Richard Kerr And Mark Watts – And Why One Journalist Left Exaro News

I wrote the majority of this article a year ago but I decided not to publish at the time for various reasons that I won’t go into here. Things have changed.  I’ve made a few changes from the original.



Richard Kerr

Talking to Richard Kerr for the first time, I’m struck by his politeness.Whether this is due to his upbringing or the famous courtesy you find in those southern states of the USA which may have washed over him  down the years, in the same way his accent of Irish brogue evenly competes with the Texan drawl of his adopted home, I can not say but what I can say is that it is a pleasure to talk to him.

Richard has every reason to wish engage in the current UK wide debate regarding non-recent child sexual abuse. At the age of five he entered the Northern Ireland care system, and in 1975, at the age of 14, he became a resident of the notorious Kincora Boys Home where he was sexually abused. He is referred to in The Hughes Report  but on this occasion, this post will not concern itself with the sexual abuse he suffered as a child, which continued after he left the care system, and it will not attempt to untangle the web of Unionist politics and security service involvement which has made Kincora a byword for child sexual abuse, scandal, and cover-up. Instead I’d like to look at the reason Richard Kerr will no longer deal with Exaro News and why one journalist, Fiona O’Cleirigh, will no longer work for them.

A quick word here about why I think this is important, and even necessary because there are some that have suggested that I have some personal vendetta against Exaro News and their Editor-in-Chief Mark Watts in particular. I’ve met Mark Watts on only one occasion and our meeting was quite cordial but ultimately someone has to carry the can for what has happened and as Mark Watts was the Editor-in-Chief and therefore the person who decided which stories were published and which were not, how and when they were presented, and would have been cognisant of the overall impression that they gave, I think it is only fair that he take the responsibility.After all, that is what he has been paid to do.

Another reason for writing this is that I believe it demonstrates that often media outlets, not just Exaro News, may publish material that may not be in the interests of the survivor they have talked to. There is also the danger, especially in this post-Panorama period, that any survivor who may have had dealings with Exaro may become contaminated by association and more generally this may happen to any survivor making allegations regardless of whether they’ve talked to Exaro, or indeed any media outlet and that, I feel, would be a crying shame.


Mark Watts, former Editor-in-Chief of Exaro News

This particular account begins this Summer [2015] when Richard Kerr was visiting the UK on personal business and he was asked by Exaro to participate in the Australian 60 Minutes programme. “I felt that if I could help other survivors by speaking out and talking about my own abuse then I should.” Richard tells me.

And so, in the middle of June – a month before the programme was broadcast, Richard was interviewed by the Australian Channel 9 journalist Ross Coulthart for the documentary. During the interview Richard was shown a number of photographs of men and asked if he had been abused by them or if he knew whether any of them had been part of the Kincora abuse cover-up. With no warning and taken by surprise by this approach Richard answered as best he could. However, following the interview he expressed his concerns to Ross Coulthart and asked that that part of the interview not be broadcast and that no mention of the men he named be included in the programme. Ross Coulthart agreed to Richard’s request and it is to Ross Coulthart’s credit that when the 60 minutes was broadcast, no mention was made of any of the men that Richard had attempted to identify from the photographs.

The interview in the can, nothing that further impacts on this narrative occurs until just before the broadcast in Australia of  the 60 Minutes documentary. Like any editor of a news outlet which has worked in concert with a film like this one, Mark Watts wanted to run parallel stories. Readers will have noticed a similar approach from the BBC just prior to the broadcast of the Panorama documentary. There is nothing really very  unusual or controversial in this strategy. However, Mark Watts had not had a preview of the Channel 9 documentary and had become convinced that Ross Coulthart and the film makers would not keep their word with regards to the undertakings given to Richard Kerr.

The story that results and which carries Mark Watts’ name on the byline is entitled ‘Richard Kerr names powerful men who ‘cover-up’ Kincora’, in the article published just before the broadcast of the 60 Minutes, Mark Watts writes;

“The programme is expected to show on Sunday night (local time) some of the dramatic sequences where Kerr identifies powerful men as part of the Kincora cover-up.”

The 60 Minutes programme does not do that but Mark Watts does and I think it’s telling that Watts doesn’t believe that other journalists keep their word.

In the hours preceding the publication of this Exaro story, Richard Kerr couldn’t be contacted. Texts messages between Fiona O’Cleirigh, a freelance journalist who had been working with Richard Kerr for Exaro News, and Mark Watts were exchanged which ended with Mark Watts demanding from her Richard’s contact details which, to her credit, she refused to pass on to him and as a consequence she lost her job with Exaro News.


Email sent to Mark Watts on behalf of Richard Kerr following the publication of the Exaro News story.

Following the publication 0f the story Richard Kerr was naturally very upset. He’d been taken by surprise when the five photographs of individuals had been produced during the interview, he’s an obliging gentleman and attempted to help the interviewer but directly after the interview, recognising that he couldn’t be 100% certain that he had correctly identified all of the men in the photographs, or if he had recognised them, from other sources. Of the 5 men that Richard identified he was certain that he’d met of two of them but of the other three he was uncertain. He  he had immediately requested that this part would not be made public.  Richard Kerr knows too just how much such a mis-identification, once public, can harm the credibility of a survivor (even one like himself who can demonstrate his abuse very clearly).

