The Pedophocracy, Part I: From Brussels...
David McGowan, August 2001
"From our comfortable seat in life . we never could have imagined that thousands of well-off adults, integrated and even cultured, find pleasure in seeing children tortured and killed."
From a front-page editorial in Italy's Corriere della Sera, reprinted in The Irish Times, September 29, 2000
"British detectives are trying to close a website showing pictures of a man eating a dismembered baby . the website, based in California . has been linked with the ritual abuse of children . A second website showing similar scenes of sadistic and ritualistic abuse has been successfully shut."
Independent, February 21, 2001
"Paedophiles can boldly and courageously affirm what they choose... I am also a theologian and as a theologian, I believe it is God's will that there be closeness and intimacy, unity of flesh, between people... paedophiles can make the assertion that the pursuit of intimacy and love is what they choose. With boldness, they can say, 'I believe this is in fact part of God's will'."
Ralph Underwager, 'expert' witness for the defense in scores of child abuse cases and former vocal member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, in an interview in Paidika (a pro-pedophilia publication), conducted in June 1991
To the vast majority of Americans, the name Marc Dutroux does not mean much. Drop that name in Belgium though and you are likely to elicit some very visceral reactions. Dutroux - convicted along with his wife in 1989 for the rape and violent abuse of five young girls, the youngest of whom was just eleven - now stands accused of being a key player in an international child prostitution and pornography ring whose practices included kidnapping, rape, sadistic torture, and murder.
Dutroux was sentenced in 1989 to thirteen years for his crimes, but was freed after having served just three. This was in spite of the fact that, as prison governor Yvan Stuaert would later tell a parliamentary commission: "A medical report described him as a perverse psychopath, an explosive mix. He was an evident danger to society." The man who turned Dutroux loose on society, Justice Minister Melchior Wathelet, was rewarded with a prestigious appointment to serve as a judge at the European Court of Justice at The Hague.
Shortly after Dutroux's release, young girls began to disappear in the vicinity of some of his homes. Though technically unemployed and drawing welfare from the state, he nevertheless owned at least six houses and lived quite lavishly. His rather lucrative income appears to have been derived from trading in child sex-slaves, child prostitution, and child pornography. Many of his houses appeared to stand vacant, though at least some of them were in fact used as torture and imprisonment centers where kidnapped girls were taken and held in underground dungeons. Some of Dutroux's homes were used in this way for several years following his early release, with a growing body of evidence to indicate that fact to the police. Authorities nevertheless failed to act on the information, or acted on it in ways that implied either complete incompetence (according to most press reports), or police complicity in the operation (according to any sort of logic).
Officials seem to have routinely ignored tips that later proved accurate, including a report from Dutroux's own mother that her son was holding girls prisoner in one of his houses. In addition, key facts were withheld from investigators working on the disappearances and lines of communication were unaccountably broken, inexcusably hindering the investigation. Police did search one of Dutroux's homes on no less than three separate occasions over the course of the investigation. On at least two of those occasions, two of the missing girls were being held in heinous conditions, imprisoned in a custom-built dungeon in the basement. Nevertheless, according to the Guardian, the police searches came up empty - even though the investigating officers reported "hearing children's voices on one occasion."
It was not until August 13, 1996, four years after the disappearances began, that authorities arrested Dutroux, along with his wife (an elementary school teacher), a lodger, a policeman, and a man the Guardian described as "an associate with political connections" - elsewhere identified as Jean-Michel Nihoul, a Brussels businessman and nightclub owner. One of those taken into custody - Michel Lelievre, described in a May 2002 BBC report as a "drug addict and petty thief" - reportedly told his interrogators that at least some of the girls abducted by the ring "were kidnapped to order, for someone else." This was just one of many statements by suspects and witnesses that would later be dismissed by Belgian officials.
Two days after the arrests, police again searched Dutroux's home and discovered the soundproof dungeon/torture center. As CNN reported, three years earlier "police ignored tips from an informant who said Dutroux was building secret cellars to hold girls before selling them abroad." In addition, in 1995, the same informant had told police that Dutroux had offered an unidentified third man "the equivalent of $3,000 to $5,000 to kidnap girls." Incredibly, it was later reported by the Guardian that police actually had in their possession a videotape of the dungeon being constructed: "Belgian police could have saved the lives of two children [who were] allegedly murdered by the paedophile Marc Dutroux if they had watched a video seized from his home which showed him building their hidden cell." The tape had been seized in one of the earlier searches.
At the time of the final search, two fourteen-year-old girls were found imprisoned in the dungeon, chained and starving. They described to police how they had been used as child prostitutes and in the production of child pornography videos. More than 300 such videos were taken into custody by the police.
On August 17, 1996, the story got grimmer as police dug up the bodies of two eight-year-old girls at another of Dutroux's homes. It would later be learned that the girls had been kept in one of Dutroux's dungeons for nine months after their abductions, during which time they were repeatedly tortured and sexually assaulted - all captured on videotape. The girls were then left to slowly starve to death. Alongside of their decimated corpses was the body of Bernard Weinstein, a former accomplice of Dutroux who had occupied one of the houses for several years. Weinstein had been buried alive.
A few weeks later, two more girls were found buried under concrete at yet another of the Dutroux properties. By that time, ten people connected to the case were reportedly in custody. As the body count mounted, the outrage of the Belgian people grew. They demanded to know why this man, dubbed the 'Belgian Beast,' had been released after having served such an absurdly short sentence. And they demanded to know why, as evidence had continued to mount and girls had continued to disappear, the police had chosen to do nothing. How many girls, they wanted to know, had been killed due to this inaction?
