The strange case of the brilliant ‘bimbo’

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I ended last time with a description of how the News of the World had published a misleading photograph, in which I appeared naked with a young boy. My original narrative, written in 2001, continues below. It is not just “more of the same”, I promise you, so do stick with it. If you don’t find this intriguing, then intrigue just isn’t your thing.

With photos like this one it could hardly be more apt that “Hannah”, if that was her name, kept referring to her “boyfriend” as “Con”. Con artist he certainly was. But it seems he could also have been a very naughty boy in another way too, a theme I’ll return to shortly.

But first I must take the scene back to my caravan at the naturist resort, where the truth of “Perry’s” identity dawned on me. He was the infamous Fake Sheikh. This told me a News of the World story would surely be on its way, probably in the next edition, a few days ahead. So the question arose as to what would happen next. I had visions of the NOTW posse reporting their “findings” to the camp management so they could get a picture of me being frog-marched off the site by the security guards. They could then run the picture under the headline “WE SEND PERVERT PACKING”. Not nice. So, should I pack up and leave immediately?

On balance, I thought not. I still had three days of hard-earned holiday left and resented the idea of giving way to those bastards. I would stick around, and carry on soaking up the sun regardless.

To my surprise I saw nothing of the NOTW team the next day and heard nothing from the camp management either. Then, on the Thursday, I had a very strange encounter outside the swimming pool café. Hannah was there but not Perry or Con. Suddenly I saw the opportunity to do a bit of investigative work of my own, because it seemed to me that Hannah probably truly was Conrad’s girlfriend not a journalist. She was surely too young to be on the regular staff of NOTW. Maybe if I bought her a Coke and had a chat I would find out a bit more about how the land lay. She seemed very relaxed and chirpy ¬– much more so than at the restaurant when the guys were around – and perfectly willing to talk.

“So, what’s become of Perry and Conrad?” I asked. “I didn’t see any of you yesterday and now the guys seem to have deserted you. Will they be coming here soon?”

“No,” she said, “No chance. They’re off on business, doing their thing. I don’t know what they’re up to. They never tell me nothing. Pisses me off it does. They just go off and leave me for hours and hours. I mean, it’s nice here but when you’ve got friends with you, they shouldn’t just clear off like that, should they?”

“You’ve no idea what their agenda is for today then?”

“The airport, I think. Checking it out. I don’t know for sure though. In one way it’s better without them around, mind you. At least I don’t get Perry lording it all the time and bossing me around.”

“Oh, he’s like that, is he?”

“You’re not kidding. Arrogant sod. Can’t you tell? He works for royalty and he thinks he’s bloody royalty himself. He’s so flash with all his money, he thinks he can do anything. Mind you, they’re as bad as each other when they’re together. Con gets it from Perry. Rubs off on him, I suppose. They both treat me like dirt when they’re together.”

“But Con’s OK on his own?”

“Oh yeah, no problem, he’s fine.”

“How long have you known him?”

“Oh ages.” She giggled.

I was trying to figure out whether she knew about Con’s real job.

“Ages?” I queried. “But you’re still in your teens, aren’t you? You mean you’ve been having a relationship for ages?”

“You’re right, I’m 18. And we’ve had a long ‘relationship’ all right.” More giggling and I could positively hear the innuendo as she said that word “relationship”.

“You mean a sexual relationship?”

“Yeah, right.”

“What, from way back, from before you reached the age of consent?”

This time she laughed out loud. “Yeah, ages before. I was 12 when I met him.”

“And it was a full sexual relationship right from then?”

“Yeah, more or less from the start.”

I was staggered she was just coming out with all this, as you may imagine, and I’m sure I must have looked a bit stunned.

“But what about your parents? Did they know? What did they think? Con must have been about thirty.”

“Yeah, me mum and dad knew, but they could see I was fond of Con, so they didn’t do nothing to stop it.”

“So will you marry him?”

“No,” she laughed, “no chance.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want to get married. Anyway, there’s too much age difference between us. Me dad wouldn’t let us.”

This time I was the one to laugh. Her dad seemed to have a most unusual sense of priorities and to my mind was quite right in making a much bigger deal of marriage than of sex.

But this was all very confusing. Was it real? Was this girl just spinning me a pre-arranged line to get me talking about underage sex? If so, it is perhaps strange that she only gave information without asking anything at all about me. And everything she had said was in response to my questions. If it had all been a plot, how could the plotters have known I would ask the right questions? And how come she was so relaxed? There was not the slightest hint of nervousness about her. She unhesitatingly responded to all my probing even, as will be seen, some much trickier questions I had not yet come to. She was either a brilliant performer or exactly what she seemed to be, a very ordinary teenager who had left school at 16 without significant qualifications and, thanks to being supported by Con, had yet to get her first job.

“What about Con’s job?” I said. “You’ve been around him so long you must know all about what he does.”

“Not really. It’s like I said, they don’t tell me nothing. It’s like it’s none of my business, state secrets and that. Mostly it’s just they think I’m a nobody. I’m not important enough to be told anything.”

The time had come, I decided, to show my hand.

“You see, Hannah, to be honest I’m not at all sure that Con and Perry are what they say they are. They say they’re working for Dubai royalty but that doesn’t seem very likely to me. Why would a sheikh come to a place like this, a public place where he could be discovered? Someone with his kind of money could buy his own estate in France with a nice stretch of river and sunbathe naked in privacy. He could have any number of gorgeous naked girls at his side as well.”

“So what do you mean then? What are you saying?”

