Mike Siddall does excellent report on Jon Benet Ramsey and Ritual/Cult Abuse

14 Jan 2001

From the JET Report,

(iii) Research into the International Scene (USA, Canada and Holland) and the literature from the USA

Our third approach in this phase of the enquiry was to research what had been happening in the USA. This was undertaken as it was apparent to us that all the information and expert knowledge appeared to be emanating from there. In the USA the whole scenario of Satanic abuse started with the involvement of social worker Kee MacFarlaine of the Los Angeles Children's Institute International Child Sexual Abuse Clinic in the McMartin Infant School case which erupted in August 1983. This was closely followed by the Jordan Minnesota case in September 1983 in which the children alleged babies had been stabbed.

Following these cases there was a rapid nationwide rash of similar Satanic abuse cases in more than a hundred cities. MacFarlaine and her assistants interviewed over 400 children and told them they could be junior detectives by telling the "yukky" secret but would be dummies if they did not admit they had been molested by their teachers.... in the University of Minnesota Law Review she called for unconventional interviewing methods 'that do whatever it takes to get children to talk' .... After repeated interviewing produced statements about bizarre sex rituals in airplanes, hot air balloons, underground tunnels, graveyards, MacFarlaine told the press that the McMartin pre-school was part of a national network of kiddy pornographers and Satanists operating out of day care centres.

Criminal charges involving 41 children were eventually made although the Police initially claimed that they had 36 other suspects and no less than 1200 victims. A ten year old boy testifying in the case identified everyone from the City Attorney to a Priest and four Nuns as having molested him but later retracted. The children claimed to have witnessed Devil worship in the Church, been taken by their captors to cemeteries, been given red or pink liquid to make them sleepy, been buried alive, seen naked priests cavorting in a secret cellar below the school, seen one of the teachers fly and observed three abusers dressed up as witches. Interestingly some of these disclosures bear a marked similarity to those of the Broxtowe children.

The New Statesman recently noted that many of the children's descriptions have a marked similarity to events outlines in "Michelle Remembers" a well publicised book published in 1980. Debbie Nathan in The Voice, September 1987 wrote "In the McMartin case and its mini versions hundreds of children have offered vague, garbled contradictory horror stories with virtually no physical evidence to back them up. After repeated questioning many children have admitted they have lied. But in the minds of many protective service personnel they have merely recanted. Although these cases are not about incest the presumptions of the incest accommodation syndrome (children don't lie about incest but often recant in a desperate attempt to keep the family together) are applied; believe the child, however, sketchy the evidence and never take no for an answer."

The McMartin case, the largest and most expensive criminal trial in the USA, ended in January 1990 (a month after the Joint Enquiry Report was completed) with the acquittal of the defendants. The Daily Telegraph reported that "the verdict is an indictment of methods of investigating allegations of child sexual abuse in the USA. In this case child therapists will likely bear the blame for over-zealous investigations spurred on by their own belief in widespread sexual assault which implanted the bizarre accusations into the children's minds."

All the defendants in the Jordan, Minnesota trial were also acquitted but not before they had been financially ruined and everybody who believed them innocent (including the Deputy Sheriff and his wife) had been arrested so that a total of 24 people were eventually prosecuted. The prosecutor was subsequently reprimanded by the State Board of Professional Responsibility. In the hysteria that spread rapidly across the country in the months and years after the first accusations in August 1983 children alleged sexual abuse in graveyards, crypts and cellars, said that they were involved in rituals requiring the use and often ingestion of blood, that they had seen human bodies being eaten and abuse connected with burned or cooked babies (Chicago and Bakersfield).

Two investigative reporters, Charlier and Downing, who began a survey of ritual abuse in 1987 reported that in most cases the accusations rested on a child's word usually uncorroborated by physical evidence or adult testimony. Debbie Nathan wrote in 1987:

"MacFarlaine is not alone in believing in a Satanic conspiracy afoot throughout the country even though worldwide searches by everyone from parents to the FBI have failed to uncover one dirty picture, barbecued baby body or other incriminating object mentioned by the children who have been extensively interviewed. Lack of evidence does not seem to concern the Satanism proponents. Some believe everything the kids are saying to social workers and therapists is true."

In Bakersfield California Police excavated fields and dragged lakes where the children said the bodies of 23 children sacrificially murdered were located but nothing was found. In Toledo, Ohio police bulldozed a field after being told that a Satanic group had buried the bodies of 75 children there. 'Satanic artefacts' were found but no remains.

