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Frank E. Burroughs 3271 Kenwood Place Ft Lauderdale, FL 33311
British charity worker Simon Harris, 55, who lived in Kenya for 20 years, was on February 26, 2015 sentenced to 17 years and four months in jail by the Birmingham Crown Court.
A dusty, bumpy ride up a hill off the Gilgil-Nyahururu road brings us to Simon Harris’ house in the Ridge Mount suburban village of Gilgil town. It is an area populated mostly by White settlers.
Harris’ house, a secluded bungalow popularly known here as the Green House — probably for its green roof — sits on a five-acre piece of land on the slopes of one of the hills that dot the landscape.
However, a young man we shall call Dom — we cannot reveal his identity because of legal and ethical considerations — thinks the house is labelled “green” more for the evergreen lawn and hedge than the colour of its roof.
Harris, a 55-year-old former teacher from Herefordshire, England, moved to Kenya in the 1990s to do charity work under the ambit of an organisation called VAE that flew in English students to teach in deprived Kenyan schools during their gap year. He fell in love with the country, and henceforth divided his time between Britain and Gilgil.
Under the same organisation, he hatched a plan to destitute street children by giving them an education.
This, it would later turn out, was the charade the Briton used to get close to tens of street boys he was found guilty of molesting; young, innocent boys like Dom and his friend Joe, with whom I am visiting Harris’ home.
Dom, now a brawny young man of 25, has been on the streets for as long as he can recall. That is how he became one of Harris’ victims for years. He started coming to this house when he was only eight years old, and says he has been here several times.
As they show me around the house, he narrates the disturbing story of the genial-looking, balding white man who first enticed them with bread and milk. Then with clean clothes.
Harris, a man described by British police as one of Britain’s most prolific paedophiles, left the UK after being investigated for abusing pupils at Shebbear College in Devon, where he had been a housemaster in the 1980s. He resigned from the school while investigations were underway.
It was after this that in the 1990s he relocated to Kenya and started his “social work” in Gilgil. Here he was a revered and respected member of the upper crust of society, and is even said to have been a good friend of area leaders, particularly the local Member of Parliament, before his arrest in the UK.
Friends in high places notwithstanding, Simon Harris will be serving a jail term of 17 years and four months following a sentence handed down to him by the Birmingham Crown Court late last month after being found guilty of eight charges of indecent and sexual assault on the boys in Gilgil, and four for possessing indecent images of children.
At the beginning of his eight-week trial in October 2014, Harris admitted to six offences of abusing the Shebbear College boys in the 1980s. Trial Judge Phillip Parker said Harris would serve at least half of that sentence before being considered for parole.
But all this is almost surreal for many in the sleepy town of Gilgil, for, to them, Harris was the kind old mzungu social worker who crusaded for the education of the less-privileged — the reason no one in Gilgil raised an eyebrow when Harris started carrying dirty street boys around in his white Land Rover and taking them to his magnificent abode for a “warm bath” and a “hot meal”.
To Milka Muthoni, a grocery vendor in the town, Harris was an idol, the epitome of altruism.
“He preached the virtue of education and why all children, even the derelict, needed be in class,” she said last week. “We held him in very high esteem, and so it was hard to believe the story when it broke.”
Indeed, what the locals saw was exactly what Harris wanted them to see. The veneer was the rich opulence that the well-regarded figure shared with the less privileged boys; but beneath it was what can only be described as criminality beyond imagination.
Naked boys wrapped in towels
Nights in his house, according to Dom and Joe, usually featured little naked boys wrapped in towels, smoking bhang, cigarettes and bingeing on alcoholic beverages. As regular as clockwork, that bingeing always ended up in homosexual sex.
In this house — now only a shell of its former self — deeds that still haunt this town’s street boys took place.
Dom motions me to the bathroom, where a magnificent porcelain-enamelled steel bathtub rests, as if patiently awaiting the next visitor.
“It is here that it would all start,” Dom says, pointing at the tub as he walks over to try the taps. They have since run dry.
The cabin shelves where all the exotic shampoos and shower gels, fresh towels and flannels were once stacked are now piling on the dust.
“After arriving at the house, Simon (Dom calls the molester by his first name) would fill the tub with warm water and pour in sweet smelling soaps. Then he would scrub us; one by one,” he recalls with a painful smile.
