Dramatisation of Police Memoir Reveals Details of Levi Bellfield Investigation

Last week’s Mail on Sunday included a two-page article by retired Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, describing how his team at the Metropolitan Police tracked down the serial killer Levi Bellfield in 2004. The piece was published ahead of a three-part dramatisation of the investigation called Manhunt, which was broadcast on ITV over the week and starred Martin Clunes as Sutton. The serial was based on Sutton’s memoir, also called Manhunt.

Bellfield is probably best remembered as the killer of Milly Dowler, whose phone was infamously hacked by the News of the World before her death was confirmed; however, he also had other victims, and it was the investigation of these crimes by Sutton and his team that revealed the link with Milly. As Sutton writes:

We put Bellfield under 24/7 surveillance and, while looking again through his intelligence file, something else struck a chord.

It showed that, in 2002, Bellfield was living at 24 Collingwood Place, Walton-on-Thames – where the van had headed after Amelie [Delagrange]’s murder, and where her phone had last ‘pinged’. I got out an A-Z street map and saw it was virtually opposite Walton railway station. Instantly, I realised the implications.

Milly Dowler had been abducted from Station Avenue, Walton-on-Thames and, although I had never worked on the case, I knew that the last sighting of her was at a nearby bus stop.

Sutton also writes that “the national press” had already “suggested the attacks could be linked to the Milly Dowler case in Walton-on-Thames, six miles away”, but that this had been rejected.

The story depicts Surrey Police as resistant and resentful of a Metropolitan officer suddenly presenting a new theory about a case that they had been working on for several years; and in his Mail on Sunday article, Sutton is critical of Surrey over “very basic investigative work not having been done.” (1) Surrey Police acknowledged mistakes in 2011; and one wonders whether other Surrey investigations suffered from comparable negligence.

Bellfield was convicted of the crimes investigated by the Metropolitan Police in 2008, but not of Milly’s murder in Surrey until 2011. The drama does not go into how the case against him for this crime was developed in the meantime, although a self-publicising former officer named Laura Richards wrote a book taking credit for it, titled Profiling a Killer: Inside the Hunt for Levi Bellfield. According to the blurb:

The disappearance of 13-year-old Milly Dowler gripped the nation in 2002. For six agonising months her family waited for news. Finally, human remains were found which were identified as Milly. Yet the case remained unsolved for eight long years until finally, in 2010, a man already convicted of two other murders was arrested. This man was Levi Bellfield.
 
Laura Richards was the Criminal Behaviour Psychologist working on Milly’s case, as well as several other murders of young women. It was her theory that these murders were linked, and her profiling methods and groundbreaking theories that led directly to new evidence which was used to convict Bellfield.

This was apparently disputed by Sutton, as was reported in the Mail on Sunday in 2016:

Last year, former Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, who led the Levi Bellfield case, was furious to learn that Ms Richards had exaggerated her part in the investigation of Milly’s killer.

Ms Richards’s forthcoming book, Profiling A Killer, depicted her at the centre of the inquiry and Mr Sutton ‘hit the roof’, according to a former colleague.

‘He wrote to the publishers telling them it was a ‘gross misrepresentation’ and she had overstated her role,’ he said. Penguin Random House said the book was due to be released last June, but that has been postponed until March next year.

It is not known if this is because of Mr Sutton’s complaints.

These details formed part of a longer article raising concerns about Richards’s professional credibility – a matter of some public concern given her public profile as a supposed expert on stalking and as the head of an anti-stalking charity. (2) Richards’s book is listed on Amazon and other sites as having been published in either 2012 or 2015, and it seems that two covers were produced for it (for Transworld and for Bantam). However, no copy is available from anywhere, and it is not listed in the catalogue of the British Library – we than thus be sure that it is a “ghost” book that was never actually published (3).

Footnotes

1. In his book, Sutton also complains that Surrey Police did not share much information with him. He writes that: “Like anyone else outside their team, I was completely ignorant of the mess they had made of dealing with the hacking of Milly’s phone by the News of the World; when that became public knowledge in 2011, their coyness became, to me, a lot more understandable”.

2. For a time, Richards was associated with Nadine Dorries MP, and it remains unknown whether input from her influenced Bedfordshire Police’s decision to waste resources trawling for non-existent evidence that critics of the MP were “stalking” her (pointedly, Dorries did not make any statement in support of Richards after the 2016 MoS article appeared).

3. Another controversy involving Richards was an American documentary series called The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, which involved a re-investigation of the case “led by former FBI agent and criminal profiler Jim Clemente and behavioral analyst Laura Richards”. The series was criticised for errors, and for what one reviewer called “one of the more ghoulish, disgusting things to recently happen on television”. A defamation case was afterwards brought against CBS and “other parties” including Richards, and has just recently been settled in Colorado. I recently noted a few thins about criminal profiling here.

Conspiracy Milieu Doubles Down on Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse Hoax after Sabine McNeill Sentenced to Nine Years

Brian Gerrish, presenter of the conspiracy website UK Column, reacts to news of the sentence passed on Sabine McNeill following her conviction for stalking offences relating to the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax last month:

Many people were shocked & saddened yesterday to hear that Sabine McNeill was given a 9 year sentence for stalking and breach of a restraining order. Two children recount events which no child of that age could possibly know without experiencing it. They are silenced as is Sabine

The two children in fact “recounted events” that were so extravagant that no reasonable person would take them at face value: they described a Satanic cult at their local school and church that received babies through the mail from Europe that were cooked and eaten in a back room at the local McDonalds, where up to 400 cult members would dance around in baby-skin shoes while wearing necklaces of baby skulls. They also provided precociously explicit accounts of sexual abuse, having been coached by their mother and stepfather, who have since left the country.

