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Child abuse cover-up in interests of ‘national security’

Shocking cases of abuse of working class children by leading political figures and entertainers point to one of the biggest state cover-ups this country has seen.

Investigation by Lilian Pizzichini

The story of institutional child abuse started making headlines in the late twentieth century. In an interview with the Daily Express in August 1983 Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens said he had given a dossier to the then home secretary Leon Brittan. This dossier contained allegations of a paedophile ring operating inside Westminster’s corridors of power. He told the reporter what he would do if the home secretary failed to act. "I've got eight names of big people, really important names, public figures. And I am going to expose them in Parliament."

Nothing ever happened. Brittan claimed the dossier was handed on to the relevant authorities. But the dossier was subsequently “lost and has never surfaced. Dickens was dismissed as a buffoon, a trouble-maker, an irrelevance. The eight names were never revealed. Dickens revealed his private home and constituency flat had been burgled.

Nothing of value was taken, he said. “It seemed a very professional job the way they were carried out. It seems strange to make that amount of effort and amount of concern to get in to a property and not take anything.” After mentioning threats of violence towards him, Dickens went quiet, and the story died down.

In the wake of his recent death, it emerged that Lord Brittan was under investigation in connection with historic cases of child abuse. Little wonder the dossier disappeared. Thirty years after it was placed on Brittan’s desk the story of its disappearance was resurrected in the wake of entertainer Jimmy Savile case. However, what Savile was doing is only half of the story. It now remains to be discovered who he was doing it with and why it was covered up. Instead we get belated inquiries that reveal very little.

On February 26, another report was published. This one detailed Savile’s abuse of patients at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Savile abused 63 people connected to the hospital. Half of them were under 16. But only one formal complaint was made. It was ignored. Meanwhile, the hospital was rife with gossip and rumour. The report found that Savile's reputation as a "sex pest" was an "open secret" among some staff – but allegations apparently did not reach managers. The formal complaint – made in 1977 by a victim's father – should have been reported to police, it added.

Hattie Llewelyn-Davies, chairwoman of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said:

“Together these accounts paint a bleak story of a deeply flawed and repellent individual who used his role as a fundraiser, his celebrity status and his national contacts to conceal his wicked activities. For too long people were taken in by this controlling and manipulative man … On behalf of the NHS organisations that existed at the time and those that exist today, I want to say sorry to all of Jimmy Savile’s victims. I know how difficult it must have been for you to come forward and tell your stories after such a long time… Today Stoke Mandeville is a very different place.”

So that’s that.

Not according to Liz Dux, of law firm Slater and Gordon, which represents 44 of those victims. She said: “It beggars belief that a report which has revealed Savile was widely known as a sex pest at Stoke Mandeville can find no evidence of management responsibility.”

cover up

There are two possible inferences to be drawn. (1) People in authority are hiding behind procedures in order to protect their jobs, their livelihoods, the structures that serve their interests, and (2) people in authority treat vulnerable members of our society with contempt. There is a third inference that is widely asserted on alternative media. Websites like Exaro are the heroes of this story. They are bold enough to explore the conspiratorial element to this story. This theory predicates an Establishment cover-up of Savile’s activities. This would further imply that the cover-up had to be effective because Savile was not acting alone. As Ms Llewelyn-Davies says, Savile was a man who flaunted an impressive roster of “national contacts”.

Savile was a man who, for several years, spent New Year’s Eve at Chequers with Lady Thatcher. He was intimate with Prince Charles, Prince Charles’s forebears, and Sir Edward Heath. In the latter case, it is reported (by Pie and Mash Films) that in the 1970s Savile would procure children from a care home in Jersey and take them for day trips on Heath’s yacht, Morning Glory. Heath’s detectives, it is alleged, had another name for the yacht: Morning Sickness. When government ministers and others of that ilk are under investigation, “national security” is at stake and the investigation evaporates. This care home in Jersey was the subject of yet another inquiry that to this day has proved inconclusive and received criticisms for “mismanagement”.

