Those of us who’ve been following the Hampstead Hoax since its inception in early 2015 are all too well aware of some of the personalities behind the hoax. It’s clear to us that it was primarily carried out, if not wholly engineered, by the children’s mother, Ella Gareeva Draper, and her boyfriend of about four months, Abraham Christie.
We state this as though it were an article of faith, but a newcomer to the hoax might ask, “How do you know they did it?” It’s a question worth answering in some detail.
Here are some questions and answers to get us started:
1. How do you know the children were coached to tell a story of imaginary abuse?
We’ve discussed this in some detail on the FAQ page dedicated to the videos and how they were made. The short answer is that if you listen to the videos dispassionately, you can hear how the children are responding to the adults’ prompting. In certain places this becomes even more explicit, such as in the audio that was covertly recorded by Jean-Clement Yaohirou.
More important, we know the children were coerced into telling these stories by Abraham Christie, with Ella’s approval, since they admitted as much during their third police interviews.
In Mrs Justice Pauffley’s fact-finding judgement of 19 March 2015, she states:
140. DC Martin was asked to explain why the decision was made to interview the children again on 17 September. It is Ms Draper’s case that between 11 and 17 September the police and the children’s foster carers placed pressure upon them to change their story. DC Martin said that prior to collecting P and Q from the foster home he had not met either foster parent. DC Martin was accompanied by DC Carl Savage, who had not previously met the children. Neither of them had any conversation with the foster parents relating to the allegations. If anything of note had been said by anyone prior to the ABE interviews it would have been recorded.
141. The decision to have a third interview arose because “of the sheer amount of stuff” emerging from the second, said DC Martin, and for clarification. During the drive to the interviewing suite, according to DC Savage, the children had said something along the lines of ‘they had made up the allegations and it was all to do with the Mask of Zorro.
142. As emerges from the interviews themselves, both P and Q did indeed withdraw their claims, all of them. P said that Abraham had told them what to say. She had told him that E, one of her female friends, had touched her – Abraham had said, “No, it’s your Dad.” P said that “it was all made up,” everything about the school, the church, the swimming pool; none of it was true. Abraham, she said, “had hurt (her) and used bad words … ‘a stupid little cunt”. She was scared and worried. Her mother had not stopped Abraham “because she loves him so much.” P described him as “an idiot.” As for her father, P said he is “fine and good.”
143. Q’s interview was initially somewhat confused. He said, “Yeah there is still some of the babies killed … Not much (are there babies killed)…. I lied about it because he (Mr Christie) made me say it.” A little later, Q said, “None of it was real…. The plastic willies were not true.” Abraham had “slapped (his ear) as hard as he could.” Q said, “I hate Abraham” and he did not want to see him again. He described how his mother “would be really angry with (him).
The children were also examined by Dr Clare Sturge, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, whose findings were included in Mrs Justice Pauffley’s judgement. These shed further light on the question of whether Abe and Ella coerced the children into claiming their father and the entire school community had sexually abused them:
144. Dr Sturge assessed the children on 5 November 2014. P related that Mr Christie would tell her that “for lying she would go to prison for 20 years and never see her grandparents or Mum again.” P commented, “Abraham loved my Mum so much. He even blamed her for being in the gang.” He had kept on asking her, “Any other people.” He had threatened her with the spoon and poked her so hard in the chin with it that she had a big mark. When Abraham had asked her about plastic willies in her bottom, she had denied this. He had said, “How come Q told me.” The Vaseline had been, said P, Q’s idea. He knew one of her friends used it (for her lips). P said, “Thing is, Abraham came up with stuff we didn’t know and came up with ideas too.” Abraham was always saying Q was a good boy for telling him things and that she was lying and would go to jail.
145. Dr Sturge asked P what the word ‘paedophile’ means. P replied that Abraham had said her Dad is a paedophile and explained what it meant. P had only a minimal understanding of ‘the facts of life’ and sex was “inappropriate stuff like touching each other in the privates.” Dr Sturge asked P about living with her mother. She said, not at the moment – “I feel angry with her, letting Abraham do all that stuff to us.” She had one question of Dr Sturge, could she live with her foster mother until she is 14 or 15?
146. Q responded immediately to Dr Sturge’s question as to whether he knew why she was seeing him. He said, “cos Abraham said something I never did and he forced me to say it, he was really mean to us.” Abraham had accused him of touching his sister in the private parts which he “never, ever did.” And he forced them to say their Dad touches them. Abraham had also forced them to say they kill babies. Q said he had wanted Abraham to stop hitting him, “I was scared for him to hit me.” At that Q’s face creased up and he began to cry quietly. “He kept asking us questions again, and again and again.” His mother had started to believe him. Q said, “It upsetted me” and he became even more distressed.