McNeill’s role in the hoax was to publicise details of parents, teachers, and children at the school, with devastating consequences for those she implicated; the nine-year sentence may appear harsh, but it reflects the gravity and extent of the harm that she caused. The website Hoaxtead Research has the judge’s sentencing remarks:

This was conduct intended to maximise distress and fear, there was a high level of planning involved in your use of the internet, and changing of settings between your blogs and changing sites when necessary. It was persistent over four years. 

…In terms of harm, the harm caused was very serious distress, there has been significant psychological harm, and the victims’ lives have changed to a hugely significant degree. The harm level is 1. 

Aggravating features are that you used a position of trust to start this campaign; the material was grossly offensive; the impact on children has been significant; you are in breach of a conditional discharge; you have a previous conviction for breach of the restraining order; your targets… include those in a position of serving the public, namely teachers and church staff.

Despite this outcome, Gerrish’s Tweet indicates that the conspiracy milieu will continue to believe and promote false and foul allegations against innocent people. Gerrish lacks the flamboyance or charisma of Alex Jones and David Icke (apparently he has a background as a naval officer, although his demeanour more readily brings to mind a 1980s supply teacher), and his UK Column videos have been rightly mocked by Hoaxtead as “newsroom cosplay”, but he is a significant conduit for promoting conspiracy beliefs in the UK, interviewing the likes of Jon Wedger and Wilfred Wong. On the populist right, McNeill has been described as a political prisoner by Tracey Blackwell, who is currently in the limelight for her “Yellow Vest” activism in central London alongside James Goddard.

Rather than admit to having made a bad investment (and Gerrish was also actively involved in promoting the Hampstead claims), the instinct is either to double-down or scrub the evidence, rather than to admit to having colluded in a terrible error that needs to be put right with a corrective repudiation. The prosecution’s characterisation of McNeill as an “online troll” suggests isolation and obscurity, but at the height of her Hampstead activism she made numerous appearances on alternative media outlets: the Richie Allen Show has deleted an old Tweet advertising “SABINE McNEILL Live Now Talking About COVER-UP OF SATANIC CHILD ABUSE IN HAMPSTEAD”; other appearances include on Bastion Radio’s Sunday Night Show, in discussion with Tony Gosling, and on Truth Frequency Radio’s Kev Baker Show. The allegations have also been promoted in the USA, primarily by a man named Thomas Dunn.

McNeill’s defence barrister said the false allegations “are no more all that defines Ms McNeill than the Hampstead allegations are all that define the parents”. It is irritating to see the the harm McNeill has brought on herself presented as equivalent to the much greater harm she has inflicted on others, but it is the case that McNeill already had profile as an activist interacting with public figures before she embraced the Hampstead hoax.

One of her causes over the years is the “Forum for Stable Currencies“; according to the website, between 2003 and 2005 she organised events that were convened by Lord Sudeley FSA, hosted by Lord Ahmed, and chaired by a businessman named Donald Martin and Austin Mitchell MP (with Canon Peter Challen taking the minutes). She also co-ran an organisation called the “Association of Mckenzie Friends”, which supports parents caught up in the family court system; patrons were formerly the MPs Jon Hemming and – once again – Austin Mitchell (1). In 2014, her efforts in this capacity were praised by the Telegraph journalist Christopher Booker, although the judge in her trial has observed that “when you were asked in this court what the duties of a McKenzie friend are, you did not know” (2).

Her work in this area also brought her into contact with Ian Josephs, an anti-family court activist (3) who has attempted to rationalise what has happened in a comment now posted to the Hoaxtead website:

…At the time of her sentencing, [Tracey Connelly] she was told she would serve a minimum of five years for causing or allowing her son Peter’s death. Tracey Connelly, the mother who allowed her 17-month-old son Baby P to be tortured to death by her lover, has reportedly been released from prison.

Sabine tortured no-one,physically hurt nobody at all .She just used words.Yet she was sentenced to 12 years reduced to nine ! Seem excessive to me even if she was mistaken in her accusations. After all the police released pretty convincing interviews with children who accused their teachers and parents and if they were coached nobody has ever said Sabine told them what to say.

I do not know all the facts and neither does anybody else because most of the evidence in the trial was heard in secret which makes the trial itself suspect…………….

This is being deliberately obtuse, but it shows how the trial is likely to be mythologised within the conspiracy milieu. The trial was not “secret” – it was open to the public every day, and reported extensively on the Hoaxtead website. There were, though, reporting restrictions to protect the identities of minors and those who have been falsely accused, and identity checks for the public gallery were introduced after some antics that amounted to contempt of court (4). “I do not know all the facts” here means “I wish to reserve my right to make pronouncements without engaging with the facts”.

Footnotes

1. Hemming was later accused of ritual abuse by Esther Baker – her claims were implausible and a police investigation was unable to substantiate them, although she continues to drop hints of some revelation that will vindicate her at some point in the future. In contrast to conspiricist support for McNeill, Baker and her associates imply that McNeill’s conviction somehow supports the narrative about Hemming. The key word here, though, is “imply”, as there is no coherent basis for such an inference. It is literally “guilt by association”.

2. McNeill co-ran this organisation with Belinda McKenzie, a 9/11 Truther who was formerly David Shayler’s landlord. McKenzie has just today herself been convicted of contempt of court for having named on Facebook protected witnesses at the McNeill trial.

