November 24 2014
– The detective who led the investigation into Britain’s most notorious child abusers has claimed there could be another 17 unsolved murders at the hands of the brutal gang.
Former Scotland Yard detective Roger Stoodley also believes investigation files relating to the group – which abducted, abused and murdered children during the 1980s – could contain vital evidence about a VIP paedophile ring which allegedly abused boys at a London guest house.
Under Operation Orchid, Mr Stoodley helped expose the murders of three children by a gang of paedophiles, of which fairground worker Sidney Cooke was one of the ringleaders.
The victims were Jason Swift, 14, six-year-old Barry Lewis and Mark Tildesley, seven.
Tip-off: Vishambar Mehrotra said soon after his son vanished a male prostitute told him he was taken to the Elm Guest House, pictured, where a VIP paedophile ring abused children +6
A former detective says there could be 17 unsolved murders linked to a group of child killers including Sidney Cooke (left) and that the investigation could hold evidence about a paedophile ring which allegedly abused boys at Elm Guest House (right)
But detectives believed at the time that as many as 17 other abductions and murders were connected to the notorious gang.
Mr Stoodley said detectives worked on the premise that there were 20 victims involved in Cooke’s gang, but that only three were established.
‘It seems unbelievable but we were told there may have been twenty paedophile murders,’ he said. ‘We proved there were three and there may have been more. There are potentially 17 unsolved murders.’
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Detectives at the time also investigated links between Cooke’s group and the Elm Guest House in Barnes – where it is alleged politicians and other VIPs attacked and abused children – but could not find a link.
Scotland Yard last week launched a new probe into the possibility of murders linked to the guest house, which is at the centre of the inquiry into the establishment paedophile conspiracy.
Mr Stoodley told the Times: ‘The Orchid files – if they still exist – could hold the key to renewed concerns over the handling of police investigations into two child abductions.
‘Elm Guest House came up in our inquiry but it was not within our remit at the time. It is in our system but we could not establish a link with Cooke.’
Mystery: Vishal Mehrota’s father claimed today his son was abducted, abused and murdered by the Westminster VIP paedophile ring +6
Vishambar Mehrotra +6
Vishal Mehrotra’s father Vishambar (right) has claimed his son (left) was abducted, abused and murdered by a Westminster VIP paedophile ring which he says was linked to the guest house
Mr Stoodley believes the connection may have been through Leonard Smith, one of Cooke’s accomplices, who may have been a male prostitute at Elm Guest House.
He said: ‘We had reason to believe he could have gone there in the past, but Smith would never cooperate with us. He refused to speak. He would always just say “no comment”. And he is dead now.’
He added: ‘The lot we put away were dirty, disgusting individuals. I don’t think their paths would ever have crossed with those visiting Elm Guest House because they moved in different circles.’
Yesterday, the families of eight-year-old Vishal Mehrotra, who was abducted and murdered in 1981, and Martin Allen, 15, who disappeared in 1979, called on the Metropolitan Police to see whether the two rings are connected.
Mehrotra, 69, a retired magistrate, said a male prostitute told him that Vishal was taken to the Elm Guest House where high-profile abusers attacked children.
There are potentially 17 unsolved murders
Scotland Yard’s former detective chief superintendent Roger Stoodley
Mr Mehota recorded the conversation but when he presented police with the evidence, Scotland Yard ‘pooh poohed’ it and failed to investigate, he alleged.
The skull and several rib bones of Vishal were discovered in 1982 by pigeon shooters in remote marshland at Durford Abbey Farm, at Rogate, close to the Hampshire-West Sussex border.
Vishal, from Putney, south-west London, had vanished while shopping with his nanny and sister on July 29, 1981 – the same day Lady Diana Spencer and the Prince of Wales were married.
In June 1982, four months after Vishal’s remains were found, police raided the Elm Guest House and it was widely reported at the time that the raids were linked to the boy’s disappearance.
