Can the Independent Child Sex Abuse Inquiry really properly investigate Elm Guest House?

Elm-Guest-House

The former Elm Guest House in Barnes, south west London, now a respectable residential property

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

The news that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is to investigate events  surrounding Elm Guest House in the London borough of Richmond is to be welcomed. But I have serious doubts whether the inquiry will have the time and space to properly investigate.

The item is one of a number sandwiched into three weeks of hearings under the Westminster  strand of the inquiry and Alexis Jay, the chair made it clear ,last month there is no intention to make any of the investigations exhaustive.

As she said:”It is important that everyone, including the public, understands that this is not, and has never intended to be, an exhaustive examination of  all Westminster-related child sexual abuse issues. Even focusing on institutional issues, a comprehensive
examination of all the allegations that have been made, and all the questions that have been raised, particular on the internet, would involve hearings lasting months, if not years.”

So what will this brief cover. Again  according to her statement it will be limited:

“Another category of these investigations concerns allegations relating to Elm Guest House. Those allegations include possible misconduct on the part of the Metropolitan Police in the way in which investigations into goings on at Elm Guest House were conducted, and also allegations that the fruits of those investigations were covered up.

“The latter allegations include the well-known allegation that evidence relating to Leon Brittan’s presence at and/or involvement with  Elm Guest House was suppressed. We propose to call some more detailed evidence relating to these cases at the hearings next year.”

So even the remit looking at Elm Guest House will be confined.

I got involved in reporting this after a source  who was neither a  child sex abuse survivor nor a politician, stumbled across it during an unrelated dispute. The source had also discovered – and I have never had time  to investigate this – allegations of elder abuse at a home in Richmond. Until then as a journalist I had never investigated any cases of alleged child sexual abuse.

What followed was a whirlwind of allegations, some involving national politicians, others pointing to a lack of duty of  care for children by Richmond Council at Grafton Close children’s home, a muddled police investigation, and a series of  very disturbing stories from people  who were children at the home at the time.

Father Anthony McSweeney

Father Anthony McSweeney; Pic Credit: BBC

It ended with the successful prosecution of  a well connected Roman Catholic priest, Father Tony McSweeney and charges against the former deputy manager of the children’s home., John Stingemore.  McSweeney was sentenced to three years in gaol, Stingemore died a fortnight before he was due to appear before Southwark Crown Court.

Unlike Operation Midland the Met Police  investigation did produce results. In McSweeney’s case it forced the Roman Catholic Church to commission a report into what went wrong when it was revealed that the paedophile priest was caught some 30 years later with a file of indecent pictures on his computer while playing a major pastoral role with young boys and men in Norwich scouts, boxing clubs and with the Norwich City Football youth team.

While the evidence about any connection between Elm Guest House and Grafton Close was never tested in court because of Stingemore’s death the trial did reveal that both McSweeney accompanied  by Stingemore took boys away from the home without permission for weekends at a flat in Bexhill. They were present where various alleged sexual assaults took place. If Stingemore had been convicted, the jury would have found out that soon after leaving Richmond, and working for another authority he was arrested and convicted of child sexual abuse.

All this suggested that Richmond Council was seriously amiss in looking after children in its care and that both elected councillors and officials should have known what was  going on. But it looks that the inquiry would not look at this aspect, allowing the council to be let off the hook.

As serious as this is when Elm Guest House was raided by the police, Grafton Close was designated as a place of safety for any children that might be found there. Effectively the police  unwittingly were sending children to an establishment run by a paedophile with a paedophile friend who regularly visited it.And by alerting Grafton Close in advance if there was a connection with Elm Guest House, the establishment would have got a tip off about the raid.

As for the place itself  it seems like many hotels that welcomed gay guests in late 1970s and early 1980s, tolerated both consenting gay adults staying overnight and possibly paedophiles. The fact is unlike today homosexuality was viewed as a closet activity, driving both adults and paedophiles to the same venues. The situation is reflected in hotels used as gay haunts in North Wales at the same time.