3. Josephs famously assisted a young woman named Marie Black in relocating to France to escape a threat of forced adoption by social workers in Norwich. Black was later convicted of running a paedophile ring; incongruously, her innocence has been affirmed by at least one believer in the Hampstead hoax, as I discuss here (I also have doubts about her conviction, as it happens).

4. A man named Paul Rogers, who documents and promotes various right-leaning protests in London under the name “Eddie Isok”, made videos in which he named witnesses despite reporting restrictions and promised that he intended to film “certain people” outside Southwark Crown Court, “and then certain people in the know, I will tell them who these people are, right, and they will deal with it”. Another activist who showed up to report proceedings claimed that he was assaulted by an agent of the “Zionist conspiracy”.

Some Notes on the London “Yellow Vests” and Protests at Parliament Square

The opportunistic rebranding of the “Justice for Our Boys” campaign into a copycat “Yellow Vest” movement focusing on pro-Brexit stunts in central London has proven a huge success: when I wrote about the group in September, it was just one fringe-right presence at “Free Tommy” events; now, its strategies of traffic disruption and aggressive confrontations with Members of Parliament in and near Parliament Square has been rewarded with national headlines and comments in the House of Commons, and provoked debates around policing and freedom of protest. The group’s figurehead (he insists he is not the leader) James Goddard has currently eclipsed Robinson as the street face of the populist right. Here are a few observations.

1. Right-populist protests movements often complain that they are mischaracterised as “far right” and “racist”. However, Goddard allegedly has a history of using the ethnic slur “Paki”, and he has suggested that black people of whom he disapproves should go back to “Bongo Land” or “the jungle”. This is racism, although it may be casual rather than ideological: when the group’s protest on Saturday chanced upon some Cameroonians demonstrating about the situation in southern Cameroon they happily joined in, explicitly commenting that this would confound allegations of racism. Goddard also wants mass deportations of Muslims.

2. The group is heavily invested in conspiracy theories. Goddard’s Yellow Vest incorporates the WWG1WGA slogan popularised in the US by Qanon believers, and at one event in July he suggested that the country is run by “Satanic paedophiles” (for some reason now reported in the Daily Mail as “hostile paedophiles”. Tracey Blackwell (var. Tracy Blackwell), who is also a figurehead for the group, used the “Where We Go One We Go All” phrase in a pep-talk ahead of Saturday’s protest, amplifying its use by a member of the crowd, and last month she described Melanie Shaw and Sabine McNeill as political prisoners – since then, McNeill has been sentenced to nine years in prison for stalking offences relating to the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax.

3. There were four arrests during Saturday’s protest, in relation to scuffles with the police. One of these, of a 13-year-old girl, was first reported as an “attack on policeman”, which then escalated into the plural “assaulting officers”. Having seen a video of the incident (no link as there are laws about identifying minors in relation to arrests), though, this seems to me to be overblown. The girl appears to have been overwrought at officers corralling her mother: she shouts “don’t push her, don’t fucking push her”, and the arrest came when she shouted “get off of me” as an officer appeared (the view is obscured) to restrain her arm. I would be surprised if charges follow.

4. Why hasn’t Goddard been arrested on public order offences? I once saw a homeless man being arrested on Euston Road after he decided for some reason to sit in the middle of traffic; yet the police now look on while Westminster Bridge and other vital links across the river are deliberately blocked, and while Members of Parliament have been aggressively accosted in the street. Goddard was also filmed shouting at police that “You want a war I’ll give you a war”, which sounds very much like incitement to disorder (or perhaps even incitement to riot). Dai Davies, the former head of the Met’s territorial support unit, has said that he would have arrested them.

5. There has been particular focus on the group’s targeting of Anna Soubry, the high-profile Remain MP. Soubry was re-elected in 2017 on an openly Remainer platform, but the protesters take the view that her opposition to the referendum result means that she is a “Nazi”. The word was chanted at her during an open-air television interview, and she was recently approached in the street by Goddard and his associates and denounced as a “traitor”. As David Aaronovitch notes:

The issue is not being called a Nazi. Everybody gets called a Nazi some time. Doesn’t matter who you are. However, what was happening to the Tory MP Anna Soubry this week within spitting distance of parliament was physical intimidation. When a group of loud and angry men surround you, shout at you and seem to want to kill you, it’s intimidating. It feels like one small step away from serious violence.

It seems to me that this particular incident went beyond what an MP might reasonably expect to have to put up with, and officers should have intervened to at least warn the men to back off to a reasonable distance. This would not be inconsistent with the “right to let politicians know what you think of them”, which the predictable contrarian Brendan O’Neill believes is at risk from “privately educated political and media classes” who regard the protesters with distaste due to their working-class accents (1).

O’Neill’s view is that Soubry’s “quite minor travails” have been exaggerated, although it looks to me that such an assessment more properly applies to complaints about Remainer protests. Here’s David Davies, the Monmouth MP (and former boxer), unconvincingly claiming in February to being “intimidated” by SODEM, the Stand of Defiance European Movement; and the pro-Brexit Nadine Dorries – who despises Soubry and spread a lie about her on social media after the Brexit Referendum – has now produced an article for Conservative Home in which she alleges “I have barely been able to use my own office for over a year, thanks to the ‘Stop Brexit’ campaigners outside of my window”. This is difficult to credit for a couple reasons: first, that Dorries does not normally require a news bandwagon if she has a grievance about something; and second, that a photo posted by Dorries several months ago shows that the protesters are in fact in Old Palace Yard, across the main road from Parliament and several stories below her. (2)

Despite this, though, O’Neill has a point about the right to protest in Parliament Square, and we should be wary about how the law may be deployed to curtail protest activity: a month ago, the SODEM activist Steve Bray reported that a police officer had told him that his attempts to position himself in the background of news reports amounted to criminal damage of a cameraman’s footage – a completely bogus suggestion that might have led to a wrongful arrest. No sign of O’Neill then, though.