“After the bath he would smell you and tell you ever so cheerfully; ‘You smell so good, I could eat you’.”
The boys, he recalls, would be wrapped in fresh towels after the bath, then they would go to the sitting room to eat and watch TV as they were entertained with all sorts of alcoholic drinks and smokes. If you wished, you could go to bed.
With a baleful look — one he has worn since we arrived here — Joe, a lean boy who was only seven when Harris started molesting him, nods in agreement. He is now 12, shy, hardly ever looks up and is constantly twiddling his fingers. It is clear the room is a troubling reminder of what he went through.
“He would turn you on your stomach and make you do bad things with him, and sometimes he would make you do it with your friends,” he says timidly when I prompt him as we walk in through a door at the end of the corridor.
Dom interjects: “This is his bedroom.” A tiny, single-size bed stands in the corner. Interestingly, the adjacent bedroom is bigger. It was the boys’ communal bedroom and has a giant bed and plenty of room where the boys would sleep on the floor in sleeping bags, according to Dom.
“Not coming to this house meant sleeping in town on a veranda, cold and hungry,” says Dom. “Every time I came here it was because I thought I could get here and refuse to do the bad things.”
Dom says that one day, when he was aged 10, the old man put the other boys to bed “and then brought me to his bed, unwrapped my towel and started touching me”.
“When I realised what was happening I jumped out of bed and got into a sleeping bag,” he says. “But then he came for me on the floor and said he would beat me and throw me to the dog outside. I was scared.
“He had oils that he would pour on you before he started,” he goes on, but then trails off a few seconds later. Words fail him.
The man favoured boys who were co-operative, and they were always rewarded by being brought home often and given more clothes.
Sometimes he would be with just one boy for as long as a week, other times he would stay for a week with groups of about 10 boys before taking them back to town and fetching a fresh lot.
Paedophile Simon Harris went on with his abhorrent activities for more than 20 years using charity work as a front to worm his way into the community’s heart.
The Birmingham Crown Court trying the case heard that there might be as many as 70 boys who are now living with the emotional and psychological scars of his actions.
When British police launched their investigation into his activities in Gilgil, 40 victims came forward alleging they had been abused, although only 11 gave evidence in order to make the trial more manageable.
Kelvin Lay, senior investigating officer from the National Crime Agency’s CEOP command, said Simon Harris is “one of the most prolific child sex offenders I have ever come across”, and that “the full scale of his offending may never be known”.
“He hoped that by targeting the most vulnerable children in a rural location in Africa, he would get away with it,” said Lay. “Given a culture of extreme taboo regarding homosexuality in Kenya, we think those who have testified are only a very, very small fraction of his total number of victims.”
Dom and Joe were some of those who gave evidence. In order to present their evidence in court, officers had to set up a makeshift and secret courtroom in a small hotel where the boys were subjected to examination and cross-examination through a translator over a video link to the court in Birmingham.
Used, degraded and humiliated
Tragically, during the investigations, some of Harris’ victims said older boys had also taken to molesting them.
The judge, while handing his verdict, said Harris’ victims had been left used, degraded, and humiliated, and that “the mental scars will almost certainly never heal”.
The body of one of his victims, a young boy named Michael Mburu, was found hanging from a tree outside the Green House in December last year.
Mburu lived in the boys’ quarters, metres from the main house, with his father, John Gichinga, who had been a watchman of Harris’ since he bought the property in 1993.
Mburu is said to have committed suicide on December 7, just a few days before the jury returned its verdict.
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His charge that he was raped by Harris as a 15-year-old had been withdrawn midway through the trial because of a legal technicality over the time allowed in English law for when such accusations can be dealt with by a British court.
Although his testimony was not withdrawn as evidence — as it was considered a material part of both the prosecution and defence case — his father says after the news that his testimony had been withdrawn, Mburu started showing signs of stress.
“I never knew what was going on in that house because I never went in there,” says the old man, “It was my son who frequented it. He would be there till late in the night.”
To him, Harris was a jovial, kind man who loved to play football with the boys. In retrospect he regrets having ever allowed his son near the man.
“I have decided to launch a suit against him for the loss of my son,” he notes.
The abuses came to light in 2013, when Channel 4’s Unreported World travelled to Kenya to make a film about Restart Africa, a charity. During filming, producer-director Wael Dabbous discovered that some of the children they were filming were living in fear of a white British man called Simon Harris. Physical and sexual abuse were alleged.
