Monthly Archives: June 2015
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Alison Saunders will now bring criminal proceedings against Greville Janner for child sex offences.
This follows a review of the case under the recently introduced CPS Victims’ Right to Review scheme, which allows victims to have their cases looked at again, no matter who in the CPS made the original decision not to prosecute.
In the past year the scheme has meant that more than 200 prosecutions have been brought that would not have been brought otherwise.
In April this year the DPP decided that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute, meaning that, in her view, if there could be a full criminal trial a jury would be likely to convict Lord Janner. However, the DPP considered that it was not in the public interest to prosecute. This was because there was undisputed medical evidence that Greville Janner was not fit to stand trial which meant there could not be a full criminal trial and he could not therefore be found guilty of any offence and because he was not a danger to the public. It was also in light of the fact that the DPP sought assurances that the complainants would have the opportunity to give their account to the public inquiry led by Justice Goddard which has been set up to look at cases which may have been mis-handled in the past.
Without the compelling medical evidence the DPP has made clear that she would have brought a prosecution.
In May, six of the complainants in this case requested a formal Right to Review, and at the DPP’s request, David Perry QC was instructed to provide advice to inform the CPS review of the decision.
The review concluded that it was in the public interest to bring proceedings before the court.
In reaching that conclusion, the review agreed that although there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, it is right to assume that Greville Janner will inevitably be found unfit to plead and therefore not fit to instruct his legal team and not fit to challenge or give evidence in a trial. Therefore the most likely outcome of a “trial of the facts” would be an absolute discharge, which is neither punishment nor conviction.
Alison Saunders said:
“The Victims’ Right to Review scheme has brought a much needed voice for victims of crime and this review shows that any decision can be reversed, no matter who has made it. It is a scheme I helped to bring in and it is a process I fully support and am not above. I requested a non CPS lawyer to advise on this case so that the review would be seen as fully independent. That was the right thing to do, and was a decision I made in the interests of fairness and maintaining public confidence in the criminal justice system.
“I have always said that in my view this was an extremely difficult and borderline case because of the strong arguments on both sides. I have also always emphasised my concern for the complainants in this case. I understood their need to be heard, which is why I contacted Justice Goddard to ensure that they could give evidence as part of the public inquiry. However, the review has concluded that this forum, albeit a public one, cannot substitute for the adjudication of the courts. I accept the outcome of the review and will now be bringing this prosecution to allow for that adjudication to happen.
“The case is first listed at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 7 August 2015.”
As there are now active criminal proceedings nothing should be said, commented on, or shared online which may prejudice those. It will be a matter for the court to consider if Greville Janner should appear or be excused on medical grounds from attending court.
The CPS has also received a draft of Sir Richard Henriques’ report which the DPP commissioned on the handling and decision making in relation to previous allegations made against Greville Janner in 1991, 2002 and 2007. It is now being finalised, but it is clear that it will confirm the DPP’s view that the CPS decisions in 1991 and 2007 were wrong as well as concluding that the handling of the case previously by both police and prosecutors was unsatisfactory.
The DPP, Alison Saunders, said:
“It is a matter of real regret that prosecutions weren’t brought by the police and CPS in the past.
“We have brought forward this decision as public speculation on this review has brought damaging and unacceptable uncertainty for the complainants in this case. We have now done what we can to inform the complainants of the outcome of the review and I have offered to meet each of them should they wish.”
The DPP has demonstrated her personal commitment to tackling the sexual abuse of children – in 2014 -15 the CPS brought more charges and delivered more convictions than ever before.
Notes to editors
1. CPS data records all child abuse cases referred by the police. In 2014-15, the overall number of child abuse prosecutions (sexual and non-sexual) reached 10,045, an increase of 2,047 (25.6%) from 2013-14, the highest volume ever. Of these, the conviction volume rose to 7,469 in 2014-15 from 6,096 in 2013-14 – also the highest volume ever and a rise of 22.5%.
2. Of all the child abuse cases, the prosecution and conviction volumes of sexual offences have also risen. Child abuse sexual offence prosecutions completed in 2014-15 rose from 4,371 to 5,387 – a rise of 23.2%.
3. Successful outcomes for child sexual abuse (CSA) rose from 3,344 to 3,975 – a rise of 18.9%.
1. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Buggery contrary to section 12(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956 PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner, on a day between 16th August 1987 and 19th August 1987 committed buggery with Complainant 1, a child under the age of 16 years (namely 15 years).
2. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Buggery contrary to section 12(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956 PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner, between 21st June 1988 and 2nd August 1988 committed buggery with Complainant 1, a male person aged 16 years without his consent.
3. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 16th August 1987 and 2nd August 1988 indecently assaulted Complainant 1, a boy aged under 16 years.
4. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 21st June 1988 and 2nd August 1988 indecently assaulted Complainant 1, a male aged 16 years.
5. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 13th March 1984 and 27th March 1984 indecently assaulted Complainant 2, a boy under the age of 16 years.
6. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 27th March 1984 and 1st November 1984 indecently assaulted Complainant 2, a male aged 16 years.
7. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 3rd July 1981 and 15th September 1981 indecently assaulted Complainant 3, a boy under the age of 16 years.
8. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Buggery contrary to section 12(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956 PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner, on a day between 3rd July 1981 and 15th September 1981 committed buggery with Complainant 3, a child under the age of 16 years.
9. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between the 10th October 1979 and the 7th December 1982 indecently assaulted Complainant 4, a boy under the age of 16 years.
10. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Buggery contrary to section 12(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner, on a day between 22nd August 1985 and 20th September 1987 committed buggery with Complainant 5, a child under the age of 16 years.
11. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Buggery contrary to section 12(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner, on a day between 22nd August 1985 and 20th September 1987 and on an occasion other than in charge 10 committed buggery with Complainant 5, a child under the age of 16 years.
12. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956 PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 22nd August 1985 and 20th September 1987 indecently assaulted Complainant 5, a boy under the age of 16 years.
13. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 22nd August 1985 and 20th September 1987 indecently assaulted Complainant 5, a boy under the age of 16 years
14. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 21st November 1972 and 22nd December 1975 indecently assaulted Complainant 6, a boy under the age of 16 years.
15. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 21st November 1972 and 22nd December 1975 indecently assaulted Complainant 6, a boy under the age of 16 years.
16. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 21st November 1972 and 22nd December 1975 indecently assaulted Complainant 6, a boy under the age of 16 years.
17. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Buggery contrary to section 12(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner, on a day between 21st November 1972 and 22nd December 1975 committed buggery with Complainant 6, a child under the age of 16 years.
18. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 1st April 1985 and 1st April 1988 indecently assaulted Complainant 7, a boy under the age of 16 years.
19. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 1st April 1985 and 1st April 1988 indecently assaulted Complainant 7, a boy under the age of 16 years.
20. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 16th June 1963 and 9th October 1969 indecently assaulted Complainant 8, a boy under the age of 16 years.
21. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Indecent Assault on a Male Person contrary to section 15(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner on a day between 10th October 1969 and 31st January 1970 indecently assaulted Complainant 8, a boy under the age of 16 years.
22. STATEMENT OF OFFENCE Buggery contrary to section 12(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956. PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE Lord Greville Janner, on a day between 24th August 1977 and 1st November 1978 committed buggery with Complainant 9.
A Sunday afternoon song.
I could write a great deal about this story but I’ll restrict myself to one observation.
It’s a great shame that ‘Jane’s” case was exploited for cheap copy in the first place. It certainly was never in her interests that it should have happened regardless of what she thinks. It’s a great shame that The Independent on Sunday have had to set the record straight in such detail but then it is a great shame that they have had to set the record straight at all.
No doubt some will suggest that this is yet another example of a ‘smear’ campaign but then there are some supporters of Exaro News who believe that anyone who questions that news outlet in any way is in fact a paedophile themselves. Such is the brainwashed cult-like following that Exaro have online.