Footnotes

1. While O’Neill is scathing about Soubry’s complaints, he took a different view when a Muslim charity in Yorkshire complained about Sarah Champion’s op-ed in the Sun on Sunday which she herself said had been “stripped of nuance” by editors. In that instance, O’Neill took at face value her claims that the criticisms amounted to threats from extremists, and he cited the murder of Jo Cox MP.

2. Dorries also used her article to rehash old stalking allegations that went nowhere after a police investigation in 2013-14. I’ll note in passing that her new version of the story contains further falsehoods that serve to underline why the CPS declined to carry the matter forward, and why Bedfordshire Police are unlikely to take any new allegations from her at face value. Most recently, she has claimed to be “speaking [to] police” about disparaging remarks about her made by the broadcaster James O’Brien.

Police Whistleblowers’ Group Raises Concerns about Jon Wedger and Maggie Oliver

The Independent Police Support Group, which has existed since 2004 to provide “moral support and guidance to police whistleblowers or those who have been bullied”, has posted a statement raising concerns about the self-declared status of Jon Wedger and Maggie Oliver as “police whistleblowers”.

Oliver is the more famous of the two: she is widely respected for her role in exposing the Rochdale “grooming gang”, and she is today a fully fledged celebrity: a year ago she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, and she has just ended 2018 by doing panto at the Benn Hall in the town of Rubgy (billed as “Rochdale whistleblower”, which is a bit dark for light entertainment).

Wedger, though, has also featured in the media, most notably in the Sunday Express, and he has been endorsed by his local MP, Mike Penning. I’ve written about him on this blog a number of times due to his associations with conspiracy theorists, including promoters of the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax and figures on the fringe right (one video promoted on his website is titled “Insight UK Column – Support for Tommy Robinson”). Oliver has spoken warmly of Wedger in at least one video where they appear together, and her endorsement may help mainstream Wedger’s activism.

The statement, by the IPSG’s Julian King, is titled “The Whistleblowing Bandwagon”, and it raises a number of issues. These include:

  • Inconsistent accounts: “With regards to Maggie’s case there is this glaring difference as to the reason she left the force, having known Mr Wedger for 4 years and each being a listening ear for each other according to video footage, it is still unclear as to what actually happened or why different versions have been given.”
  • The question of why neither Wedger nor Oliver have ever “sought to use their right to take their respective police forces to an employment tribunal with regards to their treatment”, and why Wedger says police officers have no legal protections: “This is not true when whistleblowing is involved as police officers are covered by section 191 of the Employment rights Act 1996 and the Public Interest Disclosure Act.”
  • Wedger’s silence about his allegations for several years: “We would have expected Jon to have formally challenged the corrupt behaviour by his boss at that time…. Staying silent for so many years especially; with regards to the seriousness of the matters alleged is not an option for a police officer.”
  • An allegation of Satanic Ritual Abuse made against a chief constable on the basis of Wedger providing King with “a section” of the RAINS list, which “appeared to contain everyone and their uncle so has to be treated with caution” (more on RAINS here).
  • Wedger providing inaccurate accounts of whistleblowing by other officers, in particular King: “no efforts have been made to correct the information”.
  • Wedger’s complaint that he was not promoted for his police work: “police officers know that everyone goes through the same promotion system by completing Sergeants exams and applying for a selection board when suitably qualified.”
  • Wedger’s claims to have a network of whistleblowers supporting him: “none appear to have supported him publicly recently and it is interesting that the posters being displayed [at a protest event] show just 3 officers, Jon and two senior officers Mike Veale and Bob Quick. The senior officers do not appear to be whistleblowers.”

“Police Whistleblower” Linked to Jon Wedger Promotes Quack Bleach Autism Cure

On Twitter, autistic rights campaigner Fiona Pettit O’Leary challenges self-described “police whistleblower” Jon Wedger about his links to a man who advocates administering a bleach product to children as a supposed cure for the condition:

@wedger_jon Why are you supporting a man that offered MMS BLEACH to Autistic children, read in link below.

The man here is one Anthony Carlin, a former Police Service of Northern Ireland officer who came to public attention in 2016 after he attempted to arrest a judge in court during a civil action he was involved in. Carlin was sentenced to prison for contempt of court, the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland noting (in the words of the Belfast Telegraph) his “self-importance and attention seeking”. Carlin declined an offer to have the sentence set aside in return for an apology, which in Wedger’s mind makes him “an extremely brave police whistleblower who served a brutal prison sentence rather than back down to high level corruption”. Carlin’s own account can be viewed on the Kremlin propaganda website RT here , billed as “what really happened”.

Carlin was present at a mysterious meeting of supposed “police whistleblowers” that took place in Manchester in July – Wedger was also there, and videos briefly available at the time show Wedger being warmly greeted by Maggie Oliver, a former Manchester officer who has achieved celebrity status due to her involvement in bringing the infamous Rochdale “grooming gang” to justice. Wedger claims that he was forced out of the police after uncovering paedophile rings, although he is vague on the details and his allegations remain unsubstantiated.

Despite this, he has been endorsed by Mike Penning MP and has perhaps been in contact with Andrew Bridgen MP, and he has been promoted in several Express articles by James Fielding. Much of Wedger’s activism has consisted of sponsored charity walks and swims, along with making videos in which he chats with and endorses various conspiracy theorists on subjects such as Satanic Ritual Abuse. His website also carries material in support of Tommy Robinson.

