Yes, it’s time for another hoax update timeline, oh huzzah, let the bells ring out.
In the four years since Sabine McNeill first released the videos of two children making extraordinary claims about a “cult” run by their father, which included everybody at their school (except their mother), the story of the hoax’s genesis has shifted and changed.
We’ve updated our timeline based on the best evidence available at any given time, to reflect the facts as we understand them. Two events have taken place since our last major overhaul of the timeline: Sabine’s trial revealed a great deal about precisely when and how she and Belinda McKenzie became involved; and a video recently released by James Graham, aka Butlincat, showed that Abraham Christie and Ella Draper had conspired with others regarding the release of the videos.
As you can imagine, the timeline is rather large, so we’re beginning today with the story up to November 2014.
Long-time readers will note that past versions of the timeline included a reference to a June 2014 email from Belinda McKenzie referring to something which sounded like the Hampstead hoax. However, we learned during Sabine’s 2018 trial that this was a reference to another project, which was ultimately dropped, so we’ve taken it out of the hoax timeline.
As always, we would ask readers to identify anything they feel should be expanded or deleted, or any areas where we could present things more clearly.
Prelude to the hoax: 2008–2014
Brewing storm: Court orders made and breached
2008–2013: Following the breakdown of their relationship, Ella Gareeva Draper and her ex-partner had been to court more than nine times, as her ex-partner (who cannot be named here due to a 2017 court order) sought to have access to their two children.
Ella used every possible means to avoid this, including making several false allegations against her ex-partner in an effort to cut him off completely from the children. This is alluded to in Mrs Justice Pauffley’s fact-finding judgement of 19 March, 2015:
Over the course of the next six years (after 2008), there was never a time when the children’s contact with their father proceeded smoothly. Countless returns to court achieved very little. If there was an attempt to achieve judicial continuity it failed miserably. Between November 2010 and August 2014 when the case was pending at First Avenue House, High Holborn it drifted between no fewer than seven different judges. None of the nine hearings resulted in a considered judgment on the basis of oral evidence. The essential cause of the problems was never the subject of judicial determination.
2010: The mother made a non-molestation order against the father, in order to prevent him contacting her. Unlike a restraining order, a non-molestation order does not require that the person against whom it is directed be found guilty of any offence.
Between 2011 and 2012, the children had no contact with their father.
Early signs of abuse, neglect by mother
In 2013, according to the CRIS report which would later record the police investigation, the children were referred to social services because of “concerns over the children being left on their own as being heard crying. At the time Ella did not appear to have a partner”.
In addition, “there were concerns over the children not having enough food as they were seen to steal food from other children and from the school bins”.
Parental access dispute heats up
September–November 2013: A witness claims to have seen Ella and the father engaged in a dispute in the McDonalds restaurant in Hampstead. They say that Ella attempted to serve the father with a court application to remove the children from the UK, and that he in turn served her with a court application ensuring that she could not take them.
So I go to him and say I’m thinking to move to the south of France….
I enquired with solicitors much, much before, you know, what if I wanted to move out of the country, what the steps would be. So I give him a call saying that I’m thinking to do that, you know, and he says no, he’s not going to allow it to happen, so okay, I knew my next step will be, like, to go to court.
However, on the 4th of September, I think it was a Friday, the next working day he went and applied for prohibit steps, saying…that I’m trying to take them out of the country….
I’ve been abusive to children, and another application he made for the residence of children at that time.
During the September 2014 police investigation, police confirmed that the father had applied for full custody of the children at this time.
May 2014: The father had contact with his children for the first time since the previous October.
That same month, Ella Draper met Abraham Christie, who has an extensive criminal record, and is a known child abuser. He admitted to having attacked his teen-aged son previously, and his step-daughter has called him “the step-father from hell”, as she had witnessed him beating her younger brother until he wet himself. Abraham moved into Ella’s house in Hampstead, calling himself the family’s “nutrition advisor”.
4 June 2014: Abraham Christie became involved in an altercation with the staff at Christ Church School, in which he shouted at them that they were “poisoning” the children by allowing them to eat “off-limits” food.
During Sabine McNeill’s 2018 trial, in response to a question about Christie a parent witness stated:
The parents at Christ Church Primary School (CCPS) were aware of his presence, describing him as a “foreboding person” who seemed “malevolent and overbearing” when he appeared on the school’s playground.
