Frequently asked questions: The police investigation

1. Why didn’t the police perform a full investigation on the claims made by RD’s children?

They did perform a full investigation. In fact, that investigation was thoroughly reviewed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which reported back to Ella Draper’s solicitor on 1st April, 2016. Aside from two minor procedural errors, the IPCC concluded that the police investigation had been conducted in a fair and appropriate manner, and that its officers had behaved professionally.

2. Why were the recordings made at the home of Jean-Clement Yaohirou ignored by police?

They weren’t ignored.The recordings were seized by police and placed in a property store nearest Jean-Clement’s home. The initial allegations were reported late on a Friday evening, when the property store was closed, but the police had direct access to the children, and were able to secure best evidence by speaking to them directly.

The recordings would not have been used as evidence in any case, because police would not have known how the information on them was obtained—direct interview is recognised as a far more reliable source of evidence, and could be used in a court of law. The investigating officer for the IPCC stated that it was actually preferable for the police not to have heard the ‘Jean-Clement recordings’ prior to the ABE interviews, as it could have undermined the ABE process.

However, the ‘Jean-Clement recordings’ were cited in paragraphs 78 through 96 in Mrs Justice Pauffley’s 19 March 2015 judgement at the conclusion of her fact-finding investigation in the High Court, Family Division, and formed an important part of the argument that Abraham Christie had coached the children:

78. The 4 September audio recording made by Jean Clement Yaohirou on his mobile ‘phone is a key component of the material relevant to this inquiry. It provides an invaluable record of the interaction between Mr Christie and the children, the various prompts and instructions given by him to the children and, later, an insight into the mother’s attitude towards the children’s relationship with their father.

79. At the very beginning, Mr Christie instructs the children, “Don’t tell Jean Clement any lies … Do you hear me?” He continues, “Otherwise we’ll have to lock you up in the jail. Have you got room to lock her up tonight Jean Clement? Have you got room, yes or no?” Mr Christie then laughs and says, “So tell him what you said. You deserve to be locked up for killing the baby. Listen did you kill any babies?” …

95. Towards the end of the recording there is a passage when the children and Mr Christie are all shouting, excitedly, “Kill, kill, kill.” Mr Christie urges the children to “Say it…Say it how they say it.” A. “Kill, kill, kill.” …. Mr Christie, “What’s the word that you say?” A. “Kill.” Mr Christie, “Say it more for me. I want to hear it…. I like the sound of it. Can you say it together, say it, let’s all say it together.” There is then repeated chanting of the word “Kill” and a little later of the phrase, “Kill the baby.” Once more Mr Christie urges the children on saying, “Let’s say it together. Let’s say it together. Kill the baby.” And they do.

3. What about the series of videos made on the way home from Morocco? Why were they not used as evidence by the police?

As noted above, video accounts on their own may not be used as evidence in court, because it is all too easy for an unscrupulous dealer to coach or coerce the person being filmed.

This is true in any case, not just this one. However, the videos made en route from Morocco, as well as those made on the night of 4 September 2014 at Jean-Clement’s house were seized by police to be used as corroborative evidence. This is documented in the IPCC report.

For more information on the videos, check our page “What about the videos?“.

4. Why did the police release copies of the videos where DC Steve Martin interviews the two children?

The police did not release these videos. In fact, their release was a breach of the law. Our understanding is that the videos were in possession of Ella Draper’s solicitors, whom she fired, then re-hired, then fired again. The solicitors handed the videos over to Ella as part of her ‘bundle’; they ought not to have done this, by law. Ella later released the videos onto the internet, again in violation of the law.

5. Why were none of the suspects interviewed? And why were they not examined for evidence of scars, birthmarks, or tattoos?

Basically, no one was interviewed because the case collapsed before it reached that stage of investigation.

Very early in the police investigation it became clear that there were serious inconsistencies in what the children were saying in their ABE interviews. For example, although the children both stated that they had been to their father’s house many times and could identify it, when the police took them on a drive-round neither of them were able to point out the correct house. The little boy did point out one house, but when police checked it out, it was clear that it had been vacant for some time, and that none of the features named by the children—secret rooms and passages, etc.—were present.

