Daily Mail, 2nd March 2008
by Eileen Fairweather
The award-winning journalist who exposed terrible abuse in Islington children’s homes now reveals horrifying links to sinister discoveries at Jersey’s Haut de la Garenne.
I met the frightened policeman at an isolated country restaurant, many miles from his home and station. Detective Constable Peter Cook had finally despaired, and decided to blow the whistle to a reporter.
He was risking his career, so made me scribble my notes into a tiny pad beneath the tablecloth.
He had uncovered a vicious child sex ring, with victims in both Britain and the Channel Islands, and he wanted me to get his information to police abuse specialists in London.
Incredibly, he claimed that his superiors had barred him from alerting them.
He feared a cover-up: many ring members were powerful and wealthy. But I did not think him paranoid: I specialised in exposing child abuse scandals and knew, from separate sources, of men apparently linked to this ring.
They included an aristocrat, clerics and a social services chief. Their friends included senior police officers.
Repeatedly, inquiries by junior detectives were closed down, so I, a journalist, was asked to convey confidential information from one police officer to others. It seemed surreal.
I duly met trusted contacts at the National Criminal-Intelligence Squad. That was more than 12 years ago, and little happened – until now.
Last weekend, a child’s remains were found at a former children’s home on Jersey amid claims of a paedophile ring.
More than 200 children who lived at Haut de la Garenne have described horrific sexual and physical torture dating back to the Sixties.
When I heard the news, my eyes filled with tears. I felt heartbroken, not least at my own powerlessness. I have known for more than 15 years about Channel Islands paedophiles victimising children in the British care system.
I was relieved that the truth was finally emerging. But I felt devastated. Children had probably been murdered. I had so not wanted to be right.
I stood outside the forbidding Victorian building of Haut de la Garenne this week and watched grim-faced police in blue plastic forensic suits hunt its bricked-up secret basements for children’s bones.
Outside, a large cross commemorates the 35 former residents who died fighting for their country: “Their names liveth forever.” Oh yes?
What are the names of the children whose bodies may now be dug up – and why did no one miss and search for them earlier? Jersey’s residents and political class must ask these questions.
Disturbing allegations about the murder of children in care have characterised other scandals I investigated in Britain, but today I can reveal for the first time the links between the abuse I uncovered at care homes in Islington, North London, and the horrifying discoveries on Jersey.
I have never before written that 14-year-old Jason Swift, killed in 1985 by a paedophile gang, is believed to have lived in Islington council’s Conewood Street home.
Two sources claimed this when I investigated Islington’s 12 care homes for The Mail on Sunday’s sister paper, the London Evening Standard, in the early Nineties.
But hundreds of children’s files mysteriously disappeared in Islington and, without documentation, this was not evidence enough.
We did, however, prove that every home included staff who were paedophiles, child pornographers or pimps. Concerned police secretly confirmed that several Islington workers were believed “networkers”, major operators in the supply of children for abuse and pornography.
Some of these were from the Channel Islands or regularly took Islington children there on unofficial visits. In light of the grisly discoveries at Haut de la Garenne, the link now seems significant, but at the time we were so overwhelmed by abuse allegations nearer home that this connection never emerged.
What we did report prompted the sort of vehement official denials that have come to characterise child abuse claims. Margaret Hodge, then council leader, denounced us as Right-wing “gutter journalists” who supposedly bribed children to lie.
Our findings were eventually vindicated by Government-ordered inquiries, and two British Press Awards. Yet I knew we had only scraped the surface of Islington’s corruption.
Now Jersey police under deputy chief Lenny Harper – a ‘new broom’ outsider – have been secretly investigating a paedophile ring linked to the island’s care homes for months, I have been struck by common factors with the British abuse scandals: innocent-sounding sailing trips, where children can be isolated and abused, away from prying eyes, then delivered to other abusers; the familiar smearing of whistle-blowers; and the suppression of damning reports.
Jersey social worker Simon Bellwood was sacked early last year after speaking out, and popular health minister Stuart Syvret, 42, was fired in November after publicising the suppressed Sharp Report into abuse allegations.
“The smears on me are water off a duck’s back,” this brave man told me yesterday in a St Helier cafe. But his hands shook.
I have never assumed that the officials, politicians and police who cover up abuse scandals are all paedophiles, nor does Syvret.
“They just want a quiet life and their competency unquestioned. I’m angrier with them than the abusers, and want several prosecuted for obstructing the course of justice. The police are considering charges,” he added.
Traditionally, police fear paedophile ring inquiries as expensive and unproductive. Traumatised witnesses can be hazy and collapse under cross-examination.
