Yesterday we announced that we’re embarking on an ambitious but (we think!) do-able project: we’re creating a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section of the blog, to help clarify questions and answer concerns people might have about the Hampstead SRA hoax.
We started with an overview of the police investigation, and with our readers’ help have added some questions and answers that we hope will make the police investigation more understandable.
Today we’re going to delve into another hot topic: the videos of RD’s children, reciting the details of what they alleged before they retracted the entire story in their police interviews.
Many people find the videos very compelling indeed, and ask questions like, “How could they possibly remember that much detail unless they’d actually experienced it?” or “I just know those children weren’t acting; it’s just not possible!”
Let’s start with a synopsis of the videos themselves. Here’s what Mrs Justice Pauffley said in her fact-finding judgement:
69. The mobile ‘phone film clips made by the mother and Mr Christie form part of the material relied upon by Ms Draper to support the claims of exceptionally serious abuse. There are 16 short clips in all although 3 appear to be copies. It is useful to set out a reasonably full extract of the first film clip because of the way it sets the scene for the rest.
70. The children are standing at the side of a car in a public place, possibly at an airport. P and Q look tired. There is a noticeable graze on P’s chin and, seemingly, a large bruise in the centre of her forehead.
71. The conversation begins between the two children and Mr Christie. P and Q talk about deciding to stop touching each other and the children. P says they will “face their fear – and face our urge – and stop touching ourselves.” Mr Christie asks, “…what else are you going to stop?” Q replies, “And stop killing babies.” Mr Christie says, “You’re going to face your fear? Because fear is what?” P replies, “Fear is the mind killer.” Mr Christie then says, “And you’re going to help us catch, who are you going to help us catch?” Both children reply, “All the paedophiles.” P adds, “Papa, Mr Hollings.” Both children say, “the school.” Ms Draper interjects, “All the policemen, all the – Social Services.” Mr Christie urges the children to “speak up, speak up.” The children then repeat, “All the Social Services” and add, “All the shopkeepers – Cafcass – all the cafes, all the Pizza Express – McDonalds.”
72. Mr Christie asks, “Who’s Cafcass? … What’s Cafcass” P and Q reply, “Cafcass is, they work with – they’re for children – they work with Social Services.” Mr Christie asks, “
And what did they do to you?” Both children, one after the other, respond,“They do sex … They touch each other – they touch me and Q. They have plastic willies. And they stick it in our bottom.”
73. Mr Christie then asks the children to say who has done this. The children reply, “Everybody does.” In response to his direct questions, “Who, who, who?” the children say, “Papa, Mr Hollings – the school…” The mother interjects, “Parents.” Q adds, “My dad’s family.” Mr Christie then says, “Tell me more people, tell me some more people because I’m interested.” P adds, “Parents, policemen–.”
74. Mr Christie asks, “What about the teachers at the school, who are the main ones?” The children give names and then they are asked what the head teacher does. Both reply simultaneously, “And she does sex.” Next Mr Christie asks, “And what happens in the church?” P replies, “And we do sex with the baby sacrifice and eat the baby.” Mr Christie asks what she means and she says, “So we kill the baby and eat it and drink the blood from it.” Mr Christie asks Q whether that is true. He replies, “Yes. And we dance with the skulls… Baby skulls.”
75. One of Mr Christie’s final questions is as to who kills the babies. Both children reply, “Papa.” Mr Christie then says, “And what, he gets you to help him?” Both children say, “Yes.” P adds, “So he tells us to hold our hand in a knife and then he holds his hand on our hand, so then he cuts the baby’s head off. And he tip it upside down and then we drain the blood.” Ms Draper asks, “And then what they do?” P replies, “And then we cook it and then we drink the blood and after we pick the bones, dance with the skulls…”
76. The other film clips are similar in that the interrogation of the children is undertaken in the main by Mr Christie with occasional interventions by Ms Draper. More and more information about the activities of the cult and the identities of those involved is recorded. In the second extract, the children are instructed to “Tell the camera…. Say what you said to the camera.” Ms Draper at one point says, “So what are we going to do? We’re going to protect other babies – and children, huh? And save those children who are involved or have been forced to be involved, right?”
77. The eighth clip starts with Mr Christie saying to Q, “Keep saying it to her.” It seems that he and the children are, by then, on a plane. Q then pleads with P to “Tell the truth.” He begs her saying, “P it’s really important. If you won’t tell the truth you’ll get yourself into big trouble… so please tell the truth.” The tenth clip continues similarly, Q fervently pleads with P to tell the truth. He says, “Mum and Papa Hemp are protecting you and you have to help them protect yourself … and to protect all of us because we’re in a group. If the group lies we’ll start to get wrong, things will start to happen wrong. And you might like, you might broke a glass, you might hurt yourself.” Mr Christie asks, “What about the babies?” Q replies, “And you might get your back your payment for the babies, you might get killed by someone.”
