He told the paper: “You have helped us into this place and I am grateful for it.”
The investigation is being led by Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, who was introduced to three whistleblowers last month during a meeting the YA helped to arrange.
The whistleblowers – a retired NHS manager, a serving probation officer and the former manager of a child sex abuse treatment centre – came forward after the YA published a series of exclusive reports about alleged historic abuse.
Officers will investigate claims that police and civil servants failed to properly investigate suspected paedophiles or adequately protect alleged victims over the course of two decades.
They will also look into whether known victims remain at risk today as a result of past failures.
Praising the newspaper’s role in having “brokered” the meeting, Mr Alston said: “You’ve been there representing a group of people who, I think, for the right reasons, have been wanting to not let this die. For 25 years this group of professionals have never let go of this. But who do you go to?
“They clearly saw an opportunity to work with the Yellow Advertiser to maybe have another go at getting something that they care passionately about; to use you as a route to us, to broker that conversation. And you’ve done it really responsibly.
“You’ve used our relationship and you’ve respected everything we’ve said in terms of enabling us firstly to get our heads around it and then to try to get the Chief Constable in the right space – which actually took no effort at all because I think we’ve got a remarkable Chief Constable who is completely wanting to do the right thing by all of this.”
He added: “Without the Yellow Advertiser having had the confidence to build that relationship with those professionals, and to trust me to do the right thing here, we would not be making this announcement. So thank you for taking the initiative on this. Thank you for trusting us.”
Essex Police said: “At the meeting, serious concerns were raised about alleged sexual offences committed against children, particularly boys in local authority or foster care, during the 1980s and 1990s.
“Further deep concerns were raised about the safeguarding and support provided for a large number of young people who may have been victims of serious abuse.
“In the relevant period there were a number of investigations and prosecutions, and two convictions were secured.
“However, the concern of these professionals, who were working in the area at the time, was that those investigations may not have been sufficiently thorough.”