Some Notes on David Aaronovitch’s Times “Child-Abuse Fantasists” Column

From David Aaronovitch in The Times:

The other day a fellow journalist sent me a very short video clip posted by a conspiracy theorist, sorry “independent investigator”, on his website. It showed a school playground and a window of the school before trailing off. The photographer was apparently investigating what he called the “Hampstead Cover Up case”. Soon, he suggested, he would have much more to say and show.

The “Hampstead Cover Up”, of course, is the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax, which recently concluded with one of its main promoters, Sabine McNeill, receiving a substantial prison sentence for stalking-related offences. As Aaronovitch notes:

The meaning of the recently posted video was that it’s not over. Others have taken up where the imprisoned McNeill has been forced to leave off. I’ve seen one or two of them myself recently.

I looked at some examples of continuing support for the hoax here.

The person who created and posted the video of the school playground was one Richard Carvath, as discussed on Hoaxstead here. Carvath is a religious activist who was previously expelled from the Conservative Christian Fellowship for what he describes as his “views on homopervuality… and islam”. In 2016 I noted an article he wrote defending the Christian anti-Islamist activist Patrick Sookhdeo following the latter’s conviction for sexual assault (of an adult woman), in which he denounced the complainant as a “Jezebel” who had appeared in a photo with “arms are uncovered and she wears a figure-hugging dress, her buttocks clearly presented to the beholder”. This scepticism is a remarkable contrast with his embrace of the Hampstead conspiracy, which posits cult members cooking and eating babies and dancing around in baby-skin shoes, based on the testimony of two children who had been coached by their mother and stepfather as a part of a custody dispute.

Aaronovitch describes the Hampstead claims as “a set of such utterly ludicrous allegations that no part of the established media ever gave them credence”, but he contrasts this with other allegations that were taken seriously by the media and police, asking

how did it come about that, for the half decade following the Savile revelations, it was possible for almost any person to make an anonymous or even identifiable complaint of historic child abuse against a public figure, and be treated with automatic credulity?… It seemed any publicity hound or conspiracy theorist could invent or recycle any old story concerning alleged “VIP abuse” and get it printed or aired.

He focuses in particular on Esther Baker’s allegations against the former MP John Hemming, in the wake of two of her supporters settling a libel action that had been brought against them:

Ms Baker had claimed that she was abused by a group of men, including a judge and a peer of the realm, in a wood in Staffordshire while police stood by. In a programme made for Australian TV, Ms Baker was shown photographs of people and asked to identify her abusers. Though viewers could not see who was identified it was soon known on the internet that one of them was Mr Hemming. At that point he went public with a denial.

In fact, Hemming did not go public until a couple of years later, although in the meantime his name was bandied about by activists, including the sinister Bill Maloney. Aaronovitch continues:

After two years of investigation, police looking into Ms Baker’s accusations found insufficient evidence to charge Mr Hemming or anyone else. In fact I’m not at all clear that there was ever anything corroborating Ms Baker’s testimony.

On Twitter, Baker continues to insist that there is evidence that has been seen by the police that is not yet in the public domain, but that she will reveal in due course once various matters have been concluded. When that happens, we are assured, those who expressed doubts or criticisms (including this blog) will be exposed as having been wide of the mark.

Currently, however, all we know besides her claim against Hemming is that her allegations pertain to a member of her family and centre around a church she attended as a child. She has so far declined to name this church publicly, and there is no indication that the journalistic scribes who have written up her account (Mark Watts and David Hencke) have felt the need to do any digging of their own. Aaronovitch reminds us that Baker also went on to say she had been taken by night to Dolphin Square in London – a specific difficulty here that he doesn’t mention is that Baker made this claim in response to a description provided by an accuser called “Darren“, who made various extravagant claims that he has since withdrawn.

Aaronvitch also mentions other “VIP” claims:

There were unchecked and ludicrous stories of gay paedophile orgies being held in the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party conference on the night before the 1984 IRA bombing, and involving a number of (conveniently dead) senior politicians.

There was the former regional journalist who suddenly discovered that he had been in possession of a damning dossier concerning child abuse by politicians but had been prevented by the security services from publicising it. Both stories were easily falsifiable but both were printed in British newspapers.

The journalist here was Don Hale, who first mentioned the dossier in July 2014, when his supposed memory of it formed the basis for a Daily Mail article on “the paedophile lobby’s influence in Westminster” during the 1980s. (1) In that article, Hale named “Tory minister Sir Rhodes Boyson, a well-known enthusiast for corporal punishment, and Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph”; he later added Leon Brittan to the list shortly after Brittan’s death (attributing a quote to the late Barbara Castle that he was “a powerful man with many secrets”), and then Edward Heath shortly after other allegations against Heath had been aired. The Heath claims were particularly risible, the claim being that that Paedophile Information Exchange had held meetings at Parliament and that Edward Heath had attended, without this attracting any wider interest at the time (I discussed this more generally here).

Noting that Baker will be a “core participant” in the Westminster strand of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Aaronovitch writes that

the greater rationale of the inquiry appears to be to examine how allegations were supposedly covered up — a bias that has enraged the representatives of the accused. Whereas what the IICSA could usefully consider is how and why so many have turned out to be false. And at what cost?