In Canada one of the most expensive and longest criminal trials started in 1985 in Hamilton Ontario after two children aged 7 and 4 alleged to their foster parents who kept drawings and diaries that they were forced to take part in acts of cannibalism, Satanic rituals, human and animal sacrifices and bizarre sexual activities. The children were committed to care but no physical evidence supporting the allegations was found and the Police closed the case which resulted in considerable conflict with the welfare agencies. It is interesting that similar allegations of ritual abuse were subsequently made by unrelated children who were placed in the same foster home.

It has recently been reported that at Oude Pekela in Holland an 18 months investigation into Satanic abuse by the police provided no concrete and incriminating evidence and the result of this investigation led to a breakdown in relationships between the Police and the welfare agencies.

We were particularly interested in the author of the Satanic indictors which Mr. W. had used to brief the staff and the children's foster parents. We asked the British Embassy in Washington USA to research his background and received the reply that he had no medical background (despite his claim to be a medical consultant) and that he was a social worker who was unpublished, had no educational pedigree and that he was not taken very seriously by the FBI. The Embassy also reported that they could find no evidence in the USA to directly connect 'Satanic Cult' groups with child abuse. We had been suspicious that this expert claimed that victims of Satanic abuse were "often in day centres" and that in his guidelines to Police investigation he stated "approach all Day Care Centres as all kids are victims and all teachers are perpetrators until your field is narrowed".

We had previously been made aware that an extreme right wing branch of the Republican Party funded by Presidential Candidate, Lyndon La Rouche had been spreading material throughout the USA claiming that Day Centre Workers, Social Workers and other 'lefties' were Satanists abusing children and that this was part of a communist conspiracy to undermine the family. Apparently extreme right-wingers were unhappy at the allegation of parents sexually abusing their children as they perceived this as an attack upon the family. As a response they had conceived the conspiracy theory as an alternative explanation. We do not know whether this was an influence in the USA cases but we understand many of the convictions were of Day Care Workers based solely upon the bizarre testimony of young children as related to experts without any actual corroborative evidence. In view of this scenario and our research into American cases we would not accept that any literature from the USA is reliable unless it is supported by corroborative empirical evidence.

(iv) Interviews with Experts previously used by Social Services

Our fourth approach was to check upon the basis for the experts' views. As Mr. W. was paid as a consultant by Social Services and used the Satanic indicators to brief the foster parents we interviewed him first. In our view he was extremely vague and evasive and could give no evidence to support his assertions beyond a few cases that we subsequently checked with negative results. Likewise, Dr. W. was in our opinion vague and could provide us with no evidence for his claims. The Adviser to the Bishop on the Occult was in our view vague and could provide us with no evidence that could be checked.

The Researcher for the Cook Programme from whom Mr. W. obtained the Satanic indicators told us that after three years research he had found no tangible evidence of Satanic abuse and doubted its existence. The NSPCC in London were contacted but referred us to Nottingham Social Services who had provided them with their material. They were not aware of any other cases.

At this stage in our enquiry we had begun to form the view that Satanic abuse as a phenomenon was based on either or both of the following:-

- a political weapon to discredit opponents

- therapists unwittingly inventing it themselves.

We had not found any physical corroborative evidence in the Broxtowe case and no longer believed the children's diaries substantiated the claim of Satanic abuse. In our view they reflected other influences and were open to alternative interpretations. Our research indicated that nobody else had found corroborative physical evidence either. All the evidence for its existence appears to be based upon disturbed children and adults claiming involvement during interviews by social workers, psychiatrists, and Church Ministers who already themselves believed in its existence. It seemed possible that Satanic abuse only existed in the minds of people who wanted or needed to believe in it. In the USA the result had been a modern day witch hunt which had ruined the lives of many innocent people.

and later,


a) The Effect of the Broxtowe Case on the Social Services Department

If we are correct in our findings and judgements there appear to be the following implications:-

1. That children could be emotionally abused

We have to consider the damage that may have been done to the children in working with them on the basis that they had been involved in experiences such as the slaughter of sheep and the killing of babies that had not actually happened. What has been done to [Mary] by convincing her that she was a child murderer who had indulged in acts of cannibalism or that she might kill again if she did not feel guilty?

2. The possibility of gross injustice

[Craig] identified a lodger (by means of a photograph) who lived with his aunt for a few months when he was no more than two and a half years of age. He also dictated a letter which could be used in a Wardship Hearing alleging that she was a witch who held witch parties and sexually abused him. If [Amy] had not retracted her disclosures twelve children could have been removed from their homes.

