.
Mrs Oliver, who worked on Operation Augusta and turned whistleblower regarding the issue, said in her interview with the report’s authors that ‘social services knew they had failed Victoria as she was in their care’.
The report said: “Although she had no evidence, Mrs Oliver suggested that social services tried to exclude the family from the inquest into the death of Victoria to ‘protect their own backs’.”
Mr Burnham said in response to the report’s publication: “Victoria’s death should have been a wake-up call on child sexual exploitation to the whole of Greater Manchester. But it wasn’t.
“Her death exposed a network of paedophiles brazenly abusing young people, girls and boys, in care. Each and every one of those abusers should have been brought to justice but, appallingly, most escaped and some were left to reoffend.”
The man who injected Victoria with heroin was later convicted and jailed over her death.
Victoria’s sad story begins with the death of her mother, Donna, from brain cancer.
She was just eight at the time.
Mrs Agoglia said that as the eldest, her granddaughter tried to look after her siblings.
“She was like a little mother hen,” she said.
“She was trying to look after us all.
“But it wasn’t her job. She was only a child.
“She was only eight.”
She never knew her natural father and social services decided her stepfather was not fit to look after her so two years later, she was placed in care and spent time in homes across Manchester.
Mrs Agoglia however said she had wanted to look after her – and Victoria refused to be adopted.
Victoria, who often used her stepfather’s surname moved to Rochdale and lived in Bernard Street, Syke, in a care home run by the Green Corns company, her inquest in 2007 was told.
She would run away regularly – with Mrs Agoglia saying that often, she would go to her home.
The police were asked to look for her on numerous occasions.
Victoria last left the Bernard Street address in September 2003, saying she was going to meet a friend.
She never returned, although staff at the house were able to keep in contact with her by mobile phone.
Within days, her life was over.
Paramedics were called to a house in Sussex Street, Merefield, where she was found collpased.
She was taken to Rochdale Infirmary and transferred to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, but died five days later after falling into a coma.
Mrs Agoglia recalled her beautiful blonde hair.
“We all had to go through this,” she said.
“But the story started, really, when my daughter Donna, she was my second child, she got brain cancer.
“Victoria was such a lovely girl, she was just wonderful.”
The report found that although Victoria was under council care, a man who had been previously identified as her so-called ‘pimp’ was ‘given permission’ to visit her in her accommodation three times a week.
“Two months prior to her death, Victoria had disclosed to both her social worker and a substance misuse worker that an older man was injecting her with heroin,” added the report.
Pregnancy scares were also detailed.
But the report’s authors said: “Not one of these occasions resulted in an investigation or a thorough assessment of what was required to protect her from harm.
“The review team’s judgement is that there was a significant probability that Victoria Agoglia had been sexually exploited and we cannot offer any assurance that this was appropriately addressed by either Greater Manchester Police or Manchester city council.”