The children described the church where abuse was alleged to have taken place, and described drawers where the skulls were stored. When the police investigated the church with no prior warning, they discovered that the drawers in question were actually vestry drawers, and far too shallow to accommodate skulls, baby or otherwise. Because none of the information given proved to be true, there was no reason to attempt to interview employees at the church.

The IPCC report states that while Dr Hodes did two forensic examinations of the children (an unusual action, since she’d found nothing of significance on her first exam), the police did not receive this report until 8 January 2015. As of 12 September 2014, Dr Hodes was telling police that her results were inconclusive.

Finally, and most important, both children retracted their allegations during their third interviews. They stated that they had been forced to lie. This meant that the police investigation was over: there was no longer an active case, since all allegations had been withdrawn.

Since the allegations were retracted and the case was concluded, it would have been unlawful to haul those named by the children into the police station for interviews under caution.

The IPCC report states:

Clearly at the start of this investigation, any person could be identified as potentially someone who may need to be spoken to, interviewed or arrested. As with any investigation it remains fluid and decisions will change during an investigation according to what the evidence or information is at any given time.

It seems clear that the more this matter was investigated, the clearer it became that it would not be necessary to interview those who at first may have been identified for such purposes.

The inconsistencies, lack of corroborating evidence, and withdrawal of allegations meant that the case collapsed completely in its very early stages. Thus, no one was required to be interviewed or to “show their tattoos”.

6. Was RD tipped off by police prior to being interviewed? That would have given him time to destroy any evidence.

The police were unable to find RD until he presented himself at the police station on 15 September, so it’s unlikely they could have tipped him off.

In their first police interviews, the children identified several addresses in London as being linked to their father. Officers were sent out to investigate these addresses, but found nothing. However, both children said they would be able to identify their father’s house if they saw it.

The police took them out in separate unmarked police cars, and drove around Islington for some time. The little girl was unable to identify any house as belonging to her father; the little boy pointed to one house. A team of officers investigated, but discovered that the house was vacant; a neighbour confirmed that it had been vacant for some time. The police officers reported that they could see through the front window to the rear of the property. There were no secret rooms.

On 15 September 2014, RD contacted the police himself, as he had heard from a social worker that they were looking for him. He came to the police station voluntarily to be interviewed.

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that RD was in touch with the police prior to 15 September.

However, by this time the police had already begun to suspect that the children’s evidence might not be true: they had searched for RD’s house and found nothing that even remotely matched the children’s descriptions; they had searched the church and found none of the storage places or other spaces described by the children. Therefore, while interviewing RD was important from the perspective of obtaining his account of events, it was quickly becoming clear that the case was on the verge of collapse.

7. Why didn’t the police examine the father’s computers for evidence of ‘snuff movies’?

This is actually one of the two areas in which the IPCC criticised the police for failing to follow proper protocol.

The review states, “I am of the view that the seizing of computers and phones could have assisted the case at the time of the interview under caution. A request for them to be voluntarily handed over would have been appropriate in the circumstances”.

The police have never reported what, if anything, was found on RD’s devices, but there was nothing to justify his arrest or re-opening the investigation—otherwise he’d have been arrested, or the case would have been re-opened.

8. Why didn’t police interview the ’20 special children’ named by RD’s children as having been abused by the cult?

In fact, other children were interviewed based upon the initial allegations by RD’s children. Alerted by police, representatives from Child and Social Services visited some of the named children, and conducted extensive interviews with them and with their parents. CSC social workers conducted the interviews because it was felt that this would be less traumatising than having the police do so.

While the interviews were conducted in order to determine whether the so-called ‘special children’ at the school were in need of protection from the alleged cult, the social workers were also listening carefully for any further allegations that might corroborate what RD’s children were saying.

None of these children reported any concerns at all.