“Well,” I said, “there’s another possibility that seems to me to make more sense. Con and Perry could be working for a paper like the Sun or the News of the World. They could be here to do some sort of exposé article about naturism.”

“Oh, no” she laughed, “I’m sure it’s nothing like that. No.” She paused, apparently wrapped in thought. “For one thing,” she went on, “Perry’s always on the phone to Dubai. Talking in Arabic. And that pisses me off because I can’t understand a word he’s on about.”

“Umm, yeah, I don’t doubt his Arabian connections, but I’ll tell you what makes me suspicious.”

I told her about the Duchess of Wessex story, trying to read her face for signs of alarm as I did so. There were none. None at all.

“Yeah,” she said, quite calmly, “I see what you mean about the Fake Sheikh story. It does sound very similar but I don’t think that guy’s the same as Perry. No, I can’t see it.”

“All the same,” I persisted, “I think I’d like to talk to Perry and Con about it. I’d like to have it out with them straight. If they are from the press I’d be happy to give them an interview about naturism. I don’t see why everything has to be so underhand.”

Now, for the first time, Hannah looked a bit alarmed.

“I’d rather you didn’t do that,” she said.

“Why not?”

“It could get me into trouble. Perry would be mad at me.”

“Why?”

“He’d probably think I’d given you that idea. He’s really proud of working for royalty. If he thought I’d been saying maybe he worked for a paper it would be like, well, as though I was trying to put him down. It would be like saying he was just a lavatory attendant or something.”

The comparison amused me. If Hannah was not genuine she was an utter genius of cool improvisation. Anyway, I promised to keep my suspicions to myself but in the event I never saw Perry, Con or Hannah again.

Here ends my original narrative, written all those years ago.

A couple of illuminating details have emerged since then. One is that “Hannah” must have been lying when she said “Perry’s always on the phone to Dubai. Talking in Arabic.” He might well have had occasion to phone Dubai quite a lot: the sheikh was fictitious but Mahmood’s detailed knowledge of Dubai was genuine. For all I knew, he might have been born there and perhaps had relations in that part of the world. However, in 2008 he revealed in a rare interview that he does not speak Arabic, or at least not fluently. He said he very nearly had his cover blown in his Fake Sheikh role when a British army officer spoke to him in Arabic.

It has also become clear that a woman whose real name was Anna, not Hannah, was working for the News of the World with Mahmood and Brown at the time in question. This was a certain Anna Gekoski. At that point she had only recently joined the paper’s staff. In later years this “bimbo” would gain a doctorate in forensic psychology and become an academic. Prior to this she already had a first degree in philosophy from York University and an MPhil in Criminology from Cambridge University. She was the ghost-writer of the bestselling Sara Payne: A Mother’s Story and also the author of Murder by Numbers, a psychological analysis of the childhoods of British serial killers.

Could this Anna conceivably be one and the same person as the know-nothing, put-upon Hannah I had encountered? Anna Gekoski was born in 1974. She would thus have been around 27 when I met “Hannah”, not 18. Did she just happen to look very young? Could she have passed herself off as a teenager?

And what about Hannah’s story that she had been having a sexual relationship with Conrad Brown from the age of 12? If she really had been a rather aimless and somewhat put-upon NEET youngster (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and had been Brown’s sexual partner from an early age, could there be any greater hypocrisy in the tabloid team’s attack on paedophiles? But it’s possible Mahmood didn’t even know the sex had started before she was 16. Brown might have sworn her to silence on that score. If he could have heard her blabbing away to me he might have been furious – and scared.

Mahmood could soon find himself in the dock for perjury. Might Brown also have reason to worry about charges (under the old law) of unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16? Or even under 13? His dangerous liaisons, if any, might become an issue now that Mahmood’s whole career is likely to face intense scrutiny.

Brown’s fate, in these circumstances, could depend on Hannah. Much as I would like to see the odious snapper get his comeuppance, I would not wish it to be brought about over a consensual relationship, even a less than exemplary one, with a minor.

 

UPDATE: Dr Anna Gekoski has contacted Heretic TOC and denied that she was “Hannah”. She offered no alternative account of who Hannah actually was. While I would not expect Dr Gekoski to give an actual name, or detailed information from which an actual name could be deduced (newspapers are traditionally unforthcoming about their sources, often for good reasons, and I have no quarrel with that), it seems to me she might be in a position to tell us in general terms what happened. If she were to give us a plausible alternative to the Anna = Hannah theory it would at least give her denial some credibility. Otherwise, why believe a former member of a tabloid reporting team that has become notorious for telling lies and undertaking deceptions in order to discredit people falsely?

When Heretic TOC met the Fake Sheikh

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“The king of the sting reveals all” boasts the subtitle of Confessions of a Fake Sheik (sic), the memoirs of tabloid “investigative journalist” Mazher Mahmood, published in 2008.

He certainly did reveal all at a French naturist resort back in 2001, as did two of his colleagues when the three of them stripped naked, posing as nudists in a bid to lay bare my supposed misdeeds at the resort to the readers of the infamous News of the World.

What the Fake Sheikh (to give the more usual spelling, with an h) has always kept firmly under wraps, though, is his willingness to use trickery and deceit in order to trash the reputations of entirely innocent people and even get them charged with criminal offences and put behind bars.