Adding further fuel to the fire, as a Los Angeles Times report revealed, were claims by "a highly regarded children's activist, Marie-France Botte . [that] the Justice Ministry is sitting on a politically sensitive list of customers of pedophile videotapes." The same report noted, "the affair has become further clouded by the discovery of a motorcycle that reportedly matches the description of one used in the 1991 assassination of prominent Belgian businessman and politician Andre Cools. Michel Bourlet, the head prosecutor on the pedophile case, meanwhile, has publicly declared that the investigation can be thoroughly pursued only without political interference. Several years ago, Bourlet was removed from the highly charged Cools case, which remains unsolved."
A report in Time magazine alluded to murky links between the Dutroux operation and organized crime figures. Marc Verwilghen - the chief investigating magistrate on the case - stated the case more bluntly: "For me, the Dutroux affair is a question of organised crime." Also mentioned in the Time article was the use of secret "underground tunnels," not unlike those described by children a decade earlier at the infamous McMartin Preschool.
Outrage continued to grow as more arrests were made and evidence of high-level government and police complicity continued to emerge. One of Dutroux's accomplices, businessman Jean-Michel Nihoul, confessed to organizing an 'orgy' at a Belgian chateau that had been attended by government officials, a former European Commissioner, and a number of law enforcement officers. A Belgian senator noted, quite accurately, that such parties were part of a system "which operates to this day and is used to blackmail the highly placed people who take part."
According to the BBC, Nihoul has brazenly claimed: "I am the monster of Belgium." He has all but dared the state to prosecute him, claiming that he is beyond the reach of the law because he has information that, if made public, "would bring the Government and the entire state down."
In September 1996, twenty-three suspects - at least nine of whom were police officers - were detained and questioned about their possible complicity in the crimes and/or their negligence in investigating the case. As the Los Angeles Times noted in a very brief, two-sentence report, the detainments "were the latest indication that police in the southern city of Charleroi may have helped cover up the alleged crimes of Marc Dutroux." The arrests followed raids on the police officers' homes and on the headquarters of the Charleroi police force and were based on information supplied by police inspector Georges Zicot, who had already been charged as an accomplice. Three magistrates had also reportedly been interrogated by police investigators.
Just days before the arrests, police had also arrested five suspects in the Cools assassination, including a former regional government minister named Alain VanderBiest. Strangely enough, the News Telegraph reported that: "Police investigating the Cools murder in 1991 . have been given helpful leads by some of those arrested in the Dutroux case." The Telegraph also noted that Cools "had promised 'shocking revelations' before his death."
On October 14, 1996 came the straw that broke the camel's back: Jean-Marc Connerotte, who had been serving as the investigating judge on the Dutroux case, was dismissed by the Belgian Supreme Court. Connerotte was viewed by the people as something of a rarity: a public official/law enforcement officer who actually appeared to be pursuing a prosecution, rather than a cover-up. The News Telegraph described him as: "the only figure in the judiciary who enjoys the nation's confidence." As the New York Times reported, Connerotte "became a national hero in August after saving two children from a secret dungeon kept by a convicted child rapist and ordering the inquiry that led to the discovery of the bodies of four girls kidnapped by a child pornography network." He had also arrested three men in 1994 as suspects in the Cools assassination - just before the case was transferred to the jurisdiction of another magistrate.
Victimized as a child by top-level perpetrators who today claim she is insane. The detail of Regina's testimony is extraordinary. In 1996, she named and described in great detail, to a specially assembled police team, the people and places involved in the paedophile ring. Senior judges, one of the country's most powerful politicians - now dead - and a very influential banker were included. One of the regular organisers of these parties, she said, was the man she knew as 'Mich', Jean Michel Nihoul. The sessions not only involved sex, they included sadism, torture and murder; and again, she described in detail, the place, the victims and how they were killed. She also claimed the young Marc Dutroux was there. "At these parties Nihoul was a sort of party beast while Dutroux was more on the side." SEE VIDEO CLIPS ON THE "BELGIAN X-FILES"
A May 2002 BBC report revealed that, after Connerotte's removal, a "special team of police officers interviewing Regina Louf and the other 'X' witnesses, as they were called, were the next to be sacked." The "X" witnesses were victims of the pedophile ring who had come forward to tell harrowing tales of their victimization.
A woman named Regina Louf was the first of eleven such victims to be interviewed by police officials. Louf claimed that she had been victimized by the ring - which included her parents and her grandmother - from the time that she was a very young child. She described the operation in detail to authorities, supplying them with names - names that included "senior judges, one of the country's most powerful politicians - now dead - and a very influential banker." According to Louf, the operation "was big business - blackmail - there was a lot of money involved." Many of her victimizers, she said, were secretly filmed for blackmail purposes.
Louf identified Michel Nihoul as a regular organizer of 'parties.' These parties, she said, "not only involved sex, they included sadism, torture and murder." She described in detail the murdered victims, and how and where they were killed. The BBC reported that when police checked into Louf's claims, they were able to verify "key elements of Regina's story and found [that] at least one murder that she says she witnessed matched an unsolved murder." Nevertheless, the same BBC report revealed that, "today in Belgium Regina Louf's reputation is destroyed. The Prosecutor General of Liege, Anne Thilly, declares she's completely mad despite numerous statements from independent psychologists to the contrary." According to the judges now on the case, "her testimony has been declared worthless" and will not be presented in any trial of Dutroux or his associates.
