Photographs of men abusing boys in north Wales were deliberately destroyed.
That simple shocking fact has become lost in the media storm over whether politicians were involved in the abuse.
The cover-up of systematic abuse at Welsh children’s homes is continuing.
Sian Griffiths worked for Clwyd council in the inquiry office on the 1994 Jillings and 2000 Waterhouse inquiries into the abuse.
She said that photographs of abuse obtained by victim Steven Messham were ordered to be destroyed. Steven said he could see men’s faces clearly in the pictures but police officers said they could not identify them.
Asked what happened to the photographs, Griffiths said, “We were supplied with copies of court documents… there was an order made for the book of photos to be destroyed.
Asked to clarify that they had been destroyed she said, “They were. Well that’s what’s in court papers—official documents.” And asked whether those photographs could have been vital evidence she replied, “Yes.”
Griffiths added that there were people mentioned in the Waterhouse inquiry who probably got away with abuse.
The Jillings report was trashed on the insistence of Clwyd council’s insurers, which feared a wave of writs from victims. It outlined the widespread abuse of children in care.
The then newly appointed chief constable of North Wales Police refused to meet the panel or help with access to the police major-incident database.
The report says that, “We were disappointed at the apparent impossibility of obtaining a breakdown of data. We are unable to identify the overall extent of the allegations received by the police in the many witness statements which they took.”
Some 130 boxes of material handed to the police by the council were not made available to the panel. The council didn’t allow the inquiry to place a notice in the local press seeking information. “This was considered to be unacceptable to the insurers,” says the report.
According to the report, the insurers—Municipal Mutual—suggested the chair of the council’s social services committee, Malcolm King, be sacked if he spoke out.
“Draconian as it may seem, you may have to consider with the elected members whether they wish to remove him from office if he insists on having the freedom to speak,” it is quoted as saying.
Allegations covered the period 1980 to 1988, and a four-year police inquiry saw 2,600 statements taken and 300 cases sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. Eight men were charged, and six convicted. How many children were abused is not clear.
The backlash against allegations of child abuse in high places was fast and determined. Within days of the government announcing two inquiries into the north Wales child abuse scandal, the establishment regrouped.
There will be a new police inquiry into the abuse. And a judge will look at the last judicial inquiry—the Waterhouse inquiry, which began in 1996.
As Labour MP Tom Watson pointed out, “A narrow-down investigation is the basic building block of a cover-up.”
Next, David Cameron warned that gay men were at risk of a “witch hunt” after being confronted with a list of suspected paedophiles on television. But Cameron was to first person to link gay people and paedophiles in relation to the scandal.
The focus moved to the victims of the abuse in Wales. The Guardian ran a story saying Lord McAlpine had been wrongly identified as a child abuser.
The BBC’s Newsnight programme reported that Steven Messham said he was abused by a leading 1980s Tory politician but did not name Lord McAlpine. McAlpine said the claims were “wholly false and seriously defamatory”.
Messham issued a statement last week saying, “After seeing a picture in the past hour of the individual concerned, this is not the person I identified by photograph presented to me by the police in the early 1990s, who told me the man in the photograph was Lord McAlpine.”
This at the very least suggests that there are still questions to be asked of what the police were doing. Nonetheless the BBC descended into chaos as a series of resignations followed—though notably when its director general left it was with a £450,000 payoff in his pocket.
The Waterhouse Inquiry, which is being investigated for having covered up the scandal, is now regularly being used to discredit victims for “inconsistencies” in their evidence.
There is a concerted effort keep the scandal away from politicians. With the Leveson inquiry into press standards due to publish, the cops, the politicians and the media are all turning on each other.
Meanwhile the message to abuse survivors is a familiar one—shut up or be vilified.
Sections of the media are gloating following several resignations at the BBC relating to the child abuse scandal.
The BBC’s director general, head of news and deputy head of news stood down after a Newsnight programme accused a senior Tory of abusing children.
It didn’t name the Tory, but he was later identified as Lord McAlpine. He denies the charges.
The Guardian has talked of abuse victims “telling tales”. The Daily Mail has denounced the BBC. Yet just days earlier, both were happy to repeat the claims.
One Mail report from Wednesday of last week was headlined, “Victims tell of horror inside North Wales care home where gang rape, strip searches and vicious canings were a way of life”. It added, “High-profile visitors to the home allegedly included two senior former Tories”.
Then the Mail on Sunday ran a disgraceful article on abuse victim Steven Messham last weekend. It said his evidence about abuse was “unreliable from the start” and tried to discredit him by falsely painting him as a violent criminal.
The media claim this is all about getting to the truth. In reality it will help protect powerful people while putting victims off reporting abuse.
Margaret Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary Sir Peter Morrison has been accused of abusing children. Morrison was formerly deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.
Rod Richards, a former Conservative MP and ex-leader of the Welsh Tories, said that he had seen evidence linking Sir Peter Morrison to the North Wales children’s homes case.
Richards said, “What I do know is that Morrison was a paedophile. And the reason I know that is because of the North Wales child abuse scandal.”
Former Tory minister Edwina Currie said that Morrison had been protected by a “culture of sniggering”. In her diaries, she called him “a noted pederast”, with a liking for young boys.
At least 12 young men died after suffering abuse in north Wales during the 1970s and 1980s. An unpublished report into the abuse commissioned by Clwyd council includes the list, which it says “is not comprehensive”.
R1 fell to his death from a railway bridge. R2 committed suicide aged 16. R5 was found dead aged 18 due to “acute respiratory failure due to solvent abuse”. R7 died aged 27 from alcohol abuse. R10 died from an apparent heroin overdose. R12 was found hanged.
All had lived at Bryn Alyn or Bryn Estyn care homes. Most of the deaths took place around the time of a police investigation into the abuse. Some of those who died had made statements or given evidence.
The report noted that “perhaps insufficient thought has been given to the psychological or psychiatric stress of appearing in court as a witness in high-profile cases”.
An internal Clwyd council report, again unpublished, describes “numerous claims that senior public figures including the police and political figures might have been involved in the abuse.”