Nicholas Rabet was the former deputy manager of Islington Council’s children’s home at 114 Grosvenor Avenue.
Police charge a British national with child molestation in Thailand’s tourist town of Pattaya. A British man has been charged with molesting underage children in Thailand, using computer games to lure dozens of boys to his home, police said on Saturday (July 16, 2005). Nicholas John Rabet, 56, was detained on Thursday (July 14) at a rented house in the resort town of Pattaya. During a raid on his house, police confiscated 11 game machine consoles, snacks and plastic bags filled with clothes of children who came to play at his place. Police Colonel Preecha Soonthornsiri said Rabet offered his house as a free game arcade for children aged between 6-14 on the condition they took off their clothes while playing the games to prevent them from stealing game cassettes. A bell would be hung on the front door to show that he was at home and the boys could come to play, Preecha said. Preecha said there were hundreds of boys who had played at the house, but there were about 30 of them who visited regularly, and would be paid between 500-1,000 baht ($12-$24) for performing sex acts on him. ($1 = 41.81 baht) Rabet could face a maximum jail term of five years if found guilty. The age of sexual consent is 15 in Thailand.
Last month this man killed himself in Thailand after being accused of sexually abusing 300 boys. I have to ask the disturbing question: Would these boys have suffered if Margaret Hodge’s London council had not protected him?;
Many years later onevictim spoke out,only for Hodge to discredit him as ‘disturbed’. I can reveal the source of this evil slurwas none other than the paedophile who abused him
Mail on Sunday, 11th June 2006
By Eileen Fairweather
The text message from Mike Hames, the former Scotland Yard pornography squad chief, was blunt: ‘Rabet’s topped himself.
It’s made my day.’ It arrived three weeks ago, as I was sitting in a sunny garden with Liz Davies, a woman with whom I had forged a deep and unlikely bond. We hadn’t seen each other for nine months and were talking about our kids.
Then Liz’s mobile phone beeped, drawing us back to a far less pleasant past, when we both had to deal with the pain of working with abused children.
Liz and I had met in 1992. She was then a social worker who went on to help me and reporter Stewart Payne uncover a paedophile ring that had infiltrated children’s homes run by Islington Council.
We discovered that paedophiles had penetrated the network of homes so completely that they had begun using them to procure children. The council had wanted to encourage gay men into childcare in the interests of equal opportunities, but this well-intentioned aim was so naively implemented that paedophiles posed as gay men to take advantage of the policy.
The council exempted any man who said he was gay from needing professional qualifications or references, declared gay men less likely to abuse children than heterosexuals as a matter of policy and repeatedly assumed that any criticisms of men who claimed to be gay were motivated purely by homophobia. Even children who tearfully described abuse were considered prejudiced.
The leader of Islington Council, Margaret Hodge, now a Trade Minister, had refused to believe our investigation even though it was later vindicated by a series of damning independent reports. Her attacks on our investigation, and the fact the council mislaid or refused to believe vital evidence, led to crucial delays which allowed many of those responsible to escape prosecution or punishment. Among them was Nicholas John Rabet, who had fled to Thailand to continue his vile abuse of children. The 57-year-old bachelor was deputy superintendent of one of Islington’s children’s homes until 1989 and had been accused of abusing a boy there. He had strong links with other paedophiles involved in the scandal, some of whom also worked for Islington Council. Yet despite a lengthy police investigation, Rabet was never charged.
Last month, however, his cycle of abuse ended with his suicide in Thailand, days before he was to face trial there. Police found him dead, a plastic bag over his head, his ankles locked together in cuffs, in his rented home in the sordid seaside resort of Pattaya, which has long had a reputation for child-sex tourism. Beside him was a pitiful suicide note. He had killed himself, he wrote, as ‘it is the only way to escape the stress of my life.’ Rabet had been due to face trial for molesting 30 underage Thai boys, some as young as six, and police believed he had abused up to 300 others. When they raided his home, they found 11 computer game consoles which he used to lure children, making ‘commission’ payments to those who brought him new victims.
Now, with his death, I feel able to tell for the first time the full horrifying story of what happened in Islington more than a decade ago. The fact Rabet was allowed to escape and go on to abuse children in another country makes me wonder if there is any real justice for vulnerable children in the care of social services.
And it also raises a disturbing question: could the 300 children in Thailand have been saved if Rabet and his cohorts had been jailed so many years ago?