1. The Daily Mail article was by Mail hatchet-man Guy Adams, who afterwards affirmed his confidence in Hale’s credibility. As well as this article, headlined “Chilling day Special Branch swooped to seize ANOTHER dossier on VIP abusers: 16 MPs’ names mentioned in 1984 report on paedophile lobby’s influence in Westminster” (a headline that presents unsubstantiated claims as fact), Adams also penned “Paedophile orgies in luxury flats and claims three boys were murdered by VIPs: Special report into the growing stench of a cover-up by the Establishment”. More recently, though, Adams has been a vocal critic of Heath’s posthumous persecutor Mike Veale, and without pausing for self-reflection has poured scorn on another example of police “VIP abuse” credulity.

11 Responses

  1. I have no idea of what alleged ‘dossier’ Don Hale is supposed to have received but I did met Barbara Castle a couple of times briefly as she was a very good friend of my late mother who was a member of her local party. She always described Castle as incredibly intelligent and smart but very down to earth. I reckon if Barbara Castle thought there was some alleged “pedo” problem she would have fronted Parliament and screamed to high hell. My mum often said when Castle found a problem she thought needed solving she steamed in and did not stop until she was satisfied with the result.

  2. “But how did it come about that, for the half decade following the Savile revelations, it was possible for almost any person to make an anonymous or even identifiable complaint of historic child abuse against a public figure, and be treated with automatic credulity?”

    Presumably this was a rhetorical question from Aaronovitch as the answer is ‘hiding in plain sight’…

    As I have just commented on the previous article ( ) the close-knit journalistic world has, yet again, seen fit to help out someone whose talents stretch to penning bullshit about the very ‘Darren’ mentioned by Aaronovitch. Why?

    I’m frankly tired of journos picking fights with weaklings – the mentally ill, the deranged, the chronic attention-seekers – rather than take unflinching aim at their own risible colleagues who profit from lies.

    The answer to Aaronovitch’s question IS Savile. The ENTIRE journalistic world failed to seriously question the incredible narrative they wished to flog us.
    Forget about ‘Nick’, ‘Darren’ and crazy Esther, tell us why, for example, the BBC’s ‘special correspondent’ Lucy Manning was able to turbocharge her career (and make the leap from ITV) off the back of fraudulent stories involving the deliberate ‘manipulation’ of facts about a ‘victim’. And why ‘award-winning’ documentary maker Olly Lambert could then use the untrue story to further his own career. And all the rest of it.

    The problem isn’t ‘nutters on the loose’. To paraphrase Alan Partridge, journalists couldn’t find their balls in their own ballbag. That is the problem.

  3. It’s not a bad piece by DA, but, yes, Bandini is spot on.

    • “close-knit journalist world” – Aaronovitch and Hencke both used to work for the Guardian/Observer.

      • It seems to me that they – the journalistic clan – occasionally land a few limp blows on one another, but it’s more to try and convince us that as a group they can be trusted. ‘Look, we’re keeping our own house in order!’

        For example, Aaronovitch’s piece has this:

        “There was the former regional journalist who suddenly discovered that he had been in possession of a damning dossier concerning child abuse by politicians but had been prevented by the security services from publicising it. Both stories were easily falsifiable but both were printed in British newspapers.”

        Without even naming him (Don Hale) and meekly implying that he MAY have made summat up, when in fact Hale is an undoubted, proven LIAR who fabricated stories about Jimmy Savile by ‘interviewing’ the deceased. (And let’s not get on to Hale’s Daily Star rubbish that our crazy old pal, ‘David’, helped him with!)

        The next paragraph was what did it for me:

        “…It took real effort and guts on the part of some journalists and some of those falsely accused to put an end to what had become a witch-hunt. Guts, because to question the accounts of the various accusers out there was to be accused of being a defender of child abuse.”

        Oh God! Those plucky (and paid) journalists! That bulldog spirit! And the accused – with everything to lose – selflessly thinking only of, er, themselves actually. Wow!

      • P.S. Hale’s Twitter output has all but dried up, just endless publicity for his bloody books sandwiched between a retweet for summat that “explains easily about the Chakra system and the importance of colours and crystals” & a video from Alex Jones’ UK shitstirrer, P.J.Watson (sourced from PEGIDA). A real classy fella is Don Hale…

        And there’s another blasted book on its way: “He [Don Hale] faced obstacles at every turn, and suffered several attempts on his life… … Immerse yourself in this masterful account of Hale’s long, dedicated and often dangerous campaign..”.

        What guts!

      • ^ that’s great, I’ve been looking for an easy explanation for the Chakra system and the importance of colours and crystal. Most of the other explanations out there are so complicated!

  4. A summary of the Savile hoax ‘revelations’ mentioned by Bandini can be found here

  5. You need to expose the Cathy Fox blog she wrote a lot about operation midland and many fantasy stories of child abuse cases all total B****x of course. Maybe he o she should serve a prison sentence for the lies that were told

  6. […] David Aaronovitch read more here […]

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