1. How could the children remember so much detail?
We think the answer to that question is partly seen in the excerpts above. The children are not just volunteering the information: they are responding to Abe’s questions, much as a primary school student might respond to a teacher’s prompts. When they leave out bits that Abe and Ella consider important, Abe either prompts them for further information, or Ella interjects to fill in the ‘missing pieces’.
This seems obvious when one looks at the narrative in print: one can see where the adults intervene, prompt, coach, add details.
When one is hearing the children for the first time, though, without knowing anything about how Abe actually treated the children, it’s easier to believe that the story is coming directly from the children. The shocking and lurid nature of what they’re saying is overwhelming
As well, keep in mind that the Abe and Ella got the children to contribute their own details to the narrative:
93. Mr Christie described something of the way in which the children had been questioned saying of P, “She lies, instinctively she lies.” He had believed her story, so he told Mr Yaohirou, “Because (he) had questioned her 10 times and then (he) would question him.” They had questioned the children “separately like the police do…” Ms Draper explained it had taken “four weeks to get to the –” Mr Christie adds, “Ella and I, we will begin to discuss certain aspects of the situation – and by discussing it – we brainstorm and we come up or we work out, we work things out. What she (P) will do while we are talking, she will interrupt us – and distract us with something and send us, like attempt to send us in another complete – We say to her, ‘Be quiet … Don’t distract us anymore”
94.The mother interjects, “Or she listen to our conversation. And she will– ” Mr Christie continues “–use the information, and he does it as well.”
In other words, the children were listening to Abe and Ella “brainstorm” the details of the story, and then using that information to helpfully add details.
Why would they do this, if the story wasn’t true?
For one thing, they were being physically and psychologically abused during the month they spent in Morocco. In the videos one can see the bruising and a cut on the little girl’s face; and during the medical examination it was discovered that Abe had hit the little boy so hard on the side of the head that he had actually ruptured his eardrum.
In addition, Abe was beating the children with spoons. We have spoken to other people he victimised in the past, and they tell us that he would usually heat the spoon on the stove before hitting them; his theory about using spoons is that they leave fewer bruises on his victims.
Abe and Ella were waking the children up at night to question them; sleep deprivation is a well-known torture tactic. Abe used to pour water on the children while they knelt before him in their underwear; they referred to this as “water torture”. Abe also threatened to bury the little girl in the desert and leave her there if she did not co-operate with him and Ella.
Mrs Justice Pauffley went so far as to describe what they experienced as “torture”. We think that’s an apt description.
It seems likely that, like an adult who experiences torture, the children were eager to do anything they could to make the pain stop. Contributing details to the stories they were being forced to learn was a minor thing, but it seemed to please their tormentor, and decreased their chances of further pain.
The combination of coaching and torture was very effective: by the time they were ready to return to the UK, the children were ready to be questioned about their alleged ‘cult abuse’. And because they had helped build parts of the story, the details would have been easier for them to recall under questioning.
2. “I heard those children. There’s no way they were lying”.
Most people who hear the children initially believe that they could not have made this story up.
However, consider this: if those children had really been subject to multiple brutal anal rapes per week, would you expect them to look and sound like normal 8- and 9-year-old children when they recounted the horrors they’d been exposed to?
Children who have been sexually abused, especially as often and as violently as RD’s children alleged, would likely be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. School-age children with PTSD will usually present as anxious, fearful, and distressed. They may fear that they will be re-victimised, and they often engage in ‘traumatic play’, in which they re-enact the traumatic incidents over and over. They often cycle between shyness and over-aggressive behaviour.
Watching the videos Abe and Ella made, none of these symptoms are evident. The children sound excited. Their words tumble out, they interrupt one another, they are eager to please their questioner with the ‘correct’ answer. They are focused on what they’re being asked, and show no apparent concern about the trauma they are supposedly revealing.
3. No child in the world could remember that much detail and recite it back from memory.
Really? Have you ever seen a Shirley Temple film? What about the Home Alone series with Macaulay Culkin? Lassie Come Home? Harry Potter?
This is the second in our series of Frequently Asked Questions about the Hampstead SRA hoax. Now it’s up to our readers: what questions about the videos (either the ones made en route from Morocco, the leaked police ABE interview videos, or the audio made by Jean-Clement Yaohirou) would you like us to include in our FAQ section?