VIP Child Sex Abuse Claims: A Note on Esther Baker and John Hemming

(revised and expanded)

From Mail Online:

A former Liberal Democrat MP today revealed he was the subject of a two-year probe into historical sex abuse allegations after police and prosecutors dropped the case.

John Hemming was interviewed under caution as part of the investigation following allegations made by Esther Baker, who waived her anonymity in May 2015.

…In May 2015 Ms Baker went public with allegations that she was molested during the 1980s and 1990s in woods in Staffordshire and at Dolphin Square in London.

Those allegations were first aired in an interview with Sky News on 25 May 2015, and were then followed up by Mail Online under the headline “VIPs Raped Me in Wood as Police Stood Guard: Child Sex Abuse Victim Claims Judge and Peer were Among Gang”.

Soon afterwards, Baker appeared on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes news programme in Australia, in a segment called “Spies, Lords and Predators”. The interviewer used a mobile phone to show Baker photographs of “a Lord” and a “senior politician” and asked her to confirm that she recognised them as her abusers (1). In September, the Guardian reported that the politician (who we now know was Hemming) “contacted police in April this year after he became aware via a national newspaper that the allegations were being made against him”.

By this point, however, a certain amount of scepticism had set in, and the following month the Daily Mail published “I’m the Latest Victim of Sex Abuse Witch-Hunt, Says ex-MP: VIP Police Quiz Former Backbencher”. I discussed the articles and some of the background at the time.

Baker has now published part of a document which appears to show that the case against Hemming was dropped because of the possibility of a mistaken identification on her part (2). Hemming, meanwhile, has issued a statement in which he asserts that “police have now made it clear that there has been a concerted effort to promote false criminal allegations against me”. However, that does not appear to be substantiated by Staffordshire Police, which continues to refer to Baker as “the victim”. It seems that Hemming has extrapolated his conclusion from the fact that he was never arrested, writing on Twitter that “by not arresting me it is clear that [police] believe [the allegations] to be false”. According to Staffordshire Police, there were “over 100 hours of interviews”.

The document partially released by Baker indicates that Staffordshire Police investigated three people: a relative of Baker; a former employer, who admits to having had sexual relations with her; and a politician (i.e. Hemming). According to Mark Watts, who formerly publicised Baker’s claims at the now-defunct Exaro News website, other police forces are still considering further allegations. Baker complains that her former employer has in effect admitted to child sex abuse, because she was underage at the time, but it is difficult to see what relevance this has to nationally significant allegations of “VIP abuse”.

Before identifying herself in May 2015, Baker had previously appeared in the media in January 2015 under the name “Becky”. She told Channel 4 News that she had been sexually abused “in a church setting”, and that some of the abusers had been police officers who attended the church. This was broadcast on 5 January, and the context for the story was her opposition to plans to disband the Home Office’s child abuse inquiry panel, before which she had given evidence in December 2014.

On 10 January she gave a quote to Exaro News expressing opposition to the inquiry becoming “judge-led” statutory inquiry; she also condemned “character assassination” against Graham Wilmer, who was a member of the panel (3). Three days after that, she published a commentary piece on Exaro, in which she complained about “the power plays of a small faction”, and explained that she had engaged with the inquiry as “an excerise in empowerment” suggested by her counsellor.

Hemming was among the MPs who had called for the setting up of a national inquiry during 2014; he has a long-standing interest in child protection (although his interventions have not always been well-judged), and it appears that it was within this context that Baker became aware of him and thought she recognised him as someone who had abused her over several years some time in the past. In October 2014, Hemming had called for Fiona Woolf to stand down from heading the inquiry due to social links with members of “the establishment” who would come under investigation; this was opposed by Wilmer, who disassociated from the inquiry in February 2015.

[UPDATE: Baker has now published a screenshot which indicates that she had accused Hemming privately to a third party at the end of January 2015]

The day before the Sky News item was broadcast, Wilmer wrote on Twitter “They attacked Fiona Wolf because she’d dined with Leon [Brittan]. But they feted [Keith] Vaz, who publicly supported Lord Janner. They will be exposed” (3). In June 2015, one of Baker’s supporters on Twitter suggested that “two survivors” may have “been paid by a paedo ex-Lib Dem MP to cause chaos”. Thus one faction in the conflict within the nascent inquiry found itself being associated with paedophilia due to a complaint made by a member of another faction. Small world.

