Met’s Operation Fernbridge finds victims’ harrowing evidence in forgotten council files
By David Pallister and David Hencke | 26 January 2013
The Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit is investigating harrowing accounts of sexual abuse of boys in the care of the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.
Exaro understands that the Met’s ‘Operation Fernbridge’ has obtained files from the council that included at least one historical statement – supported by gruesome medical evidence – alleging child sex abuse at Elm Guest House, in Barnes. Police believe that the council failed to take appropriate action.
‘Operation Fernbridge’ is a full criminal investigation into allegations that many MPs and other prominent people abused boys – supplied by several children’s homes, including nearby Grafton Close – at the guest house in the early 1980’s.
Carole Kasir, who owned Elm Guest House with her husband, died suddenly in 1990 in what a coroner recorded as suicide by insulin injection.
But two representatives of a campaign group, the National Association for Young People in Care (NAYPIC), told her inquest that MPs, judges and other VIPs frequented the guest house.
Two members of staff at Grafton Close were named as part of the paedophile ring, with one of them said to have been convicted in 1985 – after leaving the children’s home – of possessing child pornography. The children’s home closed in 1990.
Last November, Exaro made a request under the Freedom of Information Act to Richmond council for information relating to allegations of child abuse of children in its care at Grafton Close.
In an extended e-mail exchange, the council said that it held no reports about the allegations. It made the response after checking with the deputy director of children’s service.
Asked whether any such reports had been passed to the police, the council replied: “Following searches conducted by the relevant council departments, we did not locate any information relevant to your request for information. Therefore, no information relevant to your request has been passed to any third party.”
In a further request, Exaro asked whether there were any records showing that any inquiry had been conducted. The council replied that because it had not found any “relevant information, we are unable to confirm whether or not an inquiry did take place at the time in question.”
A spokeswoman for the council said that it would make no comment while the police investigation is ongoing.
With a gap of around 30 years, and some of the alleged abusers dead, the police have been trying to trace the victims. They have the names of at least 16 boys “recruited” for the guest house, as well as the identities of some of the alleged visitors.
As the guest house openly catered for gay men, the police have the difficult task of separating out the possible paedophiles.
Papers relating to the guest house identify two former Conservative cabinet ministers, as well as seven other MPs from different political parties and many other VIPs, as having attended. The names include three officials then working for Richmond council’s department for social services.
The Conservatives had minority control of Richmond council during the relevant time.
Sir David Williams, who was Liberal leader of the council for nearly 18 years from November 1983, told Exaro: “I knew nothing about this until some time afterwards. It was a rumour. It did not impact on the council at the time.”
“If the police do find something, well, the police will find something. It is all specious rumour as far as I am concerned until someone gives me some hard facts. It is idle speculation, as far as I am aware.
“If it did involve children, I did not know. I doubt that it did. I doubt that there is much in this at all. I remain to be convinced that there is something significant here.”
Williams, who remains a Richmond councillor, added that he was “sure” the council is “co-operating” with the police.