Earlier in the week the CPS made a statement regarding this issue which can be found HERE
The Independent on Sunday can reveal that the initial legal advice given to the police in August 2013 was that the evidence against him fell short of the standards required to lead to a prosecution. The police agreed, and decided against interviewing Lord Brittan. When the alleged victim, known by the pseudonym “Jane”, was told the evidence was insufficient, she encouraged Labour MP Tom Watson to take up her case. The MP wrote to Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, asking her to ensure that all proper procedures had been followed. The police reopened the investigation, but when the peer was interviewed, he denied he had met the woman in question. Six months later Brittan died with the threat of prosecution still hanging over him.
The CPS opinion has never been made public, but the IoS can reveal that concerns were expressed as to whether, assuming an encounter took place, “the suspect was unaware that the victim was not consenting to the sexual intercourse between them”. “On the victim’s evidence alone,” says the advice, “there is no evidence that the suspect had asked the victim for sex, that he had demanded sex, that he had forced the victim to [lie] on the bed, neither did he ask her to remove her clothing”.
It was reported last week that the CPS was refusing to tell the police what its opinion was of the allegations about Brittan. Jane was quoted as saying “the detective who told me seemed disappointed that neither the Met, nor I, would be told whether Leon Brittan could have been prosecuted. Unfortunately I have to live with the fact.” But this version of events was denied by the CPS on Friday in an unusually strongly worded statement. It confirmed that in July 2013 it had provided police with “early investigative advice” (which the IoS has seen). The statement continued that, since in spite of their later investigations the police “were never able to conclude that the evidential test for a full charging decision was met” and, because “the state of the case fundamentally remains the same as it was”, the CPS stood by its original guidance.
The Friday Night Song
This is what Simon Danczuk had to say about the CPS and Lord Janner during the CPS debate in Westminster Hall at 2.42 pm on 23rd June 2015 :
“My involvement with the Crown Prosecution Service in recent years has mainly focused on the failure to prosecute child sex abusers. We know that in the 1960s, 70s and 80s people like Cyril Smith and Victor Montagu were allowed to continue to abuse children because the CPS was unable or unwilling to bring cases against them, even when it had the evidence. It is a legacy that should shame the CPS and the entire justice system, but these failures are not just a thing of the past. The case of Lord Janner is an interesting case study of the workings of the modern day CPS and its attitude towards alleged child abusers. We know that the CPS failed to press for prosecution of Lord Janner in 1991, 2002 and 2006, and the current Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has admitted that he should have been prosecuted. Now we hear that he cannot face justice because he is too ill…” – Simon Danczuk 23 June 2015
Labour MP Simon Danczuk said police had told him they wanted to bring 22 historical charges against Lord Janner, dating between 1969 and 1988.
The director of public prosecutions (DPP) announced in April that he would not be charged because of his dementia, although that decision is under review.
The ex-MP denies any wrongdoing.
Lord Janner’s family has said that the peer “is entirely innocent of any wrongdoing”.
Full text @ Column 213WH 2.42 pm
Click here for the full debate
Friday Night Song
Will Black is a writer and journalist with a background in anthropology and mental health care.
His latest book, Psychopathic Cultures and Toxic Empires, examines the corrupting influence powerful psychopaths have on societies. Examples of psychopathic and toxic cultures addressed include those within paedophile rings, politics, finance, gangs, security services, religious organisations and the media. As well as identifying distinctive characteristics of psychopathic cultures, Black highlights inherent weaknesses of organisations built on deceit and corruption.
Will also writes for the Huffington Post
When sex abuser Rolf Harris did his slapdash paintings on TV, surrounded by children, he used the catchphrase “Can you tell what it is yet?” Harris himself was also something of a sketchy cartoon figure then, as erratic and nebulous as his manic paintings and peculiar songs.
Given what we now know about Harris, his catchphrase is quite chilling. He could just as easily have been saying “Can you tell what I am yet?”, in a similar way to how Savile can appear to be taunting society in those hideous photos of him leering smugly, surrounded by children or politicians.
So pleased was Harris with his catchphrase that he used it as the title of his 2001 autobiography. By the time that book was released, one of Harris’ victims had confronted him about abusing her and disclosed the abuse to her parents. Therefore, Harris was well-aware that the cartoon veneer he presented to the world could rapidly be replaced by a stark image of a manipulative abuser. For an offender who abused a child while his daughter slept nearby, it is possible that this knowledge that the cartoon image could melt away and the predator be revealed would have added to his twisted thrill. Nevertheless, he did what he could to protect his image and fortune.
After Harris was confronted by one of his victims, in Norfolk, he sent a letter to her dad containing terms like “atone”, “forgiveness” and “self-loathing”. He also said he was “sickened” by himself. The victim in question was a friend of his daughter, and he reportedly targeted her from the age of 13.
The letter, which was written in 1997, reads: “Since that trip up to Norfolk, I have been in a state of abject self-loathing. How we delude ourselves. I fondly imagined that everything that had taken place had progressed from a feeling of love and friendship – there was no rape, no physical forcing, brutality or beating that took place.
“When I came to Norfolk, [the victim] told me that she had always been terrified of me and went along with everything that I did out of fear of me. I said ‘Why did you never just say no?’. And [the victim] said how could she say no to the great television star Rolf Harris. Until she told me that, I had no idea that she was scared of me. She laughs in a bitter way and says I must have known that she has always been scared of me. I honestly didn’t know.
“[The victim] keeps saying that this has all been going on since she was 13. She’s told you that and you were justly horrified, and she keeps reiterating that to me, no matter what I said to the contrary.”
Harris goes onto write: “When I see the misery I have caused [the victim] I am sickened by myself. You can’t go back and change things that you have done in this life – I wish to God I could. When I came to Norfolk, spent that time with [the victim] and realised the enormity of what I had done to [the victim], and how I had affected her whole life, I begged her for forgiveness and she said ‘I forgive you’.
“Whether she really meant it or not, I don’t know. I hope she did, but I fear she can never forgive me. I find it hard to like myself in any way, shape or form. And as I do these animal programmes, I see the unconditional love that dogs give to their owners and I wish I could start to love myself again. If there is any way that I could atone for what I have done I would willingly do it. If there is a way I can start to help [the victim] to heal herself, I would willingly do it.”
It would appear now, however, that Harris has got over this fleeting pang of apparent remorse, to the extent that he has written a song in prison attacking his victims. In the song he calls his victims “slimy little woodworm” and “wenches”, and he accuses them of “joining the feeding frenzy” and trying to get their “hooks into his dough”. This is rich coming from an abuser who sent a crocodile tear-splattered letter to a victim’s family, presumably to protect his lucrative career.
The song was included in a letter posted from Stafford Prison. Harris was moved to the Category C prison not long into his sentence for multiple assaults on girls. In the letter Harris says “after eight months inside, the inner rage has come to the fore. I’ve started writing a song about the injustice of it all.” He goes onto say that he plans to record it as soon as he is released in 2017. This suggests Harris assumes he will be granted parole at the earliest opportunity, as he received a five years and nine months sentence in 2014.
Commenting on the letter and song, solicitor Liz Dux, who has represented Harris’ victims, told BBC Radio 4: “I am calling for this letter to be shown to the parole board and for it to be taken into account when deciding when to release him. The whole point of parole is for people to show some sort of remorse and understanding of their actions when they return into society, and here is someone who is clearly behaving as he was before, with complete distain.”
Harris may be released from prison before he dies, but I would suggest his rehabilitation has much further to go if he doesn’t recognise that the public sees him as a child abuser first and foremost. He was never much of an artist anyway and nobody wants to listen to a sex attacker smearing his victims.
The recent LBC investigation into the disappearance and murder of Vishal Mehrotra and the release following a Freedom of Information Request of the report into Operation Mehrotra raises a number of intriguing questions. Not least the revelation that the principle suspects were “all fairground workers”, we were aware that both Sidney Cooke and Lennie Smith had worked at fairgrounds but had others we were unaware of also worked at fairgrounds ?
The Operation Mehrotra report also mentions that there were fairgrounds “in operation at Putney and Wandsworth on the day of Vishal’s disappearance.” Was this significant ?