In the New York Times recently, journalist Matthew d’Ancona, wrote about the culture of inquiries commissioned by government in order to root out corruption:

“As trust in the political class, institutions and professions has collapsed, the demand for inquiries has increased. Yet the process is becoming more cumbersome, more vulnerable to delay and less suited to an era of impatience… The common factor in these investigations has been collective heel dragging and a conspicuous lack of urgency. Thus procedures designed to restore public confidence have, in practice, damaged it further.”

It is not so much that we the public are impatient but that justice is long overdue. In other words, the government commissions inquiries that are, in effect, a diversion. It is a different way of covering up. The old way was hinted at by Lord Tebbit on a recent edition of the Andrew Marr Show. When asked to comment on the mystery of the missing dossiers, he said,

“At that time, I think most people would have thought that the Establishment, the system, was to be protected and if a few things had gone wrong here and there that it was more important to protect the system than to delve too far into it.”

The broadcaster then drove the question home, and asked if there had been a “big political cover-up”. Tebbit was vaguely forthcoming: “I think there may well have been. But it was almost unconscious. It was the thing that people did at that time.”

Tim FortescueConcurrent with this informal admission is a video clip that is equally casual in its admittance of cover-ups and impunity for high-up paedophiles. A short extract from the Michael Cockerell documentary Westminster's Secret Service broadcast by the BBC in 1995 is available on YouTube. The clip shows an interview with Tim Fortescue, a Whip under Edward Heath between 1970 and 1973. In it, he revealed that MPs came to him if they were:

 “in trouble … it might be debt or it might be small boys. They would come and ask if we could help. If we could, we did, and we would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points … If we can get a chap out of trouble, he will do as we ask for ever more.”

state-sponsored paedophiles

Fortescue is referring to the practice known as the little black “dirt book” which contained information about MPs, and which was used as a method of political control. One could almost call the MPs who “got into trouble with small boys” state-sponsored paedophiles.

An unquestioning tug of the forelock to people in positions of power and prestige is a feature that subtly determines the British attitude towards authority and celebrity. Put it another way: personalities like Jimmy Savile and Leon Brittan are more likely to be heard than a child in the care system. These children come from the working classes and the under classes; if they survive into adulthood they tend to develop drink and drug problems. Sometimes they drift into criminality. Prisons are full of men and women who were institutionalised as children; who were victims of abuse, whether it was sexual, physical or emotional. They are the kind of people who can be summed up as “unreliable witnesses”. They are easy to dismiss. This progression into illness and criminality is what has helped paedophiles to cover up their abuse. Their victims’ trauma becomes another shield behind which the perpetrators hide.

secrecy and terror

What emerges for the wider society is that we do not listen to the stories children and adult survivors tell us. Instead we believe what we want to believe. This is easily done because what paedophiles do is unthinkable and unspeakable. It is not just the actual abuse however. The fear experienced by an abused child pervades their view of the world. “If you tell, I’ll kill you,” is the standard threat. Or the abuser will focus on some terrible punishment that inculcates a sense of dread. When a child is abused they see horror everywhere. Thus it is paedophiles operate in an atmosphere of secrecy and terror.

By not listening and by ignoring the symptoms and the stories, we treat these children and adult survivors with contempt. We pride ourselves on elevated notions of childcare but we treat the most vulnerable children in our society with contempt. Just as paedophiles see them as expendable, so does a society that turns a deaf ear to survivors’ and witnesses’ complaints.

national security

So for children and survivors the risks of telling the truth are overwhelming. Whistle-blowers face the same risks. One example goes back to the 1980s again. Journalist Don Hale tried to report a case of institutional child abuse in 1984. He was greeted with police harassment and a D-notice which invokes “national security” to block publication. Interestingly for a care home located in Bury, it was not the local police who swooped on Hale’s office. It was Special Branch. This indicates what is loosely termed “national security” was at stake. In the name of “national security” the gloves come off. What is emerging even in mainstream media is the involvement of Special Branch in the cover-up of Establishment paedophile rings. Police detectives have repeatedly revealed to Exaro website that for the past 30 years Special Branch has been warning individual officers off cases that might uncover Establishment paedophiles. Their careers were at stake, they were told. For civilians, their lives are at stake.

