As we’ve pieced together a more complete timeline of the Hampstead SRA hoax, one thing that’s become apparent is that when given a choice, Abraham Christie and Ella Gareeva tended to allow Sabine and Belinda’s conspiracy-minded friends to interview RD’s son rather than his daughter.
For example, we noticed that when Brian Gerrish was permitted access to the children, presumably to examine the merchandise before broadcasting the story, he mentions only having spoken to the little boy.
Similarly, we know that when Finn Hagan was questioning the little girl, he cut his questions short as soon as he heard an adult approaching. He abruptly stopped talking and stuffed his phone into his pocket without turning it off. This provided us with what we call “the pocket tape”, a revealing bit of dialogue which you can read about here. It seems that he knew he wasn’t meant to be speaking to the girl, and didn’t want to be caught out.
This made us wonder: did Abe and Ella think that the boy would be a more eloquent poster child for their hateful campaign of lies? And if so, why?
‘You have to tell the truth’
Judging by the videos of the children, it seems quite clear that the little girl was much more resistant to Abe’s torture techniques. He mentions when speaking to Jean-Clement that “she’s a liar”, almost as if to inoculate his brother-in-law from any inconvenient inconsistencies in her story.
And then there’s a sad little 35-second video in which the little boy begs his sister to go along with Abe’s storyline:
Q: Please, tell the truth. Please! [P], please! Just tell the truth.
Q: Look, they’re not here yet. They’re not here. Look, nobody’s touching me. We’re now with Mum and uncle. Please tell the truth, [P]. It’s really important.
Q: If you won’t tell the truth you will get yourself in big trouble, yourself. Into deep trouble, yourself. So please tell the truth. [inaudible] uncle says, tell the truth, okay?
In the next video, which lasts 55 seconds, the little boy continues, with a bit more urgency in his voice, this time with Abraham coaching from off camera:
Abraham: Say that again.
Q: P.. Papa is not here…look…Abraham is here, [P]…[P]…
Where is papa? Look. This is not papa, [P]. [P], that’s not papa…And just tell the truth…Please. [P], we can tell the truth….Look, is this your, is this papa? Is this [RD]? No. So, look… Don’t… Mum and papa are protecting you and to help you protect yourself and to protect them and to protect all of us… The group…
If the group lies…things will start to pack and roll and you might broke a glass…You might hurt yourself.
Abraham: What about the babies?
Q: …And you might get your bag of payment for the babies. You might get killed by somebody.
Clearly, the little girl isn’t interested in repeating the story yet again, but the boy seems genuinely concerned for her safety if she doesn’t comply. Is this because he knows Abe will hurt them if she doesn’t co-operate, or because he genuinely believes the story himself?
We know that in the third round of police interviews, while the little girl was quite forthcoming and angry about Abe having forced her to say terrible things about her father, teachers, classmates, and their parents, the little boy seemed to want to hang onto the story just a bit longer:
Q: Want to tell, Abraham he like accused me like, er, like when, um, he said does your Dad hurt you much…
S (Police officer): (yeah)
Q: …..does he hurt you really bad? And I say, no he doesn’t and he said yes he does and he accuses me.
S: OK. And then what happens?
Q: And then he says yes your Dad does hit you really hard.
Q: And he says no he doesn’t hit me hard. He hits me softly….just to remind me.
S: OK. So, what was it, we talked in two other interviews before, didn’t we?
S: Was what you told me the truth?
S: So all that stuff about the babies…
S: And the church…
S: and all that…
Q: No, no the babies, the babies, he um, no, well there is some of the babies killed, yep.
S: Okay, are you sure?
Q: Yes. But not much, not every single day, not every single day like killed, no, not like that.
As the interview progresses, he seems to drift in and out of Abe’s fantasy-world:
S: It’s okay, if it hasn’t happened it’s okay as long as we talk about it now. Okay?
Q: Yeah. So I lied about it, no because he made me say it.
S: So I, so, there’s two things. So first of all you say you lied… So are…let me just be clear. Are babies being killed or not?
S: So they’re not.
Q: No, he made me say it.
S: Who’s he? Who made you say it?
S: How did he make you say it?
Q: When I said…when I, when he asked me, ‘Is any baby killed?’ I said no there isn’t and then he says yes there is, he’s like accusing me of my Dad killing me, of me of him helping me killing babies.
S: Okay, what about all the secret rooms in these houses and places?
S: Are there any secret rooms?
Q: Ss..not much. Well there is, yeah, not much, not much, no.
False memories in the making?
The little boy’s confusion is completely understandable.
He has just spent four weeks holed up with his sister, his mother, and his mother’s boyfriend, being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night for repeated grilling sessions, being beaten and kicked, having water poured on him whilst he knelt in his underpants.
And all the while, he was being told that his own thoughts and memories were wrong and invalid, and that he must now believe in a terrifying alternate reality where babies are murdered and eaten, and hundreds of people “do sex” to him with plastic willies.
For a small child, this must have seemed completely incomprehensible and bewildering. Most children hold the view, rightly or wrongly, that the adults around them are the arbiters of truth—so if Abe and Ella were telling him, repeatedly and adamantly, that their father was forcing him to kill babies and eat them, then perhaps they were correct?
It’s entirely possible that for a time at least, the little boy became confused about what he actually did remember. We know that one way in which false memories can be “implanted” is via constant repetition and questioning, creating confusion and distress in the victim, who begins to doubt their own memories and begins to replace them with fabrications.
If this was the case with the little boy, though, what stopped his sister from going down the same route?
It’s difficult to speculate about that, but one factor could be what Abe and Ella described as her stubbornness and unwillingness to go along with the programme. She was the older sibling, and had had many conflicts with her mother in the past—so in some ways it’s possible that she was more adept at defending herself against Abe and Ella’s assaults on her sanity during the Morocco trip.
According to memory specialist Dr Elizabeth Loftus, studies have shown that it’s possible to induce false memories in adults—but not all adults, and not all the time:
Despite the ethical limitations imposed on laboratory studies of artificially created memories, research showed that creating false memories of a relatively benign childhood experience, i.e., becoming lost in a shopping mall as a young child was easily induced. In other studies, even much more extreme example of false memories (eg., spilling punch on the bride’s parents at a family wedding or nearly drowning as a child) could be induced in as many as a quarter of the subjects tested. Even in subjects who failed to develop a complete false memory, partial recall could be induced in nearly half of all research subjects.
We don’t know for certain that what happened to RD’s son comes under the heading of “false memory”. It’s possible that he didn’t fully believe in the grotesque lies Abe and Ella drilled into the children, but felt more compelled to hang onto them than his sister did, once they were safely out of Abe and Ella’s reach. As the younger sibling, it’s possible that he hadn’t had quite as much time to develop the defences which his sister had.
However, whether he fully believed the stories or not, it’s clear that Abe and Ella felt that the little boy could be relied upon to speak to strangers about the hoax, while it might be best to let his sister remain in the background. Fortunately for both children, once they were removed from Ella’s custody, the little girl spoke out angrily against their captors, thus ensuring that Ella would not regain control over them ever again.