They stated that he did not behave “the way people expected in a playground”. He had on at least two occasions appeared shirtless, and the caretaker had asked him not to do this.
August 2014: In early August, Abe called and left messages for his brother-in-law, Metropolitan Police Special Constable Jean-Clement Yaohirou, saying he had information regarding the abuse of children. At that time, Jean-Clement said, Abe was not offering specific information, but was trying to “give him justification”. Abe claimed that a church, a school in Hampstead, and a police station in Haringey were involved. Jean-Clement asked whether he had evidence, and Abe said he would get some.
Abe and Ella travelled with the children, first to Gibraltar and then to Morocco, where they stayed on a farm belonging to a friend of Abe.
According to Mrs Justice Pauffley’s fact-finding judgment of 19 March 2015, while they were in Morocco
…the children’s minds were filled with ever more elaborate, fantastical and sexually explicit stories. Over time, more and more detail was supplied to the central core of the fabricated story. ‘Brainstorming’ brought about expanded versions of events. More and more individuals were named as participants within the cult. Venues for abusive activities grew in number, spread across Hampstead and Highgate. Ever more sexually explicit details were woven in to the fabric of the fantasies in an attempt to make the children’s accounts believable and seemingly authentic.
By the time the children arrived at the airport for the journey back to England, at Mr Christie’s and Ms Draper’s instigation, they were able to ‘speak to camera’ about the stories concocted during the brainstorming. The obvious purpose of the film clips was to provide ‘proof.’ It was part of a deliberate plan by Mr Christie and Ms Draper. The children do as they are told. They do so forthrightly, without inhibition and with apparent conviction.
The hoax begins: September 2014
4 September 2014: First thing upon returning to London, either Abraham or Ella called Brian Gerrish, a UK-based conspiracy promoter who runs a YouTube channel called “UK Column” from Plymouth, Devon. They arranged to meet with Gerrish at a later date.
That evening Abe took the children to Jean-Clement Yaohirou’s house. Ella returned to her own home for a shower, and joined them later. While at Jean-Clement’s house, Abraham put the children through their paces, getting them to repeat the stories they had told on camera the previous day.
Jean-Clement audio-recorded the entire conversation. (This transcript reveals a great deal about the hoax, and is required reading for anybody who is serious about looking into it further.)
5 September 2014: Alarmed about what he had heard from the children, Jean-Clement called Scotland Yard the following morning. He gave a copy of the audio recording to a friend for safe-keeping.
This friend, upon listening to the recording, recognised the name of one of the people who was being accused of belonging to the “cult”.
According to Detective Inspector Cannon, who testified during the fact-finding hearing, “This friend had looked at the video and recognised one of the parents when they had said the name of one of the parents that they were talking about, and he called up this chap who then took a copy of this video and contacted us. He also contacted, I’m not sure if it was his lawyer or someone, but then we got the copy of that from him“.
Mrs Justice Pauffley observed that despite the recording’s key importance to the case, it was not reviewed by police until after the investigation had been closed. She said,
I say no more at this stage than that the police and social services inquiry could have taken an entirely different course if attention had been given to those recordings. At the very least, the questions asked of P and Q at interview would have been directed towards other areas of interest.
By “directed towards other areas of interest”, she means that Ella and Abraham would have been questioned and possibly charged based on the contents of this video.
Police launch investigation
Also on 5 September, the Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) based at Barnet police station launched their investigation into the allegations. Over the course of their investigation they conducted three ABE (Achieving Best Evidence) interviews with each child on the 5th, 11th, and 17th of September.
Abraham and Ella did not initially go to the police with their concerns. Rather, the police, alerted by Jean-Clement and the above-named accused parent, went to see them.
At some point between 6–8 September, Abraham, Ella, and the children drove to Glastonbury and Devon, ostensibly to look for new schools for the children.
According to Gerrish, he interviewed “the boy” in the “earliest days” of the case, but he does not specify a date. He has claimed that he did not meet the children in person, but spoke to the child by phone. However, Gerrish has admitted to meeting Abraham and Ella “in September”.
7 September 2014: Knowing that the police had scheduled a drive-round to identify their father’s house, Abe and Ella took the children on a “practice” drive-round by taxi. The taxi driver reported this to police, as he was concerned that Abraham had been berating the girl and that she was visibly distressed.