For the first time policemen and social workers have broken their silence to reveal how Islington Council hindered inquiries and, whether through naivety or incompetence, effectively allowed these paedophiles to go free.
At the same time, I can now expose how the council’s policy of actively recruiting gay carers and classing them beyond suspicion was exploited by paedophiles. Mrs Hodge’s social services committee even amended the council’s child protection policy in 1987 to declare abusers of vulnerable children more likely to be heterosexual than homosexual men. It was a disastrous policy of political correctness that effectively protected those who set out to abuse children and its dangers remain only too relevant today. An independent inquiry later confirmed that the council allowed 26 workers facing ‘extremely serious allegations’ to leave Islington without investigation. The council also thwarted attempts by Sussex police to gather evidence against Rabet in the early Nineties, when officers learned that he had supplied a national child sex and pornography ring. Brighton-based Superintendent Kevin Moore said: ‘If we’d had the usual cooperation you expect and deserve, it’s a very strong likelihood we would have got a conviction. Justice was denied.
‘We are all, in child abuse investigations, in a position of trusting each other to do what’s right but in this case that trust was abused. The most vulnerable children were affected by that and it was disgraceful, dreadful.’ Detective Superintendent John Sweeney took over Islington police’s child protection team after the scandal was exposed and painstakingly traced long-ignored victims. He said: ‘When I first learned about the homes, I thought it couldn’t possibly be that bad. But it was worse.
‘Does Islington share responsibility? Any opportunity to intervene that was lost is an absolute tragedy.’
I met Nick Rabet long before I investigated him, when I visited the children’s activity centre he opened in 1990 on the Sussex Downs. A social worker I knew held his son’s eighth birthday party there and invited my child. He said Rabet was a socialist philanthropist, who had been deputy head of an Islington children’s home but quit to open this lavishly equipped centre on his private manor estate. He invited scores of Islington’s deprived inner city kids to visit. Local social services sent him young offenders to rehabilitate and children’s charities frequently visited. The centre’s facilities were lavish: quad bikes and mini motorbikes, free pinball and football machines, snooker and a disco.
Yet Rabet charged just £4 per child. How, I asked him, could a London social worker afford a manor and so many staff? Rabet said he inherited the estate through his ex-wife, and he was running the centre as a ‘loss leader’ until established. I felt puzzled. The men helping out didn’t seem to really like children. They were impatient and unkind when one fell. What my instincts told me, even if I didn’t then understand, was that these men had created this honeypot for children for one reason only: so they could use them. But although I resolved never to take my child there again, I did nothing further.
Two years later, I learned that a social worker wanted a journalist to expose Islington social services. Liz Davies arrived for our meeting laden with files in bulging plastic bags.
She had resigned in despair, after being investigated by the council as ‘anti-equal opportunities’ for raising concerns about a supposedly gay worker trying to foster a boy, who later said he was abused. Before leaving Islington, she photocopied the confidential files of numerous children alleging abuse. ‘I had to,’ she said. ‘Islington is destroying evidence.’ She told an extraordinary tale, claiming pimps, paedophiles and pornographers controlled Islington’s 12 care homes. Frankly it seemed so far fetched I didn’t know whether to believe her.
She said that Lyn Cusack, Islington’s assistant director for children’s services, had failed to act, as had the area child protection committee.
Davies nervously showed me a letter Margaret Hodge, then council leader, wrote in 1990, rebuking Davies’ boss for requesting funds to investigate why vulnerable Islington children were visiting a man previously convicted of running a child brothel. Didn’t this prove that Hodge didn’t care? The union wouldn’t help. Unison also feared that the concerns were ‘homophobic’. Staff had nowhere to turn save the Press, and Davies offered secretly to co-ordinate whistleblowers and evidence. ‘I’ll probably never work again,’ she said. ‘But I can’t keep quiet.’ She told me of a major police child pornography inquiry into Rabet, previously deputy superintendent of Islington’s home at 114 Grosvenor Avenue. I remembered the odd man at the children’s party and his creepy friends. I felt sickened. They had touched my child.
