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