147. Q described how Abraham had been asking them all day. He had even woken them up and hit them. The hitting was if they didn’t wake up and talk. Asked how his mother had reacted, Q said “she didn’t mind.” He was asked about living with his mother and replied that “if she still believes it, (he) wouldn’t want to live with her.” Later he described with great vehemence that he would never live with his Mum while Abraham was still in the British Isles. She would just phone him and he’d come to their house. Q also said, spontaneously, that he hates Abraham, describing him as “the worst person I’ve ever met.”
148. Dr Sturge asked Q directly about Vaseline. He said, “He (Abraham) forced me to say my Dad puts Vaseline on my willy – plastic and normal ones.” Q added, as if puzzled, that Vaseline is used to rub on your hands when they are sore. He was clear that Abraham had used the Vaseline word first. Asked about seeing willies, Q said he and a friend at school had shown each other their willies in the toilet.
149. Q was distressed again when talking about having to stand when cold water was poured on him – “(dressed) just in our pants – he thought we was lying – when I cried and said my Mum never touched us, he said, ‘If you’re crying you’re lying.’” By then, according to Dr Sturge, Q was crying in a very distressed way.
In addition to the children’s own testimony, it’s important to remember that at least some of the videos released by Abe and Ella were doctored to remove bits that might point to their guilt.
For example, in a post on this blog about a year ago, we discuss the discrepancy between two versions of the same video: in one version, the little boy says that Richie, from social services, comes to the school; in the other, he pauses briefly and then asks, “Is that right?” We would suggest that if the story were true, he would not need to check the details with Abe and Ella; and if Abe and Ella were innocent, they would not have edited that telling phrase out of the video.
2. Is there any physical evidence that Abe forced the children to say what they did?
There is. In the medical examination of the two children, Dr Hodes found that both children displayed scars, bruises, and recent injuries. The little boy showed signs of having been struck on the head—he had dried blood inside his ear. And both children stated they had some hearing loss on one side, which was attributed to having been hit on the head.
This physical evidence bears out their statements to the police interviewer, cited above:
Abraham, (P) said, “had hurt (her) and used bad words … ‘a stupid little cunt’”.
Q said he had wanted Abraham to stop hitting him, “I was scared for him to hit me.” At that Q’s face creased up and he began to cry quietly. “He kept asking us questions again, and again and again.”
In the original phone videos, both children look very tired, and the little girl has both a healing wound on her chin and a large bruise on her forehead. They had spent the past month in the company of Abe and Ella; it is not possible that these injuries were inflicted by their father.
Dave, a commenter on this blog, pointed out,
3. I heard that the police forced the kids to make those retraction statements. Is that true?
No. In this blog post regarding the IPCC report into the police investigation, we spell out exactly why this is not true.
We know that those who believed in the hoax were deeply disappointed to discover that the children had retracted their statements, and in that situation it can be natural to seize on ‘faint hope’ clues to avoid facing the reality. But the police officer who did the interviews did not use secret hand signals, post-hypnotic suggestions, neuro-linguistic programming, or any other fantastical method to ‘force’ the children to retract their statements.
In fact, he says at the beginning of one of the interviews, “There’s something you wanted to tell me in the car, and I told you to wait until we got here, didn’t I?” This is because the children had begun to tell him they’d been lying in their first two interviews, but the police officer quite rightly wanted to wait until they were in the interview suite where this could be properly recorded and witnessed.
4. But why would Abe and Ella have done this? Ella already had custody of the children, so it cannot have been a ‘custody dispute’. What would motivate her to make up such terrible stories about her ex-partner?
Ella did have custody of the children. That has never been in question.
However, the father’s access to his children was never regular: despite nine court hearings over a six-year period, there were long stretches in which he was prevented from seeing the children. In May 2014, the month in which Ella met Abe, RD had contact with his children for the first time since October 2013.
We know that Ella’s relationship with RD had been very rocky: at one point she obtained a non-molestation order against him. Despite the ominous sound of such an order, it has nothing to do with ‘molestation’ in the criminal sense; it simply means an order to make no contact.
While we cannot speak to Ella’s state of mind when RD began to have renewed contact with the children, it seems likely that she was not happy about it, and as she had in the past, wanted to find a way to prevent it happening.