As for VIPs and a police cover up  at Elm Guest House the inquiry will have its work cut out. Perhaps they can throw light on the Metropolitan Police’s reply to Channel Four Dispatches that Sir Cyril Smith visited the venue. As for Leon Brittan, the identification that he is alleged to have visited the venue come not from survivors or any list compiled by anybody but from enraged residents of this posh Barnes road. They say they spotted  both him  and at other times boys getting out of cars late at night and were fed up with this sort of traffic in a respectable neighbourhood.

 

 

Exclusive: How newly found “destroyed” papers revive the mystery of the notorious gay and paedophile Elm Guest House

Elm-Guest-House

Elm Guest House: Run jointly by Carole Kasir

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

UPDATE: Since this article was published a fresh source has come forward to my colleague Mark Conrad, who also wrote about Elm Guest House, showing that Carol Kasir was born Carol Linda Jones in the West Riding of Yorkshire on 4 July 1942 and was never born in Germany. She and her family grew up in south London. Carol moved to the USA with her mother when she was a teenager, but did not like the States and soon returned.There is no direct family link to the name Weichmann – Carol’s relatives think she made up the name, or adopted it to cover her background, before she married Harry. Harry would have thought her maiden name was Weichmann as it was declared on her marriage certificate.

Coroner’s papers covering the controversial inquest of Carole Kasir, the madam who ran with her husband, the notorious Elm Guest House in Barnes, south London. have been discovered after the police said they had been destroyed

They revive the whole business of whether the venue for consenting gay adults was  used as a haunt for paedophiles. I have written  today with Keir Mudie, the Mirror’s deputy political editor, an article about it in the Sunday People and it is also on the Mirror website here.

The verdict by the Hammersmith coroner way back in 1990 was that she committed suicide – and given two suicide notes were found – so it should have been a slam dunk case.

But other people who gave evidence thought she might have been killed because she was alleged to have kept records and photographs of some of the visitors who came there – one of whom the Met police confirmed was Sir Cyril Smith, whom even the biggest naysayers about VIP paedophilia, would have difficulty today making a case that he was innocent.

What is extraordinary is that the Met Police did a recent investigation – Operation Fernbridge-  into Elm Guest House  and a Richmond Council children’s home Grafton Close – that led to the conviction of a Roman Catholic priest Tony McSweeney and the arrest and charging of the deputy manager of the home, John Stingmore on child sexual abuse. Yet they told an MP Tom Watson, now Labour’s deputy leader, who raised questions about the case, that all the papers relating to Kasir at the inquest had been destroyed.

kasir inquest

The covering page of the” destroyed” inquest document

That is plainly not the case as these redacted documents show. I understand that more recently the police may have checked back though there is no evidence that they are re-opening the Richmond investigation.

McSweeney was not charged with anything about Elm Guest House only in connection with the children’s home and abuse at Stingemore’s flat in Bexhill. Stingemore was charged with one count involving Elm Guest House but he died just before the case was due to come to court. So it was never tested in court.

What the documents do show illustrates how difficult it is to investigate historical child sexual abuse and the mass of contradictions -surrounding the story.

They even go down to Carole Kasir’s name  in the document. The official record gives her name as Weichman and born on 4 July 1942 in Germany. Her marriage certificate I have  recently learnt has Weichman as her father and her estranged husband at the time  said her name was Weichman. But a close relative  who should know said her maiden name was Carole Anne Jones and she was born in London.

The documents also raise questions about her suicide and here even the accounts are contradictory. Her GP, David Walker, who she had been a patient at his practice for 14 years, reveals she did have a history earlier of suicide, was diabetic and had a drink problem. But he concludes that she was NOT the type of person he expected to commit suicide.

The toxicology report from New Cross Hospital confirms she died from hypoglycemia and an overdose of insulin. But the examination did not bother to check the syringes or phials or the contents of her stomach. No alcohol was discovered.

But the most contentious  and sensational evidence came from other witnesesses One insisted that he had seen a pile of photographs of prominent people and documents naming which VIPs came there  at her home and another claimed she was being pursued by the security services and the police.

One piece of evidence from the inquest  does chime with the Metropolitan Police’s answer to Channel 4 Dispatches  is the involvement of Sir Cyril Smith. The detailed evidence to the inquest included a story that the overweight MP broke her toilet and wouldn’t pay for the repair which added a further dispute. between him and her.

