Category Archives: Police Operations

Operations Stranger and Orchid: Lennie Smith

This article forms part of our series on Operation Stranger and Operation Orchid and looks more closely at the life and role of Lennie Smith who died in 2006.

Born on 23rd August 1954 in Montgomeryshire, Wales, Leonard William Gilchrist Smith was taken into care after leaving school at fourteen and was, by then, already an active rent boy. Consistently absconding from various care homes, he was heavily involved in the gay scene in Oxford, Birmingham and London and accumulated convictions for burglary, theft and attempting to obtain goods by deception.

Sometime in 1975 Smith moved from Wales to London. In London he operated at Victoria Station (where he first met Robert Oliver circa mid 1970s) and the Piccadilly “meat rack”, and lived for four years at an address on Eaton Place in Belgravia “with the son of a man who held a prestigious and historic parliamentary post, meeting him first as a client who enjoyed being tied up and whipped”. This man was Roddam Twiss.

Smith then moved to Westcliff, Southend, working as an amusement arcade assistant for an elderly homosexual called Jack Parsons, who was described as Smith’s “sugar daddy” and whom Smith referred to as his grandad. The amusement arcade was a cover for dealing in drugs, prostitution of boys and the picking up of boys.  At the age of twenty three he was convicted for gross indecency.

In the early 1980’s Smith based himself in Birmingham, and served a year in prison for burglary, theft and criminal damage offences. Upon his release he returned to London, becoming the tenant of 70 Templemead on the Kingsmead Estate.  Only 5ft 2″ in height and looking very young for his age Smith lasted longer than most as a rent boy.  However, he also moved on from rent boy to pimp.

In 1984 Smith married a Bolivian student at Hackney Registry Office, having been paid £500 to do so, so the student could secure her residency. His address at this point was stated as 36 Ashmead, a flat which was also shared with Robert Oliver and Donald Smith who was the tenant.  It was in this flat that Jason Swift was to meet his death a year later.

Operation Stranger was launched on 17th January 1986 and eventually resulted in convictions of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ gang and four convictions for the killing of Jason Swift. Under Operation Stranger, Smith was arrested in February 1986 and remanded into custody where he remained until his conviction and subsequent thirty month sentence in June 1987. In November 1985 Hackney police had raided 70 Templemead on the Kingsmead Estate after a tip off that a 13 year old was being abused there by Robert Oliver and Lennie Smith. The boy was hiding behind curtains and the police failed to find him.

Bizarrely, the man who made that anonymous call to Hackney police was Sidney Cooke himself.

Essex Police, picking up on this, went to interview the two about Jason Swift.  The same 13 year old boy was later found by police in February 1986 and two of the first names he gave them were Sidney Cooke and Lennie Smith.  The boy was introduced to Smith by another of the gang, Walter Ballantyne, who had first picked the boy up in September 1985.  Smith was acting as a pimp for the gang, supplying boys to a regular group of customers at £5 per child.  Some he kept for himself at first, before passing them on for money once he had tired of them. Some of his victims’ names he actually had tattoed on his body. The names of a father and son he had tried to cover up with a fresh tattoo of a black panther.

Released from Wandsworth Prison on 23rd October 1987 detectives were waiting and arrested him outside the prison gates.  The following day Smith was charged with the murder of Jason Swift.  Immediately remanded into custody again, Smith remained in custody until he was released at the committal stages in February 1988 when charges were dropped against him.

During the 1989 trial of Cooke, Bailey, Barrell and Oliver for the murder of Jason Swift, Bronwyn Bevan QC stated that Jason had become involved with Lennie Smith who then handed him to Sidney Cooke “because he feared the police were taking an unhealthy interest in him”.  Smith had always denied knowing Jason but police had uncovered eight witnesses who said differently.  Former rent boy Derek Crabbe said he had seen Jason about a dozen times in 36 Ashmead.  A neighbour also recalled seeing Jason leaving Smith’s flat at 70 Templemead.

In May 1989, and immediately after the Jason Swift trial had drawn to a close, Smith was tracked down by reporters to a council flat at Savernake House in Stoke Newington where he was living with “a bloated, middle aged man who worked as a sub-editor on the Daily Telegraph”.  The day following the verdict the Daily Mirror’s front page carried a photo of Smith with the headline “This Man is Evil”.

His name cropping up more than any other, the Orchid team had started to keep Smith under close surveillance and on 2nd May 1990 he was re-arrested trying to pick up a young boy in a toilet and received a three year prison sentence.

Whilst serving the three-year sentence for indecent assault Smith was interviewed with regards to other offences involving a six year old boy. On the day he was released in May 1991 Smith was immediately charged with offences in relation to this boy and remanded straight back into custody until his trial.

During the 1991 investigation into Smith in respect to his abuse of the boy he babysat, a friend of the boy’s family who had lived on the same estate was traced to Newcastle.  He emerged as a useful witness but died several months later from AIDS, although not before making a statement to police on his deathbed, detailing homosexual activity on the Kingsmead estate, and also naming a gay priest, who was seen driving children to orgies there.  Robert Oliver had also previously revealed that Smith had passed one boy – a 15 year old called “Michael” on to a gay priest friend of his who took the boy down to Brighton.

Though closely linked to the killing of seven-year-old Mark Tildesley and Barry Lewis, and named in court during the 1992 trial of Leslie Bailey, Smith was never charged.

The CPS decided that, whilst evidence existed, a prosecution against Lennie Smith (and Sidney Cooke) would fail because it relied too heavily on Bailey’s evidence and Bailey’s confession was not enough to prosecute Smith and Cooke.  Leslie Bailey was the only one convicted in relation to Mark’s death.

Smith had always replied “No comment” when asked about Mark.

“That’s all he would say, with a very straight face,” according to former Detective Chief Superintendent Roger Stoodley, who brought the paedophile ring to justice. “He was very calm and very cunning.”

On 9th December 1992, Smith was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for a string of vicious sexual assaults eight years earlier against a six year old boy who he had been baby-sitting.  It was reported that on one occasion the boy was taken by Smith to an illicit gay club in the West End.  The boy told the court he had witnessed two men having sex.

“Lennie Smith is a danger to all young boys” said Detective Superintendent Mick Short. “He is truly evil“.

Released into a prison housing unit for former sex offenders in 1999, Smith died of AIDS in 2006. Updated 28th Sept 2016: Smith died on 22nd February 2006 at Fieldgate Nursing Home in Horndean, Hampshire. (thanks to Martin Walkerdine who discovered this)

Upon Smith’s release in 1999 former police chief superintendent Roger Stoodley, who brought Smith to justice, said:

“Wherever he goes children will die.  He will always try and offend again. He does not deserve to have any freedom whatsoever”.