Connerotte's removal from the Dutroux case fanned the smoldering flames of public outrage; as the Times reported, "Hundreds of thousands of people had petitioned the high court to retain the judge." Adding yet more fuel to the fire, prosecutor Michel Bourlet was claiming that evidence indicated a pedophile ring, composed of the wealthy and powerful, had been protected for twenty-five years. With the families of Dutroux's victims calling for a general strike, men and women all across the country walked away from their jobs in protest as railway workers and bus drivers shut down public transportation, bringing some cities to a virtual standstill. The Telegraph reported that, "in Liege, firemen turned their hoses on the city's court building" to symbolize the massive clean-up that was in order.
On October 20, 1996, 350,000 citizens of the tiny nation of Belgium took to the streets of Brussels dressed all in white, demanding the reform of a system so corrupt that it would protect the abusers, rapists, torturers, and killers of children. The political fallout from the case ultimately brought about the resignation of Belgium's State Police Chief, Interior Minister, and Justice Minister, who became sacrificial lambs tossed to the outraged masses to avoid what could easily have exploded into a full-scale insurrection by the people, particularly after police 'incompetence' allowed Dutroux to 'escape' and remain at large for a brief time in April 1998.
There were in fact calls from the people for the entire coalition government to step down. Months later, an opinion survey by Brussels' Le Soir newspaper found that only one in five Belgians still had confidence in the federal government and in the nation's criminal justice system. As the Los Angeles Times reported in January 1998, "the conviction remains stubbornly widespread that members of the upper crust - government ministers, the Roman Catholic Church, the court of King Albert II - belonged to child sex rings, or protected them."
The lingering distrust of the people was not alleviated by the fact that a parliamentary inquiry had identified, in April 1997, thirty officials who had, as the Times tactfully put it, "failed to uncover Dutroux's misdeeds." Nearly a year later, none of them had yet suffered any repercussions. Additionally, at least ten missing children suspected of having fallen prey to Dutroux's operation have never been found.
Just a few months before the parliamentary commission issued its report on the Dutroux case, viewed by many as a shameless cover-up, the Telegraph reported, "grim rumors . have been circulating that a second paedophile network at least as appalling may have been operating in parallel to that said to involve Dutroux." The bodies of seven children were believed to have been hidden by the ring, which was thought could be linked to Dutroux through Michel Nihoul. Two months after that, a man named Patrick Derochette and three of his family members were arrested following the discovery of the body of a nine-year-old girl. Rumors quickly began circulating linking that crime to Dutroux as well. Like Dutroux, Derochette had previously been convicted on multiple counts of child rape. He had been committed to a psychiatric institution from which he was released after just six weeks. Authorities quickly denied that there was any connection between the cases. In January 1998, however, the Telegraph reported, "new evidence from a lawyer involved in the investigations blows a hole in previous police claims that there was no link between the cases involving the alleged child murderers Marc Dutroux and Patrick Derochette." Once again, the connection was said to be through Nihoul.
In April 1999, the Guardian weighed in with this report: "the highly respected chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into the [Dutroux] case claims that his commission's findings were muzzled by political and judicial leaders to prevent details emerging of complicity in the crimes . Mr. Verwilghen claims that senior political and legal figures refused to cooperate with the inquiry. He says magistrates and police were officially told to refuse to answer certain questions, in what he describes as 'a characteristic smothering operation.'"
As of May 2002, nearly six years after Dutroux was taken into custody, his trial had yet to begin. Parents of victims continued to loudly shout of a cover-up, and the Telegraph was reporting that: "It was recently learnt that scientific tests on 6,000 hairs found in the [underground dungeon] began only this year." Those tests, of course, could reveal how many victims passed through Dutroux's chamber of horrors. Perhaps more importantly, they could also, as a BBC News report noted in January 2002, "establish whether the girls had any other visitors."
Anne Thilly, the aforementioned Prosecutor General of Liege who dismissed as "mad" a key prosecution witness, has been quoted as saying, "there was no need to get the hairs analysed as no one else entered the cage. There was no network so there was no need to look for evidence of one. In any case, the hairs have all now been analysed." Thilly gave no indication of how she knew there was nothing to find before even bothering to look. And contrary to her claims, the BBC reported in May 2002 that the hairs had "still not been analysed," according to "sources central to the investigation." Thilly has also claimed "the bodies [recovered from Dutroux's properties] were too decomposed to test for DNA." The BBC though noted "the autopsy states quite clearly that the bodies were not decomposed. Samples were taken. It is just that no one seems to know what has happened to the results." It would appear, alas, as though Anne Thilly is a rather brazen liar.
The January BBC report came on the heels of an interview that the imprisoned Dutroux granted a Flemish journalist and a Belgian senator. Therein, Dutroux was quoted as admitting, "a network with all kinds of criminal activities really does exist. But the authorities don't want to look into it." He also acknowledged the existence of "a well-grounded [paedophile] ring. I maintained regular contact with people in this ring. However, the law does not want to investigate this lead."
If the Marc Dutroux case were some kind of aberration, it would still be a disturbing story for the level of unspeakable corruption and depravity of the Belgian political and law enforcement establishment of which it speaks. Far more disturbing is the fact that it does not appear to be an isolated case at all.
As 1999 drew to a close, the nation of Latvia was rocked by a child prostitution/child pornography scandal that reached to the very top of the political power structure. The case first broke in August, when police uncovered a massive operation involving as many as 2,000 severely abused children. When media reports began linking top Latvian officials to the case, a special parliamentary commission was assembled to investigate the emerging allegations. In February 2000, the chairman of the commission delivered a report to Parliament linking the country's Prime Minister and Justice Minister, the director of the State Revenue Service, and a number of army and law enforcement officers to the case. A campaign was immediately begun to discredit the committee chairman, including allegations that he is tied to the former KGB - a classic case of red baiting that enabled the allegations to be dismissed as 'Communist' propaganda.
