Elm Guest House child abuse scandal
The Elm Guest House child abuse scandal arose from claims of sexual abuse and the grooming of children by prominent British men, including former government ministers, senior MPs, top police officers and people with links to the royal household, at parties held at the former Elm Guest House in Rocks Lane, near Barnes Common in South West London during the late 1970s and 1980s.
An investigation, Operation Fairbank, which was led by the Metropolitan Police Service, started in late 2012. The investigation was a "scoping exercise" aimed at a "preliminary assessment of the evidence rather than a formal inquiry". The existence of the operation was confirmed on 12 December 2012, after operating in secret for several weeks. A full criminal investigation, Operation Fernbridge, was launched in February 2013 as a result of allegations arising from Operation Fairbank. The allegations of an establishment paedophile ring are part of a complex multi-agency investigation.
Prominent people who attended parties at Elm Guest House are reported to have included the Liberal MP Cyril Smith and the Soviet spy Anthony Blunt. According to The Independent, other alleged visitors to the guesthouse include the former British diplomat Sir Peter Hayman, as well as a Sinn Féin politician, a Labour MP, several Conservative politicians, judges and pop stars.
In addition to eight guest rooms, facilities at Elm Guest House included a sauna, solarium and video studio. The Edwardian house is now a private residence and the current occupants are not connected to the allegations.
Claims by Tom Watson MP
Operation Fairbank was set up following claims by Labour Party politician Tom Watson in the House of Commons that the police should look afresh at claims of a "powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10". Watson raised the issue at Prime Minister's Questions on 24 October 2012. The information was passed to him by a journalist from the investigative news website Exaro. He suggested that such a network may have existed in the past at a high level, protected by connections to Parliament and involving a close aide to a former Prime Minister; neither the aide nor the former Prime Minister were named.
Watson referred to Peter Righton, a former consultant to the National Children's Bureau, who was convicted of importing and possessing illegal pornographic material in 1992. Watson said that files on Righton contained "clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring...One of its members boasts of a link to a senior aide of a former Prime Minister, who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad."
The police investigation known as Operation Fairbank was first set up under conditions of secrecy. The Independent on Sunday reported that it focused on claims of sexual abuse and the grooming of children, involving parties for men at the former Elm Guest House in Rocks Lane, close to Barnes Common in south west London, during the late 1970s and 1980s.
The guest house was managed at the time by Carole Kasir, who died in 1990 at the age of 47; an inquest found that the cause was an overdose of insulin. Two employees from the National Association for Young People in Care told the coroner they believed that because Kasir seemingly had not had an insulin injection for three days, she had been murdered. Nevertheless, she was found to have committed suicide. A party was raided by the police in 1982, following which 12 boys gave evidence that they had been abused by men at the house. Kasir was convicted of the charge of running a disorderly house, but allegations of abuse against children, and a subsequent reported investigation in 2003, were apparently not pursued.
In January 2013, The Independent on Sunday reported that police were investigating claims that Cyril Smith, a former Liberal MP who died in 2010, sexually abused young boys at Elm Guest House, which the article claimed "was allegedly used by a powerful paedophile network whose members are said to have included former leading Conservative politicians." Smith is reported to have been a regular visitor to Elm Guest House. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "We can confirm Cyril Smith visited the premises."
In February 2013, it was reported that police were investigating allegations that in the early 1980s a "paedophile ring of VIPs" abused boys from the Grafton Close Children's Home in Richmond, south-west London. A claim was also made that Kasir had photographs or video of many establishment figures at Elm Guest House, one photograph allegedly showing a former cabinet minister in a sauna with a naked boy.
In February 2013, one alleged victim of abuse at Elm Guest House said that at the age of 13 he and his 12-year-old brother, both orphans, were sent there for parties when they were residents at Grafton Close Children's home. He said boys were plied with alcohol before being abused by men at the guesthouse. In March 2013, The Independent on Sunday reported that at least three men named in documents as visitors to the Elm Guest House were later convicted of multiple sexual offences against children.