‘Lambs to the Slaughter’ by Ted Oliver and Ramsay Smith, which is primarily focused on the murders of Jason Swift, Barry Lewis, and Mark Tildesley also makes a reference to fairgrounds in relation to Vishal Mehrotra disappearance and murder but it is a little ambiguous:
“Nine-year-old Vishal had vanished on Royal Wedding Day in July 1981 in Putney High Street after telling his nanny that he was going to walk the short distance home on his own. His naked body was discovered in a shallow grave near Rogate in Surrey in February 1982. A fair had been in that area around the time of his disappearance.” [p.82]
The Friday Night Song
8th Apr 1961 Sidney Cooke is fined £20 for indecently assaulting a boy in a cinema. Until convicted in 1987 for the “dirty dozen” offences this was Cooke’s only conviction for a sexual offence.
1973 Leslie Bailey is accused of the attempted murder and indecent assault of a seven year old girl but confusion over the admissability of evidence meant the charge was reduced to possessing a knife. Bailey was given probation for possessing an offensive weapon and spent three months in a mental hospital in Kent after the incident.
1977 Lennie Smith is convicted for an offence of gross indecency and serves a year in prison.
1977 Robert Oliver receives a four year prison sentence for gross indecency offences.
29th Mar 1979 Leslie Bailey’s trial for burgling a post office near his home in Brooke Road, Stoke Newington, is adjourned until today. Bailey told police he had been out job hunting when he stopped to admire a Rolls outside Harrods. An Arab in flowing robes hurried towards the car and stepped from the pavement into the path of a taxi. “I grabbed him to stop him being run down and pulled him back to safety”. The Arab, wished him a thousand thanks, and took him to the Rolls where he opened a briefcase and handed over bundles of £20 notes. Then the car sped away. The outcome of the trial and date the offence was committed is unknown.
10th Dec 1979 Leslie Bailey is jailed for five years for a serious sexual assault on a woman. On 1st March 1978 the young woman was returning to her flat at the Barbican one night when Bailey – who worked as a security guard on a building site at the Barbican at the time – assaulted her at knifepoint. Bailey was arrested for the offence on 28th June 1978. As a report was submitted by a Prison Governor at Bailey’s trial it is highly probable that Bailey was remanded into prison custody after being charged for the offence. Virtually illiterate, it was revealed at the trial that Bailey had an IQ of 67.
Bailey appealed against his conviction, however his appeal was dismissed on 25th November 1980
1981 Robert Oliver receives a one year prison sentence for a sexual offence.
Early 1980’s Lennie Smith bases himself in Birmingham, and serves a year in prison for burglary, theft and criminal damage offences.
1st June 1984 Mark Tildesley, aged 7, is abducted from the Frank Ayers’ fairground in Wokingham, Berkshire. Leslie Bailey was later to claim that Lennie Smith strangled the boy and Sidney Cooke disposed of the body. Mark’s body has never been found. Known to be present were Cooke, Bailey, Lennie Smith and a relative of Bailey known as “Oddbod”.
7th June 1984 Mark Tildesley’s disappearance was mentioned on the first ever episode of BBC Crimewatch.
7th June 1984 Following two tip offs naming a “strange man”, fairground worker Martin Earley is questioned about Mark’s disappearance. Earley confessed and retracted his confession several times, continually changed his story and was also unable to even describe Mark then finally denied that he had ever seen him. Sent to a psychiatric unit for observation and later released, Earley was tracked by a surveillance team but did nothing to re-arouse suspicion. Forensic scientists examined Earley’s caravan but found nothing. Earley returned to work at the fair. In 1993 Earley and two other fairground workers were convicted of the 1992 buggery of another 17 year old fairground worker.
June 1984 Jason Swift makes a formal complaint to police that he has been sexually assaulted by a “well-to-do” film editor. The man was arrested but Jason later withdrew the complaint without offering a reason. Speaking to this man again after Jason’s death, police were pointed towards London’s West End.
6th July 1984 Leslie Bailey is fined £30 for handling a stolen insurance certificate, an offence for which he had been arrested on 1st June, the night Mark Tildesley disappeared.
16th Aug 1984 Following a call from a fairground worker police visit Sidney Cooke but, as a result of an alibi given by a fair owner Rosie Gray, Cooke remained on file but was eliminated as a suspect.
13th June 1985 Mark Tildesley’s disappearance is featured again on BBC Crimewatch, including a full reconstruction of his last movements. This brought a huge public response, of 1,200 calls and 2,500 potential leads, but little concrete evidence emerged.
6th July 1985 Jason Swift, aged 14, is reported missing by his sister. Jason had been living with her at 28A Edwy House on the Kingsmead estate.
15th Sept 1985 Barry Lewis, aged 6, is abducted from Walworth in South London.
Nov 1985 Hackney police raid 70 Templemead (Lennie Smith’s flat) on the Kingsmead Estate after a tip off (by Sidney Cooke) that a 13 year old was being abused there by Robert Oliver and Lennie Smith
30th Nov 1985 Jason Swift’s body is discovered by a farm worker in Stapleford Tawney, Essex. It was thought that Jason was probably killed on 27th November 1985 and asphyxia was the cause of death, probably as a result of suffocation.
2nd Dec 1985 After trying to entice a 13 year old boy into his blue Jaguar car on this date, Sidney Cooke (living on the Sherrers Wharf estate in Hackney at the time) is arrested a week later. He was released on bail to appear at Hackney Police Station on 8th January. Though his file was sent to the CPS he was never charged in connection with this incident. Questioned too about Jason Swift, Cooke’s home is searched and his car examined, but it was decided not to send the vehicle away for further tests.
5th Dec 1985 Barry Lewis’ body is discovered by a farmer in an Essex field known as Monkham’s Park (10 miles from where Jason’s body was found) The cause of death was given as probably asphyxia.
31st Dec 1985 Sidney Cooke makes an anonymous call to the police a month after Jason’s body was found saying: “I just want to say it shouldn’t have happened like that. I want you to know it was an accident.I’m the man you are all looking for”
Jan 1986 Police in Leeds are sent anonymously a tape recording of a man describing Jason Swift’s murder. The man claimed Jason had been picked up by his killer at Barclays Brothers, a cafe directly opposite the Houses of Parliament. For days officers filmed the cafe but the stake-out was abandoned without result. The man who made the tape was traced, and found to be a hoaxer.
17th Jan 1986 Operation Stranger is launched. This was a joint operation between Essex police and the Met and for the first time in a murder enquiry the HOLMES computer was utilised.
Three strands fell under the operation- the Brent (baby sitting) inquiry, Jason Swift and the “dirty dozen” ring.
In the first twelve months of the inquiry nearly 3,000 questionnaires were completed, 839 statements taken, 400 reports submitted, checked and logged, 1.400 messages from the public evaluated, and countless suspects interviewed. The Jason Swift suspects became the first ever to be officially interviewed on tape in England.
10th February 1986 Having traced the 13 year old boy they had failed to find the previous November, Sidney Cooke and Lennie Smith are arrested and remanded to prison for “dirty dozen” related offences. Smith was released at the committal proceedings relating to the Jason Swift trial in February 1988. Cooke has remained in custody ever since.
16th April 1986 Operation Stranger is made public at a press conference when, for the first time, the murders of Jason and Barry are officially linked.
21st April 1986 A special national conference was convened at Scotland Yard, which was attended by the heads of CID in all police forces in the UK. Arranged by Commander Corbett of Scotland Yard’s criminal intelligence unit, its purpose was to discuss child killings and abductions. Of all the (many) cases discussed, three cases in particular attracted the attention of the men from Operation Stranger – Mark Tildesley, Vishal Mehrotra and a Brighton boy who had been viciously assaulted in 1983.
7th May 1986 Second post-mortems are performed by Prof Austin Gresham on the bodies of Jason Swift and Barry Lewis. Prof Gresham’s findings with regards to injuries inflicted on Jason contrasted markedly with the original post-mortem findings and detectives realise they are hunting for a gang of men, not just one.
Summer 1986 Lennie Smith is interviewed in Brixton prison over a sighting of Jason Swift leaving his Templemead flat.