O’Leary’s Tweet about Carlin directs Wedger and other readers to her website, where she explains Carlin’s involvement in promoting the toxic Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) as a supposed cure for autism in children. Advocates of MMS claim that autism is caused by a gut parasite that is visible in the stool of those who have had the treatment – these samples have not been made available to researchers, but photos indicate that the material may be strands and fragments of gut lining, corroded by a product that is basically bleach.

MMS has been widely exposed as an obvious scam, and the Irish broadcaster RTE ran a segment about it on its news strand Prime Time in 2015 – the programme (on YouTube here) featured an interview with O’Leary, along with undercover filming of a seminar where the product was being promoted. Most of those involved in running the seminar had their faces blurred, but O’Leary has identified Carlin as one of those involved:

RTE went undercover and secretly filmed people who make and sell this toxic bleach product MMS.

RTE were not aware at the time of filming that one of the people in their secret filming was policeman Thomas Anthony Carlin.

Carlin advoctes this toxic bleach MMS as a cure for Autism, Carlin was a serving Police officer at the time of this RTE filming in 2015.

Carlin has his face blurred out in this documentary but RTE have confirmed it is the ex policeman Anthony Carlin.

Carlin can be seen in this documentary between 6 and 20 minutes in promoting this bleach and says he is looking for a child to work with and he wont be emotional about it.

That was in mid-2017; more recently, she has posted what appears to be a screenshot of a Facebook comment by Carlin in which he describes someone, presumably her, as “that anti-MMS muppet” who “needs her face stomped on like a ciggeratte getting put out !!”

One face was wasn’t blurred out by RTE was that of one Mark Kishon Christopher, who is also shown expounding how to escape debt by nullifying mortgages and by deploying pseudo-legal strategies against the authority of courts. This places MMS within the “freeman” or “sovereign citizen” subculture, and explains why Carlin behaved in such a bizarre and deluded way when he appeared in court. O’Leary discusses this link between MMS and the “sovereign cult” more generally here. Enthusiasts of the movement have been heavily involved in promoting the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax, and Christopher has appeared on a podcast hosted by Sean Maguire.

The origins of MMS lie with Jim Humble, an elderly man who was at one time a member of the Church of Scientology. He is the founder of the “Genesis II Church of Health & Healing”, based in Colombia in South America, and his MMS agents have ecclesiastical titles: thus Christoper is a “Reverend”, and another promoter in Ireland, Patrick Merlehan, has been described by the Irish Sun as a”dodgy self-declared Irish ‘bishop'”. Humble claims to be an alien who asked to be assigned to the part of the “space navy” that protects the Earth (an obvious lift from Scientology); he and his product were the subject of several segments broadcast by ABC7 in the US in 2016.

Given the harm caused by MMS (and ABC7 notes the case of a woman who died after taking some as a supposed malaria preventative in Vanuatu), O’Leary quite rightly asks Wedger to explain how his association with Carlin is consistent with his supposed activism against child abuse.

Excurcus

O’Leary has also recently been using Twitter to chronicle an Irish copycat “Yellow Vest” movement, drawing attention to vicious rhetoric and the presence of conspiracy theorising at protest events – banners include the claims that water fluoridation is “poisoning us”, and that illnesses such as asthma and dementia are due to the weather being “engineered”. As a result, she has been crudely trolled and abused, in some cases by individuals who express unambiguously racist views.

Gatwick Drone Arrests: How Twitter Mob Responded on 22 December

A Tweet from Sussex Police, 22 December:

#GatwickDrones | Around 10pm today we made 2 arrests in connection with criminal drone activity at Gatwick Airport. Proactive investigations are still on-going: we urge the public to contact us if they believe they have information that can aid us further.

I discussed the arrests and the media response here. As everyone knows, the couple were released 36 hours later, and they are no longer suspects.

I return to the Tweet today in order to note some of the more than 350 replies that the announcement of the arrest elicited. Although a few voices urged caution, the overwhelming view prior to the couple being released was that the police deserved to be congratulated for having caught the culprits, and that the couple ought to be subjected to severe penalties – not just long prison terms after conviction, but also being brought to the airport at once to face angry travellers. One person Tweeted an image of a noose, while another hinted that the public would welcome police brutality against the suspects.

It was also suggested that if the matter were dropped without going to court, this would be indicative that the CPS is not doing its job properly, and that there is “no justice anymore”.

I include some examples below.

Rather than charging them & involving the courts at Christmas could you not bring them loudly into the departure halls & leave them there. I’m sure they’d be dealt with sympathetically 🙈🙊😂

Now charge them for every single penny this disruption caused. You got to wonder what actually goes through people heads sometimes, sit them in a room with that kid that was on tv who was going to Lapland and let them explain to him why they did it.

Absolutely throw the book at them, no other way to deter people from doing this again. Whatever their reasons they have brought misery to families, old and young!

Do grown up crime then they need to do serious grown up time. 5 years is not enough a detterent. That needs doubling, they have ruined so many dream trips, holidays, trips for deeply personal situations – family funerals etc. Untold financial cost !

Good. Now make them pay for all the chaos they’ve caused.

Excellent work 👏🏻 Best wishes for Christmas and New Year, especially for those working over the holiday period.

Wasn’t it a local passer by that saw them and alerted the authorities? Well done police for arresting them but the person that reported them is the real hero here!! Name and shame the irresponsible imbeciles and let nature take its course….

You’ve done all that, now see if the CPS will back you up with taking action and if they do, the Court handing out the appropriate sentence.

British Armed Forces and Police working in unison =job done

Good job. Now let’s hope the @cpsuk do a proper job of prosecuting. It’d be even better if the airport and disrupted passengers lined up to sue them into oblivion. That might make others think twice.

