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Richmond council ‘was alerted to allegations of child sex abuse’

Former head of children’s services reveals borough’s knowledge about Elm Guest House

We talked about people in high-profile places being involved in this

Terry Earland, former head of children’s services, Richmond council

Senior figures at Richmond council were alerted to allegations of a VIP paedophile ring centred on the borough three decades ago. That was the devastating disclosure made to Exaro by the council’s former head of children’s services.

Terry Earland revealed that on at least two occasions he referred complaints of sexual abuse from children to police and colleagues at the council.

But he said that they were not properly investigated even though he is certain that the complaints were genuine.

“I would say, almost certainly, of course it was discussed within the council,” he said.

“It has been something in my head all the time that I was at Richmond. I am pleased that it has come out again.”

Exaro understands that the Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit has taken a statement from at least one of those victims, and regards him as a very credible witness and crucial to their current investigation under ‘Operation Fernbridge’.

Since November last year, the Met has been investigating allegations that boys in care were sexually abused at Grafton Close children’s home, which was run by Richmond council, and at Elm Guest House nearby in Barnes, south-west London. Police are investigating whether MPs and other VIPs sexually abused boys at the guest house.

Earland also revealed that in 1982 the police even told the council that they were planning a raid on the guest house because of allegations that boys were being sexually abused there. He said that he briefed Louis Minster, who was director of social services and his boss.

Earland, who was head of children’s services at the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames between1981 and 2003, told how claims that VIPs – including a Tory cabinet minister– were sexually abusing boys at the guest house were well known within the council from the time of the raid in 1982.

“We talked about people in high-profile places being involved in this,” he said. “It was senior politicians and judges.”

“The use of children in care at the Elm Guest House was something that went around,” he continued. “It was a rumour that kept on going, really. And we could never adequately resolve it.”

“When one social worker bought a child to me to say, ‘This child is saying this,’… we referred it again to the police. The police certainly have investigated this on at least one, if not two, subsequent occasions after 1982.”

“My modus operandi at that time was always that if there was an allegation of abuse, it was referred to the child-protection unit.”

Minster told Exaro earlier this month that he knew nothing about the allegations until recent coverage, but could not be reached for further comment.

Detectives are examining the circumstances surrounding the council’s sacking of Minster in 1984. He says that it was a political move made after the Liberal-SDP alliance took control of the council from the Conservatives.

“Louis’s face did not fit with the council’s new Liberal administration,” Earland said.

He said that he also briefed councillors who chaired the social services committee. These included Jenny, now Baroness, Tonge, who was the councillor who chaired the committee when the Liberals took control of the council in 1983.

He said: “I used to have a regular meeting with a senior politician on the social services committee. Sometimes it was Jenny, sometimes it was her deputy. I remember, Jenny Tonge and I used to talk a lot about the cases.

“The point was that you always talked. You always kept the politicians up to date with all the confidential, and all the difficult, things that were arising.”

In the first part of his explosive interview with Exaro just over a week ago, Earland said that he had “no doubt” that boys were sexually abused at Elm Guest House and he had been troubled by the case for three decades.

Following the interview, detectives travelled to see Earland at his overseas retirement home on Thursday to take a full statement.

Last week, Exaro revealed links between Jimmy Savile, the late BBC star exposed last year as a paedophile, and the guest house.

Additional reporting by Mike Deri Smith.

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