Sources include “Lambs to the Slaughter” by Ted Oliver and Ramsey Smith, “Catching Monsters” by David Bright, and press reports.


Filed under Abuse, Police Operations

Operation Hydrant

_76754913_cc8ncrn1A national police group is being set up to explore possible links between child sex abuse investigations involving celebrities, elected officials and institutions such as schools and care homes.

43 Police forces across the UK have been asked for details of their inquiries.

The new body has been set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers and will collate and share information, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said.

It is due to meet in September.

While it will not lead any investigations itself, it will gather information involving well-known figures and organisations such as hospitals, children’s homes and parliament.

Mr Bailey, who will chair the group known as Operation Hydrant, said: “This is likely to involve all police forces in the UK, and we have included Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland in our remit.”


This story updates the original report from the Sunday Times 13th July, when it was first announced that a ‘VIP sex crimes group’, comprising of 13 forces, was being established under Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk.


Filed under Abuse, Police Operations

Operation Framework 1992-93

Operation Framework was an investigation into a number of British men who police believed were taking children abroad, principally to Amsterdam, where they were being sold into prostitution and pornography.

On the day of the final police ‘swoop’, thirty-one search warrants had been obtained, including one against Warwick Spinks.  Spinks at the time was a known but unconvicted paedophile, close to the heart of the trade in children.  Police used an undercover officer, known as Todd, to gain Spink’s confidence.  The story is reproduced here exactly as Todd recalls it in ‘The Dirty Squad‘ by Michael Hames.


In November 1992 I was tasked to gain the confidence of a man called Warwick Spinks, who lived in Norwood. After gaining his trust I was to monitor his movements and activities with a view to bringing a prosecution. I had to pass myself off as a homosexual paedophile, but this time I had to do it without letting the target know that I knew he was a paedophile. To make matters even more difficult, this man had never been convicted of anything, so I had to work on a person who had no form for me to study, and who also possessed an apparent ability to run rings around the law. It was not going to be an easy job, and we knew this would be a long-term operation. Spinks had placed advertisements in Boyz, a free homosexual magazine, offering flats to rent in Poland and Amsterdam. I called the number in the advertisement and Spinks answered the telephone. I introduced myself as an executive in an insurance and finance business, and I said I would like to use his flat in Amsterdam. We arranged the dates and agreed the terms, and I gave him a special office number so he could contact me if there was any need. He told me I could pick up the keys from him at the flat in Amsterdam, as he would be there on 17 December, the date I was due to arrive.

Spinks had been under fairly regular surveillance, and a couple of days before I was due to meet him he was seen in Victoria station, talking to a teenage boy he was definitely aiming to pick up. I was shown a photograph of the two of them in the station as part of my briefing before I left for Holland. On my arrival in Amsterdam I met up with a young Dutch police officer who was to work with me. He was using the name of Mark. In the early afternoon he drove me to the Amstel district and parked outside a large block of flats with the name `Amstel 294′ on the front. Mark waited in the car and I went into the foyer of the building. I pressed the intercom for one of the flats. A man answered and told me to take the lift to the fifth floor. When I got there I knocked on the door of the flat. Warwick Spinks opened the door. I recognised him at once from the various photographs I had seen. He looked younger than his years; he could easily have been taken for a man of twenty-five, rather fat but quite flashily good-looking, the type anybody would assume to be a ladies’ man. He took me inside and introduced me to the same youth he was photographed with in Victoria station. `This is my friend Ken,’ he said. Spinks then gave me a cursory tour of the flat, which was one big room with kitchen facilities and a fold-down bed, plus a separate shower room and toilet. I said to Spinks, I’ve met a friend of a friend of mine over here. He’s downstairs. He doesn’t know Amsterdam, perhaps we could all go out this evening?’ `Sure: Spinks said. ‘In fact we can go for a drink right now, just so you get the feel of the place, then tonight we’ll all go out for a proper pub crawl: `That’s marvellous,’ I said:I’m here for three days, and I don’t want to miss out on anything. If you really don’t mind showing me round …’

`It’ll be a pleasure, Todd: `Great. I’ll pay for everything. I want to see the right places. You know I winked, ‘where they’ve got the younger element.’ Downstairs I introduced Mark, then the four of us walked through the cold sunlit streets to the Marcella Bar in Princengracht. We sat at a table and Spinks ordered our drinks in Dutch. He was extremely friendly and I appeared to hit it off with him without any difficulty. He commented on my Cockney accent, and I told him that I came from the East End. He told me he was from South London. I tried to ask Ken about himself, but Spinks did all the talking. `Ken lives in Kent. He’s fifteen,’ he added, with the shadow of a wink. Later, when Ken went to the toilet, Spinks told me that he had had sexual intercourse with the lad the night before. He said it was Ken’s first sexual experience and that he had pretended to be drunk and asleep throughout the whole scene. When we were on our second drink Spinks asked me what I was going to do during my stay in Amsterdam. I told him I would like to look at some videos and visit a few gay bars. He told me that there were plenty of chickens — young boys — in the gay bars around the city. I did my best to look pleased about that, then I moved the subject on to videos. `I’ll tell you what, Warwick, I said, ‘I bought a few videos back in England but they were very poor quality.’ `Yeah, well, they would be’. He told me he had run a porno video business in Kent at one time, using the name of J. Heath. He said all of his stock of videos had been confiscated by the police, but he hadn’t been caught. Do you still have any contacts in the business?’ I asked him. He nodded slowly and smiled. He said that he could get any kind of videos I wanted right there in Amsterdam.

`I don’t think I’d like to run the risk of taking them through Customs’ I said ‘Have you got any back in England I might have a look at?’ `Sure, I’ll fix you up, Todd. Don’t worry about it.’ Later, while Ken and Mark sat saying nothing, looking around them, Spinks told me he had other flats for rent in Warmoestraat, which was in another part of Amsterdam. `But they’re for straight punters. I’ve got flats to rent in Prague and the Canary Islands, too, if you’re ever interested: `I quite fancy Prague,’ I said.’Never been there, mind you’.  Spinks told me drink and cigarettes were cheap in Prague. He had plenty of supplies in England and he would be happy to sell some to me cheap. I noticed that Spinks was getting more talkative the more he drank. He told me he had been coming to Amsterdam since he was fifteen years old. He also said that he had been married and had two children, but he had left his wife and was living with a nineteen-year-old Polish boy in Thornton Heath. He referred to this boy as ‘the wife’. When he showed some interest in my own background I told him I was the executive manager of an insurance and finance company. I was single, I said, and usually inclined to keep myself to myself. Spinks told me that tonight, just for a change, I could come out of my shell. He said he would show us round the best gay bars in Amsterdam.Then he looked at his watch. `I have to go. I’ve an appointment to keep.’ We arranged that we would meet again in the evening at seven o’clock, at Amstel 294. Before he and Ken left the bar Spinks gave me a set of keys for the flat. I waited five minutes, then left the bar with Mark. We met up with other Dutch officers and went to a hotel where a room had been booked for me.We spent the rest of the afternoon making notes.