Working with Dan Nderitu, a social worker at the Restart centre, Wael Dabbous began gathering evidence from street children who alleged they had been sexually abused by Harris. This information was passed on to the Kenyan authorities and the British police.
“In 2010 I reported to the local police that Harris was involved in some sinister stuff and should be investigated but nothing was done about it,” says Nderitu, who adds that he was disturbed when he caught Harris and the young boys smoking in his car once.
Meanwhile, in the UK the Channel 4 team established Harris was a registered sex offender, having served 15 months in a British jail for recording, buying and possessing child pornography.
He had subsequently been banned from working with children for life and travelling abroad after the 2009 conviction.
However, six months into the ban, Harris deceptively appealed the decision by presenting a dossier of letters from the Kenyan authorities to magistrates in Britain, claiming his activities would be monitored and he could safely be allowed to carry on visiting Kenya.
Having been successful in his appeal, he was left free to travel back and forth to Kenya, until he was eventually arrested in the UK in June 2013 by West Mercia Police.
Police were to later establish that while Kenyan officials did send letters, Harris rewrote or heavily doctored the original documents before presenting them to court. Curiously, also, British authorities were making checks with Kenyan officials to confirm they had sent the letters, but no check on the documents themselves.
In June 2013, a sting operation at Harris’s home by British and Kenyan police unearthed a collection of pictures and videos of naked boys.
That set off the trial in October 2014 in which Harris was prosecuted using legislation which allows British citizens to be tried for sex offences committed abroad against children if it is also an offence in that country.
“You assumed a hallowed position among the locals,” Judge Parker said when he read out the sentence to Harris.
“You designed your life to be close to boys — hence social work in education, because it provided a source of boys. But none of them knew you had a sexual motive.”
New resource to combat sexual exploitation by foreign social workers
This is not the first time a charity worker from overseas has been charged for indecent assault on Kenyan children.
American Matthew Lane Durham is accused of engaging in sex acts with as many as 10 children aged between four and 10 while volunteering at Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi from April to June last year.
He has admitted before an Oklahoma court that he sexually abused boys and girls in a bathroom at the children’s home.
Because of the frequency of the cases, the British High Commission in Kenya, in conjunction with the command at the National Crime Agency (NCA), has launched a new resource to combat the sexual exploitation and abuse of children in the country by travelling British child sexual offenders.
Deputy Director of the UK Border Policing, Hank Cole, speaking in Nairobi recently on the establishment of the Child Protection Network to protect children and provide an early warning system when minors are at risk, said English nationals would now be vetted before they come to Kenya.
“As from January this year, we will issue a Child Protection Certificate for any British national that wishes to work in Kenya to ensure that they have no past records of child abuse and sexual offences” Mr Cole said.
The certificate will be a requirement for UK nationals seeking to work with children overseas, and is only issued once checks have been made against police information and intelligence databases.
It aims to provide reassurance that staff employed in schools and voluntary organisations do not have a UK criminal record that makes them unsuitable to work with children. The ICPC is already in use in several other countries around the world.
Philippine authorities suspect accused Australian child sex predator Peter Scully is still masterminding a “dark web” pornography and child torture operation from his jail cell in the southern Philippines.
Investigators discovered that Scully, a former Melbourne businessman, exchanged telephone calls and text messages with his former live-in partner and co-accused Liezyl Margallo before she was arrested last week.
“We fear that Scully is still on top of his on-line services,” Dominador Cimafranca, a regional director of the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The bureau has ordered an investigation into Scully’s activities in the jail on the outskirts of the city of Cagayan de Oro, where he is being held pending trial on the worst cases of child sexual abuse, torture and trafficking that Philippine officials have seen.
Investigators will seek to establish how Scully managed to obtain telephone access when prisoners in the country’s jails are banned from having telephones, computers or other electronic devices.
Officers at the jail late last year told Fairfax Media that Scully was a troublesome prisoner, often demanding special privileges, including a mobile phone.
Jose Pallunga, a lawyer who represented Scully for seven months, also said that Scully demanded meals of corned beef, pork, beans and eggs and an electric fan for his cell.
Jail officers had rejected the demands, he said.
Mr Cimafranca said that Margallo had admitted she had never lost contact with Scully after his arrest in 2015, while she was on the run from police.
