Former director of social services proves evasive over questions from Exaro reporter
By Mark Conrad | 1 May 2013
Answer: when he is Louis Minster and has some questions to answer.
Minster’s dismissal in 1984 as director of social services at the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames is under scrutiny in the Metropolitan Police Service’s ‘Operation Fernbridge’.
Detectives are investigating allegations that a paedophile ring – including MPs and other VIPS – sexually abused boys in the care of Richmond council between 1977 and 1983, initially at Grafton Close children’s home and later at Elm Guest House nearby in Barnes, south-west London.
So far, a former manager of Grafton Close, John Stingemore, and a Catholic priest, Tony McSweeney, have been arrested. Both have been bailed without charge.
Back in February, Exaro traced Minster to the Mediterranean island of Malta, where he has retired to live in an idyllic hill-top village.
Minster, 81, said that he suffers from long-term memory problems, but was unaware of any allegations of sexual abuse made by boys in Richmond’s care while he was in charge of social services. “I have never heard of them,” he said.
Minster also said that no member of his staff approached him with concerns over sexual abuse of children in Richmond’s care.
He said that his former head of children’s services, Terry Earland, would verify his claims if we could trace him.
Exaro did trace Earland to his retirement home, also overseas. But his story contradicted Minster’s.
And Exaro obtained files archived by Richmond council that show how police and council staff decided to take “no further action” after a boy in care at Grafton Close alleged child sex abuse in 1983.
Another boy from Grafton Close who backed up the allegations was interviewed by police at the time.
The files also revealed that Minster twice called up the second boy’s file. On the second occasion, the boy had left care two months before.
Shown the record by Exaro, Earland said that it was “pretty unusual” for the head of social services to pull a file on a boy after he had left the council’s care.
Exaro decided to call Minster again in Malta to ask him about his claims and why he had pulled that file.
Because of the importance of the call, Exaro recorded it.
As we reported on Saturday, Minster declined to comment. Today, we publish the full transcript of our reporter’s conversation, which tells the story behind that “no comment”.
Minster has a distinctive accent from southern Africa, and typically answers the telephone with a cheery, “Hello there.”
You can hear our recording of the call by clicking on the Exaro icon above. If you are unable to use Flash, the audio-player above will not work, so we have provided a downloadable MP3 file at the bottom of this article as an alternative.
Louis Minster (LM): “Hello there.”
Exaro: “Hello. I’m trying to reach Louis Minster, if he’s available.”
LM: “Er, who’s speaking?”
Exaro: “It’s Mark Conrad.”
LM: [Long pause] “Doesn’t mean a thing.”
Exaro: “Oh, hi. Is that Louis?”
LM: “No, no. Lou’s away at the moment.”
Exaro: “Hi Louis. It’s Mark Conrad here, from Exaro.”
LM: [Pause] “From where?”
Exaro: “From Exaro News. We spoke in January or February.”
LM: “No, I’ve not spoken to you.”
Exaro: “We spoke in January or February, I believe.”
LM: “Louis is away at the moment.”
Exaro: “Er, you’re Louis aren’t you?”
LM: “What can I do for you?”
Exaro: “Louis, it’s- I just had a couple of very quick questions for you about-”
LM: “No, no, no. I’m not answering any questions on the ’phone.”
Exaro: “Okay. That is you, though, is it, Louis?”
Exaro: “Okay, sure. Is there any way I can e-mail a couple of quick questions to you?”
LM: “No, not at all.”
Exaro: “No? It relates to some information that we dug up after you recommended that we spoke to some of the former staff at Richmond.”
LM: “Hmm mm.”
Exaro: “You mentioned a couple of names and we went off and spoke to those people and-”
LM: “Look, I’m- I’m going to be putting the phone down, okay?”
Exaro: “OK, sure. Louis, can I ask you just one very quick thing-”
LM: “No, no. No questions, thank you.”