Later I went to the flat with Mark, where we sat and waited for the other two to show up. At about half-past seven Spinks buzzed the intercom and told me he was in the foyer with Ken. Mark and I went down and all four of us went to the Amstelhoek, a gay bar. While we were there Spinks told me he wanted to show me as many bars as possible that evening because he was going back to England with Ken the following day. We stayed in Amstelhoek for about three minutes and then went to Chez Manfred on Halvemassteeg. It was full to the door with gay men of all ages.There were also two middle-aged women, who were walking along the bar, putting lipstick on the men as they passed. We declined their offer and went to another bar opposite. This place was decorated entirely in white, with white cloth on the walls and ceiling. `It’s like walking into a giant condom,’ Spinks said. Like the other places this was a gay bar, as busy as the one across the road. Two black men behind me were dancing, and after a minute I felt two hands closing around my genitals. I looked over my shoulder, trying not to panic, and I saw that one of the black men had turned towards me and was dancing with his front to my back. He grinned at me and so did Spinks. I pulled away from him perhaps a little too sharply, then I quickly explained to Spinks that he had been making me spill my drink. We left this bar after ten minutes and went to a quieter one on Amstel. There were only four other customers and the bar had no disco, so it was possible to have a conversation. Spinks drew me to one side. `Todd, I want your stay in Amsterdam to be a memorable one. There’s lots of other gay bars I want to show you, but I’ve got a problem. I didn’t get a chance to go to the bank, so I’m running low on money. Could you lend me three hundred guilders?’ `No problem’.

I handed him the cash, and I had the immediate sense that I had passed some kind of test. He put his mouth close to my ear. `The next bar we go to,’ he whispered ‘I’m going to fix you up with a chicken’.  So events were fitting the required scenario. Spinks had taken to me. I had won his confidence, and he accepted me as a paedophile, all on my first day in the job. The only snag so far was that I had to make sure I had no part in the soliciting of a minor, and I had to do it without making Spinks suspicious. `Listen: I said,’ tapping my chest, ‘I’ve got to be careful. With this heart condition I’ve got, a frisky chicken would probably kill me’ `Nah. Spinks shook his head. ‘You won’t have to do anything. You can just cuddle, or the boy can give you a blow-job. It won’t cost you a thing, either. It’ll be my treat.’ He said I could take the boy back to Amstel 294N, and at some point during the evening we could swap partners. He would let me sleep with Ken while he had sex with the boy he had supplied for me. Now I felt a little flutter of panic. I told Spinks it seemed like a good idea, but the fact was, I fancied Mark. He frowned at me. ‘Isn’t he a bit old for your taste?’ `He is, yes, but he’s the boyfriend of a friend, you see? It would give me a bit of a kick if I could make it with him. I won’t get a chance after tonight, so I’d like to take a shot at it, if you won’t feel offended.’ `Do you think Mark will go for it?’ Spinks muttered. ‘He doesn’t look all that interested to me.’ I said I would speak to Mark, and if he wasn’t interested, I would take Spinks up on his kind offer. `Fair enough: Spinks said. I asked Mark to come outside for a minute. He followed me out on to the cold street.

‘Look’ I said, `me and you have got to fall in love very, very quickly, otherwise we’re both in the shit, big time.’ Mark understood. We walked back into the bar hand in hand. `I’m in with Mark: I whispered to Spinks. ‘But thanks for your offer, anyway.’ Keeping my voice low, I told Spinks that not only had Mark agreed to sleep with me, but he was going to drive me back to his house where I could stay the night, so Spinks could have the use of Amstel 294, which would save him driving across the city to the place where he was staying. `Suits me fine,’ Spinks said, and I could see he had swallowed the story. He looked at his watch. ‘I’ll have to phone the wife soon. He’s a jealous lad and gets stroppy if I don’t keep in touch.’ At about 9:30 I told Spinks I was keen to leave with Mark, now we had an understanding. We said our goodbyes and I thanked Spinks for making my first visit to Amsterdam so enjoyable. I left the bar with Mark and we then drove to my hotel, where we made our notes. I was confident, by that time, that I had made a sound contact with Spinks, and that he not only trusted me and accepted me as a paedophile, but appeared to want to stay friendly. When I returned to England I allowed time for Spinks to get back, then I telephoned him, because I had to give him back the keys to the flat in Amsterdam. I said I would bring them round. He told me not to bother, I could just post them. I said I didn’t like the idea of putting keys in the post, I’d much sooner give them to him. So I met him down in Norwood, and he introduced me to the man he had referred to as his wife. We had a drink and as I left he said he wanted to have a natter with me again really soon. We kept in touch fairly regularly after that. I used to meet him at Compton’s and similar places in the West End. It was an easy-going arrangement, smoother than I had imagined at the outset.

Then without any warning Spinks moved to Hastings to live. I made excuses to keep in contact with him there, too. Operation Framework at that point had been running for about two years; they now had a list of numerous names and addresses where they would soon make simultaneous swoops nationwide. The big day was about to dawn. I went down to Hastings to find out if Spinks would be there the following Tuesday, when the raids were due to take place. When I was alone with him in his house he said, ‘I had two lovely boys here. Fourteen, they were, both of them.’ He winked. `I took photographs.’ `Local lads, are they?’ I asked him. `No fear.They’re from a children’s home in Doncaster.’ I told him I would love to see the photographs. He said he hadn’t had them developed yet. `I’m going over to Amsterdam next week, I’ll get them developed then. I asked him what the boys looked like. One was fair, he said, and was called Tom; the other one, Ricky, was dark-haired. `Lovely,’ I said. I’d definitely like to see them.’ Because of that conversation, the Framework invasion plan was put on hold until we had a date when Warwick Spinks would be back home at Hastings. Meanwhile, going on the descriptions of the boys I had been given, plus their names and the location, the police were able to go to the only children’s home in Doncaster where they found, sure enough, that two boys with those names and fitting those descriptions had run away several days earlier. Later, when the boys had been found again and brought back to the home, one of them described how they had been picked up in Hastings by Spinks and taken to his home. He had sodomised them at knife-point, then made them sodomise each other.