26th Nov 1986 David Bright (accompanied by DS Terry Cook) interviews Sidney Cooke in Brixton prison. Cooke had been bragging in the exercise yard to another prisoner called John Buckle (may not be his true name) about his exploits with children, had also talked about the death of Jason Swift and the inmate was so sickened he had got a message to the police.
5th June 1987 The “dirty dozen” are convicted. Sidney Cooke receives a two year sentence, and Lennie Smith receives 30 months.
24th June 1987 Robert Oliver is arrested and charged with indecency charges related to the Brent baby-sitting inquiry (which had come to light Easter 1987), and Jason Swift. At some point police had been keeping a casual observation on a shoe shop in Mare Street (where Oliver worked on Fridays) and a cafe called Mungo’s in the East End. When arrested both Oliver and Leslie Bailey were staying at the home of Leslie Bailey’s mother. Whilst being interviewed Oliver claims to have known Jason Swift through Lennie Smith and Sidney Cooke, and to have also seen Jason in the shoe shop. Significantly, when Oliver’s room at a flat in Hackney was searched, four empty containers of Diazepam- the drug used to subdue both Jason and Barry- were found.
29th June 1987 Robert Oliver is remanded into custody suspected of grave offences against Jason Swift
21st July 1987 Mulling over Robert Oliver’s story, detectives remember Leslie Bailey, and Bailey and Steven Barrell (now living in Dagenham, and who Bailey was living with in 1985) are arrested and charged on suspicion of murdering Jason Swift. Bailey claims to have met Robert Oliver for the first time in November 1985 and, at the time, Oliver was lodging (along with a mini-cab driver called Dave) at 36 Ashmead with Donald Smith. Bailey names the men present on the day Jason was killed, and tells police that another boy was also present in the room when Jason was killed, and the boy left afterwards with Robert Oliver. This second boy was never traced or identified but the general belief was that he genuinely existed. Bailey is remanded into custody. Barrell, with no previous convictions, is granted bail.
22nd July 1987 Donald Smith, the tenant of 36 Ashmead (since 1980) is arrested and interviewed by Detective Constables Ken Forster and Ernie Carr.
26th July 1987 Donald Smith is charged
28th July 1987 Sidney Cooke is again questioned over two days and confesses to his involvement in the death of Jason Swift. Cooke claims he was invited to a “gang bang” by Robert Oliver, Lennie Smith brought Jason to the flat, and there were six men in total present.
3rd August 1987 Sidney Cooke, having completed his sentence for the Dirty Dozen offences, is released. Immediately arrested outside the prison gates he is charged (along with Robert Oliver) with the murder of Jason Swift and immediately remanded back into custody.
6th Aug 1987 Lennie Smith is again interviewed. he tells police he had been picked up as a rent boy by both Sidney Cooke and Donald Smith but flatly refused to discuss Jason Swift, answering each question with “no comment”.
28th Sept 1987 Robert Oliver pleads guilty to a charge arising out of the Brent inquiry and is given a three months prison sentence.
23rd Oct 1987 Lennie Smith, having completed his sentence for the “dirty dozen” offences, is released from prison. Immediately arrested outside the prison gates he is charged with the murder of Jason Swift on the following day and remanded back into custody until trial.
15th Feb 1988 Committal proceedings commence against Sidney Cooke, Robert Oliver, Leslie Bailey, Lennie Smith and Donald Smith, lasting for three days and then adjourned till April.
April 1988 Leslie Bailey and Robert Oliver are committed for trial on charges of murder, conspiracy to bugger and gross indecency. Donald Smith, Cooke and Barrell are sent for trial on manslaughter charges. Charges against Lennie Smith have already been dropped.
20th Feb 1989 The jury is sworn in and is then immediately discharged, with several weeks of legal argument ensuing. Murder charges against Bailey and Oliver are reduced to that of manslaughter
15th March 1989 The case against Donald Smith is discharged.
12th May 1989 Sidney Cooke, Leslie Bailey, Robert Oliver and Stephen Barrell are convicted of the manslaughter of Jason Swift, receiving sentences totalling 174 years. As all sentences were to run concurrently, they were jailed for 19, 15, 15 and 13.5 years respectively. It is said at the trial that Cooke and Oliver knew Lennie Smith well, and Bailey and Barrell knew each other well too. It was also stated that Jason had become involved with Lennie Smith, who handed Jason on to Sidney Cooke because he feared police were taking an unhealthy interest in him.
Operation Stranger is wound up.
10th August 1989 The cellmate of Leslie Bailey, Ian Gabb approaches a prison officer, shows him a notebook which details further confessions by Bailey and the officer rings Roger Stoodley.
16th Aug 1989 Disguised as a vicar, DI Bob Brown visits Ian Gabb in Wandsworth prison. Police decide to take Gabb up on his offer of further assistance and he subsequently also shares a cell with Robert Oliver and, very briefly, with Sidney Cooke. At least three other prison informants were also to be utilised in the same way
16th August 1989 Operation Orchid is launched to investigate the murders of other missing boys, including Barry Lewis and Mark Tildesley as a result of the information provided by Ian Gabb. Gabb lists 20 men involved in the same gang, 11 of them he identifies by name, the others by description. Gabb also recorded 8 burial sites described to him by Bailey. Steven aged 13 and Paul aged 11 are mntioned, both buried near a slip road in the West End. The graves of 4 more unnamed boys are given as being in Walthamstow cemetery, beneath Brighton Pier, in the grounds of a disused synagogue school in Hackney and another in the Walthamstow area beside a pub. Bailey later gave another prison informant “Adale” names of boys he said he had murdered – David, Mat, Micky, George, Paul, Gerry, Johnny, Jimmy and “that gypsy kid”. “Adale” made rough sketches of where Bailey said the bodies were buried.
3rd Nov 1989 Gabb shares a cell with Robert Oliver, and until 5th January 1990. To give the Orchid squad the “quality control” that they craved, moves were made to bug the cell, however a senior officer took a different view and plans to bug were abandoned.
Late 1989 Amongst other cases the Orchid squad were checking was Vishal Mehrotra and although a meeting was held with police in Surrey it was said that nothing emerged that could shed any more light on his death. The 1983 Brighton attack was also again looked at after, time and again, Brighton was mentioned in Ian Gabb’s letters.
29th Nov 1989 Gabb alerts police to the fact that Cooke is to apply to regain his diaries. The diaries – which contained details of the fairs Cooke had worked at over a number of years- were tracked down by the Orchid squad.
15th Feb 1990 Gabb shares a cell with Sidney Cooke for 48 hours.
2nd May 1990 Under police surveillance at the time, Lennie Smith is arrested for indecent assault and given a 3 year sentence. Whilst serving the 3 year sentence for indecent assault Smith was interviewed with regards to other offences involving a six year old boy.
1990 Throughout 1990 Roger Stoodley used the tabloids to alert the gang to the extent of Bailey’s confessions, and to sow seeds of suspicion and the fear of future discovery in their minds. Various reporters were fed regular snippets of information, which were “a mixture of truths, half-truths and downright inaccuracies”, deliberately planted to alarm and confuse those suspects both inside and outside prison and press speculation and exaggerations were deliberately not corrected. This disinformation campaign also had the effect of keeping the boys deaths on the front pages many years after they had happened in the hope that some members of the public might suddenly recall a vital piece of information and come forward.
21st May 1990 Leslie Bailey is taken by detectives to a cemetery on Lea Bridge Road. One of “Adale’s” maps referred to this same cemetery that had been detailed as a site in the Ian Gabb notebook however Bailey told detectives they had the wrong site and instead identified a car park at Clapton Common which had been an old graveyard called the Satmar Cemetery. Bailey was too vague at half a dozen other places thought to match Gabb’s description of burial sites but detectives did start digging at the Lea Bridge Road car park on 24th May 1990. Fragments of bone were sent to zoology experts at the University of London but were found to be animal, not human.
5th June 1990 “Adale” tells detectives that Bailey has told him details about Barry Lewis, and Bailey is taken to Stoke Newington police station. Later that month Bailey is questioned again, confesses to the murder of Barry, demonstrates how he killed him and detectives then knew they were talking to Barry’s killer.