The inquest also took evidence from Richmond Council  where Mr Jeffries, director of social services, admitted that Stingemore was a paedophile convicted in 1983 -a year after he left Richmond Council.

But Terry Earland, the head of children’s services, suspected that boys were being taken to Elm Guest House from Grafton Close earlier under Stingemore’s care. This appeared not to be taken up by the then director of social services, Louis Minster who  then suddenly resigned from the council.

Now you might say as many naysayers do, why should we be bothered. It is all in the past and we should move on. But I bet none of these people have looked into the eyes of people who have been abused and seen the havoc and destruction they have faced years after the event. They would prefer to just call them fantasists and say none of this probably happened anyway.

That is why we have an independent inquiry at the moment looking into historic child sexual abuse and certainly looking at the evidence it has already dredged out of  the sexual abuse of children at Knowl View School in Rochdale by Cyril Smith there was a cover up as well as abuse.

That is why painstakingly we need to get the nearest we can to the truth and pretending document’s don’t exist is not a way to get there.

 

 

 

 

 

How a Roman Catholic paedophile priest who mixed with celebs nearly escaped justice

Father Anthony McSweeney

Father Anthony McSweeney; Nearly escaped justice Pic Credit: BBC

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

One of the successes of the Met Police investigation into the notorious Elm Guest House in Barnes was the arrest and conviction of a Roman Catholic priest Anthony McSweeney who was jailed for three years  in 2015 for sexually abusing a teenager and making indecent images of children.

The inquiry into Elm Guest House led the police to focus on a Richmond  Council children’s home – long since closed – called Grafton Close which at the time was run by a friend of the priest, John Stingemore, who would have been tried alongside him at Southwark Crown Court if he had not died just before the trial.

The allegation that boys were taken by Stingemore to Elm Guest House were never tested in court – though the CPS agreed a charge should be made – because of Stingemore’s death.

But the court heard that McSweeney and Stingemore did take boys away to a flat in Bexhill on sea where they were sexually assaulted. And when McSweeney was arrested   pornographic pictures of children were found on his computer.

Until then Anthony McSweeney had escaped his crimes that took place between 1979 to 1981 and if it had not been for Operation Fernbridge he would still be a popular priest a director of a  Catholic school in Norwich, helping with Norwich City  football youth team and local boxing clubs.

He  was held in high esteem and mixed with some of the great and good. He married the boxer, Frank Bruno and Delia Smith, the celebrity cook and supporter of Norwich City, once asked to arrange a special football service for the club.

But his secret activities could have been stopped nearly 20 years earlier when it was discovered while he was working as a priest in Harlow and Leigh on Sea, Essex, that had a stash of pornographic videos. His cleaner discovered his stash of sex toys, truncheons and pornographic videos at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Instead in 1998 the Roman Catholic Church quietly transfered him to another parish, St George’s church in Norwich.

Now an independent review undertaken by the Dioceses of East Anglia and Brentwood in the wake of his conviction has revealed serious lapses in the whole way the Church handled the discovery in 1998.

In a statement the two dioceses say:

 The Church should have taken more robust action following the discovery of video tapes in 1998, later referred to in Anthony McSweeney’s trial, and should have ensured that the matter was reported to the police so that a full investigation could have taken place.

 Local priests and parishioners were not adequately supported, their concerns were not taken sufficiently seriously, nor acted upon diligently;

 Anthony McSweeney’s subsequent transfer to East Anglia, as outlined above, was poorly managed, lacked insight and was not adequately documented.

The Church defends it behaviour by saying:

“At the time of these events awareness of the need for child protection was in its infancy. The national safeguarding procedures and processes put in place since 2001 would now ensure that such a matter would immediately be passed on to the police, via the Safeguarding Coordinator. Now over 95% of parishes have at least one Safeguarding Representative whose task it is to ensure that the concerns of the local clergy and parishioners are taken seriously, and to refer those concerns to the Diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator.”