I checked Davies’s claims with Superintendent Mike Hames, head of Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Squad, now the Paedophile Unit, and described my encounter with Rabet. He laughed at Rabet’s claim that he inherited his country pile through a wife. He was a confirmed bachelor, he said. Rabet really acquired it by befriending its elderly owner, an American widow with an oil fortune. She made out her will to him, and died shortly afterwards. That might just seem like good luck, except that one of Rabet’s wealthy paedophile pals, who ‘donated’ £13,000 to his centre, had an identical modus operandi. Neil Hocquart inherited large sums not once but twice, after elderly men died of heart attacks weeks after bequeathing everything to him. Identifying vulnerable old people to exploit was, police believed, as important to Rabet and his paedophile friends as singling out abuse victims.
At this point I knew I had stumbled across something truly awful. Police had raided the Cambridgeshire homes of two of Rabet’s friends in 1991. They found more than 100 child sex videos and 300 photographs of children at the Swaffham Prior home of Hocquart, a 40-year-old photographer. At nearby Ely they found his friend Walter Clack, 69, a former assistant to onetime Governor of the Bank of England, Robin Leigh-Pemberton, trying to dispose of a sick home video of a middle-aged man abusing a boy. They also discovered that both men regularly ‘volunteered’ at Rabet’s children’s centre.
Hocquart had bought the centre’s quad bikes, took a child he met there on holiday with other men and dis-tributed naked photos of him to the international paedophile network through contacts in Amsterdam. Before police could question Hocquart, he took a fatal overdose. Clack was fined £5,000 a derisory sum, but child pornography offences were not taken as seriously as today. Hocquart’s diaries suggested the men belonged to a huge ring of paedophiles in the arts, clergy and busi-ness world and that Rabet was a major supplier of victims.
Police then raided Rabet’s Sussex home. Unfortunately, he had time to clear out hard evidence. But paedo-philes are compulsive hoarders and they still found a ‘shrine’, with photos of hundreds of boys. Rabet kept children’s underwear as ‘trophies’. Name-tagged clothes helped lead British police to a boy I shall call Shane, who formerly lived in Rabet’s Islington children’s home. Police showed Shane a picture of himself lying on his bed at the home, chest bare, next to Rabet. Shane tearfully disclosed years of abuse.
What happened next was scandalous.
Islington lost incriminating files, denied there were concerns about other children Rabet took away, and sacked concerned staff. Rabet was never prosecuted. Superintendent Moore says now: ‘Tragically, none of us can say why Islington did what they did.’ But he does not discount its ‘drive to set a political agenda’. Because I had met Rabet, this felt personal. I was determined to prove the children of Islington were being abused. Children’s home worker Neville Mighty answered the phone when Sussex police rang looking for Shane. Management disliked Mighty, a Jamaican with traditional views: he later stormed Lyn Cusack’s office to protest about men he called pimps staying overnight with children in care.
Now he began comparing notes with colleagues about Rabet. Islington suddenly accused Mighty of impropriety. He had supposedly touched a girl’s knee and used innuendo. He was sacked and barred for life from working with children a ban he overturned in 1999.
I and colleague Stewart Payne spent three months in 1992 talking to frightened social workers, victims and parents, mostly in grim Islington estates. By the end, we had around 30 whistleblowers. We had to protect the identity of all of them. I sometimes came away from meetings near to tears but Stewart would make me laugh. He said he felt like pouring a bucket of disinfectant over himself. I had sleepless nights and midnight phone calls from people who were too terrified to talk face to face and feared something was going to happen to them.
We found Shane. He was now 20 and in turmoil. He came into care when he was 12, after his mother had a nervous breakdown following years of domestic violence. He felt rejected but Rabet, who wore a silver sher-iff’s badge and instructed the kids to call him The Sheriff, seemed fatherly and fun.
Shane’s mother only asked Islington for brief respite care while ill. But she said: ‘They stole my son, I couldn’t get him back.’ I had started out with the prejudice that anyone whose child ended up in care was feckless, or worse, but she was a decent, honest working class woman. Rabet swamped Shane with expensive gifts and Pounds 30a-week pocket money. ‘I couldn’t compete with that as a single mum,’ his mother said. ‘This man effectivelybribed him, then Shane became frightened to speak out.’ When I met him, Shane played with toys as he talked, repeatedly throwing them into the air. His distress was palpable. Rabet had told him his mother did not want him back, plied him with whiskey and cigarettes, then photographed him after he passed out.