Now, at last, after a long career of exposing others – leading to more than 260 criminal prosecutions, it is claimed – Mahmood has himself finally been exposed as a liar who could well face perjury charges and end up in prison. His downfall came when a drugs trial involving the singer Tulisa Contostavlos collapsed after a judge concluded that Mahmood had attempted to persuade a witness to change his evidence and then lied about it under oath. The comments by Judge Alistair McCreath at Southwark Crown Court, London, this week vindicated Contostavlos, who insisted she had been entrapped by the reporter into appearing to promise to arrange a cocaine deal when in fact she had no criminal intent whatever. Mahmood had made his claims in a story for the Sun on Sunday, successor to the News of the World, closed down in 2011 by tycoon owner Rupert Murdoch after it was mired in controversy over phone-hacking.

Mahmood is known as the “Fake Sheikh” after one of his common disguises. In the words of a news report, “He would often dress up as a rich Arab to persuade the famous, gullible or criminal to divulge their secrets on tape via elaborate subterfuge.” His targets have included royalty, politicians, sports stars and celebrities, as well as “paedophiles, arms dealers…dodgy doctors, solicitors, pimps, judges, bent cops and even murderers” according to his book-cover blurb, which also colourfully adds that he has “been shot at by Albanian thugs, cursed by an African witch and even run over by a vicar”.

He has been suspended by the Sun pending an investigation of his own misdeeds.

It was in his “Fake Sheikh” guise, or rather a variation of it, that I was introduced to Mahmood at the Sablière naturist resort in the Ardèche region of southern France some 13 years ago. He was posing not as a sheikh, but as a skeikh’s aide, a “fixer” with a wide-ranging brief to keep his mega-rich Arab boss happy.

It is a story worth telling, I think, for the insights it affords into how a supposedly top-flight journalist – twice Reporter of the Year – goes about his dirty business. It may also disclose criminality the courts do not yet know about. I wrote the following narrative soon after the events unfolded, while everything was still fresh in my memory.

 

IT ALL STARTED when I unexpectedly found myself on holiday alone at the naturist resort after a friend was unable to join me as planned. I soon found myself in friendly company, though. A girl of about 18 with a cockney accent asked me the time. This was near the café by the swimming pool. When I told her it was good to hear an English voice amidst all the Dutch and French guests she said she was there with some friends and would I like to come over and meet them? They were having a drink outside the café, she said.

The girl introduced herself as Hannah and took me over to a couple of guys; one of them was Conrad, her boyfriend, and the other was Perry, his boss. We had a pleasant enough chat over a beer, nothing very consequential. Perry asked if I’d like to join them for dinner later in the nearby town of Barjac. They had a car and offered to pick me up from my caravan. I was happy to accept.

The evening went well enough. The blokes seemed a bit “laddish”, with jokes and banter. Perry was charming and quite witty. Hannah was rather quiet compared to earlier and only now did it strike me that they were far older than she was. Both her boyfriend and Perry were in their mid- to late-thirties. We were talking about the Arab world for reasons I’ll come to, including the fondness of men there for scent. Then the subject turned to jewelry and the fact that Hannah sports a tongue stud.

“What’s it like when you’re eating?” I said, “It looks as though it might be very uncomfortable.”

“Not for me it isn’t”, Conrad jumped in. “When she’s eating me it’s brilliant!”

I must have looked a bit taken aback because Perry chipped in: “Don’t worry about Hannah,” he said, “she’s totally unshockable.”

Her giggles told me this was true although I got slightly the sense that the guys were a bit inclined to take her for granted. It was though they felt she was a bit of a bimbo – there just to look pretty and keep her mouth shut except when “eating” her bloke.

If the conversation had been kept at Conrad’s level I might have found the evening an unpleasant drag. But Perry proved more interesting, especially as it seemed we had one factor in common: acquaintance with the Middle East. Despite the western name his dark features told me he could be from those parts. That appeared to be confirmed when, earlier in the day, I had asked how the three of them came to be travelling together. Perry had said he was an aide to a member of the Dubai royal family; Conrad was his assistant. I am well aware that many sheikhs travelling in Europe are inclined to let their hair down in the casinos (including at Blackpool, which will come into the story later) and fleshpots, so it came as no surprise to me when he said His Highness wanted to stay at a naturist resort. The aim of Perry’s current trip, he said, was to check out Sablière with this in mind. In particular he had been checking whether there were any other Arabs around, because any such presence would make it difficult for HH to pay a discreet incognito visit, and he also needed to check the suitability of Nîmes airport for HH’s private jet.

Nice work if you can get it, I thought, especially as his posh car and choice of restaurant appeared to indicate a generous expenses allowance. We talked a lot about the Arab world, especially in terms of a detailed exchange of notes about life in Qatar, where I had been working for seven years, and Dubai, another Gulf emirate. He was clearly as familiar with the latter as I with the former. It seems ironic in retrospect that with the only woman among us almost silent, Perry and I spent quite a bit of time talking about the changing role of women in Arab society, especially as regards developments in Qatar, with women being encouraged into higher education and allowed to stand as political candidates in the first ever elections.

At the end of a pleasant, if seemingly unremarkable evening, I was dropped off back at my caravan. And there, in the quietness of my reflections before hitting the hay, the penny finally dropped. Suddenly it dawned on me that my dinner companions were from the tabloid press. Not only that. They were, I knew, from the News of the World. I even knew the real name of the man calling himself “Perry”. I knew his name was Mazher Mahmood. I knew he was none other than the man behind the “Fake Sheikh” saga involving the Duchess of Wessex and Prince Edward.

