While yesterday was a bit of a snooze-fest at Southwark Crown Court, the venue where Sabine McNeill currently faces four counts of stalking and 17 counts of violating a restraining order, today’s proceedings moved along at a good clip.
Announcing that there would be no proceedings on Friday, HHJ Sally Cahill QC asked the jurors to turn their attention to their bundles, while prosecuting barrister Miranda Moore QC elaborated on each of the 21 indictments contained therein.
Counts 1–4, she said, allege that between 2015 and 2017, Sabine pursued a course of conduct which amounted to stalking four individuals who were named as alleged Satanic child abusers by Ella Draper in 2014. These people cannot be named due to reporting restrictions designed to protect the identities of children involved in this case.
Sabine’s actions caused these people serious alarm or distress, which had a significant effect on their day-to-day activities. The prosecution contends that Sabine either knew or ought to have known that her actions would cause these persons alarm.
Moore said that Sabine put online false allegations of Satanic abuse, and that her online activities encouraged people to take direct action against the children of the individuals in question. Sabine published material encouraging people to kidnap/take away the children—all based on a complete fiction.
As a result, the people involved have had to change their lives drastically. Not only were their families investigated by social services to determine whether they were sexually abusing their children, but they have suffered from ruined businesses, and have had to deal with unimaginable emotional and physical impacts.
Stalking is a crime which takes place over a period of time, and has a cumulative effect, Moore said. She provided details regarding the stalking charges, noting that on or before 6 February 2015, Sabine had made the videos of Child P and Child Q available online. Sabine also suggested that members of the public ought to paint “Barbie”-type dolls with red nail varnish and post them to the alleged cult members.
Sabine named the children of the individuals, and published personal details of their parents’ addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and places of work. She posted allegations that the children of these people had been sexually abused in terrible ways by their own parents and other people, and published images of some of the children online.
Sabine posted a link to printable flyers, headlined, “Is Your Child Safe?” These flyers contained allegations of Satanic child rape and murder, and were intended to be placed under windshield wipers on cars in the Hampstead area. Indeed, this is what happened.
Furthermore, Moore said, Sabine supported Rupert Quaintance in his plan to come to the UK to cause “chaos” in the Hampstead community. She not only contributed to his GoFundMe account, but offered him bed and board on his arrival.
Breach of restraining order
Moore explained that the restraining order in question was issued following the collapse of Sabine McNeill and Neelu Berry’s trial for conspiracy to commit witness intimidation in July 2016.
The details of this restraining order included “Contacting directly or indirectly, by herself or by any person acting as her agent, or by any means whatsoever, any of the following persons”.
The list of people named cannot be published, but includes “any person who to the knowledge of Sabine McNeill is or has been clergy at Christ Church, Hampstead Square, London NW3, or the staff or a pupil at Christ Church Primary School, Christ Church Hill, London NW3”.
While counts 5–19 in the indictment involve electronic breaches of the restraining order, counts 20 and 21 are not electronic: “She changes her method and goes analogue”, Moore said.
How the story started
Moore described for the jury how the Hampstead hoax story began, noting that an 11-page document still available on Sabine’s public Google Drive contains the details according to Ella Draper. This list, she said, contains the names of the “main members of the cult”, including the “parents of the 20 special children”, all of whom are named, with personal contact details given.
Moore noted that the list had been directly cut and pasted from a school list handed out to parents to enable them to contact their children’s classmates’ parents. This was made evident by the fact that some of the information was out of date or incorrect, but matched a known previous school list from Christ Church school.
“As fanciful as this may sound”, Moore said, “the police took it seriously and set about investigating the case”. The police conducted ABE interviews with the children, but when they spoke with Ella they found her behaviour odd: she seemed detached, as though she was reciting a script, not describing terrible abuse of her children.
A number of “home-made” videos emerged online, and police videos were released as well. By the time of the fact-finding hearing in the High Court, they had been viewed more than 4 million times.
