THE PHILANTHROPIC WOLVES IN SHEEPS’ CLOTHING
This post has evolved after I accidentally stumbled across a newspaper article. The further I looked into it, the bigger the web became. This is focusing on the do-gooders who, to all intents and purposes, were the saviours of homeless children but who were abusing their positions of trust and exploiting the youngsters in their charge. These men came from all walks of life, but ultimately were all cut from the same cloth. We know so much about the likes of Roger Gleaves, the notorious paedophile who preyed upon young runaways in London, but what isn’t widely known is the rancid cloak that connected him and others – an off-shoot of the church. Again.
WOLVES PART ONE: MURDER
In the early hours of 9th July 1970 Scotland Yard launched a murder investigation after the discovery of a body. The victim was 29-year old Brian Hawkins, who was found covered by a duffel coat having been battered to death on the settee in his basement flat in De Crespigny Park, Camberwell. Police believed he was attacked as he slept.
Hawkins was a former monk and his basement flat was a grace and favour property beneath a hostel, of which he was the warden. The hostel was for homeless and deprived teenage boys and was run by the St Christopher Fellowship.
When news broke of this seemingly senseless crime, Canon Douglas Rhymes (long-term member of the General Synod) from nearby St Giles Church and a member of the hostel’s board spoke on behalf of the Fellowship and said of Hawkins:
He considered love was a better teacher than strict discipline and I thought his methods were doing rather well.
DE CRESPIGNY PARK HOSTEL
De Crespigny Park hostel was situated in Camberwell, South East London. Hawkins had been warden of the hostel since mid-1967. It was run by the St Christopher Fellowship and reportedly housed 23 boys aged between 12 and 18-years (however, during the trial, it was claimed 40 boys were housed there.) Many of the boys were on probation, but some had been sent there by children’s departments and were described as “unloved and helpless.”
The Daily Mirror reported that neighbours had complained about the behaviour but this was rebuffed by the Fellowship.
BRIAN PATRICK HAWKINS
Hawkins was born on 30th January 1941 in Camberwell. He was educated at Douai before then moving on to monastaries at Prinknash, Worth and Caldey. In 1967 he became the warden at the Camberwell Hostel until his death in 1970. The Abbot of Douai wrote an obituary, in which he said:
His dynamic character, nourished by a living Christian faith, led him naturally to adopt an approach centred on love rather than rigorous discipline. His approach was in no way sentimental; physically tall and ungainly, he was a man of great strength and courage; he seemed to fill any room with his presence. His approach to his boys was to accept them as he found them and to give them the love that they had never known, as the proper basis for their future growth.
… [he] found that he could find God better in the challenging sphere of social work, while still maintaining strong monastic contacts and a real life of prayer.
On 14th July 1970, Keith Geoffrey Thomas appeared at Camberwell magistrates court charged with the murder of Hawkins.
Thomas was 23 and the deputy warden of the same hostel. He was born in 1947 in Hereford and Worcester, which is the same area in which he died in 1995.
In July 1971 Thomas appeared at the Old Bailey on the charge of murder. Little is known about the trial because most of the national and local newspapers didn’t cover it, so I have pieced together the scant information that I have managed to find.
When police arrived at the property, Thomas had told them of an incident that happened three or four years earlier when Hawkins had received numerous malicious telephone calls from a man who had threatened to kill him. The motive behind the calls was because Hawkins had previously accused the man of inappropriate behaviour with boys and the man had subsequently been imprisoned for four years.
However, Mr E J P Cussen, who was prosecuting, said that the motive arose from a close relationship between Thomas and one of the boys named Brian. Hawkins did not like the close relationship between 16-year old Brian and Thomas, who were sleeping in the same room. However, when Hawkins was murdered, he apparently also had a boy sleeping in his room.
In court Thomas claimed he killed Hawkins in self-defence. He claimed that he went to Hawkins’ room at around 2am to get car keys so he could drive someone home. He picked up an iron bar as he entered the flat and as Hawkins awoke, he suddenly grabbed Thomas and wouldn’t let go, so Thomas hit him. He never intended to hurt him, let alone kill him.