Mr Stoodley said the disappearances of Vishal and Martin ‘matched the modus operandi’ of Cooke and his associates.
Cooke’s gang worked by luring boys away while they were walking on their own. They also groomed them for abuse.
Operation Orchid, which was wound up shortly after Mr Stoodley retired in 1992, resulted in Cooke serving two life sentences for sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, detective Jackie Malton, who worked on the original case, told the Daily Telegraph she had a feeling of ‘misuse of power’ during her time at Scotland Yard.
Miss Malton, a former detective chief inspector and the inspiration for the Prime Suspect TV drama series, said: ‘There is clear evidence that something was happening at that guest house.
It has been alleged several high-profile individuals also abused boys at the prestigious Dolphin Square (pictured) development in Pimlico +6
It has been alleged several high-profile individuals also abused boys at the prestigious Dolphin Square (pictured) development in Pimlico
‘If nothing has been done about it in retrospect, then Mr Mehrotra is right. Either the police disbelieved it, or they covered it up one way or another.
‘I do remember that the officers were highly passionate about the Mehrotra case, but for some reason we never managed to get anywhere.’
She added: ‘There was also a strong sense of the power of Parliament and of politicians. It was very much a case of ‘Do as you are told.’
The new probe into the guest house was triggered after another victim came forward alleging to have witnessed the murder of three boys, including one who was allegedly strangled by a Conservative MP during a sex game.
The Metropolitan Police announced last week that it is investigating the possibility of murders linked to the Elm Guest House.
Allegations of a VIP paedophile ring 30 years ago are being investigated by Scotland Yard through Operation Fairbank, launched two years.
Operation Fairbank started in response to information passed on by MP Tom Watson, who used Prime Minister’s Questions in 2012 to air claims that there was a paedophile ring with links to No 10.
The late Liberal MP Cyril Smith is one public figure widely alleged to have abused children from Grafton Close at the Elm Guest House.
As well as Elm Guest House, some of the abuse allegedly took place at flats in Dolphin Square, Pimlico, where some politicians had London homes.
A spokesman for the force said it would not give a ‘running commentary’ on the inquiries.
LEADER OF THE DIRTY DOZEN: SIDNEY COOKE AND HIS PAEDOPHILE RING
Sidney Cooke (pictured right), a former fairground worker, earned his reputation as one of the country’s most notorious paedophiles when he was a leading member of a gang that operated from a flat in Hackney, east London.
The gang, known as the Dirty Dozen, hired out rent boys or snatched children off the streets before subjecting them to abuse and sexual torture.
Cooke – known as ‘Hissing Sid’ – was released from jail in April 1999, after serving nine years for the murder of 14-year-old rent boy Jason Swift in 1985.
But, after his release, he was immediately taken into voluntary custody for his own safety.
Detectives, convinced he was responsible for other similar unsolved crimes, kept his file open.
Within months Cooke, now aged 87, was accused of abusing two teenage brothers he befriended while working on fairgrounds more than 30 years ago.
In an unexpected move at Manchester Crown Court, Cooke suddenly changed his plea to guilty and admitted ten offences against the youngsters and subsequently received two life sentences.
Four charges of rape, a further three of indecent assault and one of buggery were left on the court file.
Cooke was convicted for Jason Swift’s murder alonside Leslie Bailey, Robert Oliver and Steven Barrell.
Bailey was convicted in 1992 of the manslaughter of seven-year-old Mark Tildesley who was raped in Cooke’s caravan while visiting a fairground near Wokingham, Berkshire, in 1984.
Bailey was also convicted of the murder of Barry Lewis, six, who was abducted in June 1991 before being sexually abused by up to eight men.
Cooke is still in jail. Bailey was murdered in his prison cell in 1993 and Oliver was reported to be living in a bail hostel in Guildford, Surrey. The whereabouts of Barrell are unknown.
– Steph Cockroft