One of them was taken to Amsterdam and sold to the owner of a club called the Blue Boy. He eventually escaped through a window and went to the British consul, who brought him back to England. Meanwhile, Framework had to be re-scheduled, so I called Spinks in Amsterdam and said I was thinking of coming over to Hastings the following Wednesday, which was when the officers running Framework wanted to make all the raids. ‘I’ll be home that day, sure: he told me.’Earlier than that, most likely. Come down when you like: `I wondered if you’d have the photos of the two lads you told me about,’ I said. `I should have them by then, yeah: he said.’You won’t be disappointed, I can promise you.’ `Great. I’ll see you next Wednesday, then: Spinks was duly raided the following Wednesday.Among other material, the police found the negatives of the photographs of Tom and Ricky from the children’s home. At Lewes Crown Court Spinks pleaded not guilty to a number of charges. After I and everyone else involved in the case had given evidence, Spinks was found guilty. He was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.

1 Comment

Filed under Abuse, Police Operations

Operation Shakespeare (1993) And The Emergence Of The Pseudo-Image

As The Needle reported following the last court hearing for John Stingemore and Father Tony McSweeney at  Southwark Crown Court, one of the charges that McSweeney pleaded not guilty to referred to the making of an indecent ‘pseudo image’ of a child.

We’d never heard of the term and we felt certain that many others had not either and so we provided a definition but it is actually only 20 years since the police, working on Operation Shakespeare, first came across an indecent pseudo image which eventually precipitated an amendment to the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which made such images illegal.

This post outlines how it happened, sourced primarily from Michael Hames’ autobiography ‘The Dirty Squad’.


Operation Shakespeare began after the Metropolitan Police received an angry call from a woman who had discovered a pornographic image of a child, who was a relation, on her husband’s computer.  The computer was siezed and the image found to be what is now known legally as a ‘pseudo-photograph’.

The man had used a pornographic image of a woman and transposed a photograph of the young girl’s head to replace the adult head.  He had used photo-manipulation software to remove the hair and breasts from the adult torso, resulting in a lewd image of an immature female body with a child’s smiling face.  Evidence of the manipulation was visible on close inspection, but to all intents and purposes the police were dealing with a pornographic photograph of a child.

This presented a legal dilemma.  What did the image amount to in law?  It was not a photograph of a child, it could be demonstrated that a photograph of an adult woman had been electronically altered, and that the child’s head had been superimposed.  The Protection of Children Act was clear on the subject of photographs, but police at the time could not be sure that this image fell within the definition of a photograph.  The Crown Prosecution Service was consulted but were as concerned and uncertain as the police.  In the end, no prosecution was mounted.

It was clear that the law needed to be clarified and Michael Hames, Head of the Obscene Publications Branch within New Scotland Yard decided to include the image in an exhibition held at the House of Commons in February 1993, organised by Ann Winterton MP.  Over 300 MPs accepted an invitation to attend and a press statement was released:

The Obscene Publications Branch of New Scotland will provide briefing on the obscene and pornographic material which is now increasingly available in the United Kingdom and to explain the weaknesses of the Obscene Publications Act.  Items on display will include tapes, books, magazines, and satellite and computer-generated pornography.  The material includes child abuse, bestiality, oral sex, both homosexual and heterosexual group and anal intercourse and other violent and abnormal sexual behaviour which it would be inappropriate to list.

Ms Winterton was

…deeply shocked that such material is now increasingly available, largely because of the lack of political will to tackle the weakness of the Obscene Publications Act.  The Act is a threadbare garment, woven in a different age, which can no longer provide the cloak of protection which women, men and children need against the most horrific, exploitative, and damaging pornography.  I am not talking about soft porn, or about material which is titillating.  I am talking about an exhibition of material which is so horrific that not one Member of Parliament at the private viewing held a short time ago was able physically to endure viewing all the exhibits in question.

The exhibition resulted in the Home Affairs Select Committee requesting the government to amend the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill.  The Select Committee visited Scotland Yard to consult police on the growing problem of child pornography and police used this opportunity to raise the dilemma created by the image at the centre of Operation Shakespeare.  As a result, it became an offence for a person to possess an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child. (Section 160 of the 1988 Act as amended by section 84(4) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994)

Currently, the main offence provisions relating to indecent photographs of children are the Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The latter extends to the making of ‘pseudo-photographs’, defined as ‘an image, whether made by computer graphics or otherwise, which appears to be a photograph’. Throughout the Act, pseudo-photographs are put on the same footing as actual photographs. It is possible to convict a person of making a pseudo-photograph where the dominant impression conveyed is that the person shown is a child, notwithstanding that some of the physical characteristics shown are those of an adult.  CPS.


Filed under Abuse, Police Operations

Operation Hedgerow (1987 – 89)


Operation Hedgerow was established by Kilburn Police in the London Borough of Brent following a complaint by a 10-year old boy, about sexual abuse by Kenneth Martin, to a social worker.  It was led by DCI Roger Gaspar. Ultimately, 150 boys and young men were interviewed, 653 separate allegations of sexual offences were collected, over 20 arrests were made and 14 men were convicted.

The trouble with paedophiles is that they work underneath the community. It’s a very effective subculture. They work themselves into key jobs which bring them into contact with children.      DCI Gaspar

The Operation was rated a success because of the novel police approach.

Firstly, they took a different tack with the allegations. Normally, an alleged abuser would be confronted immediately, putting the word of a child against that of an adult and making evidence difficult to collect. Instead, a team was established to keep the abuser’s house under surveillance. They noted the visits of boys and other adults and tailed them home to discover who they were.

Secondly, they formed a very close link to Brent Social Services Department (SSD) at an early stage. David Divine, the director of Brent SSD was called upon to discuss working together. Nine experienced social workers were assigned to the core team and these people supported both the children, their parents and the police.

There was a danger of police priorities dominating,” says Peter Bibby, now acting director of Brent SSD, “but it was identified very early on at the senior level, in one or two meetings where we worked out the ground rules. For instance, we didn’t want to do anything that interfered with their investigation; but we didn’t want them to withhold information from us that would put a child at risk.”  It was agreed that any conflict of interest would be referred up to the top level, where Divine and the commander kept regular contact. (Source)

Detective Sergeant Don Barrell recalls: “A lot of the interviews were away from police stations, in McDonalds or in the social work offices, getting the children’s trust and trying to reassure them that they hadn’t done anything wrong. Ken Martin had instilled some fear in them that they were the guilty party. There’s a sense of achievement when a kid comes across and tells you he’s been abused.” (Source)

Thirdly, DCI Gaspar viewed their success in terms of shifting the power base:

It seemed quite clear to me”, he says, “that if we were right in our perception of Martin as a prolific offender, then we had to break his hold over the community of kids that he ‘ran’.
It’s a bit like rape: sex isn’t the only element within it, it’s power.  The only people he could, or wanted to, exercise power over were boys.
“We shifted the power base, with all the people we arrested, from the offenders to ourselves.”  The second wave of arrests, in December 1987, netted 20 people in simultaneous dawn raids.  “That was done deliberately for the shock effect, and to remove then all from the environment so that we could then get to work on the children,” Gaspar explains. (Source)

Fourthly, the police took the approach of investigating all the leads, and expanding the operation, rather than limiting themselves to dealing with the single complaint from one social worker. This resulted in the exposure of two paedophile rings.

