Accusations trace back on fraudster in mid-1980s
(Revised and updated)
In 1991 a journalist named Tim Tate produced a book called Children for the Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic Crime. It included a quote from Dominic Walker, at that time an Anglican vicar in Brighton:
The people who come to me tend to be referred from other areas. I listen to what they have to say ; usually it does comprise the same sort of details – child abuse, murder, drugs, prostitution. I sit and talk with them quietly and individually. Quite often these people will tell me the names of those they say were involved. Sometimes they are the people who control the groups, other times they are the names of famous or highly respected people. A number of survivors independently gave the name of a particular MP as being involved. I don’t believe there was any collusion in their stories because they were separated by some long period of time.
Have I ever passed on the information I have been given ?
No I have not.
I do not believe that would have been proper.
I’ve sourced this quote second-hand from a blog called The Needle; however, the text brings up a result for Tate’s book in Google Books (although it’s “No Preview”), so I’m reasonably confident that it reflects the original.
The quote has now come under renewed interest, with three now-dead MPs being named.
The Sunday Times and Leo Abse
The first name to emerge was that of Leo Abse; details were reported by Tom Harper in the Sunday Times on 22 March:
Leo Abse, the flamboyant, late Welsh MP, is being investigated by police on suspicion of child abuse.
Documents from South Wales police reveal that allegations against the long-serving politician, who died in 2008 aged 91, are being examined by another force.
The investigation is understood to centre on an alleged “politicians’ network” involving Abse’s close friend George Thomas…
Such accusations against dead politicians are currently widespread. The report continued:
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.
Some of these details were brought out from behind the paywall in a derivative article by Wales Online.
I suspect that Harper deliberately avoided mentioning Tate or giving the title of Tate’s book in order to downplay the sensationalising and contentious “Satanic” context to the original abuse claims.
The Mail on Sunday and Enoch Powell
More details emerged the following Sunday in the Mail on Sunday – and this time the paper was happy to run with the headline
Enoch Powell is named by bishop in sex abuse probe: Scotland Yard to investigate satanic abuse claim
According to the story, by Glen Owen and Brendan Carlin:
The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, contacted police after Powell’s name was passed to him by a former Bishop of Monmouth, Dominic Walker, who first heard the allegation when he was a vicar counselling young adults in the 1980s.
…Mr Walker is believed to have warned the Right Rev Butler that at the time he was told of the claims against Powell, unsubstantiated allegations of satanic rituals – often involving the abuse of children – were widespread.
Oddly, this article makes no mention of the 1991 book or of the Sunday Times report about Leo Abse; however, the MoS‘s sister paper, the Daily Mail, has followed up with a more expansive piece by Arthur Martin:
Enoch Powell accused of satanic sex abuse: Bishop of Durham gave his name to Met detectives
…The Right Rev Butler was given the politicians’ names by Dominic Walker, former Bishop of Monmouth, who heard the allegations when he was a vicar counselling in the 1980s.
Mr Walker told senior clerics that Abse was named by three abuse survivors whom he counselled when he was a vicar in Brighton in the 1980s.
He also passed on the names of two former Conservative cabinet ministers, who have not yet been publicly linked to the scandal.
Enoch Powell served in the cabinet for a year, but this report suggests his name should be treated as being in addition to the “two former Conservative cabinet ministers”. I suspect this is down to sloppy reporting, but taken at face value it means that we’re now up to four supposed names from Walker. Meanwhile, a piece by Cahal Milmo in the Independent goes even further:
It is understood that the Rt Rev Walker first heard the claims when he was counselling young adults as a curate in the 1980s and claims were made that an unknown number of MPs had been involved in satanic cult-type abuse.
It is understood the allegations against Mr Powell came from a single individual.
First Leo Abse and two unnamed Conservative cabinet ministers. Then Leo Abse and Enoch Powell, plus two unnamed Conservative cabinet ministers. And now “an unknown number of MPs”.
The Times and Willie Whitelaw
A third name emerged via David Brown at The Times the day after the MoS article:
The Church of England has told Scotland Yard that William Whitelaw, the former home secretary, and Enoch Powell were accused of being members of a political satanic abuse ring.
The allegations of the politicians’ involvement in child abuse emerged during counselling by a vicar of a youth in the 1980s. Leo Abse, a long-serving Labour MP, was also named.
Although there was no evidence to support the claims, the church authorities felt compelled to send the information to Scotland Yard’s investigation into alleged establishment involvement in child abuse.
Derry Mainwaring Knight
It appears that the actual story is about the three figures of Abse, Powell and Whitelaw. Which is where it turns out that the hapless hacks have all either ignored or suppressed a vital piece of the story: that the three men were previously accused of Satanic abuse in 1986 by a fraudster named Derry Mainwaring Knight.
A sceptical website called Swallowing the Camel posted an account in 2011. Knight had approached a vicar in the village of Newick, East Sussex, with a story of his supposed involvement in a Satanic sect and a request for cash:
…He wanted to destroy his own devil-worshiping sect from within. He wanted to rid himself of demonic possession. He wanted to pay off his debts to cult members, so they could no longer hold sway over him. He wanted to bring other Satanists out of occult slavery. He wanted to destroy unholy Satanic regalia. To do all that, though, he would need funds. Major funds.
