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.
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 50 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 when Draper met Christie, though the context for their acquaintance is unclear.
Draper said she wanted her children returned from protective custody, where they had been placed 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, but merely a vehicle for transferring funds to McNeill while she was on the run from the law in 2015.
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.
2. How were the videos released, and by whom?
During her trial, McNeill said that Draper gave her the videos of the children “over Christmas” in 2014. On 21 December 2014, she emailed a person named Brad, asking for his assistance in preparing the videos to be shared online.
Describing the contents of McNeill’s computer at her 2018 trial, DC Martin testified:
She said she was sharing the videos and wanted to know how to make a trailer for them; she also mentioned having contacted a police officer who she felt would confirm the credibility of the mother’s story.
“Russian TV will come on 11 January”, she said. “I may persuade Ella to pay for it”.
Later in the same blog post she stated:
On 23 December, the last of 3 hearings took place in Barnet Court. At the previous one, the mother dismissed her barrister who was not willing to defend her affidavit. Since then, she dismissed her solicitor who had not filed documents in time for the court.”
On the face of it, this appears to contradict McNeill’s testimony that Draper had called her in November to act as a McKenzie friend, since she had just sacked her legal team—how could that be, if she’d sacked them in December?
However, in another post McNeill revealed that by the time Draper contacted her, she had already sacked her second set of solicitors, as they would not go along with her ideas of how the case should be run. In December, Draper grew angry with her legal team once again, and sacked, re-hired, then sacked them again all in the same day.
At that time, frustrated with their difficult client, the legal team handed the legal bundle over to Draper. The bundle contained not only all the “home-made” videos of the children, but also the police interview videos, the CRIS report, the medical report, and other confidential material.
Draper and McNeill
During cross-examination at her trial, McNeill stated that she did not view Draper as a McKenzie friend client, but as a “protegée”.
This suggests that Draper had contacted McNeill not to act as a McKenzie friend, but to help her publicise the case online. McNeill is well-known in some circles for her prolific blogging about controversial cases in which she or her friends had involved themselves.
During her trial, McNeill appeared not to fully understand the role of a McKenzie friend. However, she is well-acquainted with using the internet to (in her words) “Expose, expose, expose!”
How were the videos shared?
Prior to her trial, McNeill repeatedly contended that she had not deliberately shared the videos.
In August 2015, McNeill was arrested for the first time, at the Royal Courts of Justice. In her police interview, she repeatedly denied any responsibility for having released the videos.
DC Chris Wall testified that during her police interview McNeill said:
- “I have never uploaded the videos”.
- “I have uploaded the videos to a private Google account”.
- “I have removed the videos from my Google Drive”.
Later, she admitted that she had not released the videos intentionally, but had “inadvertently bcc’d” them in an email to Henry Curteis, owner of the Tap News Wire blog.
At her 2018 trial, McNeill tried to stick with the “inadvertent bcc” story.
She maintained she had sent an email to the Home Secretary, to notify May’s office that the petition on Change.org would be sending her a notification every time anybody signed it. She claimed that she had added the bcc to Curteis at Tap News Wire because his blog was “very wide-ranging” and she felt he needed to be informed.
The ‘bcc’ story was bunkum
However, at McNeill’s trial DC Martin testified that during his investigation of one of her computers, he saw an email from her dated 2 February 2015.
This email was addressed to the private office of then-Home Secretary Theresa May, and was cc’d to Draper, the Royal Courts of Justice, the family courts, and McKenzie, among others. The email demanded the return of the children to their mother.
DC Martin testified that there was nothing on the email to indicate that Henry Curteis had been bcc’d on it. This runs counter to previous assumptions about how the videos went viral on the internet.
The Change.org petition
It emerged during the trial that the original source of the videos online was a Change.org petition McNeill originally launched on 21 January 2015 to demand the return of the children to Draper.
