In the most recent video on the Hoaxtead Research YouTube channel, we addressed an issue which hasn’t really been publicly aired in the past: how was the outcome of this hoax shaped by the reactions (or non-reactions) of the police?
Yesterday, regular commenter Steved observed,
The accusers who may find themselves either in jail or facing huge public settlements for damages—many of these people seem unaware of just how dangerous a fine line they are treading here—if [some victims] had decided to do things differently, then many of these hoaxers would literally be penniless and possibly in jail…
The idea that the victims of the Hampstead SRA hoax could have done things differently is a common one.
To most observers, it seems obvious that had the falsely accused parents, teachers, clergy, and businesses chosen to lay charges against those who were harassing them, the police would have swooped in and started arresting the instigators and promoters of the hoax, and four years of agony could have been avoided.
Ideally, this would have happened within days or weeks of the hoax going online: a swift and decisive police response would seem to have been the obvious solution. Arrest and charge the main players, send a strong message, and stop the thing in its tracks.
Instead, what we saw from the outside was a strange sort of complacency: Sabine, Ella, and Abraham somehow managed to slip past the police in February 2015, and the hoax sympathisers who screamed obscenities at church-goers did so with impunity for the most part. As mentioned in the video, arrests were made, and while Christine Ann Sands was deported back to the United States, Neelu Berry’s trial on charges of “vexing a priest” collapsed when the CPS barrister failed to turn up.
While it might have seemed reasonable for an outside observer to assume that the police’s failure to act against the dozens of other hoax promoters was due to the victims’ passivity, nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, the victims were flooding the police with demands for action. They were combing the internet every night in an effort to protect themselves and their children, screen-shotting what they found, collecting links to images and threats and damaging material, and passing this along to the police, who kept reassuring them that action would be taken.
Those reassurances, it turns out, were false.
While a few people—including Belinda McKenzie—received police visits, none were arrested, none had their computers seized to look for evidence, and none faced charges in court.
Long-time readers might recall that during Ella’s appeal of the Pauffley judgment in August 2015, Belinda McKenzie and Tracey Morris were both served with injunctions intended to prevent them from spreading the hoax any further. Tracey blithely ignored hers, claiming (accurately, as it turned out) that it “wasn’t worth the paper it was written on”. Belinda left the UK for a brief sojourn in France, but slunk back into the country a few weeks later, and carried on as before.
Sabine, of course, was famously arrested at the Royal Courts of Justice, having just returned from Germany; however, for reasons which were never made clear, the police “NFA’d” her case in December of that year.
During her 2018 trial, her defence barrister Tana Adkin QC made a point of mentioning this, as though the lack of police response proved that her client had done nothing wrong. We now know that to Sabine, having her police charges dismissed was a clear signal that she could carry on promoting the Hampstead hoax with no consequences.
This weak police response was typical, and it carried on for more than a year and a half. It was not in any way endorsed by the hoax’s victims, who continued to grow more and more frustrated that the police seemed to be giving the hoaxers carte blanche, while completely ignoring the victims’ plight. For their part, the hoaxers quickly realised that they could do as they pleased…and they did.
In January 2016, the victims’ hopes were raised with the arrests of Sabine and Neelu on charges of witness intimidation. However, that case fell apart in court following the defence’s half-time submissions. While the net result of that trial was the restraining order which would prove part of Sabine’s undoing, it felt like yet another failure of the law to protect the victims.
It would not be until another officer, DC Steve Martin, took over the case in August 2016 that the victims at last started to get the decisive response they had been pushing for. If you were reading the blog at that time, you would have seen the arrests mounting: 13 in the space of a couple of months.
This was an exciting development, but it proved too little, too late. The hoax had had a year and a half to grow and spread, and the hoaxers, including Sabine, had grown accustomed to running amok.
We don’t know exactly why the hoax victims’ complaints were ignored for so long. Did the police misguidedly believe that the Hampstead hoax was merely a flash in the pan, something which would peak quickly and subside with little permanent harm done? Was their nonchalance about it the result of incompetence, or an inability or unwillingness to grasp the ways and workings of the internet? Was it inexperience in dealing with conspiracy believers? Was it some combination of these things? We don’t know.
Whatever caused it, though, we can say with certainty that the lack of appropriate, timely, and effective police response was in no way a reflection of the victims’ wishes. They pushed—hard—against police inertia and empty promises. But until the case changed hands, that boulder simply would. Not. Move.