Operation Hedgerow (1987-89)

In August 1987 an allegation against Kenneth Martin came to Kilburn police. Martin had been arrested in 1981 for similar, although minor, offences and was released on bail.

DCI Gaspar took an early decision that a reactive response to the original allegation against Martin would fail.  Instead a team was established to keep Martin’s house under surveillance. They noted the visits of boys and other adults and tailed them home to discover who they were.

After two months, there came a night when police were sure that a boy was staying over. They raided the house and found Martin and the boy naked together in the bedroom.

A dedicated telephone hotline was set up and publicised, manned by social workers, at Brent Council.

The Daily Express first broke the story on 13th October 1987 when they described the raid at a 63 year old market traders’s property in North London. The next day they reported that police were liaising with officers investigating similar rings in the London and Croydon areas. These were likely the ‘dirty dozen’ and ‘Jason Swift murder rings’ investigated by Operation Stranger.

By December 1987 more than 20 people were taken in for questioning and 140 boys, mainly from the Brent area of North London, aged between 10- 14, had been interviewed. Most of the victims came from London, but others lived in Berkshire, Wiltshire, Devon and Cambridgeshire and some were ‘recruited’ from special schools.

Operation Hedgerow uncovered two networks:

1. The Ken Martin Ring, Brent

Ken Martin, says Gaspar, had “a highly defined system: he had a market stall at the Sunday Brick Lane market, selling boys’ toys: train sets, cars, action man outfits. He also had his living room kitted out with three computers, an oval of train sets, sweets laid out on the mantelpiece.
“And he would attract kids from the locality that way. He abused the kids himself. He jointly offended against two boys with one of his co-defendants, and they were particularly nasty, violent homosexual rapes; but there wasn’t a great passing around of kids.

On 3rd December 1987 two men arrested were named as Kenneth Martin, 63, and Bryan Peter Howard Edmunds, 59. On the 8th April 1989, The Glasgow Herald reported three convictions;
Kenneth Martin, 65, was jailed for 13 years
Brian Howard-Edmonds, 60, was jailed for 7 years
Charles Wellings, 54, was given a total of nine years after being convicted of five offences including buggery, aiding and abetting buggery, and indecent assault.

2. The Alan Delany/Colin Peters Ring, Ealing
This was the subject of a separate trial.

The other ring, however, said Gaspar, was organised in a loose sense for mutual interest, and they would pass the kids around. Members of this ring used advertisements for jobs in local newspapers, a CB radio, and babysitting favours to attract boys. The paedophiles did nothing else except go to work or look for kids, Gaspar says. They had no hobbies: their passion was all-consuming. (Source)

The Guardian reported that seven men had been charged on 4th December 1987:
Alan Herbert Delaney, aged 47, of Hounslow
Patrick David Norris, aged 18, of Willesden
Patrick Joseph Norris, aged 55, father of the above
Colin Peters, aged 44, of Notting Hill
John Elwin Williams, aged 45, of Willesden
Victor James Burnett, aged 42, of Acton
Ernest Frank Whittington, aged 63, of Harlesden.

The Times reported on 12 November 1988 that six men were brought to trial:
Colin Peters, aged 45, a barrister, Alan Delaney, aged 48, a director of a cleaning company; Ernest Whittington, aged 64, a Brent council estate orderly, was known to children he befriended as “the chocolate man” because of his generosity. Patrick Norris, aged 19, his half-brother, Sean, aged 18, and Victor Burnett, aged 43.

It was revealed in court that a British Telecom engineer called to the Delaney home and found a photograph album behind a bedside cabinet while he installed a telephone. The court was told that the album contained 40 photographs of boys and girls aged seven to 16 in nude poses and one of simulated sex.
For the first time in a UK court, witnesses were shielded from their attackers.

In February 1989, the Daily Express Reported that a Mafia-Like conspiracy  – said to include a senior House of Lords official and a West London vicar – was exposed before a shocked court. On 3rd February 1989, Patrick Norris, aged 19, and his half brother Sean, aged 18, admitted conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Patrick was sentenced to 18 months’ detention and his brother put on probation for two years. The next day, 4th February 1989, the remaining four men were jailed for a total of 34 years.

Colin Peters, barrister and former Foreign Office lawyer, was jailed for eight years for conspiracy to commit buggery and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Alan Delaney was jailed for 11 years for conspiracy to commit buggery, indecent assault, taking indecent photographs, indecency with a child and attempted buggery.

Victor Burnett was jailed for nine years for conspiracy to commit buggery.

Ernest Whittington a council estate orderly, of Harlesden, North London, was jailed for six years for conspiracy to commit indecent assault and three counts of buggery.

Operation Hedgerow was reported to have resulted in the jailing of 14 men.

In November 1994, Nick Davies commented in the Guardian about the investigation:

When the inquiry closed, the two detectives John Lewis and Roger Gaspar, produced an internal paper. It was entitled “People not Property” and it argued the case for setting up a central, pro-active unit to dig out evidence of child pornography and abuse. They pointed out that Scotland Yard’s specialist squads were devoted to protecting property – arts and antiques, cheques, counterfeit currency, stolen cars, frauds, robberies, burglaries. They wanted a squad that protected young people. They said they could gather intelligence by visiting runaway children who had returned home, or victims of abuse who had had time to recover, or convicted paedophiles who were serving sentences. Once they had the intelligence, they could target the suspects.

They presented their paper to the Association of Chief Police Officers and to the men who were then in charge of serious crime at Scotland Yard, but nothing came of it. As if to add insult to injury, Detective Chief Superintendent Gaspar was put in charge of stolen cars.

More recently, The Independent (3rd March 2013), commented on Operation Hedgerow:
Reports at the time said the ring “was used by highly placed civil servants and well-known public figures”, but police didn’t have “the evidence or manpower to pursue them in court”. The investigation led them to conclude that “we have only scraped the surface of the paedophile menace in Britain”.