Margallo led police to a house in 2015 where they discovered the body of a 12-year-old girl who Scully allegedly held as a sex and torture slave for months before strangling her and burying her body.
She is expected to testify in court against 52-year-old Scully in a trial which began late last year but is expected to take years to move through the Philippines’ log-jammed justice system.
Margallo’s testimony will be crucial because key evidence gathered against Scully was destroyed in a fire at the Cagayan de Oro City Hall in January 2015, several weeks before his arrest in an operation involving both Australian and Philippine police.
Police allowed Margallo, a former prostitute, to go free at the time of Scully’s arrest because they had not gathered evidence against her.
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But evidence emerged that she was the masked and naked woman shown in a video called “Daisy’s Destruction” which Scully is alleged to have sold to internet clients across the world for $10,000.
The video shows an 18-month-old baby tied by her feet upside down while being sexually assaulted.
Welfare workers say the girl remains deeply traumatised and becomes hysterical when memories of her abuse are triggered.
Scully, who fled Australia in 2011 to escape fraud charges, has pleaded not guilty to 75 charges, forcing at least 10 of his alleged victims to go through the ordeal of testifying, despite repeatedly telling Philippine media he was “remorseful” for what he had done to children.
The girl that Scully allegedly murdered was a former street dweller who Margallo allegedly recruited with promises of food and schooling.
Two other girls were allegedly forced to dig their own graves before escaping.
Appearing in court last September wearing a prison T-shirt and runners, Scully refused to comment to Fairfax Media but laughed and joked with other prisoners.
Jaime Umpa, the chief prosecutor in the case, has called for the death penalty to be re-introduced so that Scully can be executed.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a former provincial mayor known as “The Punisher”, is pushing for MPs to reintroduce the death penalty, including for rape and murder.
Jimmie E. Brecht 217 Bond Street Providence, RI 02903
Tech-savvy paedophiles are using a series of digital techniques known as “masking” and “breadcrumbing” to hide illegal materials from regular web users online, while allowing others to track down illegal images and film by following a series of covert clues. The trend was exposed by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in its latest annual report, which covers new information on how child sex abuse images and videos are being hosted, distributed and identified online. Normally used by cyber-criminals, the tricks are used to hide illegal material in plain sight.
“If you access the site directly, you just get legitimate content,” Sarah Smith, a technical researcher at the IWF, told The Independent. “If you follow the pathway through links from other sites, then it unlocks the child sexual abuse imagery. It’s stored in the browser, and it drops a cookie into the browser so it can see the trail that you’ve come along to actually access the site. Once you’ve followed that pathway through, you can see the child sexual abuse imagery.”
The illegal content can be hidden behind what appear to be legitimate blog sites, news sites or even fake 404 error pages. The IWF first discovered the approach in 2011, and says it makes the detection and removal of child sexual abuse imagery from the internet more difficult – and its use is on the rise. In 2016, some 1,572 websites were found to be using this method to hide child sexual abuse imagery, an increase of 112 per cent since 2015 (when 743 sites were identified). Just 353 websites were found to be using the techniques in 2013.
Ms Smith said there are two main reasons for the rise in popularity of “masking” and “breadcrumbing”. “Firstly, from the perspective of IWF, our remit is to get the content taken down. None of these sites is hosted in the UK, so we’re working with our network of partners worldwide. Because the referring websites can change rapidly and the cookies do expire, by the time we’ve got our reports out to law enforcement in other countries, that information may have changed.
“When it is reported on, people are accessing that domain directly to have a look at the content, assess it and get it taken down, but they’re not seeing the child sexual abuse imagery. It means that that content can stay up a lot longer. Every single one of these images depicts a child being sexually abused and knowing that this content is being reviewed really can have a terrible impact on a victim’s recovery,” said Ms Smith. “The quicker the content comes down, the better.”
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It’s one of the main reasons why the UK now hosts less than 0.1 per cent of the global total of child sexual abuse imagery. The IWF aims to see abusive content removed from the internet within an hour, working with industry members, hosting companies and the National Crime Agency to get this done quickly. Europe hosts the majority of child abuse web pages (60 per cent), with North America in second place (37 per cent). This is partly because this is where large providers choose to host their data centres.