12th May 1990 Bailey is taken back to the Kingsmead Estate and tells detectives he knew seven or eight men present at the orgy involving Barry, “but there were more”.
21st July 1990 By then having shaved off his moustache and lightened his hair, no witnesses could pick out Bailey at an identity parade.
30th July 1990 Leslie Bailey is charged with the murder of Barry Lewis at Highbury Magistrates Court and taken straight back to Stoke Newington to be now questioned about Mark Tildesley. Detectives begin re-interviewing Barrell, Cooke and Oliver about the crimes Bailey had said they had been involved with. A man who may have attended the Ashmead parties was traced to Aberdeen but there was no firm proof that he had been there. Men in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Durham and Wales were also visited but, again, their inquiries bore them no fruit.
5th Aug 1990 Bailey is back in Wandsworth for a few days then moved to a secure unit at another police station where detectives began a series of interviews that were to last for almost a year. Gradually Bailey told the full story of Mark Tildesley’s death. Orchid and Thames Valley detectives started operating on the case as a joint squad.
May 1991 Lennie Smith is released from prison, immediately charged with offences involving the 6 year old boy and remanded back into custody pending trial.
May 1991 The first of a total of sixty four interviews with Sidney Cooke commences. During one interview Cooke describes in the most minute detail what he had done to Barry at 36 Ashmead.
14th June 1991 Leslie Bailey pleads guilty to the murder of Barry Lewis. Bailey’s conviction led to Sidney Cooke, Robert Oliver and Stephen Barrell appealing against the sentences they had received for the killing of Jason Swift.
It was revealed in court that Bailey had identified the names of seven or eight men who had participated in the orgy involving Barry, and that Bailey had been introduced to homosexual orgies by Lennie Smith and Donald Smith, meeting Robert Oliver and Sidney Cooke at a later date. Sometime after admitting to killing Barry, Bailey guided detectives to a thicket beside a cottage in Chipping Ongar where Bailey claimed he had buried another body. Describing this boy as a 13/14 year old “Paki boy” whose name was Hassan, Bailey revealed that Hassan too had been brought to 36 Ashmead for another “party” where about sixteen men were present. Again, the Orchid squad decided to dig up the area but this too proved to be fruitless. Bailey also confessed that another boy – who became known as the “unknown boy” because there was no clue as to his identity – was also killed at 36 Ashmead. His body, Bailey said, was disposed of by one of the gang in Chingford. .
Summer 1991 A man related to Leslie Bailey is interviewed in prison to see if he knows anything about Bailey’s associates, and detectives also visit the man’s family. The man was to claim that he had seen both Cooke and Lennie Smith carry Jason’s body into the back of Cooke’s Jaguar and had confronted them both in a pub several days later. His evidence was regarded as vital, particularly with regards to Lennie Smith’s involvement, but had to be treated with extreme caution because he too was a convicted sex offender.
Donald Smith admits to detectives that he was present at the Jason Swift orgy and, as well as naming Cooke, Bailey and Oliver – all already in prison for the crime- he also named Lennie Smith and another man who had not been convicted. He also then described the Barry Lewis orgy. Eddie Gough’s name frequently cropping up, Roget Stoodley turned to the CPS for advice on charging him.
3rd Aug 1991 A witness who claimed to have seen Sidney Cooke in a candy shop with Mark Tildesley picks him out in an ID parade. A lorry driver who gave Cooke a lift that day and another witness also pick him out.
31st August 1991 Edward Gough is charged with the manslaughter of Jason Swift. The charge was later amended by the CPS to conspiracy to seriously sexually assault and indecently assault Jason Swift immediately prior to his death in 1985.
10th Oct 1991 Leslie Bailey is formally accused of murdering Mark Tildesley.
1st Nov 1991 Donald Smith, who had previously refused to elaborate, tells police that he wants to talk about Jason Swift because, now dying of cancer, he wants to tell the truth. He is then interviewed over a three day period.
21st Feb 1992 On the basis of Bailey admitting his involvement in the deaths of Barry Lewis and Mark Tildesley, coupled with claims that he was the ringleader of the gang, the Court of Appeal reduces the sentences of Sidney Cooke and Stephen Barrell. Robert Oliver’s appeal is dismissed.
7th Oct 1992 Papers outlining cases against Lennie Smith with regards to Jason Swift, and Sidney Cooke with regards to Mark Tildesley having previously been submitted to the CPS, it decided that, whilst evidence existed, a prosecution against Smith and Cooke would fail because it relied too heavily on Leslie Bailey’s evidence, and Bailey’s confession was not enough to prosecute them. It advised that no more charges were to be brought against them, or anyone else.
22nd October 1992 Leslie Bailey pleads guilty at Reading Crown Court to the manslaughter and buggery of Mark Tildesley and, after instructing his defence counsel to seek the maximum sentence possiible, is given two terms of life imprisonment. Bailey’s counsel went on to say that Bailey could not understand why Lennie Smith and Sidney Cooke were not in the dock with him. Mark was killed during a homosexual orgy in a caravan in Evendens Lane, Wokingham. Police believed the caravan (but not Mark) had been later taken to Hackney. It was said in court that in 1984 when Mark Tildesley was abducted and killed, that Bailey had been having a homosexual relationship with Lennie Smith who, in turn, knew Cooke, and the first time that Bailey met Cooke was on the day that Mark was killed.
October 1992 Following the conviction of Leslie Bailey Operation Orchid was wound down
9th Dec 1992, Lennie Smith is sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for a string of vicious sexual assaults eight years earlier against the six year old boy who he had been baby-sitting.
26th/27th Mar 1993 Edward Gough is given two years’ probation for a series of lesser offences. Judge Lawrence Verney ruled that police interviewing Gough when he confessed to being present during the killing of Jason Swift had breached guidelines in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
He said that Gough, who was found to have an IQ of about 76, should have been accompanied by an ”appropriate adult” during questioning
Oct 1993 Leslie Bailey is found strangled to death in his cell in Whitemoor Prison. On 5th July 1995 inmates John Brooks (formerly Cairns) and Michael Cain were convicted of his murder.
Sept 1997 Robert Oliver is released from prison and changes his name to Robert Lee.
24th Mar 1998 David Bright and DCI Dick Madden visit Sidney Cooke unannounced in Wandsworth prison. David Bright’s retirement looming, and Cooke indicating he may move to Southend upon his imminent release, he wanted to find out where Cooke did intend to relocate and for Dick Madden to get a good look at him incase it was indeed to Southend. David Bright was also hopeful of engineering the conversation round to talk about missing children, Mark Tildesley and Mark’s burial site, however David got nothing in the way of information from him.
30th Mar 1998 It was reported that Stephen Barrell was living in Abingdon, Northamptonshire. His current whereabouts are not known.
6th Apr 1998 Sidney Cooke is released from prison and changes his name to Sidney Lomas. Cooke lives in a police station for 9 months at his own request.
29th Jan 1999 Sidney Cooke appears before Newbury Magistrates Court, charged with 14 serious sexual offences. which were said to have taken place in Battersea and Stockwell in south London; Twyford, Berks; Canterbury, Kent; Washington, Tyne and Wear and Hatfield, Berkhamsted and Tring in Herts. Cooke’s arrest was after a Dispatches programme which sought to find links between Cooke and Mark Tildesley’s disappearance led to a man who had been a friend of a man whose family Cooke had once lived with in the 1970’s to tell his friend. This resulted in Thames Valley Police (commanded by Trevor Davies) launching an investigation into Cooke’s offences against this family.
20th Apr 1999 Sidney Cooke is charged with serious sexual offences committed between 1972 and 1980 and remanded into custody.
17th June 1999 Lennie Smith is released from prison, but into a prison housing unit for former sex offenders at his own request
5th Oct 1999 Sidney Cooke’s trial commences at Manchester Crown Court and he pleads guilty to 18 specimen charges involving offences against two brothers, admitting to five counts of indecent assault and five counts of buggery, committed between 1972 and 1978..