I don’t know what the real truth is, but on 13th July 1971 there was a question asked in the Commons about the whole sordid affair:
Mr Stanbrook: asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what steps he has taken, following disclosures made at a recent criminal trial concerning the St Christopher Fellowship hostel at De Crespigny Park, Camberwell, to tighten the system of control over children’s homes run by voluntary organisations;
(2) whether he will cause an inquiry to be made into the well-being of all children living in homes run by the St Christopher’s Fellowship with a view to preventing a repetition elsewhere of the lack of control over children and unlawful activity by the staff found recently to exist at their De Crespigny Park boys’ hostel.
Sir K Joseph: I have considered reports on this tragic case and reviewed the existing system of control. I do not think any further inquiry or modification of the law is called for. The Fellowship of St Christopher itself closed this hostel in July, 1970, and has sold the premises. I am not aware of any ground for concern about other establishments run by this Fellowship.
According to the catalogue entry for the file about the case, Thomas was convicted of murder. However, it won’t surprise you to learn that the records on the case are under extended closure until 1st January 2060.
THE MYSTERIOUS TELEPHONE CALLS
We heard that Thomas had initially told police about the threatening telephone calls Hawkins had received a few years previously from a man who was sentenced to four years imprisonment, so I decided to dig a little further into reports on this crime, and one that I came across caught my interest…
WOLF PART TWO: SIR IAN HOROBIN
Sir Ian MacDonald Horobin was your archetypal heroic good guy. Born in 1899, the son of the principal of Homerton College, in 1923 he became the warden of the Mansfield House University Settlement in the East End of London, where he raised a substantial amount of money to redevelop the hostel and club, which gave boys from the East End the opportunity to learn sports such as boxing. Horobin also became MP for Southwark Central until 1935. He initially served with the Royal Naval Reserve in World War One before joining the RAF, in which he served during Word War Two until he was captured by the Japanese in 1941 alongside Sir Laurens van der Post. friend of Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles.
In 1951 he became MP for Oldham East until 1959 and was knighted in 1955. In 1959 he became a parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Power for a year.
In 1962, on the eve of receiving a peerage, Sir Ian Horobin was charged with sexual offences against boys at his hostel and the connected Fairbairn boy’s club in Plaistow, East London. Horobin was subsequently convicted of the offences and jailed for four years. Apparently Horobin would spend time watching the boys in the communal bath area.
It was said that on the whole, Horobin would avoid the boys dedicated to boxing, but one former boy who encountered Horobin’s unwanted advances grew up to be the actor Terence Stamp, who recalled how he was invited up to Horobin’s flat above the club when he was 14-years old to see some paintings. Horobin’s motives were nothing to do with paintings as he closed the curtains in the room…
He stood close to me, first looking over my shoulder, then leaning over me turning the paintings, resting his hand on my back. He slipped his hand lightly on to my neck. It must have goosepimpled. I was too scared to move. His other hand reached around me and rubbed the inside leg of my trousers.
When Stamp flatly refused his advances, Horobin paid him 10 shillings for his silence before Stamp fled.
It was a 17-year old boy who finally spilled the beans on Horobin’s behaviour. Roy Girard had been the object of Horobin’s desires since the age of 13, and Horobin described him as “a boy to whom I have been virtually married for some years.” In 1961, Girard told a concerned clergyman about Horobin, who then passed the information on to the deputy warden of the hostel. (Was one of these men Brian Hawkins?) When he was confronted, Horobin initially offered to resign, admitting having had “sweethearts for many years. It is natural for some men to love boys.”
Both Horobin and Girard were charged and found themselves on trial on charges of indecency, and were faced with the prosecutor subsequently recruited to face Stephen Ward, Mervyn Griffith-Jones. The court heard how one boy had been invited to Horobin’s flat under a ruse to see his stamp collection but was assaulted, and another was taken for a ride in his Rolls Royce and paid 10 shillings, which was obviously an attempt to groom the child. Following a second assault by Horobin, the boy was given £2, but on a third attempt it was actually Girard who tried to persuade the boy back to the flat.