The petition, titled “Return #WhistleblowerKids and #AbuseSurvivors to their Russian Family!” was addressed to:
- Home Secretary The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
- Ministry of Justice The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP
- Chief Executive London Borough of Barnet Andrew Travers
- and two others whose names are no longer visible on the Wayback Machine version of the petition.
Change.org forwards any updates to its petitions to all who have signed it. In one such petition update, made on 26 January 2015, McNeill included a link to her Google Drive, where the videos were stored.
McNeill had given the videos provocative names such as “Papa kills babies”, and had saved the videos on her Google Drive, which she made available not only via the Change.org petition and then the email to the Home Secretary, but later via some of her blogs.
Part of the email stated,
The attached Position Statement was our offer NOT to expose this scandal in exchange of returning the children. Instead, Mrs Justice Pauffley ignored the issues that have been outstanding since Judge Mayer transferred the case to her on 23 December:
1. The justification for an Interim Care Order.
2. The discussion of a Non-Molestation Order.
3. The inequality of Contact.
The Position Statement was one which McNeill had attempted to present to Mrs Justice Pauffley when it became clear that she had no intention of immediately handing the children back to Draper. In the Position Statement, she had written:
To avoid high level embarrassment, the following possible arrangements might be worth considering:
1) Instead of starting public law proceedings against the school, the children are returned – with immediate effect – to live with the maternal grandparents in Russia.
2) Instead of mobilising English and Russian social media, the father is given a non-molestation order for life, anywhere in the world.
3) Instead of joining the Russian government to the proceedings, the children are released to their mother and maternal grandparents with immediate effect.
Mrs Justice Pauffley had rejected this attempt at judicial blackmail, and so McNeill attempted to go over her head, to the Home Secretary. In doing so, she also released the videos onto the internet.
On 26 January, Draper had handed McNeill the bundle containing her court materials, including sensitive documents such as the police medical report. This was the material which Draper’s last legal team had given her in December.
McNeill placed all this material on her Google Drive, which was publicly accessible via the sharing link in the email/Change.org update. The material very quickly went viral.
On 2 February 2015, Henry Curteis of Tap News Wire published a post titled “Children describe Satanic murders they were forced to take part in”, which contained an email to then-Home Secretary Theresa May, along with a clickable list of the videos.
While McNeill claimed that Curteis published this as a result of her “inadvertent” bcc, it now looks more likely that Curteis was either informed directly of this material, or that he received one of the updates from the Change.org blog.
On 8 February, Draper contacted McNeill by email. She stated that she was unhappy that McNeill had gone against her explicit instructions not to publish the material she had shared with her:
Following yesterday’s meeting and discussion of your decision to post the videos and other material online and share this information with parties unknown to me after I explicitly asked you not to do so on at least two separate occasions: during the Saturday meeting at 31.01.15 and also during private telephone conversation please be kind enough to return all my children’s case material, including all videos, documents.
I much appreciate all the work and assistance you’ve provided for me so far and you are welcome to participate on the condition that you will consult with me and the group before making such decisions in the future.
McNeill’s response was that she was “nicely miffed now”:
I sent a text, I telephoned and left a message and am nicely miffed now.
I’ve spelled out to John Hemming with cc to Ella, once again, that I did NOT publish anything, I just blind-copied one blogger in my email to Theresa May MP as a recipient of the petition.
Victims are always their worst enemies after all…
If Abraham wants to run the show, let him!
Our ‘group’ does not include him.
Terry says clearly that if there is no defence in, the case is lost. But you can say it’s lost no matter what.
I’ve done as best I could. Sorry it wasn’t good enough.
This email raises an interesting question: “Terry” refers to Terence Ewing, a colleague of McNeill and McKenzie, who had been involved with the Association of McKenzie Friends. Ewing was a former business partner of Keith Hammerton and Roger Gleaves, both convicted paedophiles.
Ewing was described by a high court judge as “unattractive and indicative of a lack of personal integrity and honesty”, as well as a “vexatious litigant” and a “professional nimby” with a “voracious appetite” for taking cases. He is banned from taking a civil action in England and Wales unless he has the permission of a High Court judge.
