GENEVA -- A 54-year-old man has admitted sexually abusing more than 100 mentally disabled children and adults in care homes in Switzerland and Germany during almost three decades, in what Swiss police described Tuesday as an unprecedented case.
The abuse took place in nine different care homes where the unidentified man had worked as a therapist since 1982, police in the canton (state) of Bern said.
Police have identified 122 of the victims, with the youngest being 1 year old at the time of the crime. Forty-two of the victims were over 18.
The man was arrested in April 2010 and has been detained since, but authorities only released details of the case Tuesday to prevent the investigation from being impeded by media interest, police said.
The head of Bern police's special investigations unit, Gabriele Berger, told a news conference in Bern that the evidence against the man includes photos and hours of video recording the abuse.
She said he had gone about his crimes deliberately, in many instances choosing victims who were unable to speak.
The case came to light in March, after two male residents of a care home informed their parents of sexual contact with the therapist.
The man was subsequently arrested at his home in the Bernese Oberland, in central Switzerland. Police said he has cooperated with investigators since his arrest, describing himself as a pedophile.
The man admitted sexually abusing 114 mentally disabled patients, some of whom also were physically impaired, police said. He also admitted eight further cases of attempted abuse, authorities said. Most of the victims were male, they said.
The majority of cases have passed the statute of limitations, police said. Under Swiss law, the man can only be prosecuted for 33 of them, they said.
"One of the central questions of this investigation is how such levels of abuse could go undetected for so long," said Berger.
The man had been investigated on allegations of sex abuse in 2003, but that probe was dropped due to conflicting evidence, she said, adding that that case would be reopened.