Great news well done #sussexpolice I don’t think there’d be too much concern if they were to “fall over” in their cells.

2 arrests but I guarantee nothing will will happen to them. No justice anymore

@cpsuk Please throw the book at these bastards. They should get maximum time for every plane they disrupted plus sued by every airline and person affected.

Etc., etc…

A Note on the Gatwick Drone Arrests

The Independent quotes Sussex Police Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley, following the arrest and release without charge of a couple, Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk, in relation to the drone incidents at Gatwick Airport:

The detective said the arrests made on Friday night were the result of a tip-off from a member of the public.

“I’m completely satisfied the arrests were lawful, bearing in mind the burden of proof and likely suspicion at the time of arrest,” he said.

“Obviously we had to be sure prior to release, in terms of that investigation, they were no longer suspects.”

Mr Tingley added: “I won’t apologise, but what I will say is we really do appreciate their co-operation and we have put a lot of effort and resources into supporting them when they were released from questioning.”

The “tip-off”, assuming it was unembellished, would have consisted of the mundane fact that the couple lived near Gatwick and Gait owned a drone. These are very thin grounds on which to suspect someone, and when news of the arrest broke the first reports already included an alibi from Gait’s boss which put him in the clear.

A further quote from Tingley was published on the Sussex Police website:

“Both people have fully co-operated with our enquiries and I am satisfied that they are no longer suspects in the drone incidents at Gatwick.

“It is important to remember that when people are arrested in an effort to make further enquiries it does not mean that they are guilty of an offence and Sussex Police would not seek to make their identity public…”

Some observations.

First, it is always welcome when a police force reiterates the point that an arrest does not indicate guilt, even though this should be obvious. Sussex Police does not have a good record here, though – in 2015, the force announced that having spoken with a woman who had accused the late Bishop of Chichester George Bell of child sex abuse, Bell would have been arrested, interviewed, and bailed, and the matter referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. The only impediment was that Bell had died in 1958. After some pushing by the journalist Peter Hitchens, the police eventually clarified that “there was no intention to release a police statement about the alleged criminality of Bishop Bell”. However, routine police procedure had been presented in sensational terms, with the obvious implication of just such criminality. I wrote more about this here.

Second, it should be noted that Tingley justifies detaining Gait and Kirk on the grounds that the arrests were “lawful”. There is tendency for the police to refer to its powers when asked to justify operational decisions, but this is a dodge. The arrests may well have been “lawful”, but that does not mean that they were proportionate or well-grounded. In this instance, at the time of the arrests the police were under great pressure to show that they were making progress, and it is reasonable to suspect that this had an improper influence on decision-making.

Third, police may not have publicised the two names, but they reached the media nonetheless. Perhaps they were leaked, although the spectacle of the arrest and police search of Gait and Kirk’s home may have caught the attention of journalists. The person who provided the “tip-off” may have been responsible, in which case we must wonder if police acted in response to a malicious allegation.

Sensational front-page headlines followed, with the Mail on Sunday asking “Are These the Morons Who Ruined Christmas?” This goes far beyond simply echoing a question which at that time was being asked by the police, and is obviously accusatory and derisory. Roy Greenslade has more on this here, including the obvious parallels with the infamous press monstering of Christopher Jefferies. He suggests that it is “doubtful that the Mail on Sunday, and maybe other titles too, will escape unscathed.”

A Note on the Maguire Seven Convictions as an Instance of Moral Panic

There are a couple of days left to catch Stephen Nolan’s documentary A Great British Injustice: The Maguire Seven on the BBC iPlayer. The miscarriage of justice suffered by an ordinary family of Northern Irish extraction living in London in the 1970s is not just some “old case” (as I recall Kenneth Clarke as Home Secretary saying [1]) – new interview material in the documentary shows that it is a continuing trauma for those who were abused in police custody and wrongfully convicted of terrorism offences, and there is contemporary resonance in the police investigative, forensic and disclosure failures highlighted by Annie Maguire’s solicitor Alastair Logan.

One detail that particularly caught my attention was a media clip from 1976, in which the journalist John Stapleton credulously expounded the official line shortly after the convictions, for a segment that was broadcast on Nationwide (2). His account was so striking that I decided to transcribe it:

So what type of person is behind this terrifying campaign? Where and how do they hide in London? Could one of them be your next-door neighbour? These days, terrorists seem to have adopted different tactics. Now, they send highly trained specialists here several months before the planned operation, the idea being that the specialists can absorb themselves in the community and at the same time awaken people known as sleepers.

Probably the most notorious of all sleepers was this woman, Annie Maguire. Annie Maguire had lived in England for 20 years; as far as her neighbours were concerned, she was just an ordinary, indeed a rather friendly housewife.

What they didn’t know was that along with her husband Patrick and their two sons, one of them not even 14 years old, Auntie Annie – as she was known to her terrorist friends – was a vital cog in the bombers’ machine. Not only did she train new recruits how to make bombs, she actually stored explosives in the kitchen of this, her home, just like you might keep tins of corned beef.

The place became known as “Auntie Annie’s Devil’s Kitchen”. Well now, that kitchen is closed.

As Stephen Nolan adds in his commentary on this: “Every one of [those] sentences was wrong”. So where did all this nonsense come from?