He took Shane at weekends to his Sussex home. Shane hated the abuse but drunkenly bore it as the price of having a father figure. His mother said: ‘I knew it was all wrong and I begged Islington at meeting after meeting to let me take my son home. But they closed ranks and tried to make out I was paranoid. No one believed me.’ I knew five social work whistleblowers did believe her, but I had to protect their identities. Shane kidded himself that Rabet really cared for him. But the day hair grew on his chin, Rabet abruptly lost interest and developed new, younger ‘favourites’. Shane knew then that he had been conned. I felt his mother’s heartbreak. It was clear she had lost her son. But Shane was also heartbroken his emo-tions had been exploited as well as his body.
Police looked for files supporting Shane’s allegation. A worried source in Islington told me what was in the council records, ‘because they’re about to disappear’. The council, he claimed, routinely suppressed the fact that allegations of abuse had been made. The files included letters from Shane’s mother, his headteacher, psychiatrist and social worker to senior management, all protesting about Rabet’s ‘ inappropriate’ relationship with the boy. All clearly feared abuse.
Sure enough, Islington said no relevant files were found. There is no evidence Margaret Hodge had any knowledge of this at this time, or of collusion by managers, although two independent inquiries later con-firmed that files needed by police in three separate child sex ring inquiries did indeed go missing. Islington’s administrative chaos was blamed.
I told police of the files’ contents. Only then, belatedly, did Islington find and produce the documents.
But, shockingly, the council still gave no help to police in tracing and interviewing other likely victims and witnesses. An Islington Labour Party source confided that the investigation was considered ‘homophobic’. Liz Davies secretly met Sussex police officers. ‘I told them everything I knew. They were good officers but seemed overwhelmed by the scale of the investigation.’ I was beginning to feel really angry. I wanted to be wrong about what we thought was going on, but this extraordinary lack of coop-eration and urgency confirmed my worst suspicions.
Nobody was ever prosecuted as police believed they did not have enough evidence. The burden of proof under British law is high and, as Superintendent Moore says: ‘We cannot always use the uncorroborated ev-idence of young people.’ But there was disquiet about the scandal. The independent Ian White report or-dered by the Government confirmed in 1995 that Islington had refused to investigate ‘extremely serious allegations’. It was ‘a deplorable state of affairs’, within a social services department which had disintegrated ‘from top to bottom’. He described Islington as a ‘classic study’ in how paedophiles target children, hugely aided by the council’s naive interpretation of gay rights. ‘Equal opportunities … became a positive disincentive for challenge to bad practice … and a great danger’.
Mrs Hodge’s council was so obsessed with creating equal opportunities that it actively encouraged gay men into childcare and was less likely to view them with suspicion than heterosexual men. However people like Rabet were not gay men, but paedophiles masquerading as such so they could work their way into the system. Mrs Hodge remained in denial. She claimed managers lied to her, no councillors alerted her, and that ‘the issue of the council’s equal opportunities policy as a barrier to good childcare practice was never raised, however obliquely’. She also insisted the police found no evidence of a paedophile ring. The senior officers who investigated find this risible. ‘All the Islington abusers knew and protected each other,’ said Detective Superintendent Sweeney.
Some of the staff accused of abuse then left the country. The managers who had failed to investigate them were allowed to quietly resign from the council and take up new jobs. As their replacements came in there were attempts to look at long-ignored allegations. It was well-intentioned but underfunded and ran out of steam. Also the trail had gone cold.
But offenders were fleeing. Rabet sold his Sussex estate and joined another former Islington children’s home boss in Pattaya three eventually ended up there. Police had his luggage searched at Gatwick and found computer games: Rabet obviously intended to abuse Thai children. Warnings were passed on but the developing country was then illequipped to challenge the thousands of Western ‘child sex tourists’.
Rabet’s friend Bernie Bain, who had been another Islington children’s home boss, went on to join Rabet in Pattaya. Bernard Leo Bain had fled Britain in 1996, just before Detective Superintendent Sweeney could arrest him for raping seven young boys in care and was briefly imprisoned in Morocco for child pornography. But he, too, killed himself, in May 2000.
His suicide note expressed only self pity. He was, says Sweeney, ‘depressed about money’.
Incredibly, Bain had gone on from running a caravan business at Islington’s Elwood Street home, widely used by other paedophiles, to co-found a travel company worth millions. I had pursued these men relentlessly because I realised how very dangerous they were to children. It was so immensely frustrating to then learn they had been allowed to escape the net.
