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Mist of ritual child abuse rises again

Sun 26th June 2005

Martin Van Beynan Christchurch Press

You would have been shocked, as I was, by a story from Britain last week about the latest terrible turn in child abuse.

The story, which would have found its way into most major world newspapers, was about a study done for the London police by a social worker and lawyer into the beliefs of immigrant African and Asian communities in ritualistic abuse.

I’m sensitive to this sort of stuff because I wrote one of these sorts of articles in 1991, during a sad period in Christchurch’s history when a mist of unreasoning belief in sadistic and organised child kidnapping and abuse seemed to descend on the city.

Covering the Family Violence Conference in September of that year, I interviewed specialists in the field of ritual abuse in New Zealand. Two Wellington counsellors, Jocelyn Frances and Ann-Marie Stapp, talked of having interviewed three people who had survived horrific satanic rituals undergone from an early age. They claimed about 20 more were seeking their help and said the floodgates were about to open on the practice.

Their credibility was bolstered by the supportive presence of Senior Sergeant Laurie Gabites, of the NZ police, who had been on a study trip to the United States to study the slowly emerging evil. Chillingly, he reported seeing child pornography in the US that could be traced back to New Zealand. He never said what became of the police investigation into the pornography.

I obligingly recycled all their claims in a story for this publication, which author of A City Possessed, Lynley Hood, kindly credits as having an influence on the subsequent satanic panic in Christchurch and the Christchurch civic creche case that started the same year.

Later, of course, it turned out all the ritual abuse claims at the family conference I covered in 1991 were nonsense and based mainly on recovered memories of long-distant pasts by deranged women seeking attention.

No-one was subsequently arrested and the alleged middle- class conspiracy of complicit lawyers, judges and police officers was never supported by a shred of evidence. Jocelyn Frances turned out to be a benefit fraudster and the career of Laurie Gabites seems not to have gone very far afterwards. It also later turned out that an FBI agent, reviewing all the bureau’s investigations into ritual abuse rings in the US, found not a single case had actually been substantiated.

So forgive me for being a little sceptical about the latest allegations in London. And if I was an African parent living in London with nothing to hide, I would be very afraid.

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