Stapleton’s reporting, it seems to me, reflects the logic and language of moral panics, which are revealed in sharpest relief in Satanic Ritual Abuse claims. Our “next-door neighbours” may be secretly dedicated to a wicked conspiracy, their domestic arrangements an obscene inversion and parody of the mundane: “she actually stored explosives in the kitchen of this, her home, just like you might keep tins of corned beef.” The case for Maguire’s guilt verges on the non-falsifiable, since the implausibility of her involvement becomes evidence that she was actually a “sleeper”, sent to the UK more than a decade before the conflict in Northern Ireland had even started.

The parallel with SRA is underscored by the phrase “Auntie Annie’s Devil’s Kitchen”, which suggests that Maguire and her “terrorist friends” recognised their own evil and revelled in their transgressions. This bit of Brass Eye absurdity does not appear in any other account that has made it online; It seems to have been an escalation from the phrase “Auntie Annie’s Bomb Factory”, which appeared in earlier reporting and at least reflected how a terrorist might conceivably refer to a bomb-making facility.

Have lessons been learnt? Perhaps – but botched reporting on terrorism threats (remember breast-implant bombs?), fiascoes around “VIP abuse” allegations and continuing police disclosure failures suggest that the malaise is perennial. And Nolan’s documentary also notes that public anger against Republican terrorism in  the 1970s was expressed in crudely anti-Irish terms during protests – another detail with modern parallels.

Footnotes

1. I quote from memory of a broadcast news interview. Most likely this was after the publication of the May Report in late 1992, although I can’t be sure. Clarke referred to the “old cases” of the Maguire Seven, the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, as if they were some legacy anomaly from long ago that now at last been been tidied up.

2. The clip also has a page on the BBC website, although the extract itself cannot be viewed at the moment (“Sorry, this clip is not currently available”). The blurb attempts to distance Stapleton from the pseudo-account he presents, saying that he “describes the activities the court believed took place in ‘Auntie Annie’s Devil’s Kitchen’.”

British “Yellow Vest” Group Disrupts Court of Appeal Hearing: Some Notes

From the Independent:

A drink-driver who killed three teenage boys as they walked to a birthday party has had his prison sentence reduced at a court hearing that was disrupted by protesters.

Judges preparing to hand down their decision on the case of Jaynesh Chudasama at the Court of Appeal were forced to halt proceedings because of shouting and chanting from people in the public gallery, including members of the “yellow vests” group.

Family members of victims Harry Rice, 17, George Wilkinson, 16, and Josh McGuinness, 16, were among about 30 members of the public who attended the Royal Courts of Justice for the decision.

The “yellow vests” group – inspired by, but not apparently connected with, protesters in France – came to attention last week when members blocked several bridges across the Thames in central London in support of Brexit. There was also an incident in which activists approached the pro-Remain MP Anna Soubry on the street outside Parliament and abused her as a “traitor” who is “on the side of Adolf Hitler”. (1)

The group identified itself as “Fighting for Justice”, and some of the yellow vests had the slogan “Justice for Our Boys” written on the back. The same slogan featured at a “Free Tommy” event over the summer, and refers to the claim that Chudasama was actually a terrorist who killed the boys deliberately. The campaigners – who include at least two of parents of the victims – argue that Chudasama’s jihadi motive has been covered up by the police and legal system, and that he ought to have been tried and convicted for murder rather than for causing death by dangerous driving.

The campaign has been endorsed by Tommy Robinson, and members noted in an earlier Independent report include “former soldier Tim Scott, who once led the UK branch of anti-Islam German group Pegida” and “David Coppin of Margate, an EDL supporter who has attended numerous far-right rallies across the UK including a ‘White Lives Matter’ march.” Further:

Also among them are two men allegedly involved in an attack on the Bookmarks socialist bookshop in London in August.

Mark Martin aka “Buska in the Park” and a young man called Max, who is known as “Red Cap Boy”, are both avid supporters of Mr Trump.

Social media has also identified one of the men involved in the abuse of Soubry as one Brian Philips, known as “Brian the Lion”.

The group’s spokesperson (he says that he is not the leader) is James Goddard, who told cheering “Free Tommy” supporters in the summer that the government consists of “Satanic paedophiles”; on Gab, Goddard has opined that “It’s about time the indigenous people of Great Britain, were put first”, and he reposted a reply referring to “Paki traitors of any stripe, along with your treasonous officials who enable the ethnic cleansing of the native British people”. He further advises the journalist Afua Hirsch, whose mother is Ghanaian (her father is British), that “this isn’t Africa” and that she should “F**K Off, back to Bongo Land” after she made provocative comments about Nelson’s Column. On Twitter, he makes generous use of the alt-right insults “snowflake” and “soy-boy”, and so on.

The campaign also intersects with several conspiracy theories: the vest worn by “Brian the Lion”, for example, has a reference to “788-790 Finchley Road”, a company service address that a man named Graham Bowden believes is at the centre of a multi-million pound fraud involving politicians. Goddard’s own vest features the acronym “WWG1WGA”, indicating alignment with the extravagant (and repeatedly deferred) promises of “QAnon”, and Tracy Blackwell (var. Tracey Blackwell), the mother of one of those killed, has signalled her support for Melanie Shaw and the Hampstead Ritual Abuse hoaxer Sabine McNeill.

It is not a surprise, then, that members of the campaign are suspicious of the law itself; and there are indications of “Freeman of the Land”-type beliefs, which regard the legal system as being largely illegitimate, having usurped the “common law” (I discussed this in relation to a group called the “White Pendragons” here). This may explain why there was disruption at the Court of Appeal. The court judgment (which can be read here) includes the detail that

As we understood it, [the families] challenged the adequacy of the charges without success. They had also complained to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor of London. Finally, we were handed a Notice of Application for Voluntary Bill of Indictment for a voluntary bill against a Metropolitan Police Officer for “misconduct in office by failing to exercise his powers to investigate allegations of murder”. The document goes on to assert that “the families of the victims have exercised their common law right to refer the matter to a Middlesex Grand Jury of their peers which has issued a presentment”.