After Baker had waived her right to anonymity, the “church setting” was tweaked into accounts of orgies in the woodland area of Cannock Chase; the cops were not just members of her church, but actually stood guard during the proceedings. VIPs were also involved, with a judge who was addressed as “M’Laud” participating. Although Baker did not refer to any explicit “Satanic” element, the similarity with Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations is striking. Baker was also allegedly taken by night to Dolphin Square in London, and returned in the morning; another Dolphin Square accuser, named only as “Darren”, says that he saw her there, and she in turn has endorsed his claims about a “medical room” at the location.

Somewhat oddly, Baker at first maintained that she was distinct from Becky, referring “Becky and I” in some Tweets; this distinction was dropped as Baker became a commentator on the subject of child sex abuse. In August 2016 she appeared on Newsnight to discuss the IICSA (an appearance praised by Sarah Champion MP), and in February this year she appeared on the conspiracy podcast The Richie Allen Show to express how “The Police Talking About Ted Heath’s Crimes Gives Me Hope For Justice”. She also continues to assert that Operation Midland’s “Nick” was telling the truth (e.g. here) [UPDATE 2019: Nick can now be named as Carl Beech, and his claims have been found to have been fraudulent. More details here].

The CPS decision is a second set-back for Baker and her supporters in recent months – back in May the case against two people she had accused of stalking was dropped. Watts is now keen to stress that a CPS decision not to proceed is not evidence that an allegation is false, but that’s a point that would be easier to take had the existence of police investigations not formerly been reported so triumphantly and boastfully, with Watts and Baker making jokes about “green bottles” falling.

It is also a set-back for John Mann MP, a grandstander who endorsed the allegations against Hemming as “credible” and promised more to come; Mann gave a similar assurance when Harvey Proctor’s house was raided by police.

Hemming also has harsh words for his Labour Party election rival, Jess Phillips:

Some members of the Labour Party, including my opponent in the last two General Elections, have invested considerable time in promoting these allegations. The promotion of the complainant as an expert in this subject area as a consequence of these allegations has caused addtional difficulties for my family.

I am not myself aware of another situation where members and supporters of a political party have promoted such allegations in such a public manner – essentially arming the villagers with torches and pitchforks and setting off on a lynching. There were public attempts to prevent me from standing as a candidate because of allegations made maliciously by a Labour Party member backed by other members of the Labour Party. Many Labour members will find this unacceptable and it is an issue that needs consideration by the Labour leadership.

Baker and Phillips have communicated on Twitter from time to time: on eve of the 2015 election Phillips told her that “I will think of you every time I feel like giving up!” Shortly afterwards, Baker said that she had joined the Labour Party (winning praise from Stephen Twigg and Sarah Champion), and she and Phillips met in June 2015. During the same period, Phillips Tweeted to Baker and others that she had blocked Hemming on Twitter after having received “creepy” comments from him. The Mail on Sunday Diary column noted:

Lib Dem John Hemming, dumped by voters at the Election, sent a shiver through Labour’s Jess Phillips – his successor as the MP for Birmingham Yardley – by telling her on Twitter: ‘I hope you are having a nice drink in the Prince of Wales.’

After Phillips’ protests that it was ‘creepy tweeting my location’, Hemming tells Dog: ‘It is bad enough her pushing me out of my parliamentary seat, but pushing me out of my local pub is a rum do.’


(1) It’s not clear what the point of this theatrical flourish was – it gave the impression of being some sort of “test”, but it was not a test that it was possible for the subject to fail. The documentary also focused on Richard Kerr, as I noted here.

(2) [UPDATE] This obviously implies that there was nothing to implicate Hemming other than Baker’s own testimony. However, Exaro‘s Mark Watts presents this detail as if means that Hemming has got off on a technicality, writing: “CPS says that it decided not to charge ex-MP John Hemming with child sexual abuse b/c Esther Baker had identified him from an image online.” In fact, however, the “Turnbull guidelines”, which require a judge to warn a jury about the possibility of mistaken identity, are a general instruction and do not specifically pertain to online images.

(3) I noted Vaz and Janner here.