How +quot;Satanist+quot; conman persuaded vicar to net him over 200,000 By Paul Vallely, T
How "Satanist" conman
persuaded vicar to
net him over 200,000
By Paul Vallely, The Times Newspaper, April 1986.
Whether Derry Mainwaring Knight was a Satanist or a conman, or both,
never seemed the question at the centre of the trial which ended
yesterday at Maidstone Crown Court.
The real puzzle was always the seeming nonchalance with which a group
of aristocrats and wealthy country folk were prepared to hand over
more than 200,000.
The first suggestion was that some masonic intrigue was involved. The
notion was prompted by an unprecedented statement by the judge before
the trial began, in which he warned potential jurors that anyone
connected with Freemasonry would be excused service as the case might
prove embarrassing for them.
This proved to be a red herring. Masonry had links to a particular
group of which it had been claimed Knight was a member but, faced with
the expert testimony on the cult, he chose not to repeat the claim in
But the true answer proved no less intriguing.
An Atmosphere of
The decisions to donate such large amounts were taken by the principle
donors in an atmosphere of religious fervour in which they felt
themselves to be in receipt of direct messages from God in the form of
pictures, signs, voices, providential coincidences and a divine
warning to distrust the senior investigating policeman as "a man with
Into this crucible was thrown the final ingredient. In a circle which
already included God, the Devil, a brace of viscounts, an earl, the
wife of an MP and a former High Sheriff of East Sussex, it somehow did
not seem too fanciful to be told that the head of the counter-church
they were setting out to smash was Lord Whitelaw, the deputy Prime
Derry Mainwaring Knight was giving out religious leaflets door to door
in the village of Newick, East Sussex, when he met the rector, the Rev
WIthin three months the ex-convict had told the rector the story of
his life, beginning with his grandmothers involvement in the black
arts and ending shortly after he was "born again" when God spoke to
him as he sat on the roof of Hull Prison during a demonstration.
Knight had been serving a sentence for rape.
By February 1984 Knight had moved into the rectory to live in the
attic. By the following month Mr Baker had raised 24,925 from local
Christians to pay off what Knight claimed were debts to unspecified
In fact a good deal of the money was ultimately spent on his girl
friend, Angela Murdoch, and on entertaining girls including Samantha
Sprackling, a dancer, and Julie Tremain, a prostitute.
Within 48 hours Knight fell into a trance in which he informed the
rector that he had been dedicated to Lucifer at the age of eight and
that he held high office in a Satanist order based in Essex.
Within six weeks, by May 21, Mr Baker had raised a further 18,900,
which he paid in cash to Knight, who said he needed it to repay
Satanic debts as a prelude to leaving the order.
When that source showed signs of drying up, Knight made the sudden
disclosure that he was bound to Satanism by certain items of regalia
which he had to purchase and them destroy. Within three months the
rector had handed over 12,435 more.
In September 1984, Knight announced that further artifacts existed
which enabled him to be controlled from afar through two platinum
discs inserted in his forehead by a Satanist surgeon.
By October 22 Mr Baker had given Knight another 34,750 in used 50
By November the rector had begun a fifth series of payments for a
different set of regalia.
By February 15, 1985 the rector had donated 98,500 in used 50 and 20
notes. By May 10 a further 25,600 had changed hands to repay a new
Mr Baker had approached wealthy local people who were mostly
sympathetic to his own evangelical approach to religion. One such was
Mrs Susan Sainsbury, the wife of Mr Timothy Sainsbury, Conservative MP
or Hove, and a millionaire member of the supermarket family. She had
been "born again" in 1975. Over a period she gave him 79,895.
Mr Michael Warren, a farmer, magistrate and former High Sheriff,
another evangelical Christian gave 36,000. Lord Hampden, a "committed
Christian" paid 39,250. Mr Gorden Scutt, a company director and
officer of a Christian trust, gave 25,000. Other donors included Lord
and Lady Brentford and Lord March.
It was then that Dr Eric Kemp, Bishop of Chichester, became concerned.
He met Knight and asked a number of Anglican specialists in the occult
and Satanism to intervene.
Most of the experts were unconvinced. Several questioned Knights
sincerity. Even those who did not throw doubt upon Knights claims
expressed disquiet about whether the best way to save someone from
Satan involved the payment of large amounts of 50 notes for artefacts
The reservations of the experts persuaded tow other members of the
aristocracy, Lord and Lady Ingeby, not to make a donation.
But with the exception of Lord March, those who had by now contributed
heavily decided to carry on. Towards the end of 1984 they formed a
The Bishop of Chichester asked the Rt Rev Mark Green, the retired
Bishop of Aston, to attend one meeting early in 1985 and report back.
Bishop Green clearly found the tone unchanged, and if anything
heightened, at the meeting to which two experts on exorcism had been
Came from God
At the next meeting the rector produced a detailed reply to the
arguments of the exorcists. His wife, Alison, added a lengthy
memorandum on why the operation should continue.
Bishop Green sent the documents to Dr Kemp who contacted the police.
On March 13, Knight was arrested and questioned for two days about the
payments. Soon after he was released on bail he got the rector to
persuade Lord Hampden, to buy a 37,000 Rolls Royce for Knight's use to
maintain his status in Satanist circles.
On May 23, shortly before a further 200,000 was to be handed over for
the purchase of a Satanic throne, Knight was arrested, charge with
theft and remanded.
When court officials came to list the initial hearing before the local
magistrates they had to send to London for a stipendiary. The chairman
of the East Sussex Magistrates Association was Mr Michael Warren, the
former High Sheriff who had himself donated 36,000.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank