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Stage 5 - The Disclosures of [Mary] and the other children in the 'Satellite' Cases
At the start of the enquiry we were made aware that [Mary], a seventeen year old member of the Broxtowe family, was intimating that young children had been murdered. After this [Mary] was subjected to three months of therapeutic work by her social workers at the end of which the team was presented with a thirty five page transcript of disclosures that she had witnessed and been involved in at least seven child murders and acts of cannibalism at her parents home during access visits.
The transcript was presented to us as the basis for a full Police investigation. We were very concerned by this disclosure material as it was clearly full of leading and limited choice questioning. It was apparent to us that the social workers must have been interviewing [Mary] on the basis that they believed [Craig], [James] and [Rebecca] when they claimed that she had been present at witch parties. The social workers told [Mary] that "we need to know everything" and all her inconsistent replies are treated as reality. We consider it essential to provide a lengthy extract from this transcript as the work with [Mary] is important to some of the conclusions in this report.
As far as we are aware the social workers still consider that their work was satisfactory as the Area Director wrote to us after our views were made known to him "that the work was well planned and based on sound theory" and that "my workers were most unhappy at the way in which [Mary] was interviewed (by the Police)".
The following gives a flavour of the type of questions asked and some of [Mary]'s answers (which are in brackets). "Your father's killed a baby more than once." "We know that your father delivered a foetus and aborted it - he drank the baby's blood" (M. I didn't know anything about that) "You tell us about things that happen when you were there" (M. I ate the stomach my dad ate the head) "What part of the head?" "What's special about the stomach?" "Did anybody say why you should eat the baby?" "Dad brought the baby and the wheelie bin, what then?"
"When you ate the stomach, were you told it was good for you?" "Did you say any words, prayers, chants?" "That's one occasion when you had to eat part of a baby - I'd like you to tell us about parties where that happened." "Other parties where babies are killed." "You had to eat babies more than once" (M. I can't remember) "We think you did." "Whose baby?" "Who brought it?" "A name?" "Difficult to remember who asked you to kill the baby" (M. I didn't kill it) "Who told you to?" "Did she give you a knife?" (M. No) "I think she did." "I think you had to do it you were scared something might happen to you." "Did the social worker stay?" "You were asked to kill the baby." "You had to do it." "How was it killed?" "Last time we met you talked about an 11 year old boy being killed" (M. I heard it on the news, he was murdered and thrown in the Trent, I don't know who by).
"Let's have older children you've seen murdered" (M. at a house someone murdered a kid that's all I remember) "How old?" "Who was there?" "Who ate it?" "Did they have to drink the blood?" "We think you were made to." "Did many people get buried in mum's back garden?" "That's not right. You said babies were buried somewhere else." "Who was buried in the front garden?" "Mum put the knife in and made you do it." "You did it that's why you're frightened." "You quite liked drinking blood and that made you guilty." "She made you eat him." "Does mum wear special clothes?" "Tell us about the adults that have been killed" "and the Church." "Did you sexually abuse the little boy before you were made to kill it?"
"Did someone give birth to that baby at the big house?" "When you got there was the lady aborting the baby?" "What did it taste like?" "What parts did you eat?" "What other reasons id people in your family kill babies for?" "At the Church drinking blood" "Who told dad to kill?" (M. don't know) "I think you did." "Does he murder on any special days or times?" "[Craig] talked to me about granddad drinking blood what would [Craig] say he drinks blood for?" "[Craig] says [Mary] was there" (M. to please the Devil) "That's what [Craig] was told is that what [Mary] was told?" "You were told the Devil would be please." "[Craig] was told it would do special things for him. Things your family did for the Devil." "Things happened to [James], [Rebecca], special things I don't know if special things happened to you, you haven't told us yet."
"Your family did this because they believe in the Devil" "Who else had the same belief outside the family?" "Names?" "Outside the family (M. Robin the whole Church) "Some people in this are important people." "You killed at least one baby, more than one, 3?, 30? how many?" "If you didn't feel (guilty) you might go on killing."