On November 27, 2002, The Guardian reported that many among Portugal's elite were linked to a pedophile ring as well: "A scandal over a paedophile ring run from a state orphanage gripped Portugal yesterday as it threatened to engulf diplomats, media personalities and senior politicians. Photographs of unnamed senior government officials with young boys from Lisbon's Casa Pia orphanage were among the evidence reportedly available to police after they arrested a former orphanage employee called Carlos Silvino." One revelation in the case was "that systematic sexual abuse of children at the home had allegedly been going on for more than 20 years and had been known to police and other authorities for most of that time." Teresa Costa Macedo, a former secretary of state for families, has said that she sent a dossier to police twenty years ago containing "damning proof" of the abuse, including photographs and eyewitness statements. The information was not acted upon, and, for her trouble, Macedo became the victim of a campaign of threats and intimidation.
In June 2003, the Independent reported that police "at first denied her reports existed," but then later produced them. Macedo has testified before parliament that the former president, Antonio Ramalho Eanes, the former foreign secretary, Jaime Garcia, and elements within the police all knew of the ongoing abuse. An official report claims that, "among the children still living at Casa Pia, at least 128 had been subjected to sexual abuse. Many are deaf and dumb." Countless other victims have passed through the facility over the last thirty years. Among those detained or questioned in the case were Carlos Cruz, known in Portugal as "Mr. Television"; Manuel Abrantes, a former director of Casa Pia; Joao Ferreira Diniz, a doctor at Casa Pia; Jorge Ritto, a former ambassador to UNESCO; Hugo Marcal, Carlos Silvino's former attorney; Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, Portugal's Socialist Party leader; television talk show host Herman Jose; and Paulo Pedroso, a former Labour minister.
A follow-up report in the Independent noted that Casa Pia, founded by a police superintendent, first "came under scrutiny 20 years ago when a young inmate died . Officials found the home's doors open all night and youngsters in a cruising area for male prostitutes. Four children aged between eight and 12, missing for a fortnight, were found in a luxury flat in nearby Cascais owned by a diplomat." That diplomat was Jorge Ritto. It is now alleged that Silvino, an employee and former resident of Casa Pia, acted for years to procure young boys for rich and powerful pedophiles, including Ritto. Adolescent witnesses have claimed on Portuguese television that they were offered enticements and "then raped . and recruited for sex parties with powerful 'friends.' Others, now adult, have told of chilling experiences long suppressed." A Portuguese organization calling itself Innocence in Danger has been working for years to publicize the problem of child abuse and child abductions in the country, but have been unable to penetrate what they describe as a "media blackout."
As of February 2003, a campaign was underway in Scotland to unseal records that have been sealed for 100 years under special order. The records concern the activities of Thomas Hamilton, a notorious child molester/murderer who was credited with killing sixteen schoolchildren and a teacher, and then himself, in 1996. One police report sealed under the order "concerns Thomas Hamilton's activities at a summer camp in Loch Lomond in 1991, five years before the shootings," and allegedly links Hamilton to "figures in the Scottish establishment, including two senior politicians and a lawyer," according to the Guardian.
A report in Scotland's Sunday Herald, from March 2003, revealed that 106 documents had been sealed. These included "a letter connected to Hamilton, which was sent by George Robertson, currently head of NATO, to Michael Forsyth, who was then Secretary of State for Scotland," as well as "correspondence relating to Thomas Hamilton's alleged involvement in Freemasonry." A deputy justice minister, Michael Matheson, was quoted in the article questioning the official justification for sealing the documents: "The explanation to date about the 100-year rule was that it was put in place to protect the interests of children named in the Central Police Report. How can that explanation stand when children aren't named?"
On September 29, 2000, The Irish Times reported that yet another pedophile network had surfaced: "Eight people were arrested in Italy and three in Russia, and police said 1,700 people were being investigated in Italy." The images traded by this ring were "divided into several categories . The most gruesome, police said, was coded 'Necros Pedo,' in which children were raped and tortured to death."
And so it is that we first confront that most disturbing of topics - snuff films, which most people assume do not actually exist. As recently as February 1999, the New York Post assured readers that: "Snuff films are the stuff of urban legend . how did this legend get started? No one knows." The unfortunate truth though is that snuff films do actually exist, and they likely have existed for as long as film has existed, though they were not always known by that name. According to the Post: "The term 'snuff' was actually coined during the Charles Manson case, when press reports repeated a rumor that the Manson 'family' had filmed home movies of the brutal slayings." Other reports hold that the term was coined in 1976 by a writer for the New York Times who was in need of a phrase to describe reports of murders following sexual activity being captured on film.
In the late 1970s, as Carl Raschke noted in Painted Black, the "Texas House Select Committee on Child Pornography disclosed . that investigators probing leads to organized crime in Houston, Dallas, and other major cities found that 'slave' auctions for sixteen- and seventeen-year-old boys were routinely held in Mexico. Some of the boys were featured in brutal snuff or 'slasher' movies." Raschke also quotes from a study by U.S. mental health professionals that claims that a child from Mexico "can be packaged, delivered, and sold deep within [the United States] in a short time," and that many are purchased solely "for the purpose of killing."