Chris Fay of NAYPIC, National Association of Young People in Care, is a campaigning social worker who has been a lone voice on this subject since the 1980s. He gathered evidence on the care home mentioned in Dickens’s dossier. Grafton Close Children’s Home was feeding children to a now-notorious gay brothel called Elm Guest House. The guest house was advertised in the gay press of the time as a place where homosexual men could meet in safety and comfort to enjoy various facilities, including a sauna and solarium. One of the publications which reviewed it favourably was the newsletter of the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality.

The CGHE was campaigning for the lowering of the gay age of consent to 16. One of its chairmen was Ian Harvey, a junior Foreign Office minister who was forced to quit the government in 1958 after being caught having sex with a Coldstream guardsman in a London park. To men like him, Elm Guest House offered discretion.

But boys from Grafton Close Children’s home were made available there to paedophiles. For several years, a list of alleged ‘VIP’ customers of the guest house has been circulated by Fay and other child welfare campaigners. These campaigners are for the most part ignored by mainstream media. But their story is compelling and their evidence cannot be denied. Among the names Fay saw on a list given him by the owner of the guest house were senior MPs, a high-ranking policeman, a leading tycoon, figures from the National Front and Sinn Fein, an official of the Royal Household, an MI5 officer, two pop stars and the Soviet spy Anthony Blunt.

Elm Guest House was owned by Carole Kasir and her husband Haroon, in an elegant terrace property on Rock’s Lane, overlooking Barnes Common. She died shortly after the guest house was raided by Special Branch. It should be said at this point that the raid was organised in such a way that those arrested did not compromise “national security”. During the raid Kasir’s 12-year-old son was taken from her and made a ward of court. This meant that he was put into care and beyond her reach. He was placed in Grafton Close Children’s Home, the very home from which boys were being fed to paedophiles. Kasir was in despair. She was also an alcoholic. She died of an insulin overdose.

In terms of the mechanics of her death, while an insulin overdose has been used as a means of suicide by diabetics (it causes a fatal drop in blood sugar), the administration of a lethal overdose by another person would be relatively easy. Certainly the coroner was concerned about the circumstances surrounding her death. She had reported being “watched”. Fay tells how he visited her home and saw men sitting in a car outside her home. He also mentions bullets being fired through his own kitchen window. This was back in the 1980s when spooks had carte blanche to work in the shadows.

The latest death to be reported was on 16 January 2015 when the manager of Grafton Close children's home was found dead of unknown causes just weeks before he was due to stand trial for abusing boys as young as nine.

But back to the inquiries. It’s not just spooks and thugs who silence witnesses. On 20 January 2015 it was reported that a panel member had been intimidated over what she could say to Keith Vaz’s Commons committee on historic child abuse. She was being “bullied and intimidated”, she said. Sharon Evans accused the inquiry’s lawyer of “overstepping the mark” including claims he had told her she must give evidence along with other panel members as one collective voice. She said: "I do feel concerned, very concerned. I feel that would prevent me from answering some of your questions honestly."

In a statement after the hearing John Emmerson QC said the allegations of bullying and intimidation were “entirely baseless” and that his advice “was legally correct and entirely necessary in the circumstances”. In a separate statement, the rest of the panel said it had “full confidence in the integrity, advice and impartiality of Counsel to the Inquiry”.

class issues

The fact is that the children in care who were victimised were from working-class families. Abused children tend to lead chaotic lives. The perpetrators are men of a high status – whether through class or celebrity. They administrate control over large groups of people. They are educated and respected. They rarely act alone. Paedophiles operate in gangs and foster a masonic-style community. The contrast with the survivors is stark. Where the men who abuse them are protected and respected, the survivors are isolated and seen to be psychologically damaged.

Child abuse is widespread in this country and has always been so. Whether the abuse takes place in the family or an institution, it is the greatest secret we have. One of the hazards of relaying information that resists the mainstream agenda is vilification. But if you are interested in what is happening around you, and you care about human rights and injustice, you just have to carry on. The story will eventually tell itself, episode by episode, through the cracks of social media. But until justice is served, our secrets will continue to keep us sick.

28 February 2015

Lilian Pizzichini is an award-winning author, journalist and creative writing coach.
Her book Music Night at the Apollo was reviewed by A World to Win.

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