However, despite requesting that the VIPs he had named under these pressurised circumstances be removed, it was never done and they remained on the Exaro News website until the day the site recently disappeared.

Putting aside the dubious usefulness of this photo-identification technique, this kind of shoddy journalism may grab the attention of  conspiracy theorists, it may result in a website getting more hits but it does nothing for the reputation of a witness who may have very valuable information about establishment CSA.






Filed under Abuse, News

15 responses to “Richard Kerr And Mark Watts – And Why One Journalist Left Exaro News

  1. Pingback: » Northern Ireland Inquiry Undermines Claims of “Westminster VIP Paedophile Ring” Witness Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion

  2. Reblogged this on corporatepoliticalcriminalcorruption and commented:

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  4. Anonymous upon request

    Penelope Geer,
    That is complete and utter nonsense – and you know it.
    Take it from somebody who knows.

  5. dpack

    a rather interesting set of “inside stories” regarding both the staff and “source” experiences.
    although gojam’s piece and the comments raise some important issues and give examples of shoddy behaviour on many levels it is important to note that although exaro’s focus was presented as (and perceived as) being upon “vip” abusers and subsequent cover ups of their activities the effect of their efforts appears have been to misdirect from very valid lines of inquiry towards false or confusing ones.
    my single personal dealings with a member of their staff was to be asked if i had the “dickens dossier” which i did not have although i had an inkling of the very dangerous nature of some of the information it contained and i was trying to nudge various folk to find it ( this was before the home office failed to find it ) my reply was i did not and if i did you would be able to read it on a wide variety of websites. it made me a bit nervous , having chatted to a couple of folk who know about such things and researched what has happened to some folk who have had it i recon being a bit nervous was the correct reaction.
    ( hopefully the copy of part of it handed to mr mann is either being investigated honestly or if not that he will make sure it is made public).

    leaving aside staff ethics or any particular exaro story the biographies and associates of both booth and pendry are a little unusual for the backers of a “hold power to account”, expose evil in high places investigative organ but they are perfect for running a smoke and mirrors/plumbing op with a bit of intel gathering added in under journalistic cover.

    • tdf

      Trying to explain Exaro’s actions in my own head, I swing between a “never put down to conspiracy what can adequately explained by human imperfection/incompetence/stupidity/recklessness” view (Occam’s Razor, essentially) and a more conspiratorial take, along the lines that dpack hints at.

      The Kings’ Cross fire was mentioned by Dpack in another post as an event possibly meriting a closer look. I came across some odd rumours about that tragedy on the net (which means nothing in itself, as anyone can say pretty much anything on the net) circa 2012/2013. I do remember finding a copy of the inquiry report online and IIRC there is a list of the victims included in it – none struck me as fitting the profile of ‘rentboys’, but who knows. Is there anything specific about the event that you feel does not pass the smell test, Dpack?

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  7. My own dealings with Exaro via Mark Conrad who interviewed me at home in September 2014, was that their main preoccupation was funding! It was even suggested that they might work on my behalf for a share in any fees or compensation I might get. I refused as I didn`t want to taint my motives in going to the press for help. I never heard from him again, even though I had photographs of myself with the high-profile abusers. It may be that they were too high profile as well, but they chose to run with Nick instead….

  8. DelBoyTrotter

    exaro director tim pendry wrote this when the journal closed. does not sound like a united front. was fiona on the company board?

    “The sudden withdrawal of funding (while understandable in the circumstances) acted immediately to baulk key decisions made at the previous Board Meeting, fully endorsed by me, to give six months to the Directors and editorial team to undertake a number of separate investigations into the viability of the journal and to let a new editorial approach report back on its findings during that period.
    It was sad but unavoidable that the six month period of reflection and re-organisation was not permitted by circumstances that were beyond the control of both the minority shareholders and editorial team.

    I offer my continued moral support to David, Mark and their team on the one side and the former Editor Mark Watts on the other in their separate attempts to find third party alternative sources of funding to continue their work. For the record, I find no incompatibility in wishing both of these teams success even if there is almost certainly no prospect of them doing it together. I am, of course, redundant in this process now …
    La Lutta Continua …”

    • No, Fiona was not on the company board. She, like others, was a freelance journalists working for Exaro rather than staff.

      My understanding is that only Mark Watts was on the board and this is probably why the directors were unaware of the true situation at Exaro.

  9. DelBoyTrotter

    i’m no expert on such things but i suspect that there will be more to come on this issue. it was evident for some time that the newspaper’s personnel were divided.

    i see that exaro director tim pendry alluded to this in a blog.

  10. Barry

    Exaro has done enormous damage to people sexually abused in childhood. They have pursued an exclusively VIP-conspiracy-ring narrative that (while it may exist) is not typical of the vast, vast majority of child sexual abuse. Exaro journalists have taken reams of intimate detail, in writing and by harrowing – my personal experience – verbal interview, only to discard evidence that did not fit the narrow VIP-conspiracy narrative.
    Exaro has done untold damage to both the individuals and to the credibility of witness testimony.

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