LONDON — Under cover of darkness, one of Britain’s best-known politicians and a small group of his powerful associates would gather in a clearing in the forest to systematically abuse girls as young as 6, according to allegations by a woman who says she is one of the survivors.
Esther Baker, now 32, tells The Daily Beast that a senior lord and a man who was later elected as a member of parliament were among her attackers. Baker says their faces haunt her nightmares to this day, and she lives with the fear that she might be murdered to prevent her giving evidence.
The alleged abuse was perpetrated by groups of around six or seven men, including police officers, usually with a similar number of victims. Sometimes, she says, it took place among the trees on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, Central England, on other occasions it was at less formal “parties” in private houses.
The lord, who was a household name in Britain at the time, was allegedly the most brutal, as well as the most powerful, of the attackers.
After two decades of silence, Baker began to tell her story to police officers earlier this year. Police confirm that they have already arrested one man on suspicion of rape and conspiracy to rape. “The investigation is very much ongoing,” said a spokeswoman for Staffordshire Police.
The latest shocking allegations come as the British political establishment is rocked by an unprecedented police investigation into thousands of alleged attacks carried out by wealthy and influential men over the course of decades. Officials have confirmed that they are examining child sex abuse claims made against 76 politicians.
Lord Janner, an 86-year-old Labour politician, appeared in court last month charged with six counts of rape and 16 sexual assaults against young boys.
Baker claims that an even more prominent politician subjected her to brutal sex attacks between the ages of 6 and 12. The lord, who was a former Labour Cabinet minister, is now dead.
She says a former member of parliament was also among her attackers. The Liberal Democrat politician denies any wrongdoing. “It’s a malicious smear,” he told The Daily Beast. “The whole thing has been made up.”
He said he had volunteered to give evidence to the police and reported an attempt to pervert the course of justice when he discovered that he had been named by the alleged victim. “It’s complete garbage. It’s like surreal. I don’t think I have met the person concerned,” he said.
Despite those vehement denials, Baker insisted that she was certain of the identity of her abuser. “People say, ‘How can you be sure it’s X that you’re talking about? You were a kid. How can you sure that it was these people you’ve identified?’ It was over a long period of time. It’s not something that you forget—I’ve got those faces in my nightmares now. I’ve never forgotten them,” she said.
“I know that I’m telling the truth, so it’s going to be up to the police to prove it with what I can give them.”
Baker says she has given medical evidence and done more than 80 hours of interviews with detectives from Staffordshire Police so far; the interviews are expected to continue next week.
A 64-year-old man has been arrested and released on bail on suspicion of rape and conspiracy to rape, which means plotting with at least one other man to commit the alleged crimes. The man who was arrested is not one of the high-profile figures.
Baker says she has gone public with some of the allegations because she wants to raise awareness of attacks against young girls as well as teenage boys and hopes other victims might come forward. It has been reported by the Exaro news agency that two other alleged victims have come forward to name the same former MP.
Baker feels safer having spoken about her torment on the record, but is still concerned that someone might try to stop her talking. “I do have fears that I’m going to ‘commit suicide’ one day. It sounds crazy, I know it does,” she said. “I know what power these people had and I’ve got no illusions that they wouldn’t do that because they don’t care about people, if they didn’t care about a 6-year-old girl, they’re not going to care about a 32-year-old woman having an accident.”
Baker believes her abusers were protected by police officers, sometimes dressed in uniform, who stood guard while she and the other girls were assaulted. She recognized one of them from regular Sunday church services that she would attend with her family. It seemed obvious to this young girl that she couldn’t go to the police. “I didn’t have any confidence whatsoever in the police all the way through my life—they were nasty people,” she said.
Baker says the Liberal Democrat MP would be polite and tell her sit on his knee while she played the piano, while the lord was more violent with his victims. “He just didn’t care, he didn’t even pretend that it was an OK thing to do. He was a nastier guy,” she said.
Baker did not know any of the other victims or where they came from. “They weren’t from my school,” she said. “Now and then we’d have the odd word, I suppose it was more looking at each other and glancing at each other… I know they’re out there.”
As the VIP pedophile scandal gripped Britain, Baker, along with large swathes of the country, has been left asking what it is about powerful politicians, senior police officers, or figures of authority being caught up in child abuse rings.
“They’re all just people, aren’t they?” she said. “Some are going to be good—some are going to be evil.”