Once the duchess came to mind the pieces fell into place. On that occasion, just a few months earlier, Mahmood had hired a vastly expensive suite at a top London hotel and contacted the duchess pretending to be – guess what – an aide to a royal prince in Dubai. He had tricked the duchess into indiscretions by saying the “prince” would be happy to pay Sophie and Edward (or rather the PR company they ran) if they would exploit their own royal name on his behalf.

Fortunately, I had said absolutely nothing compromising to Mahmood. Why would I? As far as I knew at the time, the three of them were naturists, which would imply a liberal attitude to nakedness but not to paedophilia. That’s something I was never going to talk about to complete strangers. Yet his article when it came out the following Sunday gave the impression I had “come out” as a paedophile.

[“Caught in the act”, News of the World, 5 August, 2001, credited to “Mazher Mahmood Investigations Editor, in Barjac, France”. There is no online version of the paper from those days. However, the indefatigable Ian Pace (see PIE spy, with my tabloid eye… ) has put the report on his website. It is the last item on a long page. The search term Barjac will get you quickly to the start. My original narrative continues below.]

Remember I said Blackpool would come into the story? His report said I had revealed plans to go ogling the kids on the beach there but didn’t think the scene would be as good as Sablière. The only true part of this is that when we had been talking about the hypocrisy of Arab Muslims who go gambling and whoring in Europe I had happened to mention that the casino at Blackpool has become a favourite destination for many of them in the UK. I did not say I was planning to go to Blackpool (which I was not). This was pure invention just like some of the things he put in the mouth of the Duchess of Wessex. She, for instance, was said to have called the Queen “horrid, horrid, horrid”, but when the News of the World was prevailed upon to produce their taped evidence of the conversation this quote was nowhere on it.

Oddly enough, “Perry” and the others had made no obvious effort to tempt me into indiscretions at all. Only one point provided them with an opening, when we had been talking about Arab vices and I had criticised the hypocrisy of these supposedly devout followers of Islam. Mahmood’s response was along the lines “True, Tom, but we all have vices, don’t we? What are yours then?”

He was smiling, of course, keeping it light. “None, I replied,” with equal levity, “I live the life of a saint!” After the inevitable sceptical chortling from my companions I added, “No, I mean it more or less. I lead a life of utterly boring respectability.” I guess after a straight bat response of that sort Mahmood decided any further probing would achieve nothing except to raise my suspicions.

But he actually needed nothing from me. He was getting a very nice, all-expenses-paid holiday in the sunshine combining business with pleasure. He knew he could simply fabricate what I did not reveal. And he knew I had neither the money nor the high reputation to make it worthwhile for me to sue. He would simply tell the story people apparently love to hear. All he really needed for credibility was a grainy long-lens photo to go with it.

Conrad was the man for the latter, I later learned. Conrad Brown, actually. He was also involved in the Duchess of Wessex case, so it seems he and Mahmood were an established double act. Brown took a picture captioned as me “taking a shower with a boy”. Even this was a lie. I did not know the young boy photographed near me, who it seems was merely passing by at the time the picture was taken.

To understand what happened it is necessary to know the location. There were two showerheads on opposite sides of a footbath at the entrance to the swimming pool. I was taking a shower in one of them. I was completely naked, like almost everyone else, so the picture when it appeared in the paper comically had a black rectangular “figleaf” covering my naughty bits – a huge one, actually, satisfyingly giving the impression there was much that needed covering! The boy, however, clearly has a towel round him so I imagine he was merely leaving the pool and not taking a shower at all. He had to come close to me because everyone had to enter and leave via the footbath, as at most public pools.

I said at the start that my story “may also disclose criminality the courts do not yet know about”. This must wait, in the time-honoured cliff-hanger phrase, for the next thrilling instalment! Watch out for it shortly at Heretic TOC!

 

660 ARRESTS

For a neatly apocalyptic and satanic touch, they should have made it 666 arrests. Whatever, it’s a big number. UK readers will not need to be told what I am talking about, and it affects so many lives so deeply and tragically that arguably I should be making it my main topic. I refer to this awful news item: Police blitz on paedophiles leads to arrest of 660 suspects including doctors, teachers, Scout leaders and care workers

Unlike the Fake Sheikh news, though, I am not sure these arrests need much comment beyond the obvious i.e. Isn’t it terrible? Yes, it is, although I would just put it in perspective by reminding ourselves that Operation Ore, which commenced in 1999, led to 3,744 arrests. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this latest pogrom is that National Crime Agency deputy director general Phil Gormley said in a BBC broadcast, “The reality is we are not going to simply arrest our way out of this problem.” In the same broadcast, other contributors, including sex offender treatment specialist Lydia Guthrie, were saying quite interesting things, such as pointing out with some alarm that one third of those on the Sex Offender Register are now under 18, that not all offenders are the same, they are human beings, we need an intelligent conversation…

Are they going soft? Well, no, the arrests give their own harsh message. The implication seems to be that more anti-sexual propaganda and brainwashing is required – in addition to arrests, not instead of.

PIE spy, with my tabloid eye…

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The plots thicken. After the story broke a week ago about 114 British government files on “child sexual abuse” mysteriously going missing, the media exploded into an orgy of speculation about politicians, top civil servants and other Establishment figures in alleged paedophile rings, and conspiracies to cover up their dark deeds.

Immediately, a panicked government responded, with Home Secretary Theresa May announcing to a packed House of Commons that there would be not one inquiry but two, one to look into the current allegations and also an overarching inquiry into loads of past inquiries that apparently hadn’t inquired enough.

