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

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Elm Guest House: Run jointly by Carole Kasir

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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.

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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

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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.

 

 

Tony McSweeney abuse trial: The shame of Richmond Council

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Tony McSweeney: A paedophile priest. Pic Credit:rapevictimsofthecatholicchurch.files.wordpress.com

Update: Father Tony McSweeney was sentenced to three years in prison  for his crimes on March 27.

While the latest horrors over Jimmy Savile dominated the headlines,a Roman Catholic priest became the first person to be convicted as a paedophile under the Met Police’s Operation Fernbridge.

The investigation into both the notorious Elm Guest House and a Richmond Council children’s home, Grafton Close, saw Father Tony McSweeney convicted on a specimen charge of indecent assault and three charges of making indecent images of children on his computer. He was cleared of three other charges of indecent assault.

The trial would have been much bigger if not for the death of his co-accused John Stingemore had not died just before facing prosecution. Stingemore,as my colleague Tim Wood who reported the trial for Exaro shows, was portrayed by McSweeney as a paedophile. and it emerged in court that Stingemore had already been convicted as paedophile for the sexual assault of Peter Bornshin, a resident of Grafton Close home.

The trial reveals two shocking facts. First it shows that yet another paedophile Roman Catholic priest  has escaped justice for some 35 years and been able to work as a pillar of the community across the East of England. He has even gathered a  bit of celebrity stardust- marrying the boxer Frank Bruno – and when caught with child  sex abuse images he made on his computer he was a member of the scouting movement and worked with the Norwich City youth football team.

Second is the shame it has heaped on Richmond Council which failed to act at the time to halt these crimes and has been in denial ever since this investigation began. It is quite clear from the court proceedings that Stingemore when in charge of Grafton Close was able unchecked to take boys out of the children’s home to his Bexhill flat where they were abused and employ his paedophile friend McSweeney – who also accompanied boys to his flat – without anyone taking much notice. One might be tempted not to heap blame on the authority if it was not for the attitudes of leading political figures and officials to recent  events. Sir David Williams, the former Liberal Dem leader in the wake of this scandal told me he did not believe there was any child sexual abuse in Richmond and it had all been got up by the press. Tell that to the jury at Southwark Crown Court.

Two other prominent Liberal Democrats  councillors at the time now peers Tim Razzall and Jenny Tonge appeared to be in denial or did not want to talk about it. And  Louis Minister, then Richmond’s  director of social services, now retired in Malta, denied he had ever heard of Elm Guest House and said he knew nothing of what happened at Grafton Close. Only with a trial imminent did he recover his memory loss. A

nd there are leading Richmond Tories who knew at the time- an issue I am still investigating. Contrast the last 35 years. These ambitious councillors, a number of whom I have met as a lobby journalist in Parliament, have led comfortable, prosperous lives heaped with honours and public recognition. While the survivors – the people unfortunate to be sent to be protected at Grafton Close – whom I have met  as an investigative reporter at Exaro, have in the main led fractured, impoverished lives. Many have difficulty coping, relying often on benefits only to be hounded by the DWP. One,Peter Borshin, the worst case scenario,  sadly committed suicide after his experiences which went on to him being committed to Broadmoor. No peerages or honours for them.

I would hope after this tragic saga Richmond will have the grace to review its procedures to ensure that there is not a current repetition of those events 35 years ago. Perhaps the judge who  in this case has indicated that ,McSweeney will get a  custodial sentence will instruct them to do so.

There is a full report in the Daily Mail into the background of McSweeney’s career and the questions it raised about the Roman Catholic Church. The link is here.

Richmond Council issued this statement after the trial:

Gillian Norton, Chief Executive of Richmond Council, said:

“The Council is sorry that a child in its care was indecently assaulted. The assault happened 35 years ago and clearly the service leadership and management laid bare in court were totally unacceptable.

“The situation today is completely different. Most looked after children are in foster homes. Only those children needing very specialist services are placed in children’s homes. All placements are subject to rigorous checks and controls within a statutory regulatory framework and this includes senior social workers who are independent of the child’s worker.

“The system today puts much greater emphasis on the views of children and staff are employed specifically to help children to give their views.

“Sadly experience has shown us of the horrors adults continue to inflict on children and it is difficult to say it can never happen here. But I am confident that services now are well led and managed, that officers are held to account by elected Members and the Local Children’s Safeguarding Board so that children in Richmond are as safe and well looked after as possible.”

The release is here.

