A SPIDER’S WEB OF DEPRAVITY
In 1988, a mere chance discovery opened up a network of depraved individuals who all worked with children.
It was just before the introduction of the Criminal Justice Act that made it an offence to possess indecent images of children. This particular paedophile group consisted of:
- Alan Bowler, UK
- Douglas Brookes, UK
- Leonard Jeans, UK
- Ted Robinson, UK
- John Shannon, UK
- Fred Vivjer, Holland
- Chris Wiseman, Holland
- Youth worker (unnamed), Holland
Leonard Jeans, Notting Hill
A school nurse named Leonard Jeans from Notting Hill had just flown back to the UK from Amsterdam with his nephew. Unfortunately Jeans’ suitcase failed to join him at Gatwick and was misdirected to Heathrow, where it was opened by Customs officers. Inside they discovered indecent images of young boys and so Jeans had an unexpected visit from officers from the Obscene Publications branch at Scotland Yard armed with a warrant. The raid unearthed pictures, videos and letters, which were all seized.
Chris Wiseman, Amsterdam
Jeans had just returned from visiting a friend – Chris Wiseman – himself a teacher and also a paedophile.
Fred Vivjer, Utrecht
One of the seized videos contained a film of Jeans abusing a boy at the school in which he worked. This film had been taken by another of his friends – Fred Vivjer, a professional photographer. Jeans had managed to arrange for Vivjer to access the school by telling the headmaster that he could produce a promotional video of the school. In fact, it was simply a ruse that allowed Vivjer to join Jeans in abusing children at the school.
The authorities arrested Vivjer, Wiseman and another youth worker. One of the UK arresting officers visited Vivjer’s home in Utrecht, which turned out to be a caravan parked by the edge of a river which had been named ‘The Pink Panther’.* It was so-called because inside were a large number of Pink Panther toys which featured in some of the photographs containing Jeans abusing boys.
Vivjer, Wiseman and the youth worker was all prosecuted.
Jeans was found guilty of indecent assault, making indecent photographs of children and importation of obscene material all of which landed him with just an 18 month prison sentence.
The investigation in to the seized articles from Jeans’ home continued and among it all the police found several letters from two men – John Shannon and Ted Robinson.
John Shannon, Rugby
John Shannon was a retired schoolmaster from Rugby. It was evident from the content of his letters that the men had been sharing pictures of abuse. When officers paid a visit to his home he was on holiday in Portugal so they obtained a warrant which allowed them entry in to his cottage. They discovered he had purposely made access difficult to the top floor by barricading a door to a bedroom, over which he placed electric wires, and then placing boxes and heavy furniture leading from the door, to the landing and down the stairs. The police discovered 100 videos inside the room, the contents of which had been filmed inside Shannon’s camper van. Shannon was eventually arrested at Portsmouth on his way home from Portugal. Because the police were unable to prove the videos were made within the UK, Shannon was released.
Alan Bowler, Birmingham
As the police trawled through the videos seized from Shannon’s cottage, they discovered footage of an English boy being abused by a man. Interviewing Shannon once more, he identified the man as Alan Bowler but also admitted that it was he who had operated the camera.
The police took the step of publishing an image of the boy in local newspapers throughout the West Midlands. A woman in Walsall recognised his picture and identified him to police as the child of her neighbour. It transpired that Bowler had befriended the family at a Working Men’s Club and groomed them until they trusted him to take their two sons away for weekends. Whilst doing so, Bowler also passed them to Shannon who then passed them to another paedophile, Douglas Brookes, also from Birmingham.
Shannon pleaded guilty and was sent to prison for 18 months. Bowler also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 8 years. Brookes denied all allegations but Bowler testified against him and he was found guilty and given 3 years imprisonment.
The police also discovered that Shannon possessed the largest collection of scrapbooks of children that had ever been seized (12 in total). Many of the photos contained therein looked as if they were taken in the 1950s and police concluded they had probably been taken whilst Shannon was a schoolmaster.
The description of a caravan by a river rang alarm bells with me after watching the harrowing documentary The Boy Business on Youtube. If you haven’t seen it, it really is a disturbing but extremely informative documentary which describes the Amsterdam connections, houseboats, rivers etc.
I will leave the final comment to Michael Hames, from whose memoir this case was taken:
This case highlights the reality of abusive networks. Rather than the image conjured by the rather misapplied word ‘ring’, the true pattern is more like a spider’s web, with the connections going out so wide, and branching so sharply and in so many directions that they are impossible to follow. The Shannon case is also a clear indicator of the international nature of networks. It provides an argument, if one were needed, for a national and international proactive approach to the policing of these men and their criminal cliques.
The Dirty Squad by Michael Hames (ISBN 0-7515-3023-9)