In March 2015, Mrs Justice Anna Pauffley placed her High Court judgment online, concluding that none of the allegations were true, that the claims were baseless and fabricated, and that those who persisted in spreading them were “evil and/or foolish”.
Moore noted that one item in the jury’s electronic bundle contained a statement from Sabine dated 21 February 2015. In it, she stated, “I shall upload the police videos as the ultimate evidence”. Sabine also posted a comment noting that her Google Drive had been deleted, but “oodles of other people have shared the links I sent to the Home Secretary”.
Moore described Sabine as “an online troll of the worst kind, making the lives of families a misery, despite having been told to stop”.
She described in detail the events leading to Sabine and Neelu’s trial at Blackfriars Crown Court in July 2016, stating that the terms of the restraining order “could not be clearer. Time after time after time, the defendant has deliberately flouted this order”. And each time she does, families are affected anew.
Moore described the chronology of Sabine’s alleged violations of her restraining order: within two weeks of the order being put in place, Sabine was arrested. Six days later, she used her Whistleblower Kids blog to upload the advance information concerning that arrest.
The following day, she sent a group email. One recipient of that email sent it to Hoaxtead Research, which Moore described as “a blog which debunks online hoaxes of this sort”, and said that the “lady who runs that blog passed it along” to one of the people involved in this case, who sent it directly to the police. This resulted in yet another of Sabine’s arrests.
Effects of harassment
Moore described the impacts of Sabine’s harassment on those involved, noting that all were deeply upset and some became physically ill when they learned that their children had been named as victims of sexual abuse. They were visited by social workers who had to investigate their children for signs of abuse, and have had to take extraordinary steps to protect their children from strangers online.
One had email contact from a person wanting to “develop a relationship” with their child. All were acutely aware of Sabine’s urgings that her followers should “research the online presence” of the named parents. They live in a state of anxiety, and continue to fear real-life consequences of Sabine’s suggestion to “physically research and investigate” them, as they could never be certain when someone would turn up at their door, or try to kidnap their children.
All received threats by email and phone, from people they did not know who had been influenced by the campaign Sabine initiated, Moore said.
‘Out of her control’
Moore pointed out that Sabine has claimed that it’s not her fault that people have viewed her online material, as the automatic hyperlinks to material concerning those named in the Hampstead SRA hoax are “out of her control”.
However, Moore said, a forensic computer expert has stated that prior to February 2018, the Whistleblower Kids site was freely available and could be accessed by anyone. (It has since gone offline due to non-payment of fees.) A hyperlink pointing to Sabine’s Google Drive folder can be accessed freely, as of May 2018.
Since the 2016 restraining order was issued, a total of 19 files were created and placed in the Google Drive folder; 15 of those were videos. A file called “Cult Details” was found both on Sabine’s computer and on her Google Drive, where it is listed as having been created by the defendant’s computer. This was published on Sabine’s Google Drive in September 2016.
Asked how difficult it would be to make a Google Drive private, the expert said that “any user with average computer knowledge would be able to turn off the ‘share’ setting”.
Moore noted that the defendant says she can build websites, yet claims to be unable to control the ability to share hyperlinks from her sites. However, the forensic expert stated that this would merely be a matter of disabling the links on any given blog.
Court adjourned for lunch at 12:20, and resumed at 2:20 p.m.
Following the lunch break, Moore continued to outline the indictments relating to the breaches of restraining order. These involved various postings online, including material published in Sabine’s Google Drive, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on her various blogs. Some were “indirect”, consisting of seemingly innocuous posts which contained hyperlinks leading to allegations of SRA or names of children.
By February 2018, Moore said, the defendant had appeared in court on a number of occasions. She admitted one breach of the restraining order, and had been placed under strict bail conditions including not using the internet. At this point, Moore said, Sabine changed tactics.
On 10 February, Peter Hancock, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, was making a presentation at the Church of England’s Synod. He became aware of a young man in the gallery of the presentation area, shouting about Satanic ritual abuse. This young man was identified as Jake Clarke. The Bishop later met an older woman accompanied by this same young man, but did not have time to speak to her at length.
