Expat denies involvement in Richmond paedophile ring cover-up

Louis Minster says he’s neither under investigation nor a witness in paedophile ring probe by Metropolitan Police 

Elm Guest House, where prominent people attended parties where witnesses have said they were lured into alcohol fuelled games
Elm Guest House, where prominent people attended parties where witnesses have said they were lured into alcohol fuelled games

The former director of social services in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames between 1975 and 1984 confirmed that he was made aware of reports of an alleged paedophilia ring during his term in office in the late seventies and early eighties.

According to reports in the UK, Louis Minster has always denied that he was aware of the alleged sex abuse on boys in care at the Grafton Close, Teddington Park and Rodney Road children’s homes, which were run by the Richmond council.

But in a frank interview with MaltaToday, Minster, who has lived in Malta for the past 25-odd years, said that he got to know about the police investigations in 1982, when Terry Earland, Richmond’s then director of children’s services, had informed him that the police wanted to carry out some interviews and inspections.

He explained that he had denied knowing of the investigations to a British journalist earlier this year because he had just had a minor traffic accident and was flustered by the call. However, he lucidly remembers how he first got to know of the investigations 32 years ago.

“I remember being told by Terry Earland that the Metropolitan Police were carrying out investigations and I had told him to go ahead and assist the officers in their investigations,” Minster said in an interview he gave this newspaper at his home in Naxxar.

Asked whether he was ever questioned by the police, Minster – who was employed at the University of Malta between 1988 and 2002 – said he was never interrogated or called by the police over their investigations while Earland who was responsible for the children’s homes had fully cooperated with the officers.

“The police had asked to carry out inspections and interviews in the presence of a social worker and I had instructed Earland to take care of it since it was his responsibility,” he added.

Contrary to reports in the British media Minster insisted that he was neither under investigation nor a witness in the case of the abuse which allegedly happened between 1977 and 1983.

“Last March, I got a phone call from the Metropolitan Police who informed me that the Director of Public Prosecutions had decided not to use me as a witness,” the 83-year-old said.

Questions sent to the Metropolitan Police to confirm this so far remain unanswered. The ring is said to have involved senior politicians, showbiz celebrities and members of the royal household and a number of witnesses have recently recounted how they were lured into alcohol fuelled games to get them drunk and forced to participate in lewd sex acts.

Prominent people who attended parties at Elm Guest House are reported to have included the Liberal MP Cyril Smith and the Soviet spy Anthony Blunt.

According to the UK newspaper The Independent, other alleged visitors to the guesthouse include the former British diplomat, Sir Peter Hayman, as well as a Sinn Féin politician, a Labour MP, several Conservative politicians, judges and pop stars.

Pressed to explain whether he ordered an internal investigation, Minster said “No, I left it up to the police,” adding that the names of the persons involved in the paedophilia ring had only emerged following his resignation from his post.

Initial investigations started in the early eighties, however the case only returned under the spotlight in late 2012 and a full criminal investigation, Operation Fernbridge, was launched in February 2013.

Quizzed on whether he had ever been informed of the investigation’s outcome, Minster said “I’m not sure whether a conclusion was ever reached. Before and after retiring I never got to know at what stage investigations were.”

Minster was boss of John Stingemore who together with Father Anthony McSweeney, is charged with abusing young boys in their care during the 1980s. Both men are accused of together indecently assaulting an underage boy between November 1980 and July 1981 at Grafton Close.

However, Minster said, “I have never met John Stingemore, if he had to enter this room I wouldn’t recognise him.”

Richmond Council records show that the abuse was first reported 30 years ago by a boy in care, and his story was corroborated by a friend, but council staff and police decided no further action was required.

Earland had also told investigators that Minster twice called up the file on this boy, an action Earland considered unusual.

However, Minster explained that the file was called up twice because files could not stay on his desk for more than 10 days and insisted, “I have never seen the file. Files couldn’t be pulled up for more than 10 days because it caused problems for social workers and that is why it was up twice.”

Asked why he called up the file in the first place, Minster said that his role at the head of the social services was strictly related to policies, which ranged from elderly care to drug rehabilitation, adding that the file would have been called for research purposes.

Minster also denied reports that he had been dismissed by the council or given a golden handshake.

“I had been planning my retirement for months and I only left the very well paid job because of the political interference which started after the Liberals had overturned the Tory majority in Richmond.”