In Enslaved, Gordon Thomas reported that: "At the start of the year  Britain's Scotland Yard was continuing to investigate reports that up to twenty children in London had been murdered last year in [snuff films] and the video tapes sold on the Continent." Journalist Nick Davies, writing for the Guardian in November 2000, revisited that investigation, which was centered on a group of British pedophiles living in Amsterdam. The investigation revealed that the men were running gay brothels that were essentially 'fronts' for trafficking underage boys, many purchased from the streets of economically ravaged Eastern Europe, and others collected from the streets of London. Prominent among the group of pedophiles were a man named Alan Williams, known as the "Welsh Witch," and another named Warwick Spinks, who according to Davies, "pioneered the trafficking of boys as young as 10."
The men used the boys in the production of child pornography and, according to several witnesses, in the production of snuff films. Davies wrote: "not just once but repeatedly, evidence had come to the attention of police in England and the Netherlands, that, for pleasure and profit, some of the exiled paedophiles in Amsterdam had murdered boys in front of the camera." Indeed, witnesses had independently given descriptions of snuff films that were remarkably consistent in the details of the types of torture used and the manner of death, though the descriptions of the victim and the filming location differed, indicating that a number of such films had been made. One witness claimed to have seen five such films.
In the fall of 1998, British detectives flew to Amsterdam to investigate a particularly detailed account provided by a witness. The investigators had in their possession: a detailed description of the apartment where the witness had viewed the tape; the name of the owner of the apartment and videotape; the name of the man who committed the murder; a detailed description of events on the tape; and the first name and approximate age of the victim. With all that in hand, says Davies, the detectives "hit a wall." Dutch police "said it was not enough" to warrant launching any sort of an investigation. By that time, investigators had been hearing accounts of the snuff films for nearly eight years. At one point, they had recruited an undercover officer "to pose as a child abuser and befriend Warwick Spinks," who acknowledged to the officer that he was actively involved in trafficking boys. He also revealed that he knew "some people who were involved in making snuff movies and how they did it was, they only sold them in limited editions, made 10 copies or something, 10 very rich customers in America, who paid $5,000 each or something like that." There is no indication that any thorough investigation was ever conducted, or that any arrests were ever made.
In September 2002, the Chicago Sun Times carried a brief report of two brothers who were arrested and charged with possessing an enormous collection of child pornography. Seized from the brothers were 5,000 photographic images, along with about 100 videotapes and 8mm films. Among this evidence were images of "young girls apparently tortured, raped and killed." The American media has shown no inclination to shine any additional light on the case.
An account of the recent Italian case carried by the Guardian affirmed the existence of snuff films: "Police have discovered a massive international paedophile network selling violent child-pornography videos to clients in Italy, the US and Germany . (authorities are) trying to identify 5,000 people who are suspected of attempting to purchase the videos, some of which appear to contain images of children being tortured and murdered." The UK's Independent, in a follow-up published in November 2000, also confirmed that the seized materials included child snuff films: "Horrified investigators gathered images of more than 2,000 children who were filmed while being abused, raped, and . killed." By that time, close to 1,500 people had been charged in the case, but not - as the Guardian noted - "those in high places who are believed to form a 'paedophile lobby.'"
As in the Belgian, Latvian, and Portuguese cases, there were indications in the Italian case of high-level complicity and a strong belief among the people that the facts of the case were being covered up. And as with the other cases, the Independent reported that the magistrate heading up the inquiry "provoked a furore by denouncing a 'paedophile lobby' supported by politicians which he said openly obstructed the investigators and worked to prevent tougher sanctions for the consumers of child pornography." The New York Times reported in March 1997 that there is "growing public indignation in France and elsewhere about the recurrent reports of kidnapping, rape or incest involving the very young." The same Times report revealed that French police had "detained more than 250 people and confiscated some 5,000 videocassettes" in conjunction with an investigation into a massive child pornography ring. Those detained by police were described as "mainly married professionals." A dozen of them soon turned up dead, allegedly by their own hand.
The BBC filed a brief report on a 1996 case that was otherwise almost completely ignored by the English-language press: "Mexican police broke up an international child pornography ring based in the resort of Acapulco which they said had at least four thousand clients in the United States," (emphasis added). A UN envoy investigating the case said that the "child pornography sometimes involved babies of less than one month old."
In June 1997, the News Telegraph spoke of over 800 French homes being raided and 204 suspects being taken into custody. Among those detained were "more than 30 teachers . and a number of priests," as well as the deputy mayor of the town of Saint Mihiel. By the end of the week, four had committed suicide, including a school headmaster. Three years later, the BBC filed a very brief report noting that a verdict was due "in the trial of more than sixty people accused of possessing child pornography. One of the judges hearing the case said examining the video evidence made him feel physically sick." In a familiar refrain, it was reported that: "the French courts have been accused of attacking the easy targets -- porn consumers -- rather than producers and distributors. And one children's rights group has alleged that senior public figures were among those investigated -- but their cases were dropped before coming to court."
In 1998, another large-scale international ring was discovered operating out of the Netherlands and Berlin, Germany. The New York Times reported that investigators called the case "nauseating," in that "images of abuse of even babies and infants were peddled via the Internet and other media." Police discovered "voluminous records of what appear to be clients and suppliers from countries including Israel, Ukraine, Britain, Russia and the United States." The ring was first uncovered when a key member was found dead in Italy. According to the Irish Times, he was murdered by another member of the ring. His apartment in the Dutch town of Zandvoort was found to contain "thousands of digital images stored on computer disks," as well as "hundreds of addresses of suspected suppliers and clients," according to the New York Times. The images shocked even veteran sex-crimes investigators, one of whom stated that the seized evidence "left [him] speechless . It looks like the perpetrators are not dealing with human beings but with objects."
