THE BRIXTON BROTHEL
In 1970 six men appeared at the Old Bailey charged with offences against young children. All six were found guilty and all subsequently jailed for differing amounts of time.
- JOHN AUSTIN NAPIER, 57, a post office telegraphist who lived at 42 Solon Road, Brixton. Admitted 28 charges of indecent assault, attempted sexual intercourse on children, gross indecency and aiding and abetting other men to do the same thing.
- PETER JAMES TOPE, 26, a school master at Clapham College who lived in Crescent Grove, Clapham. Admitted two offences of gross indecency.
- MAURICE ALAN PALMER, 56, a curator of Southampton City Art Gallery between 1950-1970, who lived at Nunton Cottage, Beacon Road, Southampton. Admitted one offence of indecent assault.
- ROYSTON CAMPKIN FITZGERALD, 63, an REMF Army Equipment Examiner of Orchard Way, Aldershot. Pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent assault.
- REGINALD WILLIAM EDWARDS, 56, Electrician of Oakmeade Road, Balham. Pleaded guilty to two charges of indecent assault.
- JOHN REGINALD COUZENS, 44, an Assistant Bank Manager of Summerly Avenue, Reigate. Pleaded guilty to five charges of indecent assault and gross indecency.
John Napier had lived in a first floor flat at 42 Solon Road for many years with his wife, Joyce, who died at the end of 1968. By May 1969 police discovered that he had been using his flat as a ‘brothel’ and he had ‘staffed it’ with boys and girls aged between four and 12 – many of whom lived within a few hundred yards of his flat. Known as ‘Uncle John’ or ‘Uncle Nap’, he and the other men would slowly groom the children by playing games and giving them small presents whilst obscene films were shown and photographs were taken of the men and children. The children were then paid by Napier for ‘visiting his flat’.
Most distressingly, it came to light that Napier had begun using his flat to abuse children in 1967 whilst his wife was still alive but was dying of cancer. Joyce was described in court as “mentally retarded” stating that she could not read or write.
Napier was the principal offender. He pleaded guilty to acts of indecency committed on fourteen occasions with nine different children between January 1967 and June 1970.
Nine children were named in the indictment but police knew there were many more victims as they also discovered around 5,000 indecent photographs of children – many of which also contained Napier himself.
The court heard how the men had made contact with one another after Napier inserted an advert in a magazine called ‘La Plume‘ expressing his “interest in photography”. Was La Plume an arty photographic magazine? No, it was a contact magazine full of personal ads.
From Offensive Literature: Decensorship in Britain, 1960-1982 by John Sutherland:
Contact magazines have a long history in London. An early famous example in the eighteenth century directly ancestral to Shaw’s effort was Covent Garden Ladies. They are probably always around, in more or less sophisticated forms of publication. The Shaw judgement kept them out of sight for a year or two, but they made a strong comeback in the mid to late 1960s. Now it was not just whores who were advertised, but ‘swingers’, desperate ‘lonely hearts’, would-be ‘wife swappers’ – all hot to get in on the new ‘liberated’ sex action. The trendsetter was Way Out in 1965, which quickly spawned imitators. These new contact magazines could make a mint of money. They set a high cover price (usually £1) and charged as much as 5s. per letter forwarded or advertisement accepted. By 1968, the timid but lustful could have browsed for companionship through New Friends, Exit, Swingers ’68, Blue Circle, Within, Directory, La Plume, Adult Advertiser, et al. This heyday did not last long. Apart from internecine war among themselves, the liberation that had brought them in to business fairly soon took the bulk of the contact magazine’s trade away. ‘Respectable’ magazines – Time Out, Private Eye, even the New Statesman began to run ‘Personal’ classified sections that would have meant prison for the editor some years earlier. The raunchier contact magazines survived, but they remained a poor relation to the glossier skin mags and Forum-style sexual advice magazines. (These, of course, also ran contact columns). And deep in the heart of criminal sexual activity furtive contact services were offered by illegal organisations like Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).
So horrendous was the level of offending that, as a result of their experiences, two of the girls had had to be sent to special schools and the body of another was so damaged that she was facing an operation.
The judge said:
“This is about the worst case of its kind that has ever been tried in this court. You invited filthy-minded men such as you are to come and satisfy their lust on these defenceless children. It is something which strikes horror into anyone who hears about it. Nine children are named in the indictment and the photographs indicate there are others as well. A letter written by one of the girls speaks volumes in describing the damage you have done“.
- John Napier – 12 years
- Peter Tope – 2 years
- John Couzens – 6 years
- Royston Fitzgerald – 5 years
- Reginald Edwards – 3 years
- Maurice Palmer – 3 years
Shockingly, Rev Thomas Bowman, a the minister of Camberwell Baptist Church that was affiliated to the school where Tope worked as a teacher, gave a character reference for Tope in court, stating that parents of children at the school had “expressed words of comfort and sympathy and support for Tope,” and the headmaster, Peter Jelly, stated that if the offences had not occurred, Tope would have been a deputy headmaster.
On sentencing Napier, Common Serjeant Judge Melvyn Griffith-Jones said:
“I have to restrain myself now, as I intend to do, in passing sentence on you. There are nine children mentioned in the indictment and another boy has been named. The photographs found indicated what had been going on.”
In May 1971, four of the guilty had their sentences cut on appeal, with two of the counsel outlining the hostility their clients had encountered whilst in prison. (See article below).
- Maurice Palmer – 3 years = 18 months
- John Couzens – 6 years = 3 years
- Royston Fitzgerald – 5 years = 30 months
- Reginald Edwards – 3 years = 18 months
In October 1971 both Napier and Tope also had their sentences reduced on appeal.
- John Napier – 12 years = 7 years
- Peter Tope – 2 years = 1 year
You can find a detailed transcript of the appeals on Cathy Fox Blog.