Records at Richmond council reveal troubled history of Grafton Close children’s home
By Nick Fielding, David Pallister, Fiona O’Cleirigh and David Hencke | 4 February 2013
Exaro can reveal that the problems culminated with sensational evidence given to a coroner’s court in August 1990 about Grafton Close children’s home that ought to have alarmed the council that ran it, the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.
The head of Grafton Close, Neil Kier, and his deputy, John Stingemore, were named in the coroner’s court as being part of the paedophile ring.
The astonishing claim was made by Mary Moss, a former campaigner who advised abused children, at the inquest into the death of Carole Kasir, co-manager of Elm Guest House, which was allegedly a venue for MPs and other VIPs to sexually abuse boys. Her evidence is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Service as part of ‘Operation Fernbridge’.
Exaro has made a series of revelations about the case. In a joint investigation last weekend, Exaro and the Sunday People revealed what led the guest house to becoming a paedophile brothel.
Police believe that the paedophile ring was initially centred on Grafton Close, where abuse was carried out in what was called the “examination room”. But the main centre of abuse transferred in 1982 to Elm Guest House, in Barnes, south-west London.
Documents in the case reveal that most of the boys supplied to the guest house were from Grafton Close, but others came from Rodney Road and Teddington Park children’s homes. Richmond council ran all three homes.
Glimpses into the troubled past of Grafton Close are buried in official records of councillors’ meetings at Richmond council.
Social workers, whose job was to look after the youngsters at Grafton Close, complained about the difficulty of changing the behaviour of children who were already set in their ways by the time they entered care.
Grafton Close was originally set up as a mixed home for up to 12 children. However, as far back as 1978, a minute from a meeting of the council’s social services committee held on October 25 noted that a review had been undertaken into all the borough’s children’s homes, but particularly Grafton Close, because it had been “the scene of many complaints from the public” and required remedial action.
The records contain no details on the nature of the complaints or the outcome of the review, although the committee eventually decided to convert Grafton Close into an ‘adolescent and assessment’ unit for nine boys and girls. The home was to assess young children before placing them in foster care or more permanent homes.
But problems continued. In September 1980, the then director of social services, Louis Minster, submitted a report to the committee on the difficulties with accommodating adolescents in the council’s community homes.
“The average age of referrals had increased, being in 1979-80 14 for boys and 15 for girls.”
“In cases where they were received late in their formative years, it was difficult in a short period of time in a children’s home environment to improve their behaviour significantly.”
Two years later, in October 1982, Minster reported to the committee that the age of boys was generally higher than previously and that it was difficult to find long-term placements for them. The boys, he said, were more likely to have been excluded from school or to be unemployed.
The committee agreed to appoint extra staff to sleep over at the homes.
In 1990, the same year as Carole Kasir’s inquest, Richmond council decided to close Grafton Close. The records do not show exactly when the decision was made, or why.
According to nearby residents, the council converted the building into flats and passed it to a housing association.
One who has lived in the area for 40 years, Peter Bush, recalled: “It was a home for troubled boys, delinquents really. They would jump out of the windows and smash up the bus shelter. I used to talk to one who wanted to be a chef.”
Another resident recalled: “They had to build a wire fence at the back to keep them in, because they were always in and out of the windows,” adding, “Boys will be boys.”