LONDON: There is no more ordinary-looking row of suburban Edwardian houses in the country than Rocks Lane, south-west London. But nowhere has given rise to such an outlandish series of allegations than the one formerly known as Elm Guest House.
The claims are now being re-investigated by the Metropolitan Police, decades after they were first made. Attempts have been made by care workers to lay bare the secrets of Rocks Lane but to no avail. Whatever the outcome of their investigations in the past, the police seem convinced that a number of serious wrongs need to be righted.
Rocks Lane is a conspiracy theorist’s dream, taking in allegations of the grooming of young boys in care for sex, elaborate gay parties involving senior public figures including members of the Conservative Party, charges of a police cover-up and even the suggestion of murder.
The police believe that in the context of the Jimmy Savile scandal and renewed claims over the treatment of boys in care in North Wales, there is every reason to look again at an extremely murky saga.
A month ago, in conditions of the utmost secrecy (so much so that nothing was even put on computers), the Metropolitan Police set up Operation Fairbank to look into, among other things, allegations made by Tom Watson in the House of Commons.
The Labour MP had spoken of a “powerful paedophile ring” and its links to a previous prime minister’s “senior adviser”. Mr Watson has been uncharacteristically diffident about speaking to journalists on the issue since then, saying that he is passing on any information to the police. He said on Saturday: “I’m not seeking to add any specific allegations myself, but hope that my comments will help the authorities get to the bottom of this.”
What is known is that in the late 1970s, the Elm Guest House on Rocks Lane was a safe, unthreatening meeting place for homosexual men free from the stigma of a sexual orientation legalised barely a decade earlier.
According to a former friend of Carole Kasir, the guest house’s German-born manager, she initially regarded herself as offering gay men an opportunity to “be themselves” without fear. Rocks Lane, which overlooks a playing field, was known to homosexual men as it is close to Barnes Common, itself popular with gay men for cruising.
But Elm Guest House’s willingness to accommodate a small industry (“It became a convenient place for rent boys to take their clients,” says one person familiar with the place), began to attract the attentions of the local police force. One neighbour remembers a months-long police stakeout: “They were there all the time. Police hiding behind the trees to look at the property was a running joke with the neighbours.”
In 1982, the police learned that one of the guest house’s parties was to take place, and the Met’s notorious Special Patrol Group, the precursor of the Territorial Support Group, duly raided the property, resulting in a number of charges being brought against Kasir.
The fact that two police officers were in the house at the time of the raid has fed the speculation.
The Independent has established that, according to an officer closely involved at the time, two officers were embedded as guests in the property for two or three days, one even pretending to have a broken arm, hiding a police radio in a plaster cast to make secret recordings. If there was a cover-up, it appears not to have involved the local police force, who seem to have been assiduous in seeking to have the place closed down.
As many as 12 boys gave evidence to the police to the effect that they had been abused by men at the house, The Independent has established, but the only conviction was the comparatively minor one of running a disorderly house (ie, a brothel).
“Abused boys do not always make the most impressive of witnesses once they get into the witness box,” someone involved in the case said. “The real unlawful activity was underage sex. The police should have been able to make the other charges stick, but the boys were only ever interviewed with a view to them being witnesses against Carole, not as kids who were abused themselves.”
The place continued to attract speculation. Who was at that party has never been established, but as time went on, more and more allegations began to emerge about Rocks Lane. The local police paved the way for the raid, but at some stage Special Branch felt the need to get involved.