On Saturday, Aug. 2, 1982, the “Daily Express” led its front page with a shocking story: Police were investigating a “vice ring” allegedly involving at least 30 prominent individuals, including senior MPs, staff from Buckingham Palace, lawyers, doctors, and City businessmen.
The news prompted feverish speculation in the months following the story’s publication. Attention quickly focused on Elm Guest House, an otherwise nondescript Edwardian house near Barnes, in southwest London.
During the 1980s the guest house was frequented by male prostitutes as a place to take their clients, including a number of younger men (at the time the age of consent for gay couples was 21). A fringe Tory group, the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality, described it in a 1982 newsletter as being “well served by underground and bus services and by British Rail and is near the M4, A3, A4 and A40…The facilities include a sauna, solarium and video studio.”
Seven days after the original story was published, the “Daily Mail” followed up with one of its own. This time the story explicitly mentioned “an alleged brothel in South London” at which “an address book which lists prominent individuals” was allegedly found. Although four people were charged “in connection with…unlawful activities”, including the guest house owners Haroon Kasir and his wife Carole, none of the prominent individuals were named nor is it reported that they were questioned.
In fact, the police denied that the list mentioned in the “Daily Express” article and “Daily Mail” even existed. According to a short news story in “The Times,” published in early September 1982, Scotland Yard told the paper that “no list of brothel clients had been passed to senior detectives or to the Special Branch” and that “no MPs had been questioned”.
From that point on the story appeared to go quiet, with many assuming that the lack of evidence to substantiate the claims has caused it to run out of steam.
However, two former newspaper editors at the time have now come forward alleging that security services served them with warnings not to publish information relating to the role of powerful individuals in child sex abuse in 1984. The so-called D-notices claimed that the information relating to the abuse might damage national security, according to an article published in “The Observer.”
One of the editors alleges that he was accosted by police over a dossier passed to him by former Labour cabinet minister Barbara Castle, which reportedly implicated 16 MPs along with senior policemen, headteachers, and clergy. The allegations are in line with those made in July to the Mail by Don Hale, the editor of Castle’s local newspaper the Bury Messenger. Hale claimed that a “heavy mob” of Special Branch officers seized the dossier in a 1984 raid of the paper’s office.
The second editor claims to have received D-notices relating to his paper’s coverage of the police investigation into the Elm Guest House, where a group of high-profile abusers purportedly operated. Unfortunately, officials in charge of running the D-notice system say the allegations could not be substantiated “because files are reviewed and correspondence of a routine nature with no historical significance destroyed.”
Moreover, parliamentary records from the time suggest that efforts by Geoffrey Dickens, Conservative MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth, to raise the issue were also stymied. On June 27, 1984, Dickens introduced a Bill into the House of Commons that sought to expand the Protection of Children Act 1978 to make “illegal any indecent or obscene act or suggestion of one between adults and children that is written or illustrated by a print, drawing, painting, photograph, lithograph, engraving, cinematograph film, video film, book, card or written communication or indecent or obscene article”.
In his speech he hinted at the involvement of senior figures:
And this was the reaction from Labour MP Claire Short to his appeals:
In hindsight that looks to have been rather too dismissive a response. Indeed rather than investigate the claims made by Dickens and Castle, it seems significant efforts were made to discredit or ignore them. Even more worryingly, after Dickens mentioned the names of prominent individuals in the House of Commons he claims to have been subject to “threatening telephone calls…two burglaries…[and an appearance] on a multi-killer’s hit list”:
Despite his persistent efforts the story failed to recapture the public ‘s imagination. However, the story wasn’t lost altogether. A “Sunday Mirror” article in August 1990 rekindled speculation that evidence of the involvement of prominent individuals in the Elm Guest House scandal, which the police had denied receiving, did in fact exist.
The paper spoke to Christopher Fay, a former social worker who claimed to have helped treat Carole Kasir, the co-owner of Elm Guest House. Kasir died from an insulin overdose in June 1990, three months before the article was published in circumstances that some have deemed suspicious. Fay claimed that he was shown photographs of “a former Tory Cabinet minister in a sauna with naked boys”. A senior Scotland Yard detective is quoted as saying that the allegations, if true, “cannot be ignored.” Even still, no charges were filed against any prominent individuals. /p>
The trail seemed to have gone cold once again, until 2012, when Labour MP Tom Watson raised the troubling case of former social worker Peter Righton, who was convicted in 1992 of importing and possessing illegal homosexual pornographic material
According to Watson, the evidence that was used to convict Righton included details of a paedophile ring that counted a senior aide to a Prime Minister among its members.
His comments helped spur renewed press interest in the subject and, thanks to the efforts of Exaro News, there is serious pressure on the government to deliver an independent inquiry into historical child abuse alongside a formal investigation by police of shocking new allegations of sex abuse and murder that have emerged in recent months.