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Shocked British ask how system missed man who raped daughters for years, fathering children

LONDON (AP) - British officials were investigating today how a man managed to repeatedly rape his daughters and father nine children with them without being stopped by the authorities.

The 56-year-old man was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for what a judge called "the worst (case of abuse) I have come across" in 40 years.

"To say that we were shocked to find the level of abuse perpetrated by this person is an understatement," said Jayne Ludlum, director of children's services in Sheffield, the family's hometown. "It is hard to comprehend how this could happen in today's society."

Ludlum said Sheffield authorities had launched an investigation.

The man, who cannot be named because of reporting restrictions to protect his daughters' identity, raped his children for more than a quarter of a century from the time they were eight or 10, beating them when they resisted. Between them the daughters bore their father seven surviving children. Two more infants died at birth, while the other pregnancies ended in abortion or miscarriage.

Nick Clegg, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats party, said the "stomach-churning" case raised the question: "How on earth did something like this happen without someone noticing?"

"Where were the medical professionals? Where were the social workers? What were they doing for the last 20 years?" said Clegg, who represents a Sheffield district in the House of Commons. "Those are the big questions that need to be asked."

Britain's child welfare services are already under pressure after the case of "Baby P," a toddler who suffered months of abuse that led to his death, despite repeated visits by social services staff in London.