Such “grand juries” were abolished in 1933, I would hazard that this is a reference to some pseudo-legal group of like-minded activists.

The judgment also discusses in some detail the circumstances in which the boys were killed. Although the idea of a drunk jihadist is counter-intuitive, it is possible that an act of violent jihad might have romantic and redemptive appeal to someone who has not adopted Islamist strictures, and the family claim that Chudasama had viewed jihadi videos. However, in this case it seems that Chudasama had genuinely lost control of his car; further, he had a passenger, and after the crash his instinct was to flee rather than cause further harm. It seems to me that a trial for murder would almost certainly have failed to prove its case.

Footnote

(1) The aggressive street abuse of Soubry was widely condemned on social media, although Kate Hoey MP dissented by promoting an article on Spiked by Brendan O’Neill entitled “Of Course Anna Soubry is being Protested Against”. O’Neill argues that “the fury over the anti-Soubry protests speaks to the astonishing sense of entitlement in the political set”, and that “the media class’s hatred for these protesters is down to the fact that they are from the lower classes”. He acknowledges that “one of them is a known hard-right activist”, but argues that it is unfair to extrapolate any wider significance from this. As is often the case with O’Neill, he has a point as regards the general principle, but his polemic is overstated and selectively applied: thus while he is scathing of Soubry’s supporters he has no problem with Sarah Champion MP neutralising criticism by characterising instances of it as extremist attacks that personally endanger her.

Revealingly, one MP who is usually very quick to characterise criticisms of MPs as harassment has had nothing to say about Soubry being accosted in the street: this is Nadine Dorries, who recently announced that she is “speaking [to] police” about disobliging comments made about her by the journalist James O’Brien. In 2016, Dorries claimed that she had been “terrified” and “surrounded” by a Remainer protest held just after the referendum, and she mocked Soubry with the false claim that she had been inebriated when she addressed the crowd. However, the appearance of videos of the yellow-vest abuse of Soubry happened to coincide with Dorries announcing that she is taking a break from Twitter.

Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse Hoaxer Sabine McNeill Convicted

From Court News UK:

A pensioner described as an ‘online troll of the worst kind’ is facing jail for accusing innocent parents of satanic abuse. Sabine McNeill, 74, led a campaign to uncover claims of devil worship and child abuse at a primary school in Hampstead, northwest London. McNeill harassed four mothers, who cannot be named, by claiming they were members of a cult who cooked babies and ate them.

The rest of the article is paywalled, although what appears to be a derivative account can be seen at Metro. The latter includes the claim that “Her claims were so realistic that a police investigation was launched into the blameless parents”, which is not quite accurate: the origin of the affair was that two children at the school had been coached by their mother and step-father to make allegations of Satanic sex abuse, and their precociously sexually explicit accounts would have been of greater concern to the police.

In 2015, there was a protest outside a church next to the school, consisting of a weird coalition of evangelical Christians, “alternative media” conspiracy theorists and “Freeman of the Land” types (a couple of arrests followed). The conspiracy milieu in which the allegations have been promoted has been chronicled extensively by the blog Hoaxtead Research, including an exhaustive account of McNeill’s 18-day trial (concluding summary here), which also highlighted some antics by her supporters during it.

Of course, prosecutions and convictions are unlikely to change the minds of those who have invested in the conspiracy theory – indeed, the outcome can easily be assimilated into a grand and non-falsifiable theory of an all-powerful cover up. Just recently, two American Hampstead enthusiasts attended a child abuse conference in Dundee, during which one of them plastered stickers around the town promoting the Satanic Ritual Abuse claims; and the story of “Hampstead Satanists” is now embedded within alt-right and populist circles, alongside the claim that the convicted arsonist Melanie Shaw has been convicted as a cover-up of “VIP child sex abuse” in care homes.

This was demonstrated last month, in a speech made outside the Royal Courts of Justice by Tracy Blackwell, a leader of the Tommy Robinson-linked “Justice for Our Boys” campaign. As shown in a video, Blackwell told her supporters (at 14.15):

Free Melanie Shaw, as we all know, another political prisoner. Free Sabine McNeill, another prisoner.

It was Blackwell and her fellow campaigners, led by one James Goddard, who blocked bridges in central London on Friday as a pro-Brexit stunt.

Also visible in the same video is Paul Rogers, who documents and promotes various right-leaning protests in London under the name “Eddie Isok”. Rogers – whose Twitter avatar shows him posing with Anne-Marie Waters of For Britain – also attended the McNeill trial, and he made videos in which he named witnesses despite reporting restrictions and promised that he intended to film “certain people” outside Southwark Crown Court, “and then certain people in the know, I will tell them who these people are, right, and they will deal with it”. This sort of thing did not go down well with the judge, and he was held overnight for contempt of court before being given a suspended sentence. According to Hoaxtead, he also tried to video in the court precincts, and he blames the Hoaxstead author for reporting him over this. Rogers believes it is significant that Hampstead is close to Finchley, here making a link with “Finchley Road” international fraud allegations popular among the same activist crowd. (1)

Meanwhile, another activist who showed up to report proceedings claimed that he was assaulted by an agent of the “Zionist conspiracy”, and a few days after that the judge ordered security posted outside the courtroom and required attendees to provide ID, telephone numbers and addresses.

Footnote

1. Rogers does not believe just anything, though, and a few months ago he publicised Brian Harvey’s complaints against Bill Maloney.