Many years later one Islington abuse survivor, Demetrious Panton, did speak out, incredulous at Margaret Hodge’s appointment as Children’s Minister in 2003. He could prove Islington councillors and senior managers knew about allegations he made throughout the Eighties that he had been severely abused as a ten-year-old, by Bernie Bain in 1978. Bain resigned from Islington in 1979 with impunity, despite concerns he had numerous other victims.
Yet Mrs Hodge notoriously discredited Panton in a letter to the BBC, painting him as ‘extremely disturbed’. But she never explained the source of her slur against Panton, who is now a highflying consultant. Although there is no evidence this is other than a disconcerting coincidence, I can reveal for the first time that the Islington ‘expert’ who branded Panton disturbed was none other than Bernie Bain.
In February 1978, weeks before Bain first raped Panton, he circulated a report labelling the child a liar and fantasist. It was a character assassination that was to stick: a paedophile’s attempt to save his own skin recycled, however unwittingly, by a Minister. The report is the most evil and premeditated discrediting of a ten-year-old boy. No senior managers were ever disciplined over this scandal. And none of the workers accused of abuse was ever prosecuted. The police, so late in the day, and with suspects fleeing, simply could not accumulate enough evidence.
Assistant director Lyn Cusack resigned for ‘personal reasons’ in 1993. Two councillors admitted Demetrious Panton had described his abuse and asked the council to investigate Bain. But both Mike Devenney, Mrs Hodge’s chair of social services and her acolyte, Stephen Twigg, later said they could not ‘recall’ ever mentioning abuse to Mrs Hodge. Devenney later became a Disability Commissioner when Mrs Hodge had the disabilities portfolio, and Stephen Twigg became her researcher at Westminster, then her junior at the Department for Education. I watched their progress with disbelief. So did whistleblower Liz Davies. My concerns are over accountability and justice for the children. No one was ever held responsible. All the children, their families and the social workers who tried to defend them at enormous personal cost feel betrayed.
Sussex police tried, unsuccessfully, to gather enough evidence so they reluctantly released Rabet from bail. Detective Superintendent Sweeney still laments the failure to prosecute.
He said: ‘I was deeply affected by how much pain and trauma these men inflicted on really young children. They were brutal.’ But he hopes that councils who are now actively recruiting gay foster carers will be more rigorous in their vetting processes than Islington was. He said: ‘I wouldn’t say gay couples can’t foster. But people must learn the lessons of Islington. These weren’t social workers or gay people; these were paedophiles posing as gay to escape detection.’ Hundreds of children suffered horribly, in Britain and Thailand, so that the idealistic incompetents who ran Islington Council could boast they had pioneered ‘equal opportunities’.
What a very high price defenceless Thai children paid, so that Margaret Hodge and her people could state that no Islington abuser was convicted. Liz Davies, now a senior lecturer in social work at London Metropolitan University, is at least teaching a new generation of social workers to be more vigilant.
Mail on Sunday, 27 January 2007
By Eileen Fairweather
When the Archbishop of Canterbury supported the Catholic Church in the gay adoption row last week, many were surprised.
Dr Rowan Williams, usually considered a moderniser, was criticised by liberals for asking Tony Blair to exempt Catholic adoption agencies from Government regulations – being introduced in April – which will force all agencies to offer children for adoption to gays.
The Guardian newspaper, in a comment piece, even suggested that the church’s moral authority was ‘fatally compromised’.
Now it has emerged that Dr Williams may have been influenced by his close involvement with a remarkable couple who rescued a boy brutalised by a notorious social services paedophile ring.
Horrified by the inference that the Archbishop is homophobic, the couple have spoken for the first time of their friend’s ‘immeasurable’ help as they struggled to save a child driven to despair by abuse while in the care of the London borough of Islington.
And they described how Dr Williams even devoted an entire week’s prayers for Liam, the terribly damaged boy they went on to foster.
Liam Lucas was just one of the children abused by predatory paedophiles who took advantage of far-Left Islington Council’s childcare policies in the Eighties and Nineties, when it pro-actively recruited gay social workers.
Paedophiles exploited its well-intentioned commitment to equal opportunities and soon most of Islington’s 12 children’s homes had child molesters on the staff who cynically pretended to be ordinary homosexuals. Numerous children and other staff made allegations of abuse, but were branded homophobes and ignored.
Liam – now 29, in a permanent relationship and the proud father of year-old Isabella – was even falsely classified as gay by Islington social services, which decided he should be fostered only by single men.