The BBC reported in June 1999 that two unnamed German men had "gone on trial, accused of running a child pornography ring in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic." The pair, along with at least eleven identified but unindicted accomplices, "made video recordings of the gang sexually abusing children between the ages of three and 14 since 1993." A large but unspecified quantity of "videos, photography, magazines and CD-ROMs containing child pornography were confiscated." Also noted was a possible connection to the Dutroux case: "There have been cases of Slovak children being taken to Vienna to make pornographic films. The Belgian paedophile Marc Dutroux . was a regular visitor to one Slovak town."
In September 1998, another ring had been raided - one that the BBC described as "a larger and more sinister paedophile network called Wonderland." The San Jose Mercury News reported, "police in . 22 states and 13 foreign countries conducted coordinated raids . aimed at breaking up an Internet child-pornography ring . The ring involves as many as 200 people around the world, who exchanged over the Internet thousands of sexually explicit images of children as young as 18 months." The Independent later reported that the ring "shared pictures of children being abused -- in some cases live via web-cam broadcasts over the internet." The raids included homes in "Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal and Sweden," according to the New York Times, which added that: "Several dozen people were arrested, but officials said they expected more than 100 to be charged." The Independent later reported that 107 suspects were ultimately arrested. The Mercury News implied that that was only the tip of the iceberg: "The ring actually extends into 47 countries."
The case was described by a British official as "stomach-churning." The Times reported, "Wonderland Club members are believed to have posed their own children for pictures . In other cases . parents may have taken money to let their children be used." The Guardian reported that over 1,250 children were featured in the photos and videos, "many of whom suffered appalling injuries and were seen sobbing uncontrollably as they were being sexually violated." The Independent added that the victimized children were "mostly under [the age of] 10." A BBC report held that the combined raids resulted in the seizure of more than "750,000 computer images of children." A Detective Superintendent with the British National Crime Squad called these images "disgusting" and added that "the behavior that has been carried out is absolutely appalling." The BBC also took note of the fact that, while ignored by the American press, "Wonderland originated in the United States."
Among the scores of U.S. homes raided in connection with the case, one yielded a "database of more than 100,000 sexual photographs of naked boys and girls." Interestingly enough, the Times also noted that another raid, "in Missouri, turned up a cache of weapons as well as child pornography in a heavily fortified trailer" - illustrating once again, as did the Dutroux case, the close ties between organized pedophilia and other terrorist assaults against society.
As with the earlier raids in Europe, a rash of 'suicides' followed the Wonderland arrests. By October 24, 1998, the Mercury News was reporting that no fewer than four of the thirty-four American suspects had killed themselves. These included a retired Air Force pilot, a microbiologist at the University of Connecticut, and a computer consultant in Colorado. In the UK, the Wonderland raids - dubbed Operation Cathedral - resulted in the indictments of eight suspects. One of the eight turned up dead four months later - another alleged suicide. The other seven were given ridiculously light sentences in February 2001 for their complicity in inflicting unfathomable abuse on countless children. Sentences ranged from 12 to 30 months. Just a few weeks before the sentences were handed down, the Guardian was reporting that: "Police today arrested 13 suspected paedophiles in the largest ever UK operation against child pornography." Once again, a massive amount of appalling evidence was seized, with most of the material featuring "scenes of children being raped and sexually abused."
The Independent reported in February 2001: "Detectives working on the [Wonderland] case discovered that many of the paedophiles were also members of other child pornography groups." One of the groups most closely tied to Wonderland was a ring known as the Orchid Club, which had been exposed by a 1996 investigation in San Jose, California. That investigation had led to the indictment of sixteen men on charges of conspiring to produce and exchange child pornography. Members of the club were identified in at least nine states and three foreign countries. By the time of the Wonderland raids, the Mercury News was able to report that the purported ringleader of the Orchid Club and "twelve others either have pleaded guilty or have been convicted in connection with that case." Their crimes included recruiting "young relatives and friends of their own children to be molested and photographed."
The club was also, like Wonderland, involved in "real-time exploitation of children" on the Internet. Club members were able to send in requests and have them acted-out on live feeds. The club also held a pedophile 'summit,' at which members "traded stories about pre-teen girls they had molested and photographed in sexually explicit poses." The summit was held, appropriately enough, on April 20 - the birth date of Adolph Hitler and a significant occult holiday.
In late March 2001, yet another interlinked, global pedophile network was exposed. That month, the Independent reported, "US authorities announced the arrest of four American citizens for involvement in an international child-porn ring called Blue Orchid." The Los Angeles Times added further details: "the United States and Russia have shut down a Moscow-based international pornography ring that used the Internet to sell videotapes of children engaged in sexual acts." These tapes were said to sell for "between $200 and $300." As an Associated Press release revealed, "police seized some 600 videotapes, 200 digital video disks and many boxes of photographs." Video duplication equipment and sales and shipping records were also seized, leading to "criminal inquiries in 24 nations . Many of the tapes were bought by people in the United States; others went to Germany, Britain, France, Denmark, China, Kuwait, Mexico and scores of other countries."
The Times reported that nine people had been arrested and fifteen search warrants had been issued in the case. The AP report noted that four of those arrests were in Russia, where two suspects, alas, had "committed suicide." The ring was also said by the Times to offer what were cryptically referred to as "custom-made videos" for the hefty price of $5,000 each. The contents of these videos were not revealed, but it was revealed that the "prevalence of child pornography has increased dramatically with the growth of the Internet. There are approximately 100,000 web sites worldwide associated with child pornography."
