"DANGEROUS NONSENSE" MAY HAVE CONVINCED SOCIAL WORKERS OF RITUAL ABUSE
ANALYSIS: Where the devil is the evidence?
By Barbara Jones and Andrew Chapman
Mail On Sunday 16.09.90 p12,13,16
Listeners to BBC Radio 4's respected Today programme last Wednesday
must have wondered what on earth was happening to this country of
For there, in calm and measured tones, social workers described how,
all over Britain, Satanist groups are worshipping the Devil and
subjecting young children to the most ghastly kind of sexual torment.
It has all been part of a collective hysteria following the case,
highlighted in these pages last week, in which 16 children were
forcibly removed from their parents by the authorities in Rochdale,
Since then it has emerged that several local authorities in the North,
the Midlands and Scotland, have taken similar action.
And last week 19 more children were taken into care in Rochdale,
Trafford and Manchester.
So why should the Devil suddenly be in the headlines? What has
happened to spark off such feverish activity?
The reason is simple. It appears to have been initiated and encouraged
by a tiny number of "experts" on the occult, most of them
fundamentalist Christians, who have produced absolutely no evidence to
back their feverish allegations.
There are some social workers who are very concerned about their
influence, and they have told us to look very carefully at a crucial
conference held in Reading University on September 15 last year.
There, a group of professionals were told that ritual abuse was _the_
great undetected horror story of our times. They were implored to
return to their own areas and root out those responsible.
But one senior social worker who attended this key meeting was
unconvinced and told us; "I have never heard such gobbledegook in all
my life. I heard the most amazing tales of sorcery and witchcraft, but
there was never one solid fact to back it all up.
"But we were told that only we, the professionals, could stop it. We
were warned that we would be disbelieved, attacked by parents and
ridiculed by the media.
"But that must not be allowed to deflect us from our duty. Children
knew what was happening. We had to listen to them. We had to believe
The three day conference, with the title Not One More Child, took
place amid secrecy which almost amounted to paranoia. The chairman
first of all asked if the Press was present. When there was no
response, delegates were then required to identify themselves
There were more than 250 present - social workers, police, probation
officers and NSPCC staff. There was a 30 strong contingent from
Dr Marietta Higgs and social worker Sue Richardson, central figures in
the Cleveland child abuse controversy, were there, too.
The star speaker was Officer Robert J. Simandl from the Chicago
police, who was introduced as "one of the world's leading experts on
the ritual abuse of children".
He said Satanic abuse was an enormous social problem in the United
States and he feared it was spreading to Britain. he acknowledged that
no bodies had ever been found, but explained that this was because
those responsible were so cunning and so expert at covering their
He held up a plastic sheet. This, he told his audience, was how the
childrens bodies were wrapped up in after sacrifice. He said they were
usually buried in a freshly dug grave the day before a genuine
funeral. he told the most harrowing tales of children being sexually
abused - usually in caves and underground tunnels. he said he knew of
one case in which a child had been cooked alive in a microwave oven.
He then handed out to delegates a printed list of "satanic
indicators", things they should look for when questioning children.
It ranged from physical details, such as missing finger tips, to
psychological indicators such as bed-wetting and an abnormal interest
Officer Simandl was backed up by two other main speakers. One was
Maureen Davies, a vicar's daughter and former state registered nurse,
from Rhyl, North Wales. She is now director of the Reachout Trust, a
fundamentalist Christian organisation dedicated to combatting the
Devil and all his works.
She told the audience that 35 cases of suspected Satanism were
currently being investigated by 14 police forces. She gave no names -
and no details.
Also speaking was Judith Dawson, a senior social worker from
Nottingham, who was a key figure in a controversial abuse case in
which several men were jailed. Sixteen children were taken into care.
She prepared a dossier claiming that Satanic influences had been at
work. But a joint Nottingham police and social services investigation
ruled that the allegations were baseless.
The social worker we spoke to cannot be named, for professional
reasons, but he told us: "The longer this went on the more sceptical I
became. Were was the proof? Where were the bodies?
"But I admit I did not have the courage to get my feet and voice my
doubts. Everyone was taking copious notes. There was an atmosphere of
hysteria around which I found frightening."
The Reading conference was followed by others in Cardiff, Bolton,
Dundee, Lancaster and elsewhere. Mrs Davies told us last week that she
has spoken at ten conferences in the past year.
She was until five years ago an opthalmic nurse working in HM Stanley
Hospital, St. Asaph, Clywd. She then became involved in helping people
who had been brainwashed by the Moonies and other cults, finally
turning her attention to ritual abuse.