It seems to us that the whole purpose of the therapy is to prove that [Mary] was involved in Satanism and to find out who further she would implicate. The questioning moves from establishing that she has killed and eaten babies and likes drinking human blood to questions about the adults involved and a Church, whether special days were used, whether special clothes were worn, whether prayers, words, or chants were used. It appears to be finally established to the social workers' satisfaction that all this has happened because [Mary]'s family are involved in 'Devil Worship'. The work appears to have all the elements of an interrogation; leading and limited choice questions (e.g. you killed at least one baby, more than one, 3?, 30? How many?) Statements make her believe that she had already admitted something, the sudden demand for 'a name' and "the Church", 'names' to catch her off guard are also employed. The questioner appears to have no doubt that the person being questioned is involved and the task is to make them "confess" by any means available. It is reminiscent of MacFarlaine's attitude in the McMartin trial when she calls for unconventional interviewing methods that "do whatever it takes to get children to talk". However, to believe [Mary], the social workers have to accept that seven murders and acts of cannibalism had taken place in the front room of a semi-detached house on a council estate to coincide with access visits without anybody noticing and that a social worker must have been implicated.
Faced with this material which appeared to throw new light on what may have happened in the USA, Canada and Holland we sought the help of Professors John and Elizabeth Newson of the Child Development Research Unit at Nottingham University and Professor Nicol of the Department of Child Psychiatry at Leicester University. Professor Newson advised us that [Mary] should be interviewed by the Police in the presence of her social worker on video and he further advised that the first session should encourage [Mary] to say anything that she wanted to without any questioning and that this video tape should be compared with the original transcript before a second interview was conducted at which probing questions could be asked. This advice was followed completely.
During the course of the second interview [Mary] explained that the only knowledge that she had was obtained from the social workers who had told her [Craig]'s story. She said that she had been pressurized and that the social workers would not take no for an answer. She thought that her nephew [Craig] would get into trouble if she did not back him up. Everything that she had disclosed to the social workers was totally untrue and she had only been to one birthday party at her parents' house since she came into care. We have since been concerned to learn that the social workers "were most unhappy at the way in which [Mary] was interviewed by the Police" with the implication that they still believe that she was originally telling the truth. In our view it was an excellent police interview which we would recommend anybody to watch.
After reading the transcript and studying all the videos with regard to [Mary], Professors John and Elizabeth Newson have since written to us with the following comments from John Newson: "I suggest that this case should be carefully documented and presented by the Team because it is perhaps an important example of how the truth might be subverted and the whole factual situation confused if the guidelines and principles set out above are ignored". Special facts leading to his conclusion seem to be:
"One may cite numerous occasions where the social workers did assert as bald fact their belief that [Mary] had witnessed and participated in child murder and in the eating of human flesh.... There are many inconsistencies in the stories told by [Mary] at different points in these transcripts. The social work interviewers also imply to [Mary] that the 'facts' were not in dispute but that it was her memory of them that was faulty. This is a procedure which in other contexts might well be described as 'brainwashing'; in fact [Mary] frequently describes herself as confused.
"Between them the interview records suggest to me that [Mary] has been led into confabulating a story which she herself now half believes on the basis of statements made to her by social workers during disclosure interviews. If this assessment is correct the 'disclosure' procedure she has been put through may well have persuaded this disturbed and confused young woman that she herself is a child murderer, has drunk human blood and has eaten human flesh in collusion with her mother, and she has been left with the conviction that these misdeeds were partly at the instigation of a personified Devil - who she may believe might well try to induce her to perform similar bestial acts in the future...
"There may indeed be organized groups of individuals practising (ritual) abuse in this community but none of the material I have seen or heard would count as convincing evidence as it stands. In my view also the accounts of adults ([Mandy] and [Vivian]) being offered are simply not consistent with the detailed accounts they could have given had they actually been present at genuine witchcraft ceremonies.
"I am particularly concerned that in the course of their disclosure interviews the social workers involved appear to have offered the children a whole vocabulary for describing their experiences which serves to transform their accounts into apparently plausible description of witchcraft practices".
Professors John and Elizabeth Newson would wish to emphasize that the comments in their report were based upon the evidence submitted to them i.e. upon the one or two very specific interviews with particular clients and that there may be other evidence which deserved to be taken into account to which they did not have access. They were not commenting on the competence of social workers generally.
Professor Nicol after reading the transcript and viewing [Mary]'s four video tapes comments as follows.