This point was reinforced the next day when the British press reported police raids on yet another pedophile ring. A report in the Guardian held "more than 30 people, including a . man working for a national youth organization, were arrested yesterday in dawn raids on the homes of suspected paedophiles." Once again being sold and traded were images "which showed children being abused." A report on the case in the Independent quoted a law enforcement spokesman as revealing, "that those arrested included members of 'some interesting professions,'" though the source demurred from revealing what those professions might be. The official did say that they had "a disturbing scenario of one or two juveniles who have been caught in this way. One of them appears to be a 13-year-old boy." The police acknowledged that the arrested boy was "also a potential victim and would be treated in that light," which seems rather obvious. Nevertheless, a follow-up to the story that the Independent ran in May held that the boy had become "one of the youngest people to be listed on the sex offenders' register."
The next month, the Guardian carried a report on Eric Franklin Rosser - accused child pornographer, one of the FBI's ten-most-wanted criminals, and a former keyboardist for John Cougar Mellencamp's band. According to the report, "investigators believe Rosser's material is among pornography circulated by a British paedophile ring . More than 1,800 members are thought to belong to a club called Teenboys. Its website features boys aged around 12 . Teenboys is considered bigger than the notorious Wonderland Club."
In September 2001, the Scottish Daily Record reported that a "Salvation Army couple working on a British army base have been arrested in a massive paedophile crackdown." Seized from the couple's home were "some 400 videotapes . computers, discs, photographs and other material . images of children as young as two have been found." The same report claimed "a massive vice probe into kiddie porn in the USA would expose some of the biggest names in Hollywood as paedophiles. A federal investigation, codenamed Operation Avalanche, has already resulted in over 100 arrests - and the US Department of Justice say there will be hundreds more, including celebrities." Lori Rabjohns, identified as a Justice Department spokeswoman, was quoted as saying: "These are people who appear upstanding members of society . We're talking doctors, lawyers - and celebrities."
The investigation came about as a result of a raid on the Ft. Worth, Texas home of Thomas and Janice Reedy, who had been operating a business called Landslide Productions, which offered child pornography for sale over the Internet. The Reedy's website, according to the Independent, functioned as a portal to "more than 5,700 websites with names such as Child Rape and Cyber Lolita." The Reedys had made millions of dollars from their child porn business, which "employed more than a dozen staff, including a customer service representative and a receptionist." This financial empire was built with "money raised from the torture, rape and sexual abuse of children as young as two."
The raid on the Reedy's home, conducted in September 1999, unexpectedly yielded a database of the names and addresses of a reported 75,000 subscribers around the world. According to a report carried in February 2002 by TechTV, "more than 35,000 [of those] individual subscribers [were] in the United States." Nevertheless, only 100 arrests had been made at that time of the report - a number that remained unchanged in the months after the initial arrests. By early 2003, the story had dropped out of sight with little indication that there would be any further arrests, despite Chief Postal Inspector Kenneth Weaver's earlier insistence that the initial arrests were just "the tip of the iceberg."
More than 7,000 subscribers to the site were British citizens. Their names, addresses and credit card information were provided by the FBI to British authorities, who launched an investigation paralleling Operation Avalanche that was dubbed Operation Ore. As in America, only a few of the known offenders have thus far been arrested. Included among those questioned by police have been television personality Matthew Kelly and legendary guitarist Pete Townshend.
Rushing to Townshend's defense was The Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn, who earlier played a prominent role in denouncing the McMartin prosecutions. In a posting on his Counterpunch website from February 2003, Cockburn grossly misrepresented the nature of the charges against Townshend. He charged that, according to the Supreme Court, "'porn' encompass[es] even clothed images of children if they are construed as arousing. 'Child' means anyone under 18." Cockburn labeled Townshend's arrest "absurd," and claimed that if you "have a photo of a kid in a bath on your hard drive, and the prosecutor says you were looking at it with lust in your heart, [then] that is tantamount to sexually molesting an actual kid in an actual bath."
Cockburn was clearly trying to convey the impression that Townshend and others are the innocent victims of overzealous prosecutors. It will be recalled, however, that the images that the Landslide website was offering to Townshend and other subscribers were images of "the torture, rape and sexual abuse of children as young as two." Those are not the types of images that would easily be mistaken for innocent pictures of a child taking a bath.
Also included among the 7,272 suspects in the United Kingdom, according to the Observer, were "hundreds of child welfare professionals, including police officers, care workers and teachers," all of whom were "identified as 'extremely high-risk' paedophiles." Particularly well represented on the list were law enforcement personnel: "Investigators now believe as many as 90 police officers have so far been identified from an initial trawl of 200 of the British names found in the U.S. Many of the other suspects work in other sensitive professions, often linked to the criminal justice system."
On November 4, 2002, the Independent carried a brief report that noted that virtually all of the British suspects had "yet to be investigated despite the police having their details for four months." All the information on the suspects was sent in July 2002 to the fifty-one police departments throughout Great Britain, but "despite detailed intelligence, nearly all of the suspected paedophiles remain at large." No mention was made of why it took U.S. authorities nearly three years to get the information to their UK counterparts. In January 2003, the Sunday Herald announced that the "police inquiry which plans to arrest a further 7000 men across the UK . is set to end in disaster with many suspects walking free." Detective Chief Inspector Bob McLachlan, the former head of Scotland Yard's paedophile unit, told the Sunday Herald, "the lack of urgency in making arrests will lead to suspects destroying evidence . before they are arrested." McLachlan also told the Herald that claims made by police chiefs and the government that they are prioritizing pedophile crime are nothing but "smoke and mirrors."