However it is clear that the review is not satisfied even today as it recommends the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service, and the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission:

 To review and clarify the existing policy about priests transferring from one diocese to another to ensure consistency and transparency in the process in all the dioceses in England and Wales, and in particular, to ensure that any issues to do with safeguarding are resolved before any such move can take place;

 To issue clear guidelines for managing cases potentially involving indecent images;

 To review the existing “whistleblowing” policy

The Church is refusing to publish the report or even name the author who prepared it on the grounds it was an ” internal report”.

Yet it highlights one of the major perennial problems in tackling child sexual abuse – the decision by authorities to sweep scandals under the carpet – and quietly transfer the person to a new post elsewhere. Not only is this irresponsible but its is dangerous as it puts more children at risk just to preserve the reputation of the organisation.

This a good case  to be referred to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – either under its Roman Catholic investigation – or the part of the inquiry that will examine safeguarding. Alexis Jay, the chair, should seek out this report as it will help explain in detail what went wrong here and how it can be tackled in future. Otherwise valuable lessons could be missed and the Roman Catholic church will once again have to be taken on trust that it doing the right thing.

 

 

Why let your good smear campaign be spoiled with the facts, David Aaronovitch

David Aaronovitch: Abuse Conspiracies at Westminster? Image Credit: BBC

David Aaronovitch: Abuse Conspiracies at Westminster? Image Credit: BBC

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

As the author of Voodoo Histories David Aaronovitch is an expert on modern conspiracy theories. So it is not perhaps surprising that he would treat a story about a  historic Westminster paedophile ring involving VIPs as the latest manifestation of mad conspiracy theorists fuelled by deluded people.

This month he published a detailed article in The Times (behind pay wall) saying the whole VIP paedophile ring scandal at Elm Guest House was in effect one of these fantasies. He said the story had been ” largely created and reiterated by a  former Labour councillor and convicted fraudster,Chris Fay”.

He accused me of spreading this  incredible story ” that I always wanted the public to know”. He concluded  by asking journalists like me ” Why am I doing this? And am I sure I’ve got this right.”

This is my answer to why David Aaronvitch has got this wrong. First it is not true that Chris Fay, who worked for an organisation helping children in care, is my sole source. He should know me better that that. I never rely on sole sources. Nor do I rely or refer to this list of VIPs – which appears to be notes from the  wife of the Elm Guest House’s long dead owner, Carol Kasir. I know it is not accurate. I have  seen part of the log of who stayed at this guest house which , of course, tells you nothing because people booked in under pseudonyms.

Second even Chris Fay does not claim the list is accurate.. Indeed in an article on The Needleblog he says almost the opposite saying he compiled a list of victims who claimed they had been abused at the Elm Guest House not abusers.He rightly casts doubt on that list – saying they may have been guests not abusers of children. Given that in 1982 it was not as acceptable as it is now for people to be gay, this is hardly surprising since people also used Elm Guest House as a rare haven for consenting adults to meet each other as well as paedophile activity.

So what is the evidence? There are two separate sources. First my original source – not Chris Fay – who a colleague met – was a former local government officer on Richmond Council. It was he who led me to investigate why Elm Guest House was raided in the first place in 1982.

It wasn’t complaints from survivors but the residents who lived on this smart Barnes street. They were fed up with people coming at all hours, seeing children going into the guest house, and having posh chauffeur driven cars drawing up there. Most ordinary people do not have large posh cars or chauffeurs at their beck and call. It was one of the then residents who identified Leon Brittan not a survivor. Separately in answer to a direct question from a Dispatches investigation, the police confirmed that Sir Cyril Smith visited Elm Guest House and contrary to reports,have not withdrawn it.

The second stream of sources came from either people who stayed at Grafton Close children’s home or were other former staff on Richmond Council who had responsibility for the home. Here the main allegation was that children were taken there and abused at Elm Guest House and elsewhere. Not everybody was, One was rescued  from that fate by a vigilant social worker.

It is a FACT that there was abuse at Elm Guest House. Why? Because one child was taken from Elm Guest House by Richmond Council  to Grafton Close was given a medical examination which revealed horrific abuse. This is confirmed by two former senior officials from the council and the Met Police may have the medical file. The person has long since left the country, has a new life abroad, and has decided in view of the furore over this, not to testify.