Mrs Davies said; "Delegates to the conferences gain a thorough insight
into the occult. We are talking about sex abuse, physical and mental
abuse and degredation," she said.
"There is a grave problem. But the way we are going to deal with it is
not by bringing back the Witchcraft Act, but by talking confidentially
with police and social services, so they know what to look for."
Rochdale social services department, now under severe pressure because
of the way it has handled cases in its area, has sent delegates to
such conferences. There have also been Rochdale staff conferences on
Reachout has produced a series of confidential papers, giving advice
This is an extract from a section headed "What Goes On in the Rituals
In Britain Today?" which, we warn you, some people may find deeply
"Children are given drugs by injection, medicine, or in drinks that
are laced. This is either to sedate them or cause them to hallucinate.
Candles are also laced with drugs. Adults dress up in robes and masks
and goats' heads.
"The children are taught to hate God, jesus, the Church and everything
that is good. During the ritual, children have to drink blood,
sometimes from human skulls.
"Children are placed in coffins and buried alive. When they shout for
their parents, they do not come, but eventually, perhaps hours later,
the Satanist leader comes to show he is the only one who really cares.
"Children are made to eat insects such as beetles and spiders.
Perverted sex takes place as the children are passed around as objects
for the entertainment of adults."
The extract concludes: "In certain cases the children themselves take
part in sacrifice. Teenage girls and adult women have to sacrifice
their own children. This makes them guilty of murder which is then
used to bring about another aspect of fear, showing them they are in
the system and can't get out.
"After the sacrifice, they take the heart, spleen and eyes and eat
them. The children are taught how to remove these parts of the body.
What is not eaten is stored. Some of the bodies are melted down. The
fat is used for candles and the bones ground down and the powder is
used as an aphrodisiac."
There has never been a criminal prosecution in this country even
remotely substantiating the most extreme of these allegations. Yet
many social services are taking them very seriously indeed.
Another adviser who regularly addresses professional conferences is
Diane Core, who runs a Childwatch charity in Hull. Earlier this year
she addressed the Royal College of Physicians.
She told us that 4,000 children a year are being sacrificed. "The
Rochdale case is only the tip of the iceberg. Women are having babies
in order to sacrifice them on the altar of Satan," she said.
Is it really possible that such a number of children could disappear
without the police, health visitors, the social services, GPs, family
members, neighbours or schools, realising it?
Reachout has produced a video which has been widely distributed to
social services departments. At one point, a woman witness describes a
scene at a Black Mass:
"This lady in a black robe came forward with this little baby and she
laid it on the altar. It was breathing, but it wasn't crying, and then
the High Priest used the athame or ceremonial dagger to cut the babies
"I just couldn't believe it, but by then I was led forward and lifted
up on to the altar, The baby's blood was daubed all over my body and
then the High Priest raped me. I then had to sign in blood on
parchment saying that I would never, ever reveal what had happened in
the coven. If I did, I would die."
The charity insists that this is not fiction, but will not disclose
any further details. We spoke to Officer Simandl in Chicago last week,
and even he admits he has a credibility problem.
"My superiors and colleagues are sceptical when I tell them these
"But it was so interesting being in England and Scotland talking to
"The rooms were packed, and everyone wanted to know more and more
about what was going on."
Five families in a Rochdale council estate also want to know what is
going on. Their past few months have been a nightmare.
They have not been allowed to see their children and, until The Mail
On Sunday intervened, they were prevented by a High Court injunction
from talking to anyone about what they were suffering.
Over the past week our reporters have spent much time with one family
in particular. They are a respectable family and, unlike some others
involved in this case, have absolutely forbidden their children to
watch video nasties.
Their 11 year old daughter was taken into care in June and they have
not seen her since.
Although our journalists are not trained social workers, they are
convinced that the allegations against this family are baseless.
One local councillor, Peter Thompson, says: "I have known this family
all my life and these accusations are dangerous, damaging nonsense."
Last week Manchester's Chief Constable james ANderton concurred,
announcing that there was no evidence.
Police officers we have spoken to are extremely angry about the
injustice this family has suffered. Yet still they cannot see their
daughter - and that pain is being repeated at homes throughout the
In 1953, Arthur Miller wrote one of the greatest plays of the 20th
century. In The Crucible he described the 17th Century witchcraft
trials in Salem - and the terrible true story of parents being
condemned by the fantasising and hysteria of children.
Is it possible that a second Crucible is taking place in Britain
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