Quaker couple Brian Cairns, 57, and his wife Kate, 56 – who became friends with the future Archbishop when they were students together – fought to foster him instead. The horrors Liam later disclosed eventually helped end a 20-year regime of appalling abuse.
A lengthy investigation by The Mail on Sunday’s sister paper, the London Evening Standard, resulted in government-ordered inquiries, but at least 26 members of Islington social services staff, despite being accused of grave offences, were simply allowed to resign, often with glowing references.
Mr and Mrs Cairns and their foster son Liam were so concerned by the ‘rigidity’ of the current debate about adoption and equal opportunities for gays, and the invisibility of children’s needs, that they have decided to go public.
The Church of England’s own adoption agency already allows gay adoptions, and it is thought the Archbishop’s support for the Catholic Church’s exemption plea mainly reflects the importance he places on freedom of conscience and thought.
Mrs Cairns is herself a leading socialwork academic, author and trainer. “I am not anti gay, any more than is Rowan Williams,’ she said.
“I have a close relative who is gay, and I am emphatically not opposed to gay adoption. I am, however, deeply concerned by the bullying, intolerant nature of the present attacks on people with religious or other concerns about it.
“It feels horribly familiar and I fear that rigid thinking about equal opportunities may again blind people to paedophiles who claim to be gay, when all they really want is access to vulnerable children.
“On radio and TV this week I have repeatedly heard politicians insist that every adoption agency, whatever its religious beliefs about the best home for children, must offer gay people “equality of access to all goods and services”.
“My blood has run cold every time I have heard that. Children in care are not goods or services, chattels to be claimed or shared. They have, however, often been treated like that, as Liam’s appalling experiences show.
“Rowan Williams is a deeply spiritual and humble man, he would never dream of telling anyone how he helped us. But he did – immeasurably.”
Liam himself said: “There’s a lot about my childhood I can’t remember. There’s a lot I can remember and wish I couldn’t. The best I can say about it is that it’s over, and that I learned a lot, that will probably make me a better person in the end.”
He was in and out of Islington’s care from the age of two, and witnessed his birth mother suffer domestic violence and descend into drug addiction. When he was nine she died of a heroin overdose.
The distraught, vulnerable boy was initially fostered by a motherly woman who asked to keep him. But the council instead sent him, from age five to 11, to a ‘therapeutic’ boarding school, New Barns in Gloucestershire. This was later closed following a child abuse and pornography scandal.
During school holidays he was fostered by a man later imprisoned for abusing another child in his care. When Liam was nine, Islington placed him in its children’s home in Grosvenor Avenue, run by two single males. Both were eventually accused of abuse but escaped investigation by moving to Thailand.
Last year, Thai police charged the deputy head, Nick Rabet, 57, with serious sexual offences against 30 Thai boys, the youngest six years old. He escaped trial by killing himself.
Liam initially liked Rabet, a ‘big kid’ who pretended he was a sheriff and even wore a sheriff’s badge. The unqualified social worker owned a Sussex manor house, which he had turned into a children’s activity centre, with quad bikes, pinball machines and horses. He took Liam there at weekends.
Liam was abused by a friend of Rabet’s, a senior social services colleague. It is believed he backed the council’s decision to find the boy a gay foster father.
Mr and Mrs Cairns spotted Islington’s advertisement in 1990 in a fostering magazine.
Mrs Cairns was haunted by the then 13-year-old boy’s photo, and the council’s claim that he was ‘suitable for a single man’.
She said: “I instinctively felt that the ad was aimed at paedophiles.”
Mrs Cairns and her husband, also a senior figure in social services, already had three children but immediately applied to foster Liam.
“Islington insisted Liam wouldn’t settle in a family because they had decided he was gay,’ she said. “I said, “So what? Don’t gay people have families?” Besides, he was still a child – how could they be sure?’
Mrs Cairns believes children in care who genuinely identify as gay can particularly benefit from gay carers, but she mistrusts adults deciding children’s sexuality for them. Former Islington senior social worker Liz Davies, who blew the whistle on the abuse scandal, said: “Other Islington children were also falsely classed as gay at a very young age.”
A rebel Islington social worker defied his bosses and supported Mr and Mrs Cairns’ fostering bid after Liam begged him: “I just want a family, I just want to be normal.”