David Bright attends the trial in the faint hope Cooke would make a dramatic statement admitting to other crimes.
17th Dec 1999 This time at Wolverhampton Crown Court (where the sentencing judge, Judge Poole, was then sitting) Sidney Cooke receives two life sentences. Now retired, David Bright attends, and speaks with Thames Valley Police about Cooke.
Cooke is currently in HMP Wakefield.
2006 Lennie Smith dies from AIDS.
12th June 2013 Robert Oliver (who has changed his name to Karl Curtis) pleads guilty before Maidstone magistrates to two breaches of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).and is remanded in custody to await sentencing.
13th July 2013 Robert Oliver receives a three year prison sentence for the above offences, and is released a year later. He was last known to be residing in a bail hostel in Guildford.
Sources: Lambs to the Slaughter by Ted Oliver and Ramsey Smith, Catching Monsters by David Bright, Court of Appeal judgments, available documentary footage, and various press clippings.
The Friday Night Song
‘Vishal Mehrotra went missing in London on the day of the Royal Wedding in 1981. His body was found in a shallow grave in Sussex nine months later. 33 years on, nobody knows who took him. His father believes Vishal was taken by a VIP paedophile ring and that police covered it up. Over the next few weeks, LBC’s senior reporter Tom Swarbrick examines the evidence for these claims in order to try and answer one simple question. What happened to Vishal?’
Tom Swarbrick’s original 5-part LBC podcast started 7th May and the last one was broadcast 4th June 2015. This video combines the episodes into a single audio track with added images.
With special thanks to Tom Swarbrick and LBC.
Credit to LBC for publishing this 21 page report from 2005, which has been obtained using a FOI request.
Dr Sarah Nelson (University of Edinburgh) is a prominent Scottish researcher, writer and media commentator on child sexual abuse and its effects throughout life. Sarah Nelson was also a contributor to the BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme about Ritualised Sexual Abuse. Part 1 of which can be listened to HERE, and Part 2 HERE
THE SATANIC PANIC:
JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING RHYMES,
DOESN’T MEAN IT’S REAL
I agree completely with Tim Tate that in Radio 4’s Analysis , Ritual Abuse: The Anatomy of a Panic (27.5.15 & 1.6.15) the BBC allowed David Aaronovitch “to broadcast two high -profile programmes which were at best misleading, and sometimes deeply deceitful”.
Deceitful to us as contributors, too. We repeatedly sought and received assurances that the programmes would fairly reflect conflicting views. The producer told me, for instance: “I have taken extreme care that all the key points you made in the interview are covered”. It is now clear that there was never any intention for balance.
Although this hurts because like Tim, Sue Hampson and I were invited and took part in good faith, it is not about taking personal offence. It is about the damage done to protecting abused children and adults, and the pain and insult for survivors listening to the programmes. These made a mockery of the BBC spokesperson’s claim to have “in no way downplayed the horrific nature of child sexual abuse”. On the contrary, they actively encouraged disbelief of current disclosures, at a time when a tsunami of allegations, investigations and prosecutions of sexual abuse (especially involving powerful and influential people) is taking place following the Savile revelations.
Indeed, David was repeatedly quite upfront in his view that to recall the discredit of “satanic ritual abuse” should encourage us to a deep scepticism about the veracity of this current round of sexual abuse revelations. “ I think in understanding what happened over ritual abuse, it might help listeners make sense of what’s happening now, because what you have is a certain amount of testimony and very little corroborative evidence -actually none, none. “ (Never mind that testimony from others is itself legitimate corroboration – as in the Moorov Doctrine in Scotland).
A small minority of recent allegations will indeed be false, mistaken, confused or fanciful – and (an important point) will be identified as such. To try publicly to discredit the great majority is different entirely. But at least any attempt to connect two separate incidences of alleged credulity would have to be convincing, evidence-based, and properly researched.
“The production team put considerable effort into tracking down key documents from the time and individuals involved.” Tim’s blog has meticulously demonstrated the hollowness of that BBC claim, in the Broxtowe (Nottingham) case. Overall the programmes featured not detailed investigation, but old familiar backlash claims, which were wheeled out in the 1980s and 1990s to discredit abuse victims and those who worked with them.
These stories are all so familiar that I could have written them myself, even sitting upside-down with my eyes shut. You can pick them up anywhere on the Internet too, if you don’t want to bother with the effort of research.
A blog should not be very long. This one certainly would be if I contested each claim made in these two programmes. So I’ll select just two for now: the “satanic panic”, and amnesia following serious trauma.
If you’re going to spend almost the whole first Analysis programme “proving” that a “satanic panic” was created and zealously promulgated by a bizarre alliance of radical feminists, evangelical Christians, counsellors, crazy female mental patients and social workers, invited contributors who challenged this conspiracy theory could surely expect even a few minutes to respond on air. The many points in my own interview disproving a satanic “moral panic” took less than five minutes to say: yet not one point from my interview transcript was used. I was told by the editor that they “did not fit the structure of the second programme.”
Numerous flaws in “satanic moral panic” theory:
* There was no widespread panic; only a small minority of child protection and mental health staff ever encountered these disclosures. Even their own colleagues frequently failed to support them.
* Over decades in sexual abuse work I never met nor heard of any professional who concluded that ritual abuse existed, as Analysis claimed, through reading Sybil, Michelle Remembers or the Courage to Heal. I never heard of any survivor who read Courage to Heal for what it might say about ritual abuse or dissociative identity disorder! Professionals all came to believe ritual abuse existed after hearing disturbing disclosures of sadistic organised abuse, (within and beyond quasi-religious or occult rituals) from children and adults.
* The public are simultaneously expected to believe satanic abuse revelations were incredible, ludicrous and unbelievable, lacking in any evidence, and would be to any normal person; and that intelligent educated professionals swallowed the whole lot after reading one book, or attending a single conference!
* The idea that anyone bar a few evangelical Christians would want to believe this stuff, far less promote it with crusading zeal, is the very opposite of the truth. It was the worst, most traumatising knowledge in the world, it overturned all your assumptions about the limits of human cruelty towards children, and we would have wished anything for it to be untrue.
* The scapegoats, folk devils and witches of classic moral panic theory were not the accused adults; they were instead the professionals who believed RA existed. (Just as, in a different case in Cleveland, Marietta Higgs became the feminist witch). It was destructive to many careers, and a source of lasting vilification .
* The media in classic moral panic theory support and propagate the panic. Yet nearly all media after an initial flurry disbelieved ritual abuse, and sided with the accused adults.
* The vast majority of professionals and foster parents who received disclosures were neither devout Christians nor radical feminists. This fact could easily have been established at any time.
* Ritual abuse disclosures were so strange and esoteric, so unlike anything we had heard before, that “putting words into children’s mouths” would have been incredibly difficult – even had the backlash lobby provided detail about how social workers or counsellors supposedly did this.
I will spend about as long on this huge subject as the Analysis programmes did. They found one prominent academic, Prof. Richard McNally, to dispute that people could forget traumatic incidents and recover such memories.
They must have known this was an entirely unbalanced selection to put to listeners, since there is such a large and reputable literature demonstrating that these things are indeed possible, supported by the frequent experience of practitioners and abuse survivors themselves, that a colleague has just sent the BBC an entire appendix of references.
Back in 1997 Charles Whitfield, to give one small example, had cited 36 studies specifically confirming amnesia for abuse, but the phenomenon was recognised long before in battlefield and concentration camp experiences, as well as in childhood abuse. This was breathtaking selectivity and distortion, of what the programme-makers must have known the actual balance of opinion among specialists in trauma to be.
I shall be taking my complaint further, with the BBC and elsewhere, and I hope many other people working against sexual abuse will do too. The BBC cannot, in Tim’s words, “shrug its well-funded shoulders and say that it was simply giving Aaronovich a platform to express his views. It has a duty to perform diligent research to establish the facts and ensure accurate reporting. It did neither”.
Tim Tate is a multi- award-winning film maker, journalist, and best-selling author. He was also a contributor to the BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme about Ritualised Sexual Abuse. Part 1 of which can be listened to HERE, and Part 2 HERE
You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
But, seeing what
the man will do
no occasion to.