The final line of the Sunday Herald article revealed that, according to police, there were enough "rich and famous Operation Ore suspects [to] fill newspaper front pages for an entire year." According to The Register and the Sunday Times (which reportedly obtained, but did not publish, all 7,272 names), the list of suspects included "at least 20 senior executives, . services personnel from at least five military bases, GPs, university academics and civil servants." Also on the list were a "famous newspaper columnist . along with a songwriter for a legendary pop band and a member of another chart-topping 1980s cult pop group, along with an official with the Church of England."
It is unlikely that any of those suspects, nor the "high-profile former Labour Cabinet minister" mentioned by the Sunday Herald, will ever be prosecuted. In August 2003, Scotland on Sunday reported that the Scottish arm of the "massive internet child pornography investigation Operation Ore has ended . without anybody being charged with sex abuse." An unnamed Scottish police chief said that that outcome "would not trouble us if we thought that all the men who were looking at child porn on their computer were just sad creeps who did not pose a risk to the children in their lives, but that is not the conclusion that was drawn from every raid." To the contrary, what investigators repeatedly encountered was evidence that suspects were engaged in the ongoing abuse of children.
In March 2002, Knight Ridder carried a report that stated: "Postal inspectors, the FBI and Canadian authorities have broken up an underground network of adults who traded pornographic videos of children - sometimes their own - being brutally beaten." At the time that the report was filed, ten perpetrators had already been convicted and "more arrests are expected in the ongoing investigation of what authorities described . as a unique case." According to Raymond Smith, head of the Postal Service's child exploitation investigations: "We've seen organized networks of sadomasochistic beatings with adults before, but this is the first time we've seen it with children."
In an apparent attempt to downplay the appalling behavior uncovered by the investigation, a postal inspector named Michael Galuppo described the ring as "a bizarre group of people obsessed with spanking children for sexual gratification." "Spanking," it should be noted, is a rather odd way to describe what in fact were brutally sadistic beatings involving "whips, hairbrushes, canes and wooden paddles." The abuse was so severe that at least one of the children depicted on videotape "suffered permanent disfigurement from beatings that investigators said went on for 'years.'" Among those convicted in the case were "a middle school teacher . a nurse and former Boy Scout leader . [and] a former Sunday school teacher."
Just months later, in August 2002, the Independent reported that U.S. authorities had "announced the discovery of a 'despicable' child pornography ring stretching to Britain and continental Europe, in which parents sexually abused their children and distributed photographs of them over the internet . Robert Bonner, The Customs Commissioner, said he was particularly shocked to see the degree of collusion by parents. 'If this isn't unusual, God help us . I've rarely seen crimes as despicable and repugnant.'" Of the sixteen suspects arrested in the U.S., one "committed suicide shortly after being arrested."
These cases were not, of course, in any way "unique" or "unusual," as veteran Customs and Postal Service officials, with experience investigating cases of child exploitation, should know.
In September 2003, the International Herald Tribune carried a report from Berlin concerning "an international police investigation [that] had uncovered an immense child pornography ring involving 26,500 suspects who swapped illegal images on the Internet in 166 countries." More than 500 homes in Germany were searched and hundreds of computers were seized, along with tens of thousands of CD-ROMs, diskettes, and videotapes. One seized image "showed a baby of four months being abused." A statement issued by the German Interior and Justice Ministries warned that many of the suspects, a number of whom are reportedly teachers and police officials, "are extremely dangerous pedophiles and are from all walks of life." About 800 of those suspects reside in the United States.
Curt Becker, the justice minister for the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, called for tougher laws to contend with the growing market for child pornography. He also directly challenged the notion that mere possession of such images is largely a victimless crime. "Every case of child pornography is a document of the sexual abuse of a child," Becker noted, and "every look at that image kills a child's soul."
A January 2003 Sunday Herald article revealed that police investigators had discovered "that images of Fred West abusing one of his children are among child pornography available for downloading from the Internet. It is unclear whether the child was West's murdered daughter Heather." Fred West was one of the UK's most notorious, and most prolific, serial killers. Shortly after being charged with twelve counts of murder, he died while in police custody, allegedly by his own hand. Like Dutroux, West had constructed a torture chamber in his cellar where his victims were filmed being raped, tortured, murdered and mutilated. The remains of nine of his victims, minus some missing parts, were discovered buried under his house and in his yard.
While we are on the subject of serial killers, The Irish Times carried the following report in July 1998:
Those serial killers sure come in handy sometimes.
Olenka Frenkiel for the BBC, May 2, 2002
". several prosecutors, policemen and crucial eyewitnesses have committed suicide. Important evidence has also disappeared. So maybe Dutroux is being protected from on high. What other explanation can there be for such a disgraceful chain of events?"
Andrew Osborn in the Guardian, January 25, 2002
"Bruno Tagliaferro, a Charleroi scrap metal merchant who knew Dutroux, claimed to know something about the car in which Julie and Melissa were kidnapped. But he was soon found dead, apparently of a heart attack. His wife Fabienne Jaupart, refused to accept the verdict and arranged for his body to be exhumed. Samples sent to the USA for analysis showed he'd been poisoned. Soon after, her teenage son found her dead at home in her bed, her mattress smouldering. Publicly it was declared suicide, or an accident. There have been 20 such unexplained deaths connected with Dutroux."
Olenka Frenkiel for the BBC, May 2, 2002
(inclusion in this anthology does not imply the author's endorsement or support of other authors on the subject included here.)
See more of Dave McGowan at The Center for Public Information, http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com