Mrs Cairns said: “He arrived and looked around and said, “Please, please don’t send me back.”‘
She recalls that when he first joined the family at their Gloucestershire home, ‘he had this shy, placatory smile. But it was belied by his eyes – it hurt me to look at him.
“You thought, My God, who left you with terrors like this? He had nightmares every night. He would wake screaming then pretend to me that he was just woken by a cough. He was so ashamed of his fear and trying so hard to be brave and pretend he was fine. It was heartbreaking. I’d sit up til he slept again. This went on for months.”
Eventually, he disclosed abuse at both the home and at boarding school. But his sympathetic social worker, and Liam’s files, simply vanished and nothing was done.
Mrs Cairns found the vice-chairman of the school governors, Peter Righton, former Director of Education at the National Institute for Social Work, had for years openly advocated sex with boys in care.
“Righton and I had sat together on the body which regulated social work training. I researched everything he had published and I felt sick. I was devastated by the betrayal of trust, and social work’s naivety.
“He got away with this, and influenced social workers to this day, because they feared seeming “homophobic” by challenging him.”
It prompted Mrs Cairns to begin confiding secretly with Scotland Yard.
The impasse ended in 1991, when police discovered Rabet’s Sussex children’s centre was partly financed by convicted child pornographers and that he was part of a ring of wealthy, well-connected paedophiles.
Police also discovered that Righton was a founder member of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange, which campaigned for the age of consent to be reduced to four.
In 1992, Righton was convicted of importing child pornography from Holland. Later, two teachers at New Barns were convicted of sexual abuse, five others tried, and the school was abruptly closed.
Islington admitted 32 ‘gross errors’ in its treatment of Liam, and paid him £5,000 compensation.
His principal abuser quit Britain for a Third World country and is believed to have adopted a boy there.
Liam had a breakdown in 1994 after the ordeal of giving evidence at the trial of New Barns staff.
He became angry, took to drugs and drink, was violent and smashed things. “My descent into crime was sudden and violent and frightened me as much as everybody else,’ he admitted.
Liam tried to hang himself and even attempted to strangle Mrs Cairns. She said: “He was wild-eyed and kept saying, “What do you mean, you love me? What does that mean?”
“He couldn’t trust anyone, he was a child broken by grief and betrayal. It broke my heart but I had to report him to the police for our own safety.”
Liam was sectioned to a mental hospital and later ended up for nine months, at just 17, in a secure jail. Mr and Mrs Cairns, feeling desperate, exhausted and lost, confided in their friend Rowan Williams, whose help they described as ‘solid and generous’.
“He was deeply moved by Liam’s sufferings and he didn’t just calm us and provide advice, he offered to make Liam’s recovery the focus of his prayers on his annual retreat.
“He is a deeply spiritual man but humble and reticent. He would never, ever volunteer this, but in 1995 he went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, fasted and devoted his week’s prayers to Liam’s healing.”
Liam, who had no idea he was being prayed for so intensely, blamed Mr and Mrs Cairns for his incarceration and no longer kept touch. “But on the last day of Rowan’s pilgrimage, at 5am, Liam woke suddenly and, he says, “just knew he had to write to Mum and Dad”. He started to get better then,’ said Mrs Cairns.
Liam remembers: “I didn’t appreciate my foster family. I was too eaten up with bad memories of being a child and of being in care to appreciate what I had, but when I lost them I learned how much they mattered to me. I never thought before that I could trust anyone, or learn to love or be loved. But I did.”
Although it was a long journey back to health, and the adult stability he has today, he took responsibility for his own behaviour.
Liam has never re-offended and today teaches social workers about the needs of children. Next month he will contribute to a TV programme for teachers on the same theme.
He considers thorough checks on carers essential. Islington dispensed with all but the most basic checks on self-declared gay staff in order to help them counter ‘discrimination’. It meant they were not obliged to provide evidence of childcare experience, qualifications or professional references.
Many now fear such minimal checks will also be made on gay would-be adopters, for fear of prosecution for discrimination.
Mrs Cairns said: “Gay adoptions can work extremely well, but we need sensitively to match the right child to the right carer.
“Liam, for example, was genuinely terrified of men, and he wanted a mum. An abused girl might feel safest with a single woman, or a lesbian.
“We must be utterly rigorous in assessing everyone who wants to care for children, whether heterosexual or gay, male or female – remember Rose West.
“We cannot be less vigilant because an adult says they are from an oppressed group and their feelings should be protected. Child protection matters far more.”