Also if John Stingemore, the former deputy manager of Grafton Close, had lived to face trial at Southwark Crown Court, he would have faced a conspiracy to commit buggery charge, which was linked to taking children to Elm Guest House. His friend, Father Tony McSweeney, was convicted  and sent to jail for three years. Evidence was given that showed children were taken by Stingemore and McSweeney from the home to Bexhill and abused,without their parents knowledge.

And Stingemore, it would have emerged, was a convicted paedophile , having sexually assaulted Peter Bornshin, another resident of Grafton Close  said to have been taken to Elm Guest House.  Richmond Council  paid him compensation. He later committed suicide.

Finally it will be a little premature to assume that the Elm Guest House investigation is over.It is not. There are links to the Operation Midland investigation and there are a number of unfinished leads. But that would be tantamount to speculating on a current police investigation.

Am I right to pursue this? Yes. I don’t have the certainty that commentators like David Aaronovitch to make a polemical point. But I am still certain enough that something went very wrong in the London borough of Richmond at that time and it could still be linked to other inquiries in Westminster.

Child sex abuse: Investigators announce a game change decision

The announcement by the Independent Police Complaints Commission that it is to investigate  cover ups  inside the Metropolitan Police on historical child sexual abuse inquiries is  game changing. It means not only are the Met Police convinced that evidence from survivors of a powerful paedophile ring that may have operated in Westminster and Whitehall needs investigating and people prosecuted but the Met Police conduct at the time needs to be held to account

The full statement on the IPCC  site lists no fewer than 14 allegations to be investigated going back to the 1970s. and 1980s to the early 2000s. You can read them in the release.

As the IPCC Deputy Chair Sarah Green said:

“These allegations are of historic, high level corruption of the most serious nature.

“We will oversee the investigations and ensure that they meet the terms of reference that we will set. Allegations of this nature are of grave concern and I would like to reassure people of our absolute commitment to ensuring that the investigations are thorough and robust.”

The press release names Dolphin Square as one of the venues of the ring  and also South London – linking possible venues like Elm Guest House in Barnes  and Lambeth. It covers a number of investigations by exaro and disclosures on a closed website that  former Met  police officers working on these cases believed they had been stopped from pursuing important people.

Survivors and victims should at last be pleased that they are being taken seriously and must hope that this will really be a thorough detailed investigation that will not shy away from finding out who in the Met agreed or was told to close down such investigations .

However a word of warning it is to be – as the Danny Shaw, the BBC’s home affairs correspondent points out –  a ” managed ” inquiry – meaning that the Met police’s own Professional Standards Body will carry out the investigation into the Met police. They will be overseen by the IPCC which is hit by not having enough resources due to the austerity measures.

In some ways this investigation parallels the equally appalling murder of Daniel Morgan – current the subject of an independent panel inquiry into  the murder of the private investigator. The evidence from the Met Police finally handed over late last year should also open up inquiries into why leading figures in the Met never got a successful prosecution.

What can be said now is that these lurid allegations against MPs, senior Cabinet ministers, spies and the various churches- which some commentators believe must be false – have to be taken seriously and cannot just be ignored.

The investigation I hope will go some way to restore trust in the police to conduct such inquiries in the future and also show those who thought they could cover up matters in the 1970s and 1980s will not get away with it.

The inquiry has to be seen to be robust, transparent and thorough and getting to the root of the many scandals in the capital. If it doesn’t suspicions will remain. it will require nerves of steel  to tackle the prominent people who stand accused.

Leon Brittan: Why Lawson is wrong and there is a real case to answer

Leon Brittan

Leon Brittan

There has been anger  and disbelief among many of the late Leon Brittan’s friends that his name has become public in connection with the current Met police investigation into  historical child sex abuse dating back to the 1980s. In one sense it is understandable. Who would want to believe that the person they invite to dinner, meet in the House of Lords, have known for years, could be remotely considered a serial paedophile. So the reaction from Lord Deben ( better known as John Selwyn Gummer), Edward Garnier MP and David Cameron after his recent death is not unusual.

