By Joseph de Búrca
Eric Witchell is a serial paedophile. In the 1970s he ran Williamson House where he preyed on pre-pubescent boys and young teenagers. He and his accomplices drove at least three of them to commit suicide; and another two to attempt it. One of his charges was supplied to Enoch Powell MP, for abuse. A select few were transferred to the notorious Kincora Boys Home when they reached 14 years of age. At Kincora they became fodder for MI5 ‘honey trap’ blackmail operations.
THE ENOCH POWELL STORY IS CONTAINED IN PART 2 OF THIS ARTICLE.
Part One: Williamson House
A WOLF IN A MONK’S HABIT
Eric Witchell, a serial paedophile, was a key figure in the Anglo-Irish Vice Ring about which Village has been writing for the last two years. He is currently living in London aged 70, safe in the knowledge that a succession of senior MI5 figures have gone to extraordinary lengths to cover-up what he and his associates did in Belfast, London, Manchester, Liverpool and elsewhere as they – MI5 – benefited from the existence of an Anglo-Irish paedophile network of which he was a key member. In Northern Ireland (NI) MI5 exploited the network to gain leverage over influential Loyalists, including members of the DUP.
Witchell, who hailed from England, was born in 1948. He became a Franciscan at the age of 19. Before his appointment to Williamson House, he had been a housefather in an English boys school attached to the Franciscans. He became the Officer-in-Charge (OiC) of Williamson House in May of 1975 at the age of 27.
The small boys Witchell abused were abandoned, vulnerable and powerless waifs. A select few were later sent to the notorious Kincora Boys Home where they were used as bait in MI5 ‘honey trap’ blackmail operations. Sir Michael Hanley was Director-General of MI5 at the time. Ian Cameron ran MI5 operations on the ground in NI for Hanley from his office in Lisburn.
Witchell betrayed the trust bestowed upon him by Belfast’s child welfare authorities but also by the Anglican Franciscan Order of which he was a member. He was, however, a godsend to Hanley and Cameron.
The Williamson House scandal is worse than the outrage at Kincora insofar as younger children were abused at it.
Witchell’s sordid branch of the Anglo-Irish Vice Ring supplied very young children to VIPs including Enoch Powell MP. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was set up to investigate allegations of child abuse by VIPs including Westminster MPs. There is no indication yet that Witchell will be questioned by IICSA which is based in London despite the fact that Witchell is one of the most important living witness to the existence of a VIP vice ring and lives in London.
Witchell did not appear before the Hart Inquiry. Had he done so – and told, or been made to tell, the truth – Judge Hart would have reached a wholly different conclusion to the one he published in 2017. Hart denied the existence of any sort of vice ring beyond the walls of Kincora Boys Home.
WHO PAVED THE WAY FOR WITCHELL TO TAKE OVER WILIAMSON HOUSE?
Witchell secured the post at Williamson House despite the fact his tutor at the National Children’s Home Training College in England had advised the appointment panel of Belfast‘s Welfare Department that at “this stage I would have some doubt in commending him to be the Officer- in-Charge… I would commend him to you for employment, but I would not commend him to you for employment as Officer-in-Charge”. It was fortuitous for MI5 that Witchell became OiC despite this because he was the vilest sort of paedophile, someone who was prepared to farm out the children in his care to a wider network of child molesters.
This suited MI5 because it enabled them to manufacture blackmail opportunities and ensnare Loyalist politicians, paramilitaries and Orangemen and force them to do their bidding.
After Witchell became OiC at the home, he moved into an apartment in the attic. It had a TV, sofa, sleeping quarters and a drinks cabinet. This was where he abused the young boys. He would usher his chosen victim upstairs and lock the door behind them. Physically, he was tall, thin and imposing. He wore glasses and had black longish hair. He was an exceptionally cruel and violent man with an insatiable sexual appetite. His preference was for prepubescent boys but he assaulted teenage boys too. His taste ranged from masturbation to anal rape. At least three of his victims would never recover from the assaults he and his associates perpetrated, and committed suicide; another two attempted to kill themselves.
Officially, he held the post of OiC at Williamson House until 1 March 1980 but he actually left before then as the RUC and MI5 were losing control of the secrecy surrounding the scandal.
By the early 1970s MI5 had probably gained control over all of the key figures in the Anglo-Irish Vice Ring including Councillor Joshua (Joss) Cardwell, a Unionist politician and paedophile, who was also Chairman of Belfast Corporation Welfare Committee. The Committee was responsible for both WH, Kincora and other homes in Belfast where sexual violence was commonplace.
Cardwell was also a friend of Joe Mains, the Warden of Kincora. Together Cardwell and Mains supplied boys from Kincora to England and Scotland. As Village reported last February, it was Cardwell who instructed Joe Mains to send Richard Kerr, who had been at Williamson House but was now residing at Kincora, to London in the mid-1970s. He was abused by a high-profile TV star there: a man still well known to the public, so much so that his photograph recently appeared in an Irish national daily newspaper.
On another occasion, while still at Kincora, Kerr was sent to be abused by a Tory MP in London. Another Kincora boy, Stephen Waring, was also sent to the UK from Kincora. He committed suicide in 1977 by jumping into the sea at night from the Belfast-Liverpool ferry rather than face any more torment.
Another key figure who aided Cardwell and Mains in running the Ulster branch of the Anglo-Irish Vice Ring was the Town Solicitor, John A Young. He was involved in deliberately losing some of the complaints about abuse that were sent to his office in August of 1971.