The driver reported that Abe had told him, “You know she’s a baby killer”. Then, talking to the girl, he said, “What do you do after you kill babies?” The girl replied, “I eat them”. “What do you do after you eat them?” “I drink their blood”. “What does your dad do to you?” “Sex”.
8 September 2014: An associate of Gerrish named Finnbarr Hagan visited Abe and Ella. While he was there, he talked to the girl, secretly filming their conversation as he did so. He also interviewed the boy briefly.
During this visit, Finnbarr was surprised by an approaching adult whilst audio-recording the children, and shoved his phone into his pocket, still turned on. In doing this, he audio-recorded Abe discussing his concern that DC Steve Martin was involved with this case.
DC Martin knew Abe as a child abuser, having dealt with him when he assaulted his teen-aged son. In the audio recorded by Finbarr, Abe can be heard trying not to panic at this coincidence.
Also on 8 September, the police conducted a drive-round with the two children, who had previously stated that they would be able to identify their father’s house in this way. Neither was able to identify his house.
9 September 2014: The CAIT team received an email from “the informant”—Abraham’s brother-in-law Jean-Clement Yaohirou—which was logged in the CRIS report. This information, Jean-Clement said, had come to him from Ella Draper, and comprised a detailed list of names, places, and alleged cult activities. It begins “Main action is happening in Christchurch (sic) with at least another 10, possibly more schools involved”.
11 September 2014: On 11 September, following an ABE interview in which the little girl reported that Abraham Christie had hit them and that their mother hadn’t cared that he’d done so, both children were made the subjects of a Police Protection Order, and were removed from Ella’s custody.
The same day, approximately three hours after the children were taken into custody, Abe and Ella emailed Brian Gerrish of the UK Column, cc Bill Maloney, another conspiracy promoter.
This email was clearly not their first contact with the recipients, as there is no introductory information in the body of the email, which begins, “Main action is happening in Christchurch (sic) with at least another 10, possibly more schools involved”…
This email is identical to the one which Jean-Clement Yaohirou had received from Ella, which he had sent to the CAIT team on 9 September.
15 September 2014: The father was interviewed by DC Savage, under Caution plus 3. He said he had been alerted by his children’s social worker that the police were looking for him, and had come in voluntarily.
He stated that the allegations against him were untrue, and that he believed that Ella had been telling the children what to say. He said he had evidence of this on Skype calls which he had recorded, in which Ella could be heard in the background. He said that Ella would like to take the children out of the UK, which he had refused to allow since he feared he would never see them again.
Also on this date, Brian Gerrish forwarded the email he had received from Ella and Abe to his friend Bill Maloney.
Maloney forwarded it to his friend Jon Wedger, a former police officer with the Metropolitan Police, who in turn sent it to a police contact. Via a somewhat circuitous route it came to the attention of DC Steve Martin, who was involved in investigating the alleged “cult” in Hampstead.
17 September 2014: The police conducted further ABE interviews. The children, who had been away from Abe and Ella for a week by now, had been eager to disclose something in the car on the way to the interview suite, but DC Martin had asked them to wait until their disclosures could be properly conducted and videotaped.
Once in the the interview suite, the little girl stated very clearly that everything she had told the police about the alleged cult had been a lie, and that she and her brother had been forced to lie by Abraham. “Abraham’s the whole problem”, she stated, calling him “an idiot”.
The little boy seemed slightly more hesitant to go back on his earlier statements, but when told that he would not get into trouble for having previously lied, he agreed with his sister that they had been made to say things which were not true.
Both children described to police, and later to the psychiatrist Dr Claire Sturge and physician Dr Deborah Hodes the abuse they received from Abe during the time they were in Morocco.
In addition to waking them in the middle of the night to interrogate them about alleged sexual abuse, they said, he had hit them with spoons which he had heated on the stove; he kicked them “as hard as he could” in the privates; he threatened to bury the little girl alive in the desert; he hit the little boy so hard on the head that he ruptured his eardrum. He made them kneel in front of him in their underwear, while he poured water on them. In the videos made en route home from Morocco, both children look tired; bruising and a cut are visible on the little girl’s face.
