As the author of Voodoo Histories David Aaronovitch is an expert on modern conspiracy theories. So it is not perhaps surprising that he would treat a story about a historic Westminster paedophile ring involving VIPs as the latest manifestation of mad conspiracy theorists fuelled by deluded people.
This month he published a detailed article in The Times (behind pay wall) saying the whole VIP paedophile ring scandal at Elm Guest House was in effect one of these fantasies. He said the story had been ” largely created and reiterated by a former Labour councillor and convicted fraudster,Chris Fay”.
He accused me of spreading this incredible story ” that I always wanted the public to know”. He concluded by asking journalists like me ” Why am I doing this? And am I sure I’ve got this right.”
This is my answer to why David Aaronvitch has got this wrong. First it is not true that Chris Fay, who worked for an organisation helping children in care, is my sole source. He should know me better than that. I never rely on sole sources. Nor do I rely or even refer to this list of VIPs – which appears to be notes from the wife of the Elm Guest House’s long dead owner, Carol Kasir. I know it is not completely accurate. I have seen part of the real log of who stayed at this guest house which , of course, tells you nothing because people booked in under pseudonyms.
Second even Chris Fay does not claim the list is accurate. Indeed in an article on The Needleblog he says the opposite saying he compiled a list of victims who claimed they had been abused at the Elm Guest House not abusers. The survivors gave the organisation their accounts of what happened. He rightly casts doubt on that list – saying they may have been guests not abusers of children. Given that in 1982 it was not as acceptable as it is now for people to be gay, this is hardly surprising since people also used Elm Guest House as a rare haven for consenting adults to meet each other as well as paedophile activity.
So what is the evidence? There are two separate sources. First my original source – not Chris Fay who a colleague met – was a former local government officer on Richmond Council. It was he who led me to investigate why Elm Guest House was raided in the first place in 1982.
It wasn’t complaints from survivors but the residents who lived on this smart Barnes street. They were fed up with people coming at all hours, seeing children going into the guest house, and having posh chauffeur driven cars drawing up there. Most ordinary people do not have large posh cars or chauffeurs at their beck and call. It was one of the then residents who identified Leon Brittan not a survivor. Separately in answer to a direct question from a Dispatches investigation, the police confirmed that Sir Cyril Smith visited Elm Guest House and have not withdrawn it either.
Elm Guest House was not just a local guest house. It was known nationally in gay Conservative circles and directions to get there were included in a Conservative gay newsletter at the time.
The second stream of sources came from either people who stayed at Grafton Close children’s home or were other former staff on Richmond Council who had responsibility for the home. Here the main allegation was that children were taken there and abused at Elm Guest House and elsewhere. Not everybody was. One was rescued from that fate by a vigilant social worker.
It is a FACT that there was abuse at Elm Guest House. Why? Because one child was taken from Elm Guest House by Richmond Council to Grafton Close was given a medical examination which revealed horrific abuse. This is confirmed by two former senior officials from the council and the Met Police may have the medical file. The person has long since left the country, has a new life abroad, and has decided in view of the furore over this, not to testify.
Also if John Stingemore, the former deputy manager of Grafton Close, had lived to face trial at Southwark Crown Court, he would have faced a conspiracy to commit buggery charge, which was linked to taking children to Elm Guest House. His friend, Father Tony McSweeney, was convicted and sent to jail for three years. Evidence was given that showed children were taken by Stingemore and McSweeney from the home to Bexhill and abused,without their parents knowledge.
And Stingemore, it would have emerged, was a convicted paedophile , having sexually assaulted Peter Bornshin, another resident of Grafton Close said to have been taken to Elm Guest House. Richmond Council paid him compensation. He later committed suicide.
Finally it will be a little premature to assume that the Elm Guest House investigation is over.It is not. There are links to the Operation Midland investigation and there are a number of unfinished leads. But that would be tantamount to speculating on a current police investigation.
Am I right to pursue this? Yes. I don’t have the certainty that commentators like David Aaronovitch to make a polemical point. But I am certain enough that something went very wrong in the London borough of Richmond at that time and it could still be linked to other inquiries in Westminster.