"I believe that for proper management it is essential that the facts of the abuse should be established as far as possible. Although this may be difficult normal rules of evidence must be observed. I note that the videotape interviews that I have been asked to view follow the weekend sessions in which ritualistic abuse was discussed. It is not clear whether these weekend sessions were for the purposes of disclosure, therapy or both... The transcript process record reveals that simple principles of neutral questioning have not been followed... this is a grossly leading line of questioning and is followed throughout the interviews...
"I would want to place these elaborate allegations in the context of her general adjustment. Is there other evidence of fantasising (not uncommon) or attention needing behaviour? Most important is there collateral evidence for these far reaching allegations? What we can say is that the interviewing technique used in the original disclosure involved the extensive use of leading questions and was experienced by [Mary] as pressurising according to comments made in the third tape.
"Unless there has been a lot of assessment work that I am unaware of, I believe that attention in this case has been inappropriately focused on obtaining a disclosure of Satanism practices. I can see no evidence from these interviews that such practices took place."
[Mary] was not the only new case referred to the team during the five months of its existence. In total a further 11 children were brought to our attention who appeared to be describing ritualistic/Satanic abuse. Professor Newson's advice was followed and all but two were interviewed and videoed by Police at Epperstone.
[Amy] Aged 14. Alleged Satanic ritualistic abuse involving named people and thirteen children. She claimed that she had been taken to a 'black house' where a ceremony took place involving 100 people. She withdrew all her allegations stating that she wished to remain in care and had made up all the stories.
[Lily] Aged 9. Alleged babies being cooked in a microwave oven, witchcraft parties and Satanic parties held at Wollaton Hall. The disclosures were obtained by her foster mother who tape-recorded the conversation. [Lily] started the Police interviews by repeating her allegations but when questioned regarding facts could give no coherent answers. Eventually she fully retracted her allegations and went on to explain that she wanted to please her foster mother during the interviews conducted by her. The foster mother had questioned her between recordings.
[Neil] Aged 8. Also in care and placed with one of the Broxtowe children's former foster parents, alleged that he had been to scary parties at a lady's house, that the woman had killed a baby and placed it in a microwave. He went on to speak of frightening parties in graveyards at which adults wore vampire suits and that the children were locked in caves. At his Police interview he did not retract his story but went on to say that babies were cooked for six hours and came out black (previously raw). He was not aware that the baby would have 'exploded'. He went on to say that spiders talked.
He could not identify any of the places he had mentioned when taken to see them. Coincidentally he made this disclosure within a week of social work staff attending the Reading Conference on child abuse and learning there from Jerry Simandl (who produced the second set of Satanic indicators used by Social Services) that children in the USA had reported babies being cooked in microwave ovens.
[Rebecca] Aged 7. In care, sharing a foster home with [Neil], alleged being at parties held in cemeteries and of babies being killed or placed in microwaves. At the Police interview his allegations became more bizarre, he claimed that two of his best friends had been murdered and that five babies had been microwaved and that he was nearly forced to eat part of the body. He then stated that 'they' microwaved the adults to see 'how they like it' and put them in the skip. He went on to talk of pirates digging for gold at Wollaton Park and that he had been in the tunnels with [Neil] and there was a monster "every mile". He talked of cavemen living under water.
[Clara] Aged 6. In care and with one of the Broxtowe children's former foster parents ([Craig]). Alleged a witch party in a wood. She could not expand on this but the site where the witches parties took place does not exist.
We do not know when the social workers acquired their current theories of Satanic abuse or when they started using their techniques of disclosure/therapy. All we have been able to learn from [Craig]'s records is that he was involved in eight play therapy sessions at his Area Office between March and August 1987 when he would have been three and a half but we do not know the content of these.
We asked for the audio and video tapes used in these sessions, for information from the social workers upon the therapeutic approach adopted, the models for disclosure work and information on the play therapy approach adopted by them. The Area Director, however, wrote to us, "As you will recall when the Joint Investigation Team was set up there was a great deal of sensitivity regarding their role and I was assured by yourself and the Director that the workers were not being investigated, rather that the evidence/information was being reviewed. If that is the case then I cannot see why information regarding the model/style of the workers needs to be looked at and as such I have instructed the (Senior Social Worker) not to hand over that information".