A young groundsman was summoned to Horobin’s flat for ‘instructions’ only to find himself the victim of a serious assault and paid £1.
Strangely, in Matthew Parris‘s book: ‘Great Parliamentary Scandals: Five Centuries of Calumny, Smear and Innuendo‘ he makes the following statement:
It was never suggested that any of the young men sustained any physical injuries from their encounters with Horobin. The liaisons were consensual, the term ‘assault’ being a peculiarity of legal language. The head groundsman at the Settlement told the jury that Horobin claimed to have helped the lives of far more boys than he had ever ruined.
I’m assuming Parris and his co-author, Kevin MacGuire, didn’t bother to speak to many of Horobin’s victims in order to reach such a conclusion, nor do they understand that children DO NOT have the capacity to consent.
Horobin was sentenced to four years in prison by Mr Justice Mocatta, but Girard was put on probation with Mocatta refreshingly recognising the long-term grooming of the youngster: “You were led into this horrible state of affairs at a very early age and while still at school.”
Upon his release, Horobin emigrated to Tangier in Morocco – Morocco seems to be a popular haunt for some – and in 1972 he published a book of poetry dedicated ‘with gratitude and affection to my partners in crime.’ Sir John Betjeman, whom he met at a Soho club upon his release, supplied the book’s introduction. Horobin died in Tangier in 1976.
WHAT ABOUT THE ST CHRISTOPHER FELLOWSHIP?
In January 1971, St Christopher’s Fellowship put the De Crespigny Park property up for sale for £35,000. The property itself may have gone, but the work with homeless youngsters continued.
Sir Keith Joseph may well have decided that there was no need to set up an inquiry into the Fellowship’s running of hostels following the sale of the building, but in 1973 they found themselves once again being named in court, and it was a trial that I have covered before.
In August 1973 three members of staff at the St Christopher’s Hostel in Osterley Road, Isleworth, were convicted of growing cannabis plants. They were James Anthony MacDonald, 28-year old warden, Peter James Holland, 28-year old deputy warden, and Katherine Mary Howe, a 19-year old assistant warden. Each were fined having pled guilty, and Frederick Clifford, general secretary of the St Christopher’s Fellowship, spoke in praise of the defendants’ work.
WOLVES PART THREE: A TIGHTLY WOVEN WEB
As I said, this is a trial I have covered before, and a few people may have noticed the familiar name of the Osterley Road hostel. This was one of the hostels run by Roger Gleaves aka The Bishop of Medway, and where, in 1974, Billy McPhee was taken by seven of Gleaves’ henchmen and brutally assaulted before being driven towards Brighton, stabbed and his mutilated body dumped by the side of a road. His murder was inadvertently documented on film during the filming of Johnny Go Home: The Murder of Johnny Two-Tone. Interestingly one of the three finally convicted of McPhee’s murder was a Philip Holland. Any relation to Cannabis-growing Peter, I wonder?
AN MP’S WILL:
In 1970 a dispute arose from a bequest in a former MP’s will. Sir John Wardlaw-Milne who was the former Conservative MP for Kidderminster who then lived in Jersey had bequeathed an amount of money to a boy’s home, but there was a discrepency and a subsequent dispute between ‘The London Boys’ Home’ and Gordon Boys’ School in Surrey. Homes for working boys in London were run by St Christopher Fellowship.
WOLVES PART FOUR: THE PHILANTHROPIST FIELD-MARSHAL
One of the people called upon to give evidence during the Horobin trial was Rev Eric Shipman. Shipman was vicar at St Andrew’s in Plaistow as well as a member of the Albermarle Committee, which was set up to oversee the youth services in the UK. He took over as warden after Horobin stepped down.
A year earlier in 1961, Rev Shipman gave an informal service during the annual London Scouting moot at Guildhall, which was opened by Sir Harold Gillett, Lord Mayor of London and President of the Baden-Powell House Building Committee. Baden-Powell was infiltrated by paedophiles, for which they have apologised. One of the speakers at the event was Field-Marshal Lord Slim, who was patron of the Fairbridge Farm Child Migration, which I have covered before. A number of former child migrants have accused Slim of child abuse.