Children and parents reported sex abuse for years in central Germany. Why did no one believe them?

Alleged sex abuse survivor Michaela's family photo.

(CNN)Rumors had swirled around Andreas V. for years; locals whispered about his behavior with children, to whom he offered pony rides and quad bike tours.

But few had any idea of what police now say was taking place inside his cluttered camper van in the heart of the Luegde Forest in central Germany.
Police in nearby Lippe say they believe Andreas V. abused dozens of children over decades, even using his six-year-old foster daughter as "bait" to lure in his young victims. In December, German police arrested Andreas V—German privacy law does not allow police to give the full names of suspects—and he remains in police custody, while the list of his alleged victims continues to grow.
    His lawyer declined to comment on the allegations.

    The story of Michaela

    One alleged victim, who we'll identify only as "Michaela" to protect her and her family's privacy, said she first met Andreas V. 30 years ago when he was 16 and she was 9.
    "My father had a camper with my grandparents at the camping site, adjacent to Andreas' family van. We were there a lot. It was a real camping community. Like a big family," she told CNN in a phone interview.
    "My father allowed him to stay at our house and, for some reason, Andreas always slept in my room. That's when he touched me for the first time."
    She says she was 11 when the abuse began.
    "I told my father: 'I don't want Andreas to sleep with me because he touches me.' But my dad said: 'No, that's not true. He would not do that.' He just ignored me," she told CNN, her voice breaking. "And if you are not believed as a child, you give up hope at that age of 16 or 17. So, I kept silent for all those years. I did not tell anyone."
    Michaela says her father has since been questioned by the police. Prosecutors have confirmed that the father of one victim had been questioned, but would not confirm if it was Michaela's father. CNN's attempts to contact him have not been successful.
    German police believe Andreas V. went on to become the ringleader of a pedophile gang that used his family's camper van as its base of operations for decades, abusing dozens of children and recording their crimes for profit on the dark web.
    Authorities say they collected ten computers, nine mobile phones, more than 40 hard drives and more than 400 additional data carriers as evidence from Andreas V and two other men.
    The case has scandalized the nation, especially after police recently admitted that some of the data confiscated as evidence has been "lost" while in police hands.
    Germans are left wondering how both law enforcement and social services failed to stop the abuse, despite numerous red flags.

    Hiding in plain sight

    In November of last year, police received a report that Andreas V. had sexually abused a six-year old child who had gone to his home for a play-date with his foster-daughter; he was arrested several weeks later.
    When investigators broke the lock on the camper van where he lived, they found a jumble of furniture and clothing, along with 15 terabytes of data stashed in various hiding places, including a USB stick embedded in the joint of a chair, police said in a press statement following the arrest.
    Two other men, a 48-year old and a 33-year old, were arrested on suspicion of exchanging child pornography with Andreas V.
    "The investigations so far give reason to fear that the perpetrators have committed more than 1,000 acts of abuse, going back to the year 2008," police said in an initial statement.
    "In addition to investigating allegations of serious sexual abuse, more lines of investigation have emerged including child pornography, extending to the internet. Furthermore, the offices responsible for child care in the district of Lippe are being investigated for possible criminal acts," said the statement.
    But that was only the beginning.

    More cases come to light

    Parents had tried to raise the alarm about Andreas V. before.
    In 2016, a local father, Jens Ruzsitska, said he had seen Andreas V. groping children at a birthday party. Ruzsitska punched him and accused him of "feeling up" the children before storming out.
    Police confirmed to CNN that Ruzsitska filed a police report of the incident at the time but say no fu