Likewise the NSPCC Unit refused to let us have the video tapes and records of the work done there with [Anna] and [Claire]. In view of this although we have never doubted that the children were sexually abused we cannot come to any informed conclusion as to whether any earlier therapy work with the 'Broxtowe' children has influenced their subsequent disclosures and we have not had the opportunity to check with the social workers our judgements on their work with the children or [Jane].
Shortly before the end of the Enquiry we considered that we were grappling with some uncomfortable information. It was apparent from [Mary]'s disclosures that they were based upon social work interviews with [Craig] which presumably must have taken place before he became a Ward of Court.
[Craig] had been received into care in December 1986 while his cousins had been removed on Place of Safety Orders in October 1987. We understood that the decision to remove them was based in part at least upon disclosures made by [Craig]. [Jane]'s second statement (N.B. she is an adult) to the police in August 1988 if it is true appeared to grow in significance when seen in the light of the work done with [Mary] after March 1989. It seemed to us to suggest a similar approach by the same team of social workers at a much earlier date. The following are extracts from [Jane]'s statement:
"When the case was in full swing my social worker started interviewing me and asking me questions about parties involving witches. The first time I told her that the only parties of any kind I had been to were at the (family home)... I told her I didn't know anything about any other houses... she started asking me over and over again whether I'd been to any other big houses where witch parties had taken place. I kept saying I hadn't but in the end I just got fed up with being asked so I just said yes.
"She asked me to describe the houses. I told her I couldn't so she said she'd take me round to see them in the car... She pointed to the house and asked me if that was the house. I said yes. She asked me what had happened while I was there. I told her there were video cameras there and children being abused. I made it all up. I had never been to that house before in my life. I made up a description of the inside of the house. She took me to another house near Wollaton Park... she asked me whether this was another house I'd been to. I just said yes. I agreed with whatever she said, I have been interviewed about 20 times by (my social worker) about these houses but all I do is just keep saying yes
"I have seen [Mandy] many times over the past few months and she's told me she's been telling the Social Services about witch parties. I know she's telling lies... [Mandy]'s told me that if I tell the Social Services about witch parties at big houses I might have a chance of getting my daughter back (child in care) (my social worker's) told me if I tell the truth I could get my daughter back... everything I have told (the social worker) is lies. I've told her the truth more than once but she wouldn't believe me so I just said anything.... the only things I know about witchcraft and magic are the things I've seen on the telly.
"I was in Court when my statements were read out in the care proceedings. Some of this was the things I had told (the social worker). I was frightened to say that it wasn't true."
Research into Other Cases in the U.K.
At this stage of the enquiry we also made enquiries elsewhere in the country. Most of the police forces and the NSPCC had no information but we obtained an interesting response from Congleton and Humberside. We have met with a Chief Inspector from Humberside who has told us that after a national "Evangelical" proponent of Satanic abuse spent many hours with two 11 year old boys at her home they eventually alleged Satanic abuse. A well respected school master was arrested but intensive police investigations found that none of these allegations against the school master were based on reality.
As a consequence of the discrediting of the witnesses due to the improper intervention of this person the Prosecution had to drop serious charges of rape and buggery against two men. The Attorney General became involved. The police were convinced that they had a good case against these men but were left with only the one Defendant who pleaded guilty.
In the information presented to us as the start of the Enquiry we were informed that in Congleton two separate groups of children who had not had contact with each other talked about babies being killed. They had also talked about people dressed as clowns, people dressed up as animals, lions and tigers and animals being sacrificed. We contacted the investigating police who informed us that the case revolved around three families who were all neighbours. The children concerned belonged to two of the families. The evidence which could be substantiated revolved around sexual abuse only.
Whilst the children aged 5, 6, 10 and 12 years were in care they made allegations of attending parties and the murder of a baby named "Daniel" whose body was buried in a back garden. The back garden was excavated and Thermal Image Intensifiers were used. No evidence of a body was found. The allegation was then altered and the body was said to be buried on waste ground. This was also checked and no body was found. The children had made the disclosures during therapeutic work and were believed by the social workers.
We were also told that one of the national figures arousing public consciousness of ritual child abuse had visited Congleton but we do not know whether this was before or after the children's disclosures.