A thread running through much of this was the supposed involvement of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which I chaired in the 1970s. My alleged role at that time in connection with certain Labour politicians was the focus of media attention earlier this year. See Home Secretary cheated justice by dying! and Paedogate puts the past in the pillory. But now the scene of the crime, as the media would have it, had shifted to the 1980s, including the part played by my successor, Steve Smith.

This is where it all gets wonderfully murky, with the media working it up brilliantly into something like a John le Carré thriller, with proper spies and everything! How exciting!

To start with, a former civil servant called Tim Hulbert has been peddling the fantasy that PIE was given as much as £70,000 of government funding. I wish! Unless our treasurer quietly trousered all that lovely lucre for himself, we received not a penny of public money. We always operated on a shoestring. I had assumed this Hulbert character was some low grade tea maker cum errand boy but it turns out he is now retired after ending up as head of social services at Bedfordshire County Council.

It is a further allegation of his that brings in the spooks. Hulbert has reportedly claimed that PIE was being funded at the request of Special Branch, the anti-subversion police, who “found it politically useful to keep an eye on paedophiles”.

Now, get this: according to the Daily Mail the Home Office announced a formal inquiry into Hulbert’s claims but insisted the identity of the man carrying out the inquiry remain secret. Even MPs have not been told his name, leading the Mail to suggest he may be a security service officer. The Mail goes on: “…if the man is indeed a spy, then his appointment to investigate this scandal — which, remember, revolves around suggestions that the security services were behind the public funding of PIE — would represent a terrible conflict of interest. Either way, the man leading the inquiry promptly approached Hulbert for evidence. But according to friends, ‘did so in such a way as to make Tim feel threatened’.”

So government spies have been backing PIE and are now using sinister tactics to cover their tracks! Delicious! You couldn’t make it up! Or, rather, that’s exactly what you can do if you are a sensationalist tabloid!

The alleged government funding of PIE relates to a vague time period that could go back as far as 1974. But let’s fast-forward to the 1980s. I was in prison from 1981-2 for conspiracy to corrupt public morals, following a campaign by the News of the World (the dreadful Murdoch tabloid closed down after the recent phone-hacking scandal). It was essentially just a trumped-up political charge to “get” PIE. As may be imagined, the case generated a lot of publicity.

Geoffrey Dickens, a Conservative MP, jumped on the bandwagon, naming in the House of Commons as one of our former PIE members a certain Sir Peter Hayman. In fact, Hayman had already been named in the journal Private Eye, which was the first I learned of his membership as he had been a member under an assumed name. Hayman really was a member of the Establishment. He had been a top diplomat, in a career that included serving as High Commissioner to Canada. But he was never on the PIE committee or active in the organisation’s ranks.

Dickens, who died many years ago, is in the news again because the now infamously absent 114 government files are thought to have included a dossier of papers he compiled. The Dickens dossier is said to have detailed paedophile activity among leading MPs and public figures. It was handed to then-Home Secretary Leon Brittan in 1983.

During these early 1980s years, Steve Smith was chair of PIE. The interesting thing about this is that he had his own office in the basement of the Home Office, where he worked as a security officer! In a memoir, he would later write, “Every year, my security clearance was renewed by Scotland Yard, without my connection with PIE being discovered.” He said the security job involved very little work, enabling him to spend time on tasks such as producing PIE publications. This office was dedicated to security, so no one else came in and PIE documents could be stored there safely.

He even managed to get another PIE committee member employed there and it is entirely possible – I put it no more strongly – that other PIE members could have been admitted to do various PIE tasks.

Think about it. Two, three, maybe more, members of a massively oppressed, disaffected, minority manage to monopolise, undisturbed, in the basement, the security arrangements of a major government building: a tower-block, actually. They were the ones who controlled the alarm systems, and would have had closed-circuit TV screens from which they could monitor the rest of the building. The Home Secretary would presumably often have been there, along with hundreds of civil servants and visiting VIPs.

Sounds like an Al-Qaeda dream, doesn’t it? Or a Guy Fawkes one: pack the place with explosives and blow it sky high. But neither Steve nor the rest of us were violently inclined – an inconvenient truth the media would have to ignore if they wanted to manufacture a Gunpowder Plot story. No doubt they could, but the media are now more interested in Establishment conspiracies than PIE ones, so they focused on a totally different angle, claiming the authorities knew all about Smith:

“Shockingly,” said the Mail, “it seems that many in the civil service knew all about his peccadilloes, and indeed actually tolerated them — perhaps due to the misguided belief (then prevalent in liberal circles) that paedophiles were a minority deserving of protection.”

Steve, sadly, is currently in prison (porn, since you ask) hence not in a position to comment. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that I have been deluged with media requests this past week. In the end, I turned down most because they only wanted to hear facts supporting their conspiracy theories. I had no wish to oblige, and had no relevant knowledge anyway.

As briefly reported in response to comments here, though, I did eventually give a 15-minute phone interview to Channel 4 News. This item (see at this link under “Did taxpayers’ money fund paedophiles?”) was entirely about PIE and would have gone ahead without me anyway, as there were several other interviewees: psychologist Glenn Wilson, who published a book based on a survey of PIE’s members; Ian Pace, musician and assiduous dirt-digger on PIE; and Peter Hain, veteran Labour politician.

Wilson was wonderful. Not only did he decline to present paedophiles as abnormal monsters, which his research had shown not to be the case; he also declined to endorse the prejudice that adult-child contacts are necessarily harmful, stoutly maintaining that the science did not support such a view, whatever the general public might think in the light of merely “anecdotal” accounts.