3. The influence of the Social Services Department nationally

The staff of our Social Services Department appear to be perceived as experts on Satanic ritualistic abuse and gave a presentation at a conference in Reading in September 1989 which included 230 representative from child protection agencies, child psychologists, police and social workers. The conference was told that the Nottingham Case appeared to involve Satanic rituals, that the staff were convinced the children were telling the truth and that they now gave advice to other social workers seeking information on Satanic rituals. The conference was reported in the press and a tape of it can be purchased. We are aware that many Police forces and Scotland Yard had intended to use this as substantiated evidence of Satanic abuse.

Social Services staff have given a presentation to all Nottinghamshire Area Directors and Group Principal Hospital Social Workers. We understand from an independent participant at the Presentation that it was convincing.

4. Police perception of Social Services Department

It is clear to us that the recent satellite cases have gravely damaged the Social Services Department's reputation with the Police. The Police have complained to us that children in care are alleging murder but they have then been kept in the dark for a considerable period of time before the children are ready for the Police interview. The Police have been astonished at some of the allegations that appear to be accepted by social workers such as the cooking of babies in microwave ovens (the body, we are told would explode).

A straightforward Police interview quickly discredited the children's allegations. [Reggie], for example, went on to include adults being cooked in microwave ovens. The Police subsequently learned that the social services claimed that Police Officers could not do satisfactory interviews of this type of disclosure. It is not surprising that some Police officers have become very angry and that the credibility of the Social Services Department has suffered.

b) Police - Social Service Relationships

We consider that the unwillingness of the Police to agree to joint working in the aftermath of the Broxtowe case led eventually to distrust and a failure of communication which contributed to the Social Services Department developing and enlarging upon its concept of Satanic ritual abuse. It would appear to us that the Social Services Department was never really aware of the full extent of the Police enquiries but was asked to accept assertions without detailed evidence being presented. By the time of the briefing at Hucknall it was too late and any additional information that appeared to dispute the Police findings created suspicion that no proper investigation had taken place. We consider that this was particularly unfortunate as the basis for the Police view was in our opinion fundamentally sound. They had investigated locations thoroughly, they were sceptical at the idea of the family murdering children in a semi-detached council house, (particularly after interviewing neighbours). They were aware that the adults were totally unreliable, they were suspicious as to the validity of the American literature and they had doubts about the interpretation of the diaries. We were surprised to discover that the Police had actually researched witchcraft and Satanism quite thoroughly.

Our own experience as a team has proved that Police and social workers can work perfectly well together and that they have more in common than suspected. The empirical approach of the Police with its emphasis upon evidence and checking can blend quite well with the rationalistic approach of social workers with its emphasis upon establishing hypotheses, logical consequences and an information base.

Faced with a very complex situation, however, (such as a paedophile ring) we would consider that it would be essential for the Police and social workers to be located in the same office together so that a trusting relationship based upon mutual respect and open debate could develop. Otherwise the preconceived stereotypes and differences in style, organisation and decision making would be likely to get in the way. We do not consider that in a "Broxtowe type of case" that real joint working could be achieved by meetings alone.

It is our view that if the current situation is allowed to persist that there could be a total breakdown of Police/Social Service relationships with incalculable consequences. At the present we are told that this has almost happened in one Police Division but it could spread to the rest of the county.

Parts of this report make uncomfortable reading, however, we take comfort from the following:

We consider that it is to the credit of Nottinghamshire, that faced with a very difficult situation, the initiative was taken to give the resources to set up a unique Police/Social Services team with independence and freedom. As far as we are aware this has never happened elsewhere.

Our own experience has proved that the Police and Social Services can work very well together and this should bode well for the long term

future. We hope that we have found a true perspective that has eluded other agencies. Both the USA and Canada have had the most expensive trials in their history. However, we consider that a great deal of extra work needs to be done with regard to further validation of our hypothesis re the connection between therapeutic/disclosure work and the children's stories of 'Satanic/ritual' abuse. We hope this report will see the start of a wider and more comprehensive investigation nationally.

If our conclusions are well founded then we hope that we have done something to prevent a repetition of the USA experience in this country. Recently claims have been made in the social work press that sexual abuse is occurring in 75% or even 100% of the nation's children's homes and the same report included ritual abuse in this context. In the Observer it was reported recently that "In the States, women abusers in day nurseries and in ritual abuse have been written about". If this country followed the precedent of the USA the next step would be extensive allegations of ritual /Satanic and sexual abuse against residential and day care workers.

Mike Siddall


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