She handed him a piece of A5 paper with something printed on it, along with a business card. The paper seemed to be referring to SRA, and the Bishop suggested that she speak to the National Safeguarding Advisor. The woman, identified as Sabine McNeill, asked the Bishop to do something about Satanic ritual abuse in Hampstead.
The jury was informed that a copy of the A5 paper, as well as a copy of another document printed on A4 paper, being handed out by Jake Clarke, is in their bundle. The A5 document contains a synopsis of Sabine’s version of the Hampstead hoax, and made reference to “shock arrests”, which she claimed the police were using against her. It also states, “My online activities are supposed to have caused anxiety in four of the 175+ named abusers”, and gives the URLs of “key supporting sites”.
When questioned about this, Sabine claimed that she was merely asking for help to obtain core participant status in the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). However, Moore said, it is unclear how such a document could assist in her obtaining core participant status.
Count 21 on the indictment list involves the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS), which provides support via a helpline. Susan Steven, who runs that helpline, received a call from a man who said he had had a distressing call from a lady, and asked whether the helpline could call her. Moore characterised this as a “clumsy attempt” on Sabine’s part to show she was not violating the restraining order.
Susan Steven obtained Sabine’s consent to pass on her concerns to a safeguarding advisor. She wrote to the advisor, noting she had heard from Sabine, who claimed to be supporting a family who had suffered abuse from a person named on the restraining order.
“This is the trail of a defendant whose actions have affected innocent people”, Moore said, noting that the jury would be required to determine whether Sabine did the things she was accused of, and whether these things had an effect on the lives of the people involved.
“You are the jury brought in to bring normality back to quite a bizarre situation”, she said. The jury must decide whether she knew or ought to have known that her actions would cause serious alarm and distress. The defendant would have you believe that these are “false, malicious charges by a state determined to shut her up”, Moore said. “You must decide (the case) coldly, clinically, on the evidence”.
Witness 1: Bishop of Bath and Wells
Peter Hancock, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, took the witness box.
He stated that on 10 February this year, he had been at the General Synod at Church House, where they were discussing safeguarding procedures around sexual abuse. Toward the end of his presentation, he said, “I became aware of a young man in the public gallery”. While he couldn’t hear him clearly, the Bishop stated that it seemed to be something to do with Satanic ritual abuse. “I made no attempt to interrupt him, but thanked him”, the Bishop said.
He said he then went downstairs for some pre-arranged interviews. After concluding several press interviews, an older woman approached him, accompanied by a younger man, and spoke to him.
Asked if he could identify that woman, he stated that it had been the defendant.
“She was quite agitated, and wanted to speak to me”, he said, noting that she had been talking about SRA and the abuse of young people. She handed him her business card and a sheet of A5 paper with print on both sides. Asked if he had given her advice, the Bishop said he had told her that if she had concerns, she should contact her local Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor.
The Bishop stated that he had noticed Sabine was holding a number of other copies of the A5 paper he had been given.
Tana Adkin QC, Sabine’s barrister, cross-questioned the Bishop. She asked whether the Synod meeting had been recorded. The Bishop said it had been live-streamed, and that a transcript had been made.
She asked whether he was certain that the paper he had been given was a sheet of A5; could it have been A4? The Bishop replied that he had folded it and put it in his pocket, which he believed would have been more difficult if it had been A4. Asked whether he was certain that the lady had given it to him, and not the man, the Bishop said he thought it unlikely to have been the man.
“She said something about Satanic abuse….When referring her to the Safeguarding Advisor, I directed her to her local, most accessible advisor”, he said. “I listened in part, took the leaflet, and said to contact the Safeguarding Advisor”.
“Was she holding a sheet of A4?” Adkin asked.
“I don’t think so”, the Bishop said.
“Did you see any other leaflets handed out?”
“No, just the one to me”, he said.
This concluded cross-questioning, and the trial adjourned for the day. It is set to resume tomorrow morning.