Before the interviews aired, presenter Matt Frei delivered one of those warnings. You know the sort of thing. It’s usually about explicit sexual content or graphic scenes of violence. But this one was different. “Be warned,” he solemnly intoned, “[the] report does contain views which many people may find highly distressing”.

Views! Mere views! How long, one wonders, before “survivors” of exposure to allegedly traumatising opinions start whining and demanding compensation? I was amazed and delighted to discover, by the way, that the offending views must have been Wilson’s because mine were all censored out!

I had been in the chair of PIE in 1978 when we decided to cooperate with Dr Wilson, who was a research psychologist based at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. It was a close call. PIE grew mainly out of the gay movement, which at that time was highly suspicious of psychiatry, and with good reason: before the triumph of gay liberation psychiatrists had resorted to “aversion therapy” in an attempt to “cure” homosexuality. This entailed such barbaric methods as showing the “patient” gay porn while simultaneously administering electronic shocks or chemicals to induce nausea.

I have absolutely no regrets over the decision to make volunteers from our membership available for the research in question, which was written up as a book called The Child-Lovers: A Study of Paedophiles in Society (Glenn D Wilson & David N Cox, Peter Owen, London, 1983). The “in society” part was important because previous studies had been based either on sex offenders in the penal system or those undergoing psychiatric treatment, two populations both of which were likely to produce misleading data in terms of what most paedophiles are like.

As for my contribution to the Channel 4 programme, only a couple of minutes from the original fifteen were aired. As usually happens, especially on the rare occasions when a paedophile is allowed to speak, the best bits were the ones the audience never heard. I made my own audio recording of the original phone call, though, and have made it available online, [IMPORTANT: Whether you choose to Save the file or Open it, there is a load-up time or one or two minutes before play can commence. Works with Windows Media Player, VLC or “Other” (you choose).] so any Heretic TOC readers who are interested will be able to compare it with what was aired. For a quick understanding of the key points I made that were cut out, see the list below.

Finally, it would take too long to write about the many fascinating developments in the past week but equally there are things you may not want me to leave out. So I conclude below with a few bullet points and links.

• Mark Williams-Thomas was among the media figures (ITV) who emailed asking for my input last week. He is the guy, it may be recalled, who got the whole Jimmy Savile story going. Why this latter day Witch-Finder General would think I would be keen to give him a story is beyond me.
• Rod Liddle had a good sceptical piece in The Spectator. He doubted that a hand on a thigh could cause “failed relationships, aspirations not achieved, mental breakdown, poverty, unhappiness, alcoholism, drug addiction” for years and decades later.
• Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, was also in sceptical vein. The late Geoffrey Dickens MP had been a rent-a-quote character, he tells us, who “made claims about the satanic and occult that were, to put it politely, far-fetched”. Moore also has a healthy line on the folly of “listening to the victims” on matters of which their opinion is of no value.
• The Daily Mirror did a surprisingly good guide to PIE in the 1970s, with links to the full text of some PIE publications and even to my book Paedophilia: The Radical Case
• Famously intellectual actor and comic TV presenter Stephen Fry “stuns Labour gala as he hits out at sex abuse investigation”.
• Fry can be very funny but if you want a real belly-laugh this week look no further than this story in the Guardian: “Leading psychologist says police officers investigating historical cases are at breaking point with exhaustion and stress”. No doubt they will be on the compo trail!
• David Mellor, former Conservative minister, bragged on the Andrew Marr Show, “We shut down the Paedophile Information Exchange”. Actually, PIE wound itself up after two major prosecutions of its committee members launched by a judiciary which is supposed to be independent of party politics. Umm. Is Mellor saying his party put the Director of Public Prosecutions under pressure? I have some recollection of hearing many years ago that Sir Ian Percival QC, Solicitor General under Thatcher, did advise the DPP to prosecute PIE, or at least to consider doing so. Would this have been constitutionally in order? I am not sure. [ADDED 2 FEB, 2015: I had occasion to check through some old newspaper and journals cuttings a few days ago. Any role Percival played actually seems to have been overshadowed compared to that of the Attorney General of the time, Sir Michael Havers, who is also mentioned immediately below in connection with Baroness Butler-Sloss. One particular article was particularly revealing. This was “Unacceptable charges exposed in recent trials” by Peter Thornton, who had been one of my trial lawyers. His article appeared in Rights (Vol. 6, No. 2), the journal of the National Council for Civil Liberties. He is now His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, chief coroner of England and Wales. In this article, he said Sir Michael Havers had insisted on bringing an expensive and largely unsuccessful conspiracy case against PIE against the inclinations of the DPP.]
• In news just in, retired judge Baroness Butler-Sloss, appointed to head the “inquiry into inquiries” mentioned above, has resigned before even getting started. “Victims” had complained that her work would concern a possible Establishment cover-up but she herself was a key Establishment figure whose brother, the late Sir Michael Havers, had been Attorney General at the time of the alleged cover-up. They had a point.

WHAT CHANNEL 4 LEFT OUT
The following, in note form, are all points I made in my interview with Jackie Long. None of them were broadcast:

1) Raison d’être of PIE: public understanding of paedophilia; democratic campaign to change age of consent; fight for sexual self-determination at all ages; liberation of children from oppressive adult power in all aspects of their lives, in line with writings by feminists at the time, including Hillary Clinton whose work on children’s rights inspired my own writing on the subject.
2) Coming out of the 1950s, when sex was not talked about because it was considered shameful, in line with traditional Christian views of St Paul, and homosexuality was illegal. We felt we were part of the great liberation movement of the 1960s and beyond, which included gay liberation.
3) Kinsey showed that children masturbate and behave sexually with each other from the earliest ages if allowed to do so. It is not permitted these days to research children’s sexuality, so we are not getting the facts, and children’s sexual expression is being criminalised.
4) Society’s ever increasingly sexually repressive direction, with more and more vigilant policing, is making matters worse, not better: it has iatrogenic effects. People now feel traumatised for life by the mildest unwanted touching, or even by sexual relationships they enjoyed at the time.