Roger Gaspar, a former detective inspector who was part of the Hedgerow team, confirmed that Grafton Close children’s home featured in their investigation. It was remarked that Peters, then aged 43, a barrister and tax adviser, was seen as “a key figure in the ring”. ‘Detectives said the abuse spanned a five-year period and the charges were only specimens – meaning that the abuse was much wider than documented in court.’

He added: “There were suggestions that boys were taken to Amsterdam, but we did not have time to investigate. It was a year-long investigation and Amsterdam was one of a number of leads. We just didn’t have time to look at it in detail.”

Operation Hedgerow ran until 1989 but despite its success, it seems that there were many unexplored connections.


Filed under Abuse, Police Operations

Operation Orchid (Aug ’89 – Oct ’92)

The second of our posts on Police Operations features Operation Orchid.

Police Op Orchid
Operation Stranger had resulted in the trial and conviction of four men; Sidney Cooke, Stephen Barrell, Robert Oliver and Leslie Bailey for the killing of Jason Swift.

Operation Orchid, which followed in August 1989, was connected to the Jason Swift murder in that no one had yet been brought to justice for the murders of other missing boys, including Barry Lewis and Mark Tildesley. Police believed these cases were all connected, and that the killers were likely to be the same men.  Operation Orchid eventually resulted in the conviction of Leslie Bailey for the killing of both Barry Lewis and Mark Tildesley.

Operation Orchid (August 1989 – October 1992) investigated the disappearance of boys during the 1980’s. It was instigated after Leslie Bailey’s cell mate, Ian Gabb, told the police about Bailey’s further confessions in prison.

Operation Orchid was led by Detective Chief Superintendent Roger Stoodley and Detective Chief Inspector David Easy. The Police team initially included DI Bob Brown (from the Alan Brent and Jason killers inquiries), and many of his original colleagues. When Bob Brown later moved, he was replaced by D.S Richard Langley, who continued to develop the rapport with Gabb. One name that repeatedly came up was that of Lennie Smith.

Lennie Smith had been strongly implicated in the Jason Swift murder.  However, at the time, charges were dropped against him. The Orchid team started to keep him under close surveillance.

He was eventually arrested at a public toilet, where he had indecently assaulted a child, and was sentenced to three years.

Ian Gabb had become a key contributor to the ‘Operation Orchid’ team in that he was placed as a cell-mate with three of Jason Swift’s killers. He had offered to help the police because he was revolted by their crimes, and he asked for no special favours in return. In fact, he even offered to prolong his stay in prison in order to gain more information. Firstly, he shared a cell with Bailey, then Oliver, and finally with Cooke.

After he shared a cell with Sydney Cooke, he wrote to the police:

“Dear Richard, I moved in with Sidney Cooke yesterday afternoon. Please God, don’t ever let this man walk our streets again. He continually talks about sex with children. Its really sickening. I can tell you that there are probably 25 to 30 dead children buried out there. Cooke has already admitted to me that he’s seen about 15 killed. He boasts of this figure. All that I write is the truth. The only part that is missing is the creeping feeling of evil I get while listening to Cooke tell me of these events. I cannot relate the fear I feel for children everywhere that I feel while this man Cooke laughs and squeals in delight as he tells me of the things he has done and the things he intends to do in the future.”

Gabb’s information was very detailed and included maps drawn by Bailey of where some of the bodies were buried.

In 1990, 28th May, the police publicly started a search for the bodies of four boys in a car park adjacent to Clapton synagogue. Although no bodies were found, it was later reported that the police found evidence that a body had been there, but then moved to another location.

In July, 1990,Scotland Yard disclosed that detectives were investigating the disappearance of boys over a six-year period, as well as deaths during the making of films in London dating back to 1984.

That same month in 1990, Leslie Bailey confessed to his involvement in the death in 1985 of Barry Lewis, aged 6, and he was charged with his murder.

Bailey was convicted in June 1991 for killing of Barry Lewis aged 6 yrs
He was sentenced to life imprisonment for Barry’s murder on June 14, 1991. He was already serving 15 years for his part in the death of Jason Swift, who was killed in the same flat.

At the time, Detective Chief Superintendent Roger Stoodley, who led Operation Orchid, said four other men were questioned in the Barry Lewis inquiry. He spoke of two paedophile rings in east London and Kent, and said on television: “My information at the moment is that nine boys have been murdered in cases of child sex abuse.”

When Bailey was also questioned about Mark Tildesley, the 7 year old who disappeared whilst visiting a fair in Wokingham, he admitted his involvement, and was charged with his murder.

Police were confident that both Cooke and Smith were deeply implicated in both the murders of Barry Lewis and Mark Tildesley and that they would be able to press charges against them. 

Ironically, however, the confessions from Bailey had led to appeals by the other three who were convicted at the Jason Swift murder trial.

The appeal judge took the view that Leslie Baily was the ringleader, and therefore reduced the sentences for Cooke from 19 years to 16 years, and for Barrell from 13.5 years to 10 years. Oliver (who had changed his name to Cooke) has his appeal dismissed.

The Police, who had been expecting both Cooke and Lennie Smith to be prosecuted, were disappointed when the Crown Prosecution Service announced: “There have been suspects considered where we have decided there is insufficient evidence.”

Only Leslie Bailey stood trial in 1992 for the murder of Mark Tildesley.

John Nutting, for the prosecution, unusually, named others who had not been charged with the murder, and gave the court a harrowing account of Mark’s last hours:

“On June 30, 1984, he had asked his father for permission to visit the fair. That day Bailey and his lover, Lennie Smith, had driven from London to Wokingham to visit a friend who had a caravan parked close to the fairground. The journey was a prelude to Bailey’s induction to the paeodophile ring, Mr Nutting said. Once at the fairground, Smith left Bailey to find his friend, Sidney Cooke. Some minutes later he returned with Cooke, who was holding a small boy by the hand. The child appeared to be dragging back and unwilling to be led, Mr Nutting said. The men took Mark to Cooke’s caravan where the child was forced to drink drugged milk and then subjected to multiple rape.
Smith and Bailey held Mark as each assaulted him. Bailey began to panic when the boy showed no sign of life but Cooke reassured the men by saying he would take him home.”

(A later press report from 1998 suggested that there was a fourth man, “Oddbod”, present).

Bailey was convicted 23rd October 1992 for the manslaughter and buggery of Mark Tildesley, aged 7 yrs

After the trial, Detective Supt Mick Short, the Thames Valley officer who led the inquiry, said papers on two men had been sent to the director of public prosecutions a year ago,and he had believed there was ample evidence to put those people before the court.