Humbert Wolfe: 1855-1940
In 2009, David Aaronovich, columnist and broadcaster, published a book examining and ridiculing conspiracy theories. Voodoo Histories was a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the wilder shores of suspicion and paranoia; but its introduction included a paragraph which its author would have done well to remember six years later.
Documentaries are increasingly partisan and liable to include material that suggests conspiracy on the part of someone or other … And such works are given the same treatment as major exercises in historical analysis or substantial pieces of investigative journalism. In fact, they are often given a better billing. Uncountered, their arguments enter popular culture.
Over the past fortnight, David Aaronovich has presented a two-part BBC radio documentary programme entitled: Ritual Sexual Abuse: The Anatomy of A Panic. The programmes formed part of Radio 4’s long-standing and well-respected Analysis strand. The series bills its purpose as “to go beyond the bien-pensant agenda”.
Aaronovich’s two programmes were billed as:
“… an examination of “the role played by unproven psychoanalytic theories which, from the 1980s, spread from the world of therapists in Canada and the USA to social work, medicine and then to law enforcement in Britain.
“From the NSPCC to academia it was believed that children were being sexually abused in group Satanic rituals which involved murder and animal sacrifice. The programme will explore how these bizarre ideas took hold, how they were related to mistaken psychotherapeutic practices, and how they resonate still.”
What actually happened was that Aaronovich – without troubling to present any evidence – put forward his own conspiracy theory: one in which satanic ritual abuse is a no more than a fantasy created by social workers taken in by the claims of improperly-motivated North American psychiatrists and psychotherapists. In doing so he deliberately ignored solid and unequivocal evidence which counters his thesis. And the BBC allowed him to broadcast two high profile programmes which were at best misleading and sometimes deeply deceitful.
The aim of this piece is threefold: to present the proven facts about ritual abuse; to analyse Aaronovich’s claims; and to show how the BBC acted dishonestly. In contrast to Aaronovich’s approach it will provide evidence at each and every stage.
But first, a disclaimer and a declaration of interest are needed. Aaronovich argued that his examination of ritual abuse came about because he is deeply sceptical of many of the current allegations of VIP paedophilia. I share some of this concern – at least in so far as it relates to the way some newspapers and websites (not this one) have presented unsubstantiated allegations as fact, without bothering to undertake any independent investigation.
My interest in ritual abuse stems from the work I did first for a (not very good) Cook Report on it in 1989 and thereafter for a book on the subject. That book – Children For The Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic Crime – investigated some of the cases Aaronovich referred to in his programmes. It did so by obtaining documentary evidence and by conducting first-hand interviews with the key participants. Additionally, it detailed six English court cases in which adults had been convicted for the sexual abuse of children in what were explicitly described as satanic rituals.
It is a fact that my publisher and I were sued for libel and that my publishers settled out of court. The complainant was a police detective in the 1988/89 Broxtowe case, who alleged that in a book of approximately 100,000 words, four paragraphs could lead readers to infer that he had acted corruptly. He had not, and I had not intended any such inference to be drawn.
Aaronovich’s producer, Hannah Barnes, asked me to be interviewed for the programme. Here is what she claimed the programmes wanted to do:
We are planning to explore the ideas and beliefs that have shaped how British society views allegations of child sexual abuse over the last 30 years or so, and look at how these views have changed. I have come across your name in relation to reports of satanic ritual abuse in the late 1980s and early 1990s and wondered whether you might be willing to spare me some time to talk.
The reports to which she referred alleged that I had been responsible for bringing the “Satanic panic” to Britain by providing to social workers in the Broxtowe case a list of “satanic indicators”. These were – allegedly – the reason why children in the case described abuse within rituals. As we shall see, this is simply factually wrong – and both Barnes and Aaronovich were provided with the facts.
Aaronovich’s thesis for the programmes was that all satanic ritual abuse allegations trace back to a 1980 book called Michelle Remembers by a Canadian psychiatrist called Lawrence Pazder with his patient (and later wife), Michelle Smith. These claims then spread out through the North American psychiatric and therapeutic community and were accepted as evidence of the factual existence of satanic cults ritually abusing children. Aaronovich provided no actual evidence for his assertion, relying instead (as he would throughout the programmes) on a post hoc, proper hoc argument that simply because the book was widely publicised it therefore must have been the root for all subsequent allegations.
This is factually wrong. Long before the 20th century there were written accounts of children being abused in so-called Black Masses. The empirical basis of these must be questionable since most – though not all – were the result of confessions obtained under torture by religiously motivated inquisitors. But in 1974 – six years before Michelle Remembers – a Hungarian-British journalist called Paul Tabori published what he claimed was his own first-hand eyewitness account of the abuse of children in a satanic ritual at Big Sur in California.
Inside the house overlooking the Pacific, three altars were set up: two of them had young, nude boys tied to them with wide leather belts, being whipped by two bearded men who were dressed in nun’s habits …
For whips they were using heavy black rosaries – and there was no make-believe about the flogging, or both boys were screaming and weeping.
The middle altar held a girl, barely in her teens, with her arms and legs spread-eagled. A tall man, wearing a goat’s head was crushing a live frog on her sex, and he then started to carve a small cross on her bare stomach – just a shallow, superficial cut which, however, drew blood …
Despite this, Aaronovich alleged that the sources of all British cases of ritual abuse were firstly Michelle Remembers and thereafter a 1988 self-help book called “The Courage To Heal”.
The cases he referred to were firstly the Broxtowe case, then Rochdale and the Orkneys. I cannot comment on the latter two, since I have never investigated them. But I spent more than a year working on the Broxtowe case, interviewing some of the (adult) complainants, the police and the social workers. I also obtained copies of many of the children’s verbatim disclosures. In other words, I did what every journalist is supposed to do: I sought evidence before publishing.
The case involved three generations of an extended family, living on the rough Broxtowe council estate in Nottingham. The family had been known to social service (and police) for years for repeated sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect. Finally in 1986, 23 children from the third generation were taken into care. Each child was given to a different foster-family and had little or no contact with any of the others. The foster-parents were asked either to tape record or write down verbatim what the children said.
As well as sexual abuse, starting in January 1987 several of the children also described to their foster parents bizarre events. They spoke about “witch parties” at which adults – some from outside the extended family – beat and sexually assaulted them and other unnamed children. They also said that animals were killed, while adults danced round in robes; they described (accurately) the taste of drinking blood, as well as being buried in the ground in boxes and being penetrated with snakes or spiders.
But they also described incidents which were improbable – the murder of babies – and some which were physically impossible – people flying through the air, for example.
Nottinghamshire Police investigated but could find no evidence to support the allegations of abusers from outside the family, or of the killing of animals or babies. By contrast, Nottinghamshire social services were convinced that the children’s stories needed further investigation: the joint police-social services investigation broke down in an atmosphere of mutual mistrust.
Despite this, in 1989 10 adults were jailed for a total of 150 years for abusing these children. The evidence which convicted them was both physical and the testimony of the victims from both the second and third generations.
Strangely, David Aaronovich failed to mention these convictions when dealing extensively with the case in his second programme. Listeners who did not know the facts would never had realised that the case resulted in successful prosecutions. Instead Aaronovich focussed on allegations made by a former Sunday newspaper journalist, Rosie Waterhouse, that the children’s ritual allegations had arisen only after the foster-parents were given the list of “satanic indicators”. They had then asked leading questions of the children.
Unfortunately this is nonsense. Firstly, the dates simply don’t match up. Since I was the source of these so-called “indicators” (in reality no more than a few photocopied sheets of paper put together by a perfectly sensible psychiatric social worker in California) I can be absolutely certain of exactly when I received these papers, to whom I gave them and when.
I did so in 1988 – and only to the social workers. This was many, many months after the Broxtowe children began making allegations of abuse within parties or rituals. Nor, to my certain knowledge, were these papers passed on to the foster-parents.