Can you tell who he is yet?

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Rolf Harris you are 84 years old. You have no previous criminal convictions or cautions recorded against you. You are no longer in the best of health. For well over 50 years you have been a popular entertainer and television personality of international standing – with a speciality in children’s entertainment. You are also an artist of renown. You have been the recipient of a number of honours and awards over the years. You have done many good and charitable works and numerous people have attested to your positive good character.

So began the sentencing remarks by Mr Justice Sweeney at Southwark Crown Court, London, before handing down a prison term of five years and nine months on Harris last week. Unfortunately for the star, who was massive in Britain and his native Australia, the rest of the judge’s 3,000-word speech was to be no encomium. Instead, he rebuked the man in the dock as a serial sex attacker of girls and young women who had abused the trust placed in him as a famous children’s entertainer.

Those who remember the TV shows of his heyday, as I do, will recall a man who was brilliant at his job. A speciality was rapid painting, so his young viewers could see a picture emerging before their very eyes in a matter of moments. “Can you tell what it is yet?” he would ask. It became a catchphrase. In his later years he was taken seriously as an artist, with an exhibition of his work at the National Gallery. In 2006 he was even commissioned to paint a portrait of the Queen on her 80th birthday.

The question for us now is somewhat different. Unlike Jimmy Savile, who was never put on trial, Harris has been found guilty by a jury. But is he really the monster painted by the media in their own post-verdict instant artistry? Can we see who he is yet? There are plenty of reasons to suppose the genre of painting going on here is one of optical illusion, like the famously impossible Escher staircase.

We can look at the Rolph Harris case, just like the staircase, and be struck immediately by an impossible disparity: the offences, even if the jury made correct decisions on the facts, bear no relation to the spin being put upon them.

The main facts are that Harris was convicted of 12 counts of indecent assault committed decades ago, between 1969 and 1986, against four females. These ranged from one-off incidents of groping in public to a long involvement in the life of his daughter Bindi’s best friend (Victim C). The youngest was an eight-year-old girl (Victim A) who asked for his autograph at a public event. He twice put his hand up her skirt and felt her vagina over her underwear.

In a Victim Impact Statement, Victim A said this incident had caused her “physical and mental pain” and that “in the space of a few minutes my childhood innocence was gone”. She said, “I became an angry child unable to express myself and unable to trust men. I took this with me into my teens and did not like to be touched. It made having normal relationships difficult….I have carried what Rolf Harris did to me for most of my life. It took away most of my childhood.”

Victim C and her family were friends with Harris and his family in the mid 1960s. In 1978 when C was aged 13 and Harris was 48 he was allowed by C’s parents to take her on holiday abroad with his wife and Bindi. That is when he started touching her sexually. After the holiday, and while she was still under the age of consent (not that she ever did consent, by her own account) there were further incidents at C’s own home. While his wife and C’s parents were downstairs he went to C’s bedroom upstairs, where he inserted his finger into her vagina, in the words of the judge, “for about a minute until she managed to get away”. Several further such incidents, the last when she was 19, were specified in the indictment, including ones in which he licked her vagina. The judge said to Harris “Whilst I do not sentence you in relation to what you did to C in the decade that followed that offence, I am sure that offences against her continued until 1994.”

Harris also faced four charges of possessing indecent images of children on his computer following a police raid on his home in 2012. This case was dropped following his conviction on the other charges.

So, in summary, we have groping incidents including one against an eight-year-old over her clothing which robbed her of her childhood and has been a cross she has had to bear for the rest of her life. And we have a series of assaults over a period of 16 years against one victim, several of them while her parents were in another room of the same house at the time, until she was 29 years old. And a porn case that was dropped.

Does anything begin to seem a bit unlikely, or even impossible about this, like the Escher staircase? Can you tell what it is yet? I’m guessing you can. But let’s go on. Let’s paint the final brush strokes of the picture.

In her Victim Impact Statement, Bindi’s friend Victim C said, “The attacks…made me feel dirty, grubby and disgusting. The whole sordid saga has traumatised me. I have panic attacks and suffer from anxiety. The effects of the abuse have been with me for many years. I started drinking at the age of 14 to 15 years old. This was to block out the effects of what he was doing to me. This had an effect on my relationship with my parents and people close to me. The slightest thing would upset me, I would get so angry, my reaction would be so disproportionate and over the top. As a young girl I had aspirations to have a career, settle down and have a family. However, as a direct result of his actions, this has never materialised. I have never had a meaningful relationship whilst sober. I have also never been able to hold down a job. This was down to the need to block out what he had done to me through drink. Rolf Harris had a hold over me that made me a quivering wreck….He made me feel like a sexual object. He used and abused me to such an extent that it made me feel worthless…”

So there we have it. Can you see the full pattern and paradox now? The pattern is one of relatively mild sexual impropriety, or even consensual sex with a mature adult: what else can we seriously suppose it to have been when the “assaults” on C continued until she was 29? The paradox is the huge, life-wrecking consequences that are said to have resulted from these acts.