Convictions are rare. Police therefore raid suspected abusers for paedophile pornography, which more easily yields convictions.
Well – in theory. In June 1991, police in Cambridgeshire raided the home of Neil Hocquart who abused children in Britain and Guernsey and, with a social worker from Jersey, supplied child pornography for a huge sex ring.
It should have been a major breakthrough. But, as DC Cook told me, it went horribly wrong.
A handful of child sex-ring victims become “recruiters”. They are not beaten but rewarded with gifts,
money and ‘love’. In return, their job is to procure other victims. Such a man, my whistle-blower believed, was Neil Frederick Hocquart.
Hocquart, original surname Foster, was abused while in care in Norfolk and was eventually ‘befriended’ by an older man, merchant seaman Captain H. Hocquart of Vale, in Guernsey, whose surname he adopted.
Captain Hocquart was not the only Channel Islands man with an interest in children in care. Satan worshipper Edward Paisnel, “The Beast of Jersey”, was given a 30-year sentence in 1971 on 13 counts of raping girls and boys. The building contractor fostered children and played Father Christmas at Haut de la Garenne in the Sixties.
Cambridgeshire police, in a joint operation with Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Squad (now the Paedophile Unit), raided Neil Hocquart’s Swaffham Manor home in June 1991.
They found more than 100 child-sex videos and 300 photographs of children. At nearby Ely they found his friend, Walter Clack, trying to dispose of a sick home video of a middle-aged man abusing a boy.
Who were the children in these films and photos? Police needed properly to question these men. But they never got the chance.
Hocquart secretly took an overdose of anti-depressant dothiepin and died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital soon after his arrest. Was his suicide a last act of loyalty?
DC Cook told me incredulously that a senior officer broke with normal procedure and informed Clack, before he was questioned, that the other suspect was dead. Clack then blamed the dead man for everything, and escaped with a £5,000 fine – and inherited one third of Hocquart’s wealth, at his bequest.
Wills featured strongly in the fortunesof the Islington and Channel Islands paedophiles. Police discovered that Neil Hocquart inherited his wealth from the Guernsey sea captain.
But Captain Hocquart possibly paid dearly for befriending orphans: he died soon after making out his will in the younger man’s favour.
Scotland Yard detectives told me they found at least “two or three” wills of older men who died of apparent heart attacks shortly after leaving everything to Neil Hocquart.
The officers cheerfully called him a “murderer”. These deaths were never investigated: the suspect, after all, was now also dead.
Hocquart wasn’t the only person in his circle to become rich this way. A Jersey-born friend of Hocquart’s, who started his childcare career on the island before becoming a key supplier of children from Islington’s care homes to paedophile rings, similarly inherited a fortune.
Nicholas John Rabet was for many years deputy superintendent of Islington council’s home at 114 Grosvenor Avenue.
He and a colleague, another single man later barred from social work by the Department of Health, both took children on unauthorised trips to Jersey. Allegations mounted but nothing was done.
Rabet’s opportunities to obtain victims massively increased after he befriended the widow of an American oil millionaire. She died after rewriting her will in his favour.
He inherited her manor house at Cross in Hand near Heathfield, Sussex, where he opened a children’s activity centre, and regularly invited children in Islington’s care to stay.
Hocquart spent £13,000 on quad bikes for the centre, called The Stables, and he and Walter Clack became “volunteers” there.
Hocquart befriended one young boy and took him on a sailing trip, where there would be little risk of being spotted. Police found disturbing film from the trip of men spraying the naked child with water.
But Hocquart left the boy another third of his money, and he denied abuse when questioned.
Police also found at Hocquart’s home naked photos of a boy of about ten, whom they learned was in the care of Islington social services. I shall call him Shane.
Sussex police raided Rabet’s children’s centre. But he had plenty of warning and, they believed, emptied it of child pornography. However officers still found a “shrine to boys”, with suggestive photographs everywhere, including pictures of Shane.
They approached Shane, at his Islington children’s home. He tearfully confirmed months of abuse. But their attempts to investigate further were thwarted by Islington Council.
Many professionals had, for years, expressed grave fears about Rabet, and put their concerns in writing. But Islington falsely told Sussex officers it had no file material on Rabet or his alleged victim.
Staff had in fact been ordered to find the complaints and deliver them to the office of Lyn Cusack, Islington’s assistant director of social services – but they were handed over to Sussex police only when I revealed their existence.
Islington’s appalling mishandling of vital records was highlighted by the independent White inquiry into the abuse in Islington children’s homes, which found that “at assistant director level . . . many confidential files were destroyed by mistake, although there is no evidence of conspiracy.”
