Paedophile ring's 30 years of abuse

Ian Burrell
Thursday 17 September 1998 00:02

SCOTLAND YARD revealed last night that paedophiles who infiltrated a breakaway scout association have sexually assaulted up to 300 children over the past 30 years in one of the worst cases of abuse uncovered in Britain.

Detectives, who are still investigating, believe that the paedophile ring has been operating since the early Sixties. Some of their victims have been as young as eight. Officers found a library of child pornography, 14,000 negatives and 350 videos. The photographs were of 52 boys, most of whom have yet to be traced.

The men belonged to the UK Baden-Powell Scout Association, which broke away from the main scouting movement in the late Sixties. The group has 100 lodges and 2,000 boys.

Among those involved is Brian Turner, 60, an associate of the notorious paedophile, Sydney Cooke, who was jailed for the manslaughter of the 14- year-old rent boy Jason Swift.

Turner was known to the other men as the "chickenmaster" for his ability to procure children - referred to as "chickens" by paedophiles.

He and three scoutmasters, Keith Spratt, 49, Robert Kearns, 50, and Dennis Ward, 66, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to sex offences involving four boys, one a scout. They will be sentenced next month.

Ivan Brentnall, the organisation's chief commissioner, said: "Our reaction is one of shock and disgust, that our leaders should have been guilty of such a breach of the trust that has been placed in them by our association, by the parents of the youngsters involved and by the scouts themselves."

Police disclosed that at least 10 other suspected members of the ring are still under investigation. They include teachers and social workers.

Five police forces are involved in the inquiry, which involves alleged sex offences against hundreds of children, mostly boys.

Police in Holland, France, Spain and Belgium are also conducting their own investigations after British boys were allegedly taken abroad on camping trips and sexually abused.

Details of the mass child abuse were released yesterday at the end of a series of trials and hearings involving scoutmasters.

A fourth scoutmaster, Malcolm Murchie, 37, of Dagenham, Essex, was cleared on Monday of conspiracy to bugger and indecently assault boys between 1990 and 1997.

Turner was one of 12 members of a paedophile ring who were captured in the Eighties. He was jailed for five years in 1987 for conspiracy to bugger and indecently assault boys. But after his release he continued his perversion.

Earlier this month Turner, from Enfield in Middlesex, pleaded guilty to seven counts of indecent assault, attempted buggery and conspiracy to commit indecent assault.

Spratt, of Bracknell, Berkshire, who held a senior position in the association, is listed on the Internet as the editor of the Baden-Powell Scouts' news- sheet. Kearns from west London was the assistant editor.

Both pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy to commit indecent assault between October 1995 and September 1997.

The pair were jailed last February at Southwark Crown Court, London, for other offences involving scouts. Kearns was sentenced to two and half years and Spratt was given 12 months.

They admitted conspiring to take indecent photographs dating back to 1982. Kearns pleaded guilty to possessing indecent photographs, and five charges of indecent assault on two scouts. He was jailed for two-and-a- half years and Spratt given 12 months.

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