Criminal investigation – Operation Fernbridge
A full criminal investigation, Operation Fernbridge, was launched as a result of allegations that arose from Operation Fairbank. Two men, a Catholic priest from Norwich, and a man understood to be connected to the Grafton Close children's home in Richmond, were arrested on suspicion of sexual offences and questioned by child investigation officers from Operation Fernbridge in February 2013. A third arrest, of a 69-year-old man, took place in July 2013. A trial against Tony McSweeney, the Catholic priest, and John Stingemore who formerly worked for Richmond Council, is due to start at Southwark Crown Court on 2 February 2015. They have always denied the charges against them.
Operation Fernbridge is being supported by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and Richmond Social Services. In June 2013 it was reported that seven police officers were working on the case and were following more than 300 leads. On 14 July 2014, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that they had more than tripled the number of officers working on the case, announcing that 22 officers are now working on the operation.
Back in 1983 Geoffrey Dickens, a Conservative MP, compiled a dossier, telling his family it was "explosive" and would "blow the lid" on powerful and famous child abusers. The dossier was handed over to the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, who acknowledged receipt in a letter and suggested the police had been informed. The dossier was subsequently lost. The Observer revealed on 5 July 2014 that the Dickens dossier was just one of 114 potentially relevant files found to be missing by officials when they did their initial search. On 4 July 2014, David Cameron ordered an enquiry into the missing 1980s dossier.
In April 2014, Simon Danczuk MP said he was convinced there had been a "network of paedophiles" operating in the House of Commons who helped to protect Liberal MP Cyril Smith. Claims were made that a 16-year-old boy had been abused by Smith at Elm Guest House.
In July 2014, after it emerged that a dossier of claims made by former MP Geoffrey Dickens had apparently disappeared, Danczuk referred to the police investigation into events at Elm Guest House, when he called for former Home Secretary Leon Brittan to clarify what he knew about allegations made in the 1980s of paedophiles operating in Westminster. It was reported by The Guardian that events at the guest house were at "the heart" of the "long-simmering sex scandal".
Retired child protection team manager Peter McKelvie, whose claims formed part of the Operation Fernbridge investigation, said in July 2014 that more than ten current and former politicians were on a list of alleged child abusers held by police investigating claims of a Westminster paedophile ring. Several, including Cyril Smith and Peter Morrison, were no longer alive, but other alleged abusers were reportedly still active in Parliament.
In July 2014, The Daily Telegraph reported that a senior Conservative politician being investigated as part of Operation Fernbridge had allegedly been stopped by a customs officer with child pornography in the 1980s. He was never arrested over the alleged child pornography seizure. A senior Conservative politician has been accused of abusing a young boy at Elm Guest House, but it was reported that police were understood to have insufficient evidence to take any action.
The same newspaper reported a few days later that a statement had been given by a child in 1982 alleging that he was abused at Elm Guest House by a senior political figure. It was reported that Operation Fernbridge detectives had closely examined the case of the eight-year-old alleged victim. Detectives also interviewed a retired police officer who had been involved in the original Elm Guest House investigation and who had interviewed the alleged victim at the time. The eight-year-old boy had reportedly been rescued from Elm Guest House after allegedly suffering what was described as a "horrific sexual assault" by the leading political figure.
In July 2014, there were calls for the late Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, a former Solicitor General for Scotland, to be posthumously investigated after being linked to child abuse allegations at Elm Guest House. It was alleged that Fairbairn, who died in 1995 aged 61, was one of a number of politicians who visited the guest house in June 1982. Photographs were allegedly taken of Fairbairn – as well as Cyril Smith – at the guest house. Fairbairn was linked to alleged abuse of boys in a sauna at Elm Guest House. In 2000, the daughter of a prominent Scottish lawyer alleged that Fairbairn, a former legal adviser to Margaret Thatcher, was part of a paedophile ring. Pete Wishart, an SNP MP, who represents Fairbairn's former constituency of Perth, called for the allegations to be fully examined. He said: "If there is any evidence that Sir Nicholas Fairbairn was involved in the abuse of children it should be looked at and properly investigated."
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