Don’t get me wrong. Sexual harassment should not be tolerated. Heretic TOC is not calling for a groper’s charter. As we have discussed extensively here recently, mutual consent is a basic requirement of legitimate sex at any age. Where the courts and the abuse lobbyists, the politicians and the media are going wrong, however, is in giving too much credence to those who seek to put everything that has gone wrong in their lives down to child sexual abuse (CSA). It is an easy cop out from personal responsibility. One thing often overlooked by those who assume a direct CSA = Lifelong Trauma equation is that lurking in the background of these damaged people’s lives there is often a history of significant trauma and mental instability arising even before the CSA took place. Rind et al., in their famous 1998 meta-analysis showed that chaotic and dysfunctional family background was nine times more predictive of psychological damage in later life than CSA, to which such damage is usually attributed.

The public are also deceived by the utterly false dogma that victims always “courageously” come forward to tell the unvarnished truth, without exaggeration. It is hard to be sure from a short public description, but Victim A in this case said she suffered physical as well as mental pain. Really? From being touched over her underwear in a crowded public place where any cry of pain would surely have attracted attention? One has to wonder. Those who think victims are always honest should catch up on the Somaly Mam scandal, as reported last month in “Victims Can Lie as Much as Other People”.

Back to Rolph. Like Jimmy Savile, he was clearly no saint. A particular grouse of mine would be his hypocrisy. Whereas Savile was astonishingly open about his attraction to young girls, Harris shored up his respectability by presenting a 1985 anti-CSA video for the NSPCC, called Kids Can Say No!

Nor was he great at loyalty: apparently unbeknown to his wife, for several years in the 1990s he kept a mistress at the bottom of his garden!

That wasn’t as uncomfortable for her as it might sound: the lady was installed in a converted boathouse in the grounds of his mansion by the River Thames, and was supposed to be his housekeeper and chauffeur.

So, can we tell who he was yet? Was he the monster the media have painted?

What he was not is a paedophile if we use that term to mean someone preferentially attracted to prepubescent children. His offences point to a degree of hebephilic interest in teenage girls; but with a wife and a long-term adult mistress, his sexuality appears actually to have been rather normal in its direction. It’s just that its expression was a little over-exuberant. Not that this is any excuse: arguably his lapses were worse than those of someone, attracted exclusively to kids, who has no viable alternative outlet for his feelings.

What concerns us more urgently, though, is not whether one particular man meets with our moral approval here at Heretic TOC. It’s the societal response to these big, high-profile cases that counts. For the most part, that response has been really bad news, and we must brace ourselves for much more of the same in the coming weeks and months as the post-Savile cultural revolution cranks itself up to some sort of crescendo.

So much for the big picture. I’ll conclude with a few brief sketches:

 

‘LOVELY TOUCHY-FEELY ROLF’

Amanda Platell, a high-profile journalist, who used to be press secretary to William Hague when he was leader of the Conservative Party, said she had been among Harris’s fans and had invited him to her fortieth birthday party many years ago. Cheekily, she said she was so thrilled to see her childhood hero in the flesh that “I took him upstairs away from my other guests to keep him to myself for a while.” We are left to guess was happened, but she wasn’t complaining! On the other hand, that’s before she knew what a bad boy he could be. But now, she says, “I can deny it no longer: the man I adored betrayed me. More than that, I’ve had to accept that Rolf Harris groomed me, just as meticulously as he did his victims.” How did he do it? By being nice. “Lovely touchy-feely Rolf had this ability to make you feel as though you were the most important person in the world.” The swine!

 

A GRIM LONDON PRISON

Eric Allison, the excellent prisons correspondent of the Guardian and an ex-convict himself, reported that in the big van that would take Harris and other prisoners from the court to prison (HMP Wandsworth), Harris would be “insulted mercilessly by the other occupants of the sweatbox. At the grim south London jail, he will be segregated during the reception process although he will still hear torrents of abuse for his indecent assault of young girls.” As an old man, he would be put in the hospital wing, where patients “tend to be medicated during the day when they can present control problems, but left drug-free to scream and shout throughout the long nights.” This sounds bleak, and the scenario may have unfolded just as Allison says. But Harris should be OK if he can get out of healthcare and into the Vulnerable Prisoners Unit (VPU) which is the usual destination for anyone in need of protection from the hostility of other inmates – which these days means mainly sex offenders, quite a lot of them almost as old as Harris. I know, because I was there myself. In fact I was tried at Southwark Crown Court like Harris too. Ah, happy memories – not!

 

NEXT SCANDAL: THE PAEDO POLITICIANS

News of fresh craziness in the cultural revolution keeps coming in so thick and fast that my last item here would be my lead story if this were a daily newspaper: a big scandal broke in the Sunday papers yesterday, when they reported that the British Home Office has confessed to losing or destroying 114 “potentially relevant” files relating to “the paedophile scandal engulfing Westminster” i.e. allegations that “paedophilia on an industrial scale” was rife among top politicians in the 1970s and 80s. This story is certain to get even bigger in the coming week and beyond. I got wind of it last week when the main broadcasting outfits (BBC’s Today programme and ITN) plus the Daily Mail contacted me to ask if I could tell them anything about naughty deeds in high places back in the day. Sadly, being more familiar with low places I had to disappoint them!

 

STOP PRESS

The very latest, Daily Telegraph this morning:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/10948796/Paedophilia-is-natural-and-normal-for-males.html

Heretic TOC is quoted. Looks like I’m adding to the problem, rather than solving it. Should I stop writing this blog?

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