5. The abuse the children described was so detailed and horrific, I can’t believe it’s not true. Would a mother really allow her children to be forced to talk about this if it weren’t true?
In fact, it’s not all that unusual for one parent to try to drive the other out of his or her life.
One of the people involved in the Hollie Greig hoax in Scotland, Malcolm Konrad Ogilvy, did exactly what Abe and Ella did: he recorded his child describing non-existent abuse by her mother, and tried to use this as evidence to prove that he ought to have custody. When the police examined the phone he’d used to record the video, they found the previous videos he’d made, in which he was very clearly coaching his child. He was eventually banned from all contact as a result.
One of our blog commenters, SJones, made the following observation:
I used to do a lot of work in family courts and in all but one way this case is not at all unusual.
It’s not uncommon for women to want to exclude former partners from their lives. Sometimes they have sound grounds for doing that, sometimes not. Most allow contact nonetheless in the interests of the children, some just flatly refuse it, but some either exaggerate or invent a reason for not allowing it. Add to that a new partner and you have one or two further drivers, firstly the desire to create an uncomplicated new family group without the ex. Secondly the new partner who wants to exclude a rival male.
So you get stories of sexual or physical abuse and the more cautious other agencies are (courts, CAFCASS, etc) the more the stories are beefed up in response. Combine this with an element of mental instability and narcissism and you get increasingly serious allegations, and accusations against everyone who doesn’t accept them. That leads to allegations of conspiracies between police, courts, social services etc.
The stories are usually an amalgam of what the two adults are interested in, so typically the mother is focused on the ex and the partner is more likely to be indulging his own concerns.
A further cause of invented stories is to divert attention from the carers’ own abuse, for example to try to deflect responsibility for a child’s psychological problems by blaming the other parent.
So I’m afraid it’s all very familiar. The difference with this case is mostly about technology; in times past parents like this were not able to spread their views in a way they can now, and from that we get the sequel, where the story was found and adopted by a bunch of unpleasant and delusional people for their own purposes and who developed it for their own purposes.
Another thing about this case also typical, that none of the people involved in this hoax have spared a second’s thought for the children who have to bear the consequences, they are purely instruments in their enterprise.
6. If the hoax was meant to target the father, why would Abe and Ella have included the “20 special children”, their parents, the teachers, and the clergy from Christ Church in the allegations?
We have addressed this issue in several previous posts. We, too, were curious about why the school, and in particular the headteacher, had been so viciously targetted. Here’s a snippet from a post we published in September 2015:
You might recall that Abe’s relationship with the school was rocky, to say the least. On one occasion, he flew into a rage when he discovered that P and Q had been eating “off-limits” food (they were known in the school for constantly being hungry, and for taking food from other children and from rubbish bins on occasion). Abe accused the school of “poisoning” the children, which unsurprisingly did not endear him to the staff there.
My source told me, “The children were already very much on the radar as being at risk. They openly discussed their fear of Abe. They also were constantly hungry and took other people’s food. All their classmates knew they hated Abe.” Apparently the school notified social services that the children were hungry and fearful of their mother’s boyfriend. “That’s why the headmistress and deputy were targeted so personally after they reported him.”
It seems clear that both Abe and Ella had had difficulties with the school community. They saw this as their big chance to get their own back.
7. I’ve heard that Abe and Ella tried to interfere with the police investigation. Is this true?
Yes. In fact, in the IPCC report from spring 2016, the police are very clear that Abe and Ella took the children for a late-night taxi drive round the neighbourhood where their father was alleged to live, to try and have them point out his house.
Here’s a snippet from a blog post from June 2016 that describes what happened:
If you’ve read Mrs Justice Pauffley’s judgement from 19 March, 2015, you’ll remember that Abe took the children out the night before the police drive-round.
He and Ella attempted to keep this secret from police at the time—most likely because they were fully aware that this would constitute evidence of coaching, and would give away their entire scheme. We note that the IPCC official takes a rather more lenient view, suggesting that Abe and Ella might have believed they were being helpful.
However, if that were the case, would they not have told police about it without having to be confronted? Their secretiveness gives them away.It appears that a ‘concerned member of the public’—presumably the taxi driver?—reported to police that Abe was discussing decapitation and forcing the girl to repeat the litany he’d drilled into her during the Morocco trip.
“You know she’s a baby killer,” he said to the driver. 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”.
According to the witness, the little girl appeared distressed, and well she ought. Imagine being a child and having your mother’s boyfriend announce to perfect strangers that you are a ‘baby killer’, and then force you to repeat those grisly details…it really beggars belief.