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Houses searched in Muckamore Abbey Hospital abuse investigation

 Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim is at the centre of a massive PSNI investigation into abuse
Seanín Graham

POLICE raids were carried out this morning on eight properties in connection with the Muckamore Abbey hospital abuse scandal.

Detectives from PSNI's Public Protection Branch confirmed mobile phones and "other items" were seized in searches of properties across Co Antrim and Co Down.

Families whose loved ones were abused in the Co Antrim hospital were contacted early this morning by police prior to the raids.

A total of 158 incidents concerning 'ill-treatment' of Muckamore patients are currently being examined by a dedicated team of detectives.

The Co Antrim regional hospital is at the centre of the biggest criminal adult safeguarding investigation in Northern Ireland after CCTV footage showed vulnerable adults being physically assaulted by staff between March and September 2017.

Almost 20 staff - mainly nurses - have been suspended from Muckamore.

There have been no prosecutions to date and some relatives have raised concerns about the lack of progress in the police probe, which began 16 months ago.

The National Crime Agency - dubbed the British FBI - has been appointed to assist the police investigation in the north.

In a statement, PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Jill Duffie said today's searches demonstrated their "commitment" to delivering a "full and thorough investigation".

"The safeguarding and protection of our most vulnerable is a priority for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. As of today there have been 158 incidents reported to police regarding Muckamore Abbey and we will continue to work through every report made to us to establish if criminal offences have been committed," she said.

"We are very sensitive to the trauma and impact upon those families whose loved ones are at the centre of this complex investigation.

"From the outset we have been committed to working closely with them and will continue to keep them informed as much as we possibly can.

"As this is a live investigation it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this stage."

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