In our continuing quest to integrate evidence from Sabine McNeill’s 2018 trial into this blog’s FAQ, yesterday we began to revise and update the page where we introduce those who helped to promote the Hampstead SRA hoax.
Today we’ll look at those who became involved prior to the release of the videos on 2 February 2015. In our next instalment, we’ll examine those who promoted the hoax once it was under way.
As always, if readers find we’ve been unclear or have left anything important out, please let us know!
Frequently asked questions:
Early Hampstead hoax promoters
For an overview of how the hoax began, please see Frequently asked questions: The hoax timeline.
The Hampstead SRA hoax was originally conceived by Ella Gareeva Draper and Abraham Jemal Christie during the summer of 2014. This section of the FAQ will look at the main players who helped promote the hoax during its first few weeks online; the next will look at some of those who helped to keep it in the public eye.
If you are looking for further information about Draper and Christie, check out Frequently asked questions: The mother and her boyfriend.
1. Who was involved in the hoax before it went public?
Bill Maloney, Brian Gerrish, and Araya Soma
Christie’s friend Araya Soma (real name: Laurence Lavie), a conspiracy-minded faux-hippy from Glastonbury, attempted to facilitate meetings with Maloney and Gerrish, and was only partially successful: while she complained that Maloney ducked her overtures, Gerrish has since confirmed that he spoke to the young boy on the phone at some length.
On 11 September 2014, Draper and Christie emailed Gerrish with a “laundry list” of allegations of sexual abuse, murder, and cannibalism. Gerrish forwarded the email to Maloney, who sent it to his friend Jonathan Wedger, a London police officer with ties to the conspiracy community, who sent it to one of his police contacts. The email ended up on the desk of DC Steve Martin, and helped confirm police suspicions that Draper and Christie were planning to use the children’s forced allegations as a publicity gimmick of some sort.
Gerrish would only really jump on the Hampstead hoax bandwagon in February 2015, after Sabine had leaked the videos and list of alleged cult members. By that time, it had become the story of the moment on the conspiracy internet circuit. If Gerrish had ignored it at that point, he would have looked woefully out of touch.
Maloney, for his part, did show up at one of the protests outside Christ Church in March 2015, but his interest in the case seemed to fade quickly, and he has said little about it since then.
Another person with Glastonbury connections, Finnbarr Hagan, visited Christie, Draper, and the children in Hampstead in September 2014. Christie would later identify Hagan as an envoy for Gerrish.
On 8 September, Hagan recorded conversations with the children. He also recorded an audio conversation with Christie in which Christie was clearly agitated because one of the police officers involved in investigating the children’s stories knew that he had previously assaulted his own son. That officer was DC Steve Martin.
Somehow, Hagan’s videos made their way to Christie and Draper, who would give copies to Sabine McNeill. She would ultimately ensure that they were posted online, where, as she predicted, they went viral.
In November 2014, having received a phone call from Draper asking for her help since she had sacked her legal team, Sabine McNeill became involved as Draper’s McKenzie friend.
McNeill is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence for four counts of stalking and six counts of breaching a restraining order.
A former computer programmer who holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computing, McNeill is a prolific blogger—with more than 30 blogs to her name—and expert in the uses of social media.
Testifying at her November–December 2018 trial, she claimed that she did not recall the exact date of her first meeting with Draper about the Hampstead matter, but she has previously stated that she first heard from Draper on 14 November 2014.
Following Draper’s call, McNeill invited Draper to come and see her. McNeill has previously stated that she knew Draper prior to May 2014, though the context for their acquaintance is unclear.
Draper said she wanted her children returned from protective custody, where they had been place after admitting to police that Christie had been beating them.
McNeill and her colleague Belinda McKenzie (the surname is coincidental) ran an organisation called The Association of McKenzie Friends, and had been involved in previous attempts to have other children returned by the courts to their abusive, neglectful, or mentally ill parents. They had never won a case, a fact which they continue to blame on the evil “secret family courts”.
McNeill and McKenzie became involved in Draper’s case, accompanying her to hearings and helping her file paperwork.
On 14 November 2014—the same day she claims to have first heard from Draper—McNeill created a Dropbox file in which she posted her own edited version of Draper’s original “witness statement” naming the children, parents, teachers, clergy, and businesses. During McNeill’s trial, it emerged that this list had not come from the two children, as claimed, but was a direct copy of the previous year’s class list, complete with identical errors.
According to Sabine’s own “timeline”, as posted on Ken Adachi’s website, Educate Yourself, Sabine originally identified 14 November as the date on which she was
(c)ontacted by Russian mother of two, then 8 and 9-year-old children, taken into care 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.
Also on 14 November, a witness has stated that McNeill 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.
McKenzie has a long history of involvement in conspiracy-related activities, and at one time her home in Highgate was known as the “Highgate hub”, as it was a well-known meeting place (and sometimes refuge) for those involved in various fringe beliefs. Her involvement in a now-dissolved charity, Iran Aid, left more questions than answers, and her “Knight Foundation”, named for the registered sex offender involved in its inception, turned out not to be a charity at all.
McKenzie’s early involvement in the Hampstead hoax seems to have revolved around her acting as Draper’s McKenzie friend, but once the hoax went public, she would take a more active role.
Both McNeill and McKenzie have cultivated many contacts in the online conspiracy community over the years. One such woman, Charlotte Alton Ward, was a tenant in Belinda’s house in Highgate at least until 2012, and played a supporting role in some of their campaigns, including the Hollie Greig hoax in Scotland and the Musa child abuse trial.
Ward previously ran a blog called Conspirituality, based upon a word she and university professor Dr David Voas invented. Roughly translated, it conflates conspiracy theories and spirituality. They wrote a paper about it in 2011, of which Ward was inordinately proud; she and Dr Voas made a presentation on the topic of ‘conspirituality’ at a conference on religious studies in 2012.
Despite her evident pride in her ‘academic’ work, in November 2014, Ward unceremoniously removed her Conspirituality blog from the internet. There is no obvious reason for this decision, as the blog’s domain name was paid up until November 2015, according to DNS records.
On 14 November 2014, Ward adopted the online name ‘Jacqui Farmer’ (a play on her boyfriend Jacco De Boer’s name). On that date, ‘Jacqui Farmer’ self-published an e-book, Illuminati Party, allegedly an autobiographical work. She used the book to cement her bona fides within the conspiracy community, while keeping her identity hidden.
In all her online material, Ward/Farmer would disclaim any relationship to any of the parties involved in the hoax, including McNeill and McKenzie. This was quite clearly a lie.
To be continued….