Mick Short added: “As far as Leslie Bailey is concerned, I don’t believe that he is the most wicked of the people that killed mark, in fact in many respects he was the least guilty. The other men I believe are evil, and I am certain they will come out of prison. And when they come out I am convinced they will kill again”.

That same month, October 1992, Operation Orchid, was wound down, and lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service decided there should be no further action against anyone for the murder of Mark Tildesley, 7, or the deaths of Barry Lewis, 6, and Jason Swift, 14.

Det Chief Supt Roger Stoodley, who led the operation retired earlier that month.
Subsequently, he said on BBC Crimewatch programme;

“Young boys were being carried out of flats on the Kingsmeade estate in Hackney, with anybody apparently noticing, or phoning the police, or in any way caring about what had occurred”.
“Its a very worrying situation”.

Operation Orchid resulted in Leslie Bailey’s conviction for the murders of both Mark Tildesley, 7, and Barry Lewis, 6. Lennie Smith was convicted for three years for indecent assault on a child.

Despite being implicated, neither Cooke nor Smith were convicted for involvement in the two young boy’s murders.

Leslie Bailey was strangled in his cell in Whitemore Prison on 7th October 1993. Two inmates were charged with his murder.
Lennie Smith was sentenced to 10 years in 1992 for the buggery of a 6-year old boy. He died of aids in 2006.
Sidney Cooke was released  from prison in April 1998.  In January 1999, Cooke, 72, was re-arrested and was given two life sentences at Wolverhampton Crown Court for a series of sexual assaults on two young brothers committed more than two decades ago.


Filed under Abuse, Police Operations

Operation Stranger (Jan ’86 – ’89?)


We’ve been trying to untangle the police operations, the networks they connected, and piece together a chronology. The results so far have surprised us. We’ll make the connections later.

This is our first one, Operation Stranger (and its strands).

(Sources include ‘Lambs to the Slaughter’ by Ted Oliver and press reports, which may contain inaccuracies and contradictions, so we’d welcome input to help us refine any omissions or errors).

OPERATION STRANGER (January ‘86 – ‘89?)
This was joint Essex and the Met forces investigation into the deaths of Jason Swift and Barry Lewis. We believe three ‘strands’ are connected directly, or indirectly, to this operation;

1.      The ‘Dirty Dozen’ Paedophile ring (Feb ‘86 – Jun ‘87)
2.      The Alan Brent (baby-sitting) ring (Apr ‘87 – Mar ’88)
3.      The ‘Jason Swift murder’ Hackney ring (Jun ’87 – May ’89)

Operation Stranger was set up on 17th January 1986, as a secret operation between Essex police and the Metropolitan Police who were investigating the murders in 1985  of Barry Lewis, age 6,  and Jason Swift, age 14.  Detectives had been informed that both children had been drugged prior to their deaths but decided this should not yet be made public so as not to alert potential suspects.  (The operation was joint because Jason’s body had been found outside the Met boundary, in Essex.)

Commander Corbett, head of C11, the Met’s Criminal Intelligence Unit was appointed to co-ordinate Operation Stranger.

Operation Stranger was made public on 16th April 1986 when Commander Corbett, Detective Chief Superintendent Bill Hatfull from the Met, and Detective Superintendent James Kenneally from Essex, held a press conference at New Scotland Yard.

A key purpose of going public was to try to track down the man who had been seen carrying a child the day after Barry Lewis disappeared. The man had been driving a red Talbot Horizon, and photo-fits of the man were released.  It was the first time the murders of Barry Lewis and Jason Swift were officially linked, and nine similarities between their deaths were announced.

National Conference
Five days after the announcement of Operation Stranger, a national police conference was held in London to discuss child killings and abductions. Three boys in particular attracted the interest of the Stranger team. These were Mark Tildesley, Vishal Mehrotra (who vanished from Putney High Street on Royal Wedding day in 1981 and whose body was discovered in Surrey) and a six year old from Brighton who had been the victim of a vicious homosexual attack in a car in August 1983.

At the conference, a chief superintendent from Cleveland asked if anyone had information on an organisation called ‘Interchain’. This was a world-wide circle of homosexual paedophiles with its main centres in Switzerland and New York. These men exchanged information on their mostly violent perversions and fantasies about young boys. An investigation later showed that there were 142 British members of Interchain. All were traced and 15 were found to have convictions for offences against boys. Two of them were interviewed about the murders of Jason Swift and Barry Lewis, but never arrested.

The Operation Stranger investigations into Jason Swift & Barry Lewis resulted in conviction of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ gang, and led to four convictions for the killing of Jason Swift.

THE ‘DIRTY DOZEN’ (Feb’86 – Jun’87)

Hackney police raided a flat on the Kingsmeade Estate in November 1985 after a report that a 13 year old was being abused there, but failed to find the child who was hidden there.  Essex police later picked up this information and visited the flat to question the occupants, Lennie Smith and Robert Oliver, about Jason’s death. Both men had previous convictions for offences against young boys.

In February 1986, Essex detectives found the same 13 year old boy by chance when they raided a house in Croydon as they made inquiries into Jason’s murder.

They rescued him from the gang and sparked off a massive investigation. Two of the first names supplied by the boy were Lennie Smith and Sidney Cooke. Both men had had brutal sex with him. Within days, Smith and Cooke were arrested and charged and remanded to Brixton Prison to await trial.

In June 1987, twelve men from this paedophile network who had preyed on runaway boys were convicted. Crown prosecutor Mr John Sevan told the court that, between January 1984 and January 1986, the defendants procured and corrupted boys who had run away from home or from council care. Boys were ‘hawked about’ all over London, staying for a week or two at the homes of different men who passed them on when they tired of them. To keep one step ahead of police, social workers or parents, the men hid the boys.

This network became known as the ‘Dirty Dozen’.

Walter Ballantyne, 46; a stallholder at Dalston Market, was one of the ringleaders of the network, he was given 6 years 3 months
Leonard William Smith, 31, was sentenced to 30 months;
Sidney Charles Cooke, 59, remanded for bail reports / got 2 years *
Simon Haeems, 35, was sentenced to 2 years
Colin Byrne, 18, was sentenced to 1 year probation
Daniel Paine, 33, was sentenced to 2 years;
Roy Alan Morris, 26, was sentenced to 30 months,
Alfred Goddard, 58, was sentenced to 2 years;
John Thornton, 36, was sentenced to 8 years (thought to be leader of the Croydon group);
John Stead, 23, was sentenced to 5 years;
Edward Talbot, 47, was sentenced to 1 year;
Brian Turner, was sentenced to 5 years

* ‘Lambs to the Slaughter’ by Ted Oliver and Ramsay Smith, 1993 reported that Cooke got 2 years for buggery of the boy that Lennie Smith also abused.

