Earlier this week I wrote a post relating to claims of “Satanic cult abuse” supposedly involving three now-dead British politicians: the socially liberal Labour MP Leo Abse, the notorious renegade Tory Enoch Powell, and the former Conservative Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw.
To recap: the story emerged in a drip-drip fashion, beginning with the Sunday Times on 22 March. The paper reported:
The Sunday Times has also established that a Church of England review into historic sexual abuse has has passed Abse’s name to detectives from Operation Fernbridge, a Metropolitan police inquiry into an alleged VIP paedophile network.
Dominic Walker, the former Bishop of Monmouth, has told senior clerics that Abse was named by three alleged adult survivors of abuse whom he counselled when he was vicar of Brighton in the 1980s. Walker also named two Conservative cabinet ministers who have not been publicly linked to the scandal.
…Walker was questioned by Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham who is leading the Church of England review, after the discovery of a book from 1991 in which he is quoted as describing counselling sessions with adult survivors.
The article gave no further details about the book, but a bit of digging revealed that it was by a journalist named Tim Tate and had the sensational title Children for the Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic Crime. The volume was subsequently withdrawn due to a libel action (on an unrelated point), although Walker has confirmed that the quotes attributed to him, while “selective”, are accurate.
It also transpired (see below) that there is not in fact a “review” going on – rather, Butler was contacted in late 2013 by a retired child protection officer (Peter McKelvie, apparently), who asked him to “ensure that Dominic Walker contacts the Police as a very high priority”.
The weekend after the Sunday Times story, the Mail on Sunday published a piece headlined “Enoch Powell is named by bishop in sex abuse probe: Scotland Yard to investigate satanic abuse claim”, again citing Dominic Walker and Paul Butler but not mentioning the book or Abse. The threads were finally tied together the next day, with a more expansive Daily Mail article and a piece in The Times which also mentioned Whitelaw.
The Mail on Sunday article angered Simon Heffer, a friend and biographer of Powell, who charged the Bishops with acting in “a remarkably un-Christian fashion by putting this smear into the public domain”. Finally realising things were getting out of hand, the Church of England published a statement:
In June 2014 one of the Church of England’s safeguarding advisers contacted the Police with information concerning individuals against whom allegations had been made to a priest in the 1980s. The allegations concerned Members of Parliament who were alleged to be members of a Satanic cult in connection with the trial of Derry Mainwaring Knight who was convicted for fraud in 1986.
References to these allegations had been in the public domain as part of the trial of and also in a book by Tim Tate “Children for the Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic Crime” (1991).
…[I]t is incorrect to suggest… that the Church of England is conducting a review into historic sex abuse in this matter.
…The Mail on Sunday approached the Communications Office of the Church of England on 27 March 2015 seeking confirmation that the name of Enoch Powell was part of a conversation in the 1980s in relation to ritual satanic abuse.
Knight had bilked thousands of pounds out of Christians in a village close to Brighton with a story of being a repentant Satanist in need of funds to purchase and destroy Satanic regalia. He had named Abse, Powell and Whitelaw at his trial (some useful sources are gathered here by Anna Raccoon).
Now, here are four points to ponder:
1. The Church of England statement does not explain how Abse’s name reached the Sunday Times, but it doesn’t look like the Church told the media. So who did?
2. The Sunday Times knew that Butler had contacted the police, but did not mention Powell, Whitelaw, or Satanism. Instead, Butler’s reporting of Abse’s name is used to beef up a story about a different investigation, into whether Abse and his friend George Thomas were involved a paedophile ring. The article does, though, mention that “Walker also named two Conservative cabinet ministers who have not been publicly linked to the scandal”, refering to general allegations of paedophilia by politicians. This suggests to me that the paper had the names of Powell and Whitelaw, and also knew of the “Satanic Ritual” element to the accusations, but decided they were too outlandish for publication. It looks like the least contentious claim was “cherrypicked” from a dubious source.
3. The Mail on Sunday contacted the Church of England several days after the Abse story was published, and according to the Church the journalists already knew, or had guessed, that Powell had also been named. This surely must mean that the paper knew of the common link: Derry Wainwaring Knight. Knight’s allegations have been available online for a long time, including on a sceptical site called Swallowing the Camel. Yet his name was left out of the story. As I suggested on Monday, why would this be, if not to obscure the story’s discredited provenance?
4. The Church of England contacted the police in June 2014. And it just so happens that Knight decided to break his 29-year silence by creating a website three months later. That’s remarkable timing, unless police had contacted Knight in the meantime while following up on Butler’s report to them. Which in turn may have something to do with the story of Butler’s contact with police reaching the Sunday Times.
Knight’s role as the source of the allegations has now been acknowledged in media, in a scathing column for The Times by David Aaronovitch (which – cough – also mentions me), under the heading “Let’s expose the satanic abuse con artists” (the article also discusses the unrelated Hampstead protests against Satanism and babyeating).
This drew an oddly sneering response from John Mann, who as a Labour MP has achieved prominence as a campaigner against historic child abuse (he has a “list of 22 politicians“, which was passed to police in December). Mann mocked Aaronovitch for being
…as usual the font of all wisdom on child abuse. Except that he has met no victims nor seen any of the police evidence.
Earlier in the week, Mann had RT-ed a link to one of the articles about Powell, and in response to a question about the Satanism angle he was not adverse to taking on the role of “font of all wisdom” himself:
Very rare we need to be wary of sensational excuses. The truth is abuse is commonplace and everywhere.
However, he has so far declined to respond to an invitation from Aaronovitch:
If you want to argue with what I’ve written, John, then let’s proceed from the evidence, not from assertion.
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