What about leading questions ? In researching both the television programme and my book I obtained copies of the verbatim records and tapes of they key child witnesses. When we filmed the senior investigating police officer we showed him the transcripts and challenged him to find a single leading question. He could not – because there wasn’t one.
The Waterhouse allegations, put forward by Aaronovich as proof that ritual abuse was the product of contamination by exposure to extraneous information are simply factually wrong.
Aaronovich knows this. I specifically gave him precise details of the dates during the recorded interview he asked for. He chose to ignore this. Nor did he or Hannah Barnes bother to get hold of a copy of my book. Had they done so they would have found the transcripts and seen that there were no leading questions. When challenged about this, the editor of Analysis e-mailed me to say that:
Hannah understood that the book had been withdrawn from publication following a libel action and therefore assumed that it was therefore not available.
One of the fundamental rules of journalism is not to “assume”. Even the most cursory of checks would have found the book for sale on Amazon. And as every journalist knows, the British library holds a copy of every book published.
The truth is that neither Aaronovich nor Barnes made any effort to find evidence which ran contrary to Aaronovich’s belief in a conspiracy of gullible social workers who created a “panic” about a non-existent phenomenon – ritual abuse.
How do I know this ? Because I asked them. Last week I sent both Aaronovich and Barnes a list of specific questions relating to the research for the programmes. For each of the cases to which they were referring I asked what independent research they had undertaken; whether they had sought case papers; whether they had spoken with witnesses, police officers, social workers or victims.
This week I received a reply not from Aaronovich or Barnes, but from a BBC “publicist”. It read:
“Analysis is a programme about ideas that shape public policy and opinion. David Aaronovitch is known for his scepticism about some of the allegations currently being made about historic child sexual abuse – and in this two-part series he advanced a challenging viewpoint outlining the risks arising from excessive credulity.
It was never intended to be a re-investigation of cases from 25 years ago, although the production team put considerable effort into tracking down key documents from the time and individuals involved. The programmes have in no way downplayed the horrific nature of child sexual abuse but they have argued that it can only be tackled effectively if its extent and nature is properly understood.”
This response failed to answer a single question put to Aaronovich or Barnes. It was shabbily evasive. More disturbingly still, it was not just the controversial cases like Broxtowe which Aaronovich and Barnes chose not to re-investigate before pronouncing ritual abuse to be a fantasy. They were also given details of a number of successful British prosecutions in which adults were variously convicted or admitted the sexual abuse of children in what the courts were explicitly told were satanic rituals.
The first of these took place in Telford in November 1982. Malcolm John Smith was given three 14-year prison sentences for the buggery, wounding and rape of four children between 12 months and 15 years old. His wife, Susan and her sister Carole Hickman, were jailed for two and five years respectively for aiding and abetting. Hickman’s husband, Albert, was sent down for 10 years for specimen charges of buggery and assault.
All four had pleaded guilty, ensuring that the prosecution only presented an outline case. But that case was explicit in its descriptions of the satanic rituals in which the children had been abused.
These victims were raped on an alar dedicated to Satan, sodomised with altar candles and, in the specimen testimony of the oldest victim, Malcolm Smith used an altar knife to carve an inverted cross on her chest and abdomen before heating it and branding her on the genitals. The court heard – and the judge accepted – that the victim was convinced that Smith was (as he claimed to be) Lucifer and that she had no power to resist him.
This case is documented. The offenders pleaded guilty and did not challenge the evidence presented to the court of abuse during satanic rituals. They went to prison.
Four years later, Stafford Crown Court sentenced Shaun Wilding to three and a half years in prison for the sexual abuse of boys during his satanic rituals. Once again, Wilding pleaded guilty: he did not challenge the explicit evidence presented by the prosecution that he had held elaborate rituals involving robes, chanting and an altar, nor that his victims had been terrified and believed in the rituals. In fact his only challenge was to reject the allegation that the ceremonies had been no more than a trick to ensure his victims’ silence: his defence counsel told the judge that Wilding wanted to stress his “genuine and longstanding interest in the occult”.
July, 1987; the Old Bailey. Brian Williams received an 11 year sentence for sexually abusing 15 girls and boys on an what the court was told was an altar dedicated to Satan, within an inverted pentagram drawn in the blood of Williams and his victims.
I supplied all these details – and those of three further named and identified successful prosecutions – to Aaronovich, Barnes and the editor of Analysis. Each one was a clear case in which adult men and women had been sent to prison for sexually abusing children in what the court heard – without challenge or complaint – were satanic rituals. I also detailed them during the recorded interview I gave to Aaronovich. As a result, he knows that there is unequivocal proof that ritual abuse does – occasionally – happen.
Barnes and Innes Bowen, the editor of Analysis, gave an undertaking that the cases would be clearly referred to in the programmes. They were not. Bowen’s subsequent explanation read:
Having read the material you sent me, I thought that there was one case – the Smith/Hickman case – in which the judge appeared to accept that abuse had taken place in the context of a ring of Satanists. But even that case was only heard in outline as the defendants all pleaded guilty …
Furthermore I think it was also reasonable to give a great deal of weight to the official government report produced by Jean La Fontaine, a senior academic who had the advantage of gaining access to the relevant case files. Her report found no evidence that the sexual and physical abuse of children was part of rites directed to a magical or religious objective.
Quite why a case should be dismissed as evidence because the defendants pleaded guilty is a mystery. And as for Prof. la Fontaine, however contentious some parts of her report might be, the truth is that she did accept that there had been cases in which individual adults had abused children during rituals. Her conclusion was simply that she found no evidence of an organised conspiracy of Satanists. Rather, where abuse within rituals occurred:-
“the aim is sexual and the ritual is incidental to it. Self-proclaimed mystical/magical powers were used to entrap children and impress them with a reason for the sexual abuse, keeping the victims compliant and ensuring their silence.”
This goes to the heart of why ritual abuse matters. Children who make disclosures of being abused within rituals experience very real terror as a result – much greater than the trauma and fear associated with non-ritual or “garden-variety” ritual abuse.
How do I know ? Because I have worked with, met or interviewed several such children; my experiences also match those of social workers and therapists who have done so much more frequently than I.
This fear – coupled with the claims of physically impossible incidents – are what make ritual abuse cases uniquely difficult. The first problem is practical: what does a prosecution do when a child makes impossible claims amid otherwise credible allegations of sexual abuse ? If they are – as they should be – turned over to the defence, the alleged perpetrator’s barrister will use them to cast doubt on the child’s credibility. But if they are withheld, they become grounds for a mistrial.
The second problem follows on from this. However fantastic or impossible the allegation, if a child believes it then there is an urgent therapeutic need. But any such therapy is likely to be seized on as ‘evidence’ that the claims have been planted or induced by the therapist.
These conundrums have never been solved. There is no protocol for dealing with allegations of ritual abuse. There is a reason for that. It is the rabid and loudly-trumpeted claims of self-proclaimed great thinkers like David Aaronovich that ritual abuse is a myth.
He is entitled, of course, to his opinions. He is entitled to ignore evidence which undermines or even shatters his prejudices. He is entitled to think what he likes – in private.
What he is not entitled to do is to lie in public. He is not entitled to withhold that evidence just because he doesn’t like it. That is dishonest.
Nor is the BBC entitled to shrug its well-funded shoulders and say that it was simply giving Aaronovich a platform to express his views. It has a duty to perform diligent research to establish the facts and ensure accurate reporting. It did neither.
Aaronovich’s Analysis programmes set out to demolish what he sees as the conspiracy of gullible child protection workers underpinning the “satanic panic”. The facts are that there was no such conspiracy – just as there is no evidence of a conspiracy of international Satanists.
But nor was there ever any “satanic panic” – at least not as he means it. Since the 1980s there have been a total of four cases of alleged multiple-perpetrator, multiple-victim abuse in which satanic rituals were alleged: Nottingham, Rochdale, Orkney and (recently) Hampstead. Four cases in almost 30 years do not a panic make: it exists only in the imagination of those, like Aaronovich, who can’t be bothered to do research before rushing to broadcast their prejudices.
(If any readers of this blog would like details of the cases mentioned above, feel free to e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org )