18 September 2014: DC Martin received the email which had been sent by Abe and Ella to Gerrish, who had forwarded it to Maloney, who’d sent it to Wedger, who had sent it to his police contact.
The CRIS report states:
Thus it became clear to police that not only had Abraham and Ella abused the children whilst they were in Morocco, but that they had been sharing the details of what they had made the children say with at least one and possibly more known conspiracy pushers—in other words, they were “marketing” the children’s allegations.
20 September 2014: The police closed the investigation into the case, classifying it as a non-crime incident. In addition to the children’s retractions of their original statements, various inconsistencies were cited, as well as complete lack of physical evidence in any of the locales named.
22 September 2014: The following notation was made in the CRIS report:
From the information that we have, the children’s mother is living alone. Believe that Abraham has moved out of the house in order that she can regain custody of the children. There is no indication that the relationship is over. Abraham has circulated video interviews with the children taken while on holiday in Morocco where it is apparent that he has coached the children into disclosure….
While in Morocco he has hit the children however the assaults do [not?] constitute an offence in this country suitable for prosecution. The children have indicated that they do not wish to return to the family home and are in fear of Abraham. Based on this I would be concerned for the welfare of the children if returned.
Abraham: It is believed that he is circulating videos of interviews of the children giving disclosure to people to raise awareness of the satanic cult. This may continue. … He has convictions for offences against his own children and I would suggest [this may cause] future safeguarding issues with these victims if they returned home.
Abraham and Ella continue planning video campaign
September–October 2014: In an audio conversation released in March 2019, Abraham and Ella discussed how they had planned to release the videos of the children in a controlled fashion. They express anger at Sabine for having released them prematurely, thus spoiling their plan.
Ella: No, but even, even later, it’s been discussed many t—…well, quite a few times, uh, between those guys, and everybody agreed that it’s not time to release that, any part to release…
They mentioned having made plans with “a group”, and having had discussions to which Sabine had not been a party. This group included Brian Gerrish and Araya Soma (aka Laurence Lavie), a Glastonbury-based would-be hippie who claims to have been involved in the hoax six months before the videos were released:
Given the difficulty Araya claims to have had in recruiting Maloney, it is unlikely that Maloney was part of the original group. Oddly, she claims that Gerrish had refused to help. It is possible that having reviewed Finn Hagan’s videos, he pulled out of the group, but this issue remains somewhat unclear.
Ella meets Sabine McNeill
November 2014: During her 2018 trial, Sabine McNeill testified that Ella phoned her in 2014, though she does not give the specific date for this first contact. By November 2014, however, Sabine had involved herself in Ella’s case. Ella was attempting to have the children returned from protective custody to her care.
14 November 2014: Prior to her trial, Sabine identified this date as the day she was “(c)ontacted by Russian mother of two, then 8- and 9-year-old children, taken into care [custody] by Barnet Police on September 11, 2014 allowing contact with father whom they accused of being the leader of a ‘strange culture’ at a church and school in Hampstead, London”. (During her trial, she claimed she could not recall the date she first met Ella.)
On the same day, Sabine created a Dropbox file in which she posted an edited version of the “witness statement” which Ella had made, naming the children, parents, and teachers in Hampstead that Ella and Abe wished to target. While at first Sabine claimed not to recall the list, under cross-questioning she conceded that she had tidied it up before saving it, adding hyperlinks.
This list, which gives personal information about the parents and their children’s nannies, including telephone numbers, street addresses, places of work, and email addresses, was identified during Sabine’s trial as a direct copy of class lists, as it contained identical errors to the originals.
On that day, Sabine convened a meeting of people with whom she’d worked in the past, including Meirion Bowen, Yolande Lindridge, and Mary Rooney. They met at the London offices of solicitor Caroline Newman, and according to one person who attended, “[Sabine] excitedly broke the news that she had met up with Ella Draper and that she had taken on Ella’s case”. Also invited to that meeting were Belinda McKenzie and Ian Josephs, though it is not clear whether they attended.
Also on 14 November, a conspiracy blogger named Charlotte Ward published a pseudo-autobiographical e-book called Illuminati Party! under the pseudonym “Jacqui Farmer”. She also took down her relatively successful blog, Conspirituality, at around this time. Charlotte Ward had lived in Belinda McKenzie’s house in 2012–2013, and had supported Belinda during the Hollie Greig hoax and the Musa family trial.