The IWF said “cyberlockers”, or remote file-sharing services, and image hosting sites are being used significantly more than other online services to conceal illegal material shared and viewed by paedophiles. “A secondary reason we believe criminals use masking and breadcrumbing is that these sites are essentially commercial enterprises,” continued Ms Smith. “They’re distributing the content commercially, and the way they’re doing that is defrauding affiliate schemes from legitimate providers. The ‘Know Your Customer’ procedures for a lot of payment services that have been providing service to some of these sites would be to go directly to the websites and just make sure that the content looks legitimate. Obviously, if they’re not aware of the pathway they need to follow, they won’t know that these websites are in fact distributing child sexual abuse materials.”
Criminals distributing child sexual abuse imagery tend to discuss their activities relatively openly in forums on the dark web, which provides anonymity, but Ms Smith says the majority of the content the IWF deals with is available on the open web, and accessible through mainstream web browsers such as Google Chrome and Safari. “There are a small number of very prolific dark web forums we’re aware of, which are distributing content. Most of that is actually a gateway to links to content, which is being distributed on the open web. Particularly in terms of these disguised websites, they are solely hosted on the open web. We’re not talking about dark web sites here.”
The IWF report also reveals that paedophiles are using codes and keywords for finding hidden child sexual abuse imagery. “At IWF we maintain a keyword list of search terms, some of which are fairly straightforward, others that are extremely specialist in nature, which can be used to locate this content online,” said Ms Smith. “In terms of the discussions paedophiles are having, it could be clear that these codes are being used euphemistically, and will then grow out of that and start being used more widely.”
Though the IWF did not reveal any examples publicly, it is known that while many codes are obvious, others are increasingly obscure. “We’re seeing offenders who seem to have a much higher level of technical knowledge,” said Ms Smith.
IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves, meanwhile, has called on internet companies to do more to combat the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery. “Criminals need to use good internet hosting services, which offer speed, affordability, availability and access. Services that cost nothing, and allow people to remain anonymous, are attractive,” she said. “While it’s positive that the UK continues to remain hostile to child sexual abuse material, the global picture isn’t good. We’ve opened reporting portals across the globe, with more planned. In other countries, internet companies are exploited and, worst of all, children who have been sexually abused are further exploited. Internet companies and large businesses who are doing nothing, or too little, to address online child sexual abuse imagery need to step up and work with us.”
Suspected child sexual abuse images and videos can be reported anonymously through the IWF website.
Matthew N. Goulette 2867 Sun Valley Road Spokane, WA 99201
Was Michael Jackson really a pedophile? Incriminating photos of children and nude young adults from Jackson’s 2005 trial were recently disclosed, according to a media report, but his family denies their plausibility. Michael Jackson allegedly maintained a massive collection of media showing pornography, animal torture, S&M and child torture, according to a report by entertainment magazine Radar Online. The website cited documents from the Santa Barbara Country Sherriff’s Department which were acquired due to Jackson’s 2005 child molestation trial and have not been made available to the public.
“The documents collected by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department paint a dark and frightening picture of Jackson,” Radar Online quoted an unidentified investigator as saying. “The documents exposed Jackson as a manipulative, drug-and-sex-crazed predator who used blood, gore, sexually explicit images of animal sacrifice and perverse adult sex acts to bend children to his will.”
The incriminating material reportedly came from notes, diaries, photos, audiotapes, and over 80 video recordings and hard drives seized during the 2005 investigation.
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The King of Pop was charged with child molestation after 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo, a boy he had befriended, came forward with accusations. Jackson was acquitted after a 14-week trial.
Jackson’s estate and family, as well as other celebrities, have responded to the incriminating report with sharp criticism.
“Those who continue to shamelessly exploit Michael via sleazy internet ‘click bait’ ignore that he was acquitted by a jury in 2005 on every one of the 14 salacious charges brought against him in a failed witch hunt,” wrote Jackson’s estate in a statement.
Filmmaker, actor and producer Judd Apatow responded similarly on Twitter:
Taj Jackson, the singer’s nephew, also took to Twitter to denounce the report:
The report on Jackson’s apparent “dark side” comes days before the seventh anniversary of his untimely death on June 25, 2009, at the age of 50.
Also announced this week, ahead of the anniversary, is an upcoming television series about the end of Michael Jackson’s life, co-produced by J.J. Abrams from “Star Wars.” The series is not yet attached to a network.
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