During the investigation into Rabet, Islington also refused to interview any other children in care, or, scandalously, help Sussex police identify other children in Rabet’s photos.
With only Shane’s evidence to rely on, police decided not to prosecute.
I traced Shane. He was furious that Rabet was never prosecuted, but not surprised. “This goes right to the top,” he said, “You have no idea how big this is.”
He showed me photos of another victim, a young Turkish boy with a sweet shy smile whom Rabet also regularly took from the Islington home to spend weekends at his manor house.
Shane didn’t know where the boy was now, he just disappeared. I was never able to find the boy, either. Many children in care are missed by no one.
I retraced Shane two years ago to tell him that justice had finally caught up with Rabet. Third World police had succeeded where Britain’s finest in Cambridgeshire, Sussex, London and Jersey had failed.
Rabet fled to Thailand’s notorious child sex resort of Pattaya after the White inquiry. He was arrested there in spring 2006 and charged with abusing 30 boys, some as young as six.
Thai police believed he had abused at least 300. But he was never tried: on May 12, 2006, Rabet died of an overdose at the age of 57.
Two other Jersey-born social workers, who for legal reasons I cannot name, also worked in Islington and later with young offenders.
One arranged more of those mysterious sailing trips to Guernsey, the other sent children to Rabet’s centre. Both were accused of abuse.
In 1995, we reinvestigated Rabet and met DC Cook at the restaurant. He had gone through Hocquart’s papers, investigated other members of the paedophile ring and met their victims. He was horrified at what he discovered.
One man, for example, married a single mother purely so he could abuse her two young sons.
“He told these poor children to keep quiet, that their mother had been lonely so long they would ruin her life if they said anything,” the officer told me.
The vicar who married them knew the groom was a paedophile but did not care: he was one too, and got his victims from a British care home.
DC Cook travelled to Guernsey, which Hocquart regularly visited. There local CID officers drove him round, and he met two brothers whom Hocquart abused, then delivered them to a high-ranking, respected local man to rape.
DC Cook traced another distraught victim in England who provided invaluable information about the man, based in Wales, who copied the ring’s child pornography for distribution.
This man clearly needed his door kicked in by police, as did Hocquart’s other contacts in Britain and the Channel Islands. But no action was taken.
Then word came from on high to drop his inquiries. DC Cook accepted that there might be an innocent explanation – that his local force might not want the financial burden of a national investigation.
But he became deeply troubled when told not to forward his vital intelligence to specialist officers elsewhere.
Britain’s new National Criminal Intelligence Squad (NCIS) had the job of disseminating intelligence on paedophiles across the country. Would I, asked the troubled officer, take his information to the squad’s Paedophile Unit for him?
And so we pretended to share a meal while I secretly scribbled down the names, addresses, dates of birth and believed victims of dozens of suspects.
My diary records that I met NCIS on January 4, 1996, at 10.30am, and I also channelled the intelligence to Scotland Yard. Neither, unfortunately, had the power to make local forces take action, so I was not optimistic.
This was not the first time I had acted as a go-between. In 1994, another police officer was barred from investigating a paedophile ring, which included an Islington social worker of Channel Islands origin.
We alerted Scotland Yard. This man was, I learned, involved with five overlapping paedophile rings – but he has never been convicted.
Peter Cook has now retired and agreed to go on the record. He told me the partner of Hocquart’s video producer was eventually imprisoned for abusing his own sons. “But we could have stopped so much else, so much earlier,” he said.
“The news from Jersey is horrifying. I’ve thought of Rabet all week. The hierarchy does not like these inquiries, they’re expensive and produce embarrassment, so people shove it all under the carpet, they don’t want to know even when children are dying.
“There will be people now crawling out claiming they were always worried. What cowards, what bastards!”
Jersey police confirmed this week it was aware of Nick Rabet and keen to learn more about his friends. Peter Cook told me: “I will help all I can.”
Michael Hames, the former head of Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Squad, once told me that he never doubted paedophiles were killing children in care.
But the climate of disbelief was fierce, and he asked sadly: “What police chief will dare risk his career by hiring JCBs [to search for the bodies]?”
Courageous Ulsterman Lenny Harper has. Deposed Jersey health minister Stuart Syvret told me: “My family has lived here since William the Conqueror. But if an indigenous police officer were in charge, this investigation would never have happened. Jersey is an oligarchy, where the elite look after each other.”
When I flew home late last night, in time for Mother’s Day, I felt utter relief.
This tiny island with its high-hedged lanes looked so pretty when the police series Bergerac was filmed here, but to me said just one thing: that there is no escape from here for a terrified child.
If witnesses who want, finally, to help these tragically un-mothered children, now is the time to speak out.