THE ‘BRENT INQUIRY’  (Alan Brent’s Baby-Sitting Network)

By the early part of early 1987, new leads relating to the Operation Stranger inquiry into Jason Swift and Barry Lewis were drying up, and the number of detectives working on the case had been reduced.

On Good Friday 1987, the Hackney crime squad investigated a complaint that a four year old local child had been abused by the family baby-sitter. Later that night, an anonymous telephone call to Hackney police led them to an address where they arrested Alan Brent, a 46 year old council cleansing department worker. Brent admitted he had molested the child and had convictions for similar offences dating back twenty years. It became apparent that the assault was not an isolated incident and, over the years, other members of the family had been subjected to abuse.

DI Bob Brown decided to form a squad to undertake ‘The Brent Inquiry’ which uncovered a catalogue of abuse against members of families that Alan Brent and his gang had been baby-sitting for. These men, who were linked to other groups, including the ‘Dirty Dozen’, wormed their way into the confidence of working-class families with the sole purpose of abusing their children. For years, young victims were passed from man to man and from group to group.

On the 26th June 1987 three men including a 72-year-old pensioner were remanded in custody on child sex charges by Old Street Magistrates Court.
Alan John Brent, 46, also known as John Alan Spicer and Andrew Spicer
Roy Becker, 72
Bryan Owen, 62
Brent and Owen were remanded in prison custody until July 8, while Becker was remanded in police custody.

In March 1988, the Brent Inquiry reached its conclusion at the Old Bailey. Alan Brent pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault on young boys and was jailed for five years. Four other men were given prison sentences ranging from 18 months to two and a half years.


As the Brent Inquiry widened, Hackney police realised the prospect of a link with Jason Swift’s murder grew.  DI Brown instructed the team to question every suspect in the Brent Inquiry about Jason Swift and he supplied them all with photographs of the murdered boy.

They were correct.  A key witness emerged who was 21 and one of the older members of the original family corrupted by Brent. He had been abused for years by the gang and gave a detailed history of how Alan Brent and others had systematically corrupted him, his two younger brothers and other male relatives. He spoke of meeting a boy called Jason in Holt’s shoe shop, a well-known homosexual haunt in Hackney, and identified Jason Swift from a school photograph. He told the police that Jason had been sent to a flat belonging to Robert Oliver on the Kingsmeade Estate.

On Wednesday 24th June, a 16 year old boy told the Brent team that he, too, had been indecently assaulted by Robert Oliver. The detectives tracked Oliver down to a flat occupied by Leslie Bailey’s mother and he was arrested. Leslie Bailey was in the house at the time in a room he shared with Oliver.

Under questioning, Oliver admitted he knew about the death of Jason Swift and that he had met him several times, first through Lennie Smith and Sidney Cooke. Essex police were informed of this development – in their own inquiry into Jason’s death they had 32 lines of enquiry left to deal with. On that list were the names of Sidney Cooke and Lennie Smith.

Oliver’s previous lodgings were searched by police and three prescription bottles of dimazepam were discovered, the tranquiliser found in the bodies of Jason Swift and Barry Lewis.

Detectives were sure he was involved in Jason’s murder, but his account was unconvincing, and there was not enough to charge him with murder. On Friday 26th June he was charged with indecently assaulting Jason, and with two other offences in relation to the Brent Inquiry.

The Hackney Gazette reported on 19 June 1987 and 26th June 1987, that the police might be close to identifying Jason’s killers, linking a Hackney paedophile ring with some of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ convictions, and claiming that 6 charges had already been made, with more expected.

Det Inspector Bob Brown, of Hackney CID, said: “There are certainly common factors between the investigations into child sex activities and those into the murder of Jason Swift.

On 27th June, 1987 the Times reported that a man, who has not been charged, was being quizzed over the killing of Jason Swift and Barry Lewis. Also, that during their inquiries police uncovered a network of alleged child molesters, based in a shop in Mare Street, Hackney, and that six men had already been charged with offences of gross indecency against a number of children aged between five and 15. The Times later reported that a 3rd man, Donald Smith, aged 62, a chef, of Hackney was due in court accused of the murder two years previously of Jason Swift.

Oliver appeared at Old Street Magistrates’ Court on Monday 29th June 1987 and was remanded in custody. A month later, police realised a definitive account of Jason’s murder was eluding them and decided to interview ‘that bloke he was sharing a room with’. Leslie Bailey was found and driven from his flat to the police station, the last ten minutes of freedom in his life. Bailey gave the police a horrific confession, a substantially true account of Jason’s murder and an uncannily accurate account of where the body had been dumped.

On 15th February 1988, committal proceedings against Leslie Bailey, Sidney Cooke, Lennie Smith, Robert Oliver, Steven Barrell and Donald Smith began at Lambeth Magistrates’ Court.

The Jury was sworn in on 20th Feb 1989 for the trial. Leslie Bailey, aged 35, and Robert Oliver, aged 34, both of Hackney, east London, pleaded not guilty to murder.
Sidney Cooke, aged 61, of Homerton, Donald Smith, aged 64, of Hackney, and Stephen Barrell, aged 29, of Dagenham, Essex, denied manslaughter.  All denied sexual charges.

The Times reported on 16th March 1989, that ‘ no evidence was offered against Donald Smith, aged 64, of Ashmead House, Kingsmead estate, the alleged scene of the killing, who was discharged after denying manslaughter, indecent assault and perverting justice.’

The court also heard that Sidney Cooke had made 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.” Cooke also claimed he was powerless to stop the killing.

All four men were found guilty of manslaughter on 12th May 1989. It was revealed that ‘A well-organised and financed group of paedophiles operating in east London, which has international links, is believed to have recruited at least 60 boys into their ring. From their headquarters, a shoe shop in Hackney, they produced manuals on how to entice and gain the trust of youngsters before seducing them.’

The sentences were delivered on 15th May 1989.
Sidney Cooke 62 of Kingsmead Estate, Hackney, was sentenced to 19 years.
Leslie Bailey, aged 35, and
Robert Oliver, aged 34, both of Frampton Park Estate, Hackney, were sentenced to 15 years each
Stephen Barrell, 28, of Arnold Road, Dagenham, Essex, was sentenced to 13 1/2 years.

In August 1989, police Operation Orchid was established, to further investigate boys missing in the 1980’s.

Related Videos;
Operation Stranger (Wolf Pack)
Crimewatch Reconstruction – The Lost Boys.
(Part 1 – Operation Stranger; Part 2 – Operation Orchid)


Filed under Abuse, Police Operations