LONDON — The key to bringing Britain’s alleged VIP pedophile ring to justice could be the testimony of a successful businessman now living and working in Connecticut.
The man, who allegedly was the victim of sickening sexual abuse as a schoolboy, fled Britain for a new life in the United States where he now has a thriving career and a family.
Scotland Yard detectives have told The Daily Beast that they understand his reluctance to come forward after officers failed to properly investigate his claims in the past, but they believe his account could prove crucial to securing the convictions of surviving members of a child sex abuse ring that operated at the heart of the British establishment throughout the 1980s.
After decades of alleged cover-ups the extent of sex abuse rings that included politicians, intelligence agents, judges and celebrities has only begun to emerge in recent years.
At the center of the claims is the Elm Guest House, a secretive hotel in West London, which, according to police, allegedly operated as a gay brothel that hosted regular child sex abuse parties attended by wealthy and influential guests. One of the boys who was considered a “favorite” and a “prize possession” to be shared by the abusers at these events is the man who has since relocated across the Atlantic.
He has refused to be dragged back into the ordeal.
A senior Scotland Yard officer said the victim had been procured for child abusers at Elm Guest House by members of his own family. “This survivor gave us a statement some time ago with graphic details of his alleged abuse, including being regularly raped by a close relative, and also named some individuals involved,” the detective told The Daily Beast.
His original statement was made in a different era, when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government apparently was colluding to cover up allegations against some of the prime minister’s closest advisers and cabinet members. Scotland Yard detectives now say they believe claims that politicians and influential figures were responsible for systematic abuse that may have included the murder of three teenage boys.
The crimes of alleged prolific pedophiles such as Cyril Smith, a senior Liberal MP, were never prosecuted despite scores of accusers. Thatcher approved a knighthood for Smith in 1988 even though she had been warned about the sex abuse claims, according to briefing notes that were published under freedom of information last week.
Leon Brittan, the country’s top law enforcement official in the early 1980s, has been accused of covering up evidence that a pedophile network was operating in Westminster. Brittan, who died this year, also has been accused of rape and child sex abuse, which he denied.
Amid fears that a host of high-placed figures have been desperate to keep these dark secrets out of the public domain, the survivor in Connecticut has opted to maintain his silence.
“He has declined to sign or revise his statement, claiming a fear of reprisals or repercussions, but we are urging him to reconsider and talk to us about what really happened in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” a Scotland Yard investigator said.
It is understood that the Metropolitan Police have made direct contact with the survivor since the death of Leon Brittan. Officers hope that he will change his mind about giving evidence since circumstances “have now changed dramatically.”
Detectives believe him to be a crucial witness who could blow the lid off the current inquiry into historic sex abuse allegations with names, dates and locations where he was repeatedly raped and sexually abused. The survivor did not respond to requests to speak to The Daily Beast.
Survivors of Elm Guest House and child protection workers have described orgies, rape and obscene video production. Elm Guest House placed advertisements in specialist gay publications in the early 1980s, including a newsletter for the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality, which boasted: “The facilities include a sauna, solarium and video studio.”
The families of two boys who disappeared fear their deaths were linked to the hotel, which was shut down after a police raid in 1982.
Two years ago, police officers seized from a former official at the now-defunct National Association of Young People in Care a list that purported to name some of the regular visitors. That list, which is in circulation on the Internet but cannot be verified or even dated, contains the names of pop stars, politicians, and members of the royal household.
Cyril Smith was another of the men on the list. One of the teenage boys who worked as a masseur at the Elm Guest House, Lee Towsey, claimed Smith forced him to strip naked and watch him masturbate. Towsey, who was 16 at the time, told the Daily Mail that the hotel manager, Carole Kasir, had boasted to him about the caliber of guests. “She kept their names in a black address book, which she referred to as her insurance policy,” he said.
A much younger boy, under 11 years old, reportedly told police officers in the 1980s that he was regularly abused at the guest house. According to a social worker who said he was present for an interview at Richmond police station, the boy reportedly said one of his abusers was a man known as “Uncle Leon” who worked at “the big house.”
The social worker said he later saw an official police copy of the child’s statement and mention of Uncle Leon and the big house had been removed.
The father of another boy has claimed the police seemed willing to cover up more alarming details that could have implicated the Elm Guest House. Vishambar Mehrotra, a lawyer, told the Daily Telegraph that police had refused to investigate a call that could have helped locate his son, Vishal, who was last seen at the age of 8 on the day of Charles and Diana’s royal wedding in 1981.
In the months after his boy disappeared within a mile of the hotel, Mehrotra received a call from a male prostitute. “He believed Vishal may have been taken by pedophiles in the Elm Guest House,” he said. “I recorded the whole 15-minute conversation and took it to police. But instead of investigating it, they just pooh-poohed it and I never heard anything about the tape again.”
Part of Vishal’s badly disfigured body was found in woodland the following year.
As the tangle of interconnected police inquiries at Scotland Yard continues to investigate historic child abuse allegations, some of the men involved are finally being brought to justice.
Tony McSweeney, a Catholic priest, was found guilty last month of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in a care home in Richmond called Grafton Close. He had been due to stand trial alongside his friend John Stingemore, who ran Grafton Close, and was said to be the ringleader.
Stingemore died before the trial started but one of the rapes he is accused of was said to have taken place at the Elm Guest House. Stingemore and McSweeney were arrested by Operation Fernbridge officers who were probing allegations that vulnerable boys were regularly sent from the Grafton children’s home to be abused at Elm Guest House.
One of those boys was Peter Hatton-Bornshin, who was taken into care in 1980 when his mother died. After struggling to come to terms with being subjected to abuse as a teenager, he reportedly took his own life in 1994.
Carole Kasir and her husband, Haroon, were convicted of “keeping a disorderly house”—or running a brothel. She died of an insulin overdose in 1990. A coroner ruled that it was a suicide despite the protestations of some of her friends at the inquest. Scotland Yard is re-examining the circumstances of her death.
Unforgiveable delays in the police investigations mean there are a dwindling number of victims from Elm Guest House who have survived long enough to give evidence against their alleged abusers.