Over the next several months, members of St. Mary’s Church and other area residents donated a staggering sum (over £300,000) to Knight’s anti-Satanic crusade. The county high sheriff gave over £83,000 pounds. The wife of millionaire Tory MP Timothy Sainsbury ponied up nearly £120,000 pounds. Anthony David Brand, Lord Hampden contributed a Rolls-Royce with state-of-the-art communications equipment so that Knight could continue to pose as an affluent Satanist-about-town. The bishop of Lewes wrote a letter on Derry’s behalf, requesting donations for his “necessary work”. In November 1983, Reverend Baker secured a £25,000 loan from a Christian charity and handed it over to Knight.
The gravy train came to a halt in 1985, when it was realised that Knight was a conman. He was arrested, and put on trial for fraud in 1986:
…his trial defence strategy was to declare himself a member of a cult called “The Sons of Lucifer” and bring out shocking testimony that would blow the lid off Satanic doings at the highest levels of English society. He “outed” two Tory politicians (William Whitelaw, Enoch Powell) and one Labour MP (Leopold Abse) as cult members.
Knight was subsequently jailed. His accusations later resurfaced on-line; a conspiratorial-minded posting on the subject appeared at uk.politics.misc in 2001 and has been archived by Google Groups. Knight’s accusation against Whitelaw is also cited in David Icke’s book The Biggest Secret, which was published in 1999.
Did the people who came to Walker for counselling in nearby Brighton ever have contact with Knight, or hear of the allegations he raised in court? If so, Walker’s observation that the accusations against Abse came from three “independent” persons loses significance. And was the “single individual” who accused Powell perhaps Knight himself?
The Church of England makes a statement
The various reports have prompted the Church of England to release 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.
…[I]t is untrue to say that the Church of England proactively placed these allegations into the public domain. Rather this occurred through a story published by the Mail on Sunday on 29 March 2015.
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.
The extent of the Church of England’s actions in this matter has been to pass these allegations to the police and to confirm to media outlets who approached our Communications Office that we had done so.
The statement also makes clear that the Church of England is not in fact conducting a review. The unnamed author of the post at The Needle blog (1) apparently brought the 1991 book to the Bishop of Durham’s attention in late 2013, and there’s a good chance that this is what prompted him to ask Walker about it and then pass the information to police.
The Church of England statement does not explain how the Leo Abse story came to the Sunday Times, but it does shed new light on how the Mail on Sunday operates. It’s unlikely that MoS hacks would just happen to phone up the Church of England on the off-chance that it might know something about Enoch Powell being a Satanic paedophile; surely, we must assume that someone at the paper saw the Sunday Times Leo Abse story, made the connection to Knight (or had it pointed out to them), and then saw an opportunity to produce a story about Powell along the same lines. Ditto The Times and the inclusion of Whitelaw’s name.
It looks to me that the name of Derry Mainwaring Knight was kept out of some stories deliberately. Why would that be, if not to obscure the story’s discredited provenance?
We may also ask whether the Sunday Times kept Powell and Whitelaw out of the 22 March story on Leo Abse because the paper knew that, like the “Satanic ritual” element, such claims would render the story less credible overall.
Simon Heffer attacks
The Church of England’s handling of the allegations has come under an excoriating attack by Simon Heffer. Writing in the Daily Mail, Heffer thundered:
…It is not just that the bishops who have made these accusations are behaving in a remarkably un-Christian fashion by putting this smear into the public domain. But that they do not appear even to have engaged what passes for their brains, or consciences, before behaving in this grotesque and offensive fashion.
…Their consciences should have told them that to make such an outrageous allegation about an enormously distinguished public figure who cannot defend himself, and which would cause the deepest distress to his family and friends, was the height of mischief and irresponsibility.
It is disgraceful and destabilising for clergy to behave in this way, and the Church needs to investigate those responsible for this smear and take action accordingly.
But it now appears that his complaint that Powell was “smeared” ought to be directed to the MoS, which dredged up the story and presented an incomplete account. Perhaps he could make this subject the theme of his next Daily Mail column.
And as the story heads out into the fringes, here’s how a wretchedly garbled version continues to spread: a website called Don’t Panic tells us that
The Reverend Butler says the claims were made by colleagues who had counselled Powell’s victims, who suffered his abuse at the Elm Guest House.
Walker’s religious ministry has had a particular focus on spiritual “deliverance” (exorcism) from demonic powers; I recall seeing him on discuss the subject on TV in the early 1990s. At the time of the quote in Tate’s book he was also concerned about Satanic groups. A 1990 book by Gordon Thomas, entitled Enslaved: An Investigation into Modern-day Slavery, has the following:
…In 1989 there were an estimated one hundred thousand cult members, with London as their main centre. Sizeable groups were centred on the city’s Notting Hill and Camden areas; smaller ones existed in Bloomsbury, Wimbledon and Ealing. Other covens met in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Brighton. So serious was the problem in the seaside resort, that Canon Dominic Walker, Vicar of Brighton, had set up a team to fight Satanic activities. They had so far dealt with fifteen hundred cases ‘of occult oppression’. Walker feared that, as the year 2000 approached – heightening interest in not only Christian belief at the dawn of a new millennium, but among Satanists too – Britain would see an increase in paganism and a return to that time ‘of fear in a world where God was far away and the earth was abandoned to demons.’
(1) The post is described as being by “a man Tom Watson MP described as a ‘noble retired child protection officer'”; this appears to be Peter McKelvie. My thanks to Bandini in the comments below.
UPDATE (2 April): More today.