But the attack in the Sunday Times by Dominic Lawson, a former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, is a different matter. By taking the argument that those who say that he could be a paedophile – such as Tom Watson and Simon Danczuk  are part of a  frenzied Labour left-wing plot to get back at Tories close to Margaret Thatcher,he is way off the mark.

As an investigative  reporter  not only does this line of argument not stand up – but the facts of the case are against him.

For a start  he questioned whether “Nick’s ” account  about  Leon Brittan and others sexually abusing him was accurate. Yet ” Nick” has already been described by the  Met Police as ” a credible witness”. They do not do such a thing lightly. and they certainly don’t do it just because Tom Watson or Exaro News say so. They make up their own mind.

Second if he started to examine the known facts about  the allegations against Leon Brittan he might have pause for thought. ” Nick” is not the only person to make these allegations. Separate allegations have been made by more than a handful of other survivors and a number are still being followed up by the police because they involve other people.

As a journo if you want to establish the probability of a fact – one of the most compelling arguments is when two or more people who did not know each other give a similar story. So unless Dominic Lawson is going to argue that there is a wicked conspiracy among survivors across England to name and frame Leon Brittan for some unknown reason this does not stand up.

People also forget that the case against Leon Brittan is not only made by survivors – who as kids as young as nine or eleven would not easily recognise Cabinet ministers – but by members of the public.

The original reason why Elm Guest House was raided in 1982 was not initially because children complained about sexual abuse but because the residents in Barnes got thoroughly fed up with an unruly B & B in a  quiet street, with cars turning up at all times of night. It was a resident who allegedly said she saw Leon Brittan going there. Certainly the police from separate sources have established that Sir Cyril Smith went there.

And other people, not just survivors, are now coming forward saying at least there was one flat in Dolphin Square where young people were invited to gay sex parties.

Of course they may now be a clamour for the Met to stop investigating him – but the investigation is on going because they are people who were allegedly there with Leon Brittan who are still alive.

Finally if  some one is likely to be charged – the most likely person which both Leicestershire and Met Police say they are currently investigating – it is Lord Janner. Now unless Dominic Lawson knows something I don’t ,I can’t recall Lord Janner ever being in Thatcher’s Cabinet. He is a  former Labour MP and if his argument is that the sex abuse scandal is based on Leftie political revenge on the Tories – I have not seen Tom Watson or Simon Danczuk rushing to protect him for the sake of Ed Miliband.

Frankly the thesis of Dominic Lawson is a bit of old tosh – pressure for an overarching child sex abuse inquiry had all party support – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green. It was precisely the idea of Conservative Mp, Zac Goldsmith, to do it this way – to prevent it becoming a party political matter.

In his frankly partisan piece Lawson – I suspect in grief for a friend he sees unjustly accused- has broken that. And shame on him for suggesting it.

I now see following the Times revelations today(July 23) that indeed the Cabinet Office did have documents which named Leon Brittan in connection with child sex abuse allegations but they were suppressed. I hope Dominic Lawson will reflect on the findings.

Elm Guest House: Child abuse charges to be reinstated

A very important decision has been taken by the Crown Prosecution Service to reinstate charges against John Stingemore,the former deputy manager, of Grafton Close children’s home in Richmond.

Stingemore and Father Tony McSweeney,already face  a trial next February on a series of child sex abuse charges and have pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them.

The full story by my colleague Mark Conrad is on the Exaro website.but in essence it involved the CPS reviewing the  charges after a complaint from Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, who revealed the scale of the scandal against Sir Cyril Smith, and planned action by Tom Watson MP to help the witness involved.

Exaro revealed last December that the CPS had withdrawn four charges based on accusations by one witness, but had made a serious mistake about the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit under Operation Fernbridge. It led to an adverse view of the witness’s credibility.

 

While it would be wrong to reveal the full details of the circumstances of the case in order not to prejudice the trial, the decision is important for two reasons.

First it shows that survivors accounts should not be brushed aside and second it suggests that the pressure the police and the CPS are under to handle so many child sexual abuse cases at the moment that they may not have had the time to examine all the details.

If it was not for active MPs like Simon and Tom who are prepared to take up cases like this, we would still be facing the danger of further cover ups and evidence not being tested by the courts.

The last thing we want is anything else not properly investigated when people have waited so long for justice.