How or why Ewing was involved in the Hampstead matter remains a matter for further investigation.
Following her email exchange, McNeill did not remove the material as requested by Draper. Nor did she remove it in response to a court order, nor following any of her eight arrests between August 2015 and February 2018.
Mandatory injunction issued
On 11 February 2015, a mandatory injunction was issued by Mrs Justice Anna Pauffley, demanding that Draper and McNeill “delete from publicly available electronic sources their postings of all photographs, recordings (voice or video)” which identified the children or their father.
Rather than complying with the order, Draper and McNeill both responded by fleeing the country to avoid arrest.
Draper went to Spain, and was joined shortly afterward by Christie; McNeill went to Berlin, but returned in August 2015. The day after her return, she was arrested at the Royal Courts of Justice, where she had gone to watch Draper’s appeal, a last-ditch effort to have the children returned to her.
Charlotte Ward and Hampstead Research
In early March 2015, a few weeks after the videos were released online, Charlotte Ward, now “rebranded” as Jacqui Farmer and living in Paramaribo, Suriname, launched a new blog titled Hampstead Research.
Jacco de Boer, aka “Video Man”, took on the task of making videos about the hoax. Both the blog and the videos contained material probing into the private lives of all the people Draper and Christie had named. In the videos, narrated by Ward, her voice was deeply distorted to avoid recognition.
While it was relatively short-lived, Hampstead Research and its associated video channel played a major role in harassing the families and teachers of Hampstead.
Ward and de Boer published a great deal of completely baseless defamatory, harassing material, and encouraged readers to send harassing emails to people’s friends and workplaces.
Hampstead Research was closed by WordPress in July 2015, but Ward persisted, creating a new version of her blog which contained much of the same material. However, by the end of October 2015, she ceased posting. The blog remained up for some months afterward, but eventually disappeared. Ward claimed that it had been hacked, and this seems possible given that no trace of it exists even on the Internet Archive.
As we stated in Part 1 of this FAQ, Araya Soma was involved in the hoax in its very early stages. She attempted to get Bill Maloney’s interest, but he seemed to back out quite quickly.
Once McNeill had posted the videos and other confidential information about the children, Soma (aka Araya Manna, aka Ninon Dulac, aka Laurence Lavie) continued trying to promote the hoax, through her own Cbange.org petition.
This was posted, as far as we can tell, on 9 February 2015:
We demand that the alleged abusers with apparent distinguishing marks come forward to be examined by independent trusted doctors alongside trusted police and normal police too
Come forward to be examined, if you are not guilty you should have come forward STRAIGHT away to be examined , you havent, so we find that as this is weird that you havent, we assume you are guilty, so we DEMAND that you be examined by trusted doctors who could see any attempts to cover up those marks up, plus trusted police and any other police that wish to be present. We want photos taken to kept by the police and doctors for reference in court
Petitioning HAMPSTEAD ALLEGED ABUSERS COME TO BE EXAMINED
In an update to the petition, titled “COMMON LAW”, Soma wrote on 16 February,
16 Feb 2015 — If any of you know people who are very well versed in common law and could help us take those accused into a common law court please HELP , contact me on FB as ARAYA SOMA
In November 2015, Soma posted something which sounded suspiciously like an admission that child sex abuse images had been found on Christie’s phone:
And here is the report by a close friend: Just spoke with Abraham. He and Ella are safe… However, it’s obvious what the agenda/plan is:
Back in the summer the kids stole Abraham’s phone, and of course now surprise they have found kids porn on it… planted by the dad. The computer they say they have of Abe is bullshit, cause he has his computer with him, so they’ve implanted some computer which isn’t his…
So the agenda will be to say that it was Abe who is a paedo, which won’t wash as the kids were found to have been abused far far far longer than the very short time they knew Abe for…
Soma, an ardent neo-Nazi who advocates drinking one’s own menstrual blood and urine, has long since faded out of the picture, all the more so after Facebook removed two of her profile pages. Gone, but not forgotten.