Met Police chief moved out of child sex abuse investigation

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle, the head of the paedophile unit, has been taken off  Operation Fernbridge, the  historic sex abuse investigation centred on Elm Guest House in Barnes and the London borough of Richmond’s children’s services.

A report by  my colleagues on Exaro news reveals that this appears to be part of a  shake up of police operations in the badly staffed paedophile unit which has now seen the number of officers investigating cases rise from seven to twenty two.

Reports suggest he is on sick leave as the operation has come under pressure after two MPs complained about the way it had handled one case and also how much information it gave to the Crown prosecution Service over another case. These two disclosures on Exaro led in the latter case to the reinstatement of charges against one of the people facing a trial next February on alleged sexual abuse in Richmond.

A detective sergeant in the paedophile unit, which is based in the Empress State Building in Earl’s Court, west London, has taken over the Met’s investigations into historical allegations against MPs and other VIPs. These include ‘Operation Fernbridge’, which was sparked by Exaro and began nearly two years ago – amid strict secrecy – with an investigation into activities at Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London.

The investigations also cover ‘Operation Cayacos’, which is looking into claims of a paedophile ring linked to politicians after Tom Watson, Labour MP, raised the issue in Parliament.

All these changes suggest the Met is facing a tough time handling these cases at the moment.

Before Settle was appointed to the paedophile unit, he had been a staff officer to John Yates, who oversaw one of the operations revisiting the murder of private investigator, Daniel Morgan and headed the “cash for honours” investigation into the Labour administration under Tony Blair.

Settle, then a detective sergeant, was also an investigating officer on  Operation Abelard II, which probed the axe murder of Daniel Morgan. The handling of the murder case by the police and press is now being investigated by an independent panel set up by the Home Office.

The Met are declining to comment about the move of Settle from the paedophile unit investigation.

 

Richmond child sex abuse trial postponed

The trial of John Stingemore and Father Tony McSweeney – due to start on May 6 at Southwark Crown Court – has been postponed.

Southwark crown court today  said that there will be no hearing on the 6 May and that it is due to make a fresh announcement on future court dates on 13 June.

Exaro understands that 71 year-old Stingemore, the former officer in charge of the Grafton Close children’s home in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, is suffering from ill-health and was recently admitted to hospital.

Privately, sources close to the case have expressed fears that Mr Stingemore may not be fit enough to stand trial unless his health improves significantly.

Mr Stingemore’s solicitor was unavailable for comment this afternoon.

John Stingemore, of Stonehouse Drive, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, faces five charges of indecent assault, once count of taking an indecent image of a child, and one count of indecency with a child. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Father Tony McSweeney, a 66 year-old priest, faces two charges of indecent assault, three counts of making an indecent image of a child, one of taking an indecent image of a child, and a further count of possessing indecent images of children. Father McSweeney, of Old Brighton Road North, Pease Pottage, West Sussex, has also pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The charges had been brought following the Met police’s Operation Fernbridge. There is a back catalogue of stories explaining the Fernbridge operation on the Exaro website.

Date set for trial of Stingmore and McSweeney over Richmond child sex abuse

The trial of John Stingmore, the former deputy manager of Grafton Close children’s home in Richmond, and Father Tony McSweeney,a Roman Catholic priest, will take place at Southwark Crown Court on May 6 according to information given to a police witness.
Both have pleaded not guilty to all 14 charges against them following the Met Police’s Operation Fernbridge investigation.
Reporting restrictions were not lifted at the last committal hearing at Southwark Crown Court before Christmas so I am unable to report the arguments of why a trial date was not set then.

Elm Guest House owner released without charge

Harry Kasir, the co-owner of Elm Guest House in Barnes, south west London has been released without charge by the police.
A report in Exaro News today discloses that detectives at Operation Fernbridge released Mr Kasir who ran the guest house with his wife Carole and said to be the centre of a VIP paedophile ring between 1979 and 1983.
Investigations into Elm Guest House are still continuing by the police as are investigations into the now closed Grafton Close children’s home run by Richmond Council in south west London.
Kasir has refused to comment about what happened at Elm Guest House. He did not return calls seeking comment about the police decision to release him without charge.
Sources close to Operation Fernbridge told Exaro that detectives were hoping that Kasir would become a key witness. However, he refused to talk to them about his time as co-manager of Elm Guest House.
After a police raid on the guest house in 1982, the Kasirs were convicted at the Old Bailey of running a disorderly house – meaning a brothel – and fined £1,000 each. They were given nine-month prison sentences, suspended for two years.

The former Elm Tree Guest House i  Pic courtesy: Exaro

The former Elm Tree Guest House i Pic courtesy: Exaro