‘THERE WERE OTHER HOMES INVOLVED’
The author and journalist Robin Bryans, who died in 2005, amassed a wealth of information about the child rapists who were involved in the Ulster branch of the Anglo-Irish Vice Ring of which Eric Witchell was a key member. (See Village October 2017) Bryans provided a patchy and fragmented outline of the network in a series of books which have always been difficult to acquire. Strangely, some of Bryan’s books are not now available in Britain’s copyright libraries. He also made similar allegations in a series of ‘open’ letters that were suppressed with gagging writs.
In February 1990, Bryans told this author that: “The Kincora thing will be covered up. I would love to go on talking if I thought it was going to come out, but it’s not, because I know how the Establishment works. Be careful of the word Kincora, because you are going to limit it. There were other homes involved. There were three homes. There was one for boys from 12 to 16, and then there was one for younger ones”.
Williamson House looks suspiciously like it was the ‘one for younger ones’.
Williamson House is now long gone. It was closed in October 1983 and knocked to the ground in the mid-1980s. It had consisted of two buildings, numbers 446 and 448 on the Antrim Road. It was originally opened by the Belfast Welfare Authority in 1957. Until 10 March 1976, it was run as two separate units. Thereafter the two houses were managed as a single home, catering for up to 18 boys and girls usually aged between 4 and 18. It was not unusual, however, for the older teenagers to leave before they reached 18.
Some of the boys went to Bawnmore where abuse also took place; some of the girls to boarding schools, one of which was located in Derry. Other unfortunates were consigned to the hell of Kincora where Witchell’s close friends and fellow paedophiles, Joe Mains and William McGrath, were in charge and abuse and bullying was incessant, violent and terrifying.
TRAPPED WITH NO WAY OUT
According to Bryans, children at a home in Portadown were also abused. The list of care homes in NI where it is known abuse took place includes:
- Nazareth Lodge Children’s Home in South Belfast;
- Bawnmore Boys Home, Newtownabbey, which was opened by Belfast Welfare Authority;
- Palmerstown Reception and Assessment Centre, Belfast;
- De La Salle Boys’ Home, Rubane House Kircubbin, Co Down (where one of Jean McConville’s sons was abused after the IRA had murdered her);
- Barnardo’s Sharonmore Project;
- Manor House Home, Co Antrim.
Robin Bryans also revealed that boys from Portora Royal, NI’s elite public school, located in Enniskillen, were abused by members of the Anglo-Irish Vice Ring. The Portora boys were in demand by abusers such as Lord Louis Mountbatten whose appetite extended to working class children too. Mountbatten’s connection to the Anglo-Irish Vice Ring also merits a thorough investigation by IICSA. Meanwhile, Mountbatten’s reputation remains intact, enhanced by the most recent arrival in the British Royal Family, Prince Louis, being named in his honour.
THE FACELESS CHILD RAPIST
Richard Kerr about whom Village has been writing for the past year, was a resident at Williamson House where he was abused by Witchell and many others. Kerr entered the care of the Belfast Welfare Department when he was enrolled at Brefne Residential Nursery for a short while. He was transferred to Williamson House in 1969 and remained there until 1975 when he was 14 and was transferred to Kincora. His brother Alan and a sister also resided at Williamson House and other homes. Alan Kerr’s story will be told in a forthcoming edition of Village.
Kerr reveals that the abuse at Williamson House had begun before Witchell’s appointment as OiC. This implies that the Anglo-Irish Vice Ring already had some sort of access to it, and Witchell’s appointment was designed to open the doors further.
Kerr recalls that as a very young child, perhaps when he was only 8 or 9, he was abused late one night in the dark by a man whose face he never saw. He slept in a room on the first floor with other small boys. His bed was closest to the door and next to a wall. The abuser appeared as if from nowhere and violated him before disappearing. The figure materialised out of the darkness again on a number of occasions, never once revealing his face. Kerr had a small teddy bear which he gripped and bit while he was being raped. During these assaults, his face was pressed up against the wall. The experience was not only excruciatingly painful but psychologically devastating.
The intruder may or may not have been Witchell who was a visitor at Williamson House before he became its OiC. Kerr’s belief, however, is that the faceless night-time intruder was not Witchell. He has been haunted by the experience ever since.
THE BOY WITH BLOOD STAINS AND BRUISES
Witchell is the first individual Kerr can positively identify as one of his abusers. He has informed Village that before Witchell took up his post at Williamson House “he was visiting it and from my memory he was working part-time. He was living in Liverpool at a church but had his own place in Belfast that he would go to when he would visit Williamson House”.
When Witchell visited Belfast in the days before he became OiC, he stayed at a premises owned by the Anglican Franciscans. He may also have had access to a flat in the city.
There were plenty of opportunities to save Kerr and his fellow victims but none were availed of. In Kerr’s case, a gym master at his school once noticed that there was blood on his shorts and a bruise on his groin; yet even that didn’t bring his nightmare to an end.
“My school records from Mt. Vernon”, Kerr has told Village, “were destroyed because they contained information indicating that I was being abused at Williamson House. The staff at the school suspected I was being abused but when asked, I would not answer their questions because I was afraid of my abusers”.
On another occasion, a member of staff at Williamson House also noted bruising to his groin which had been inflicted by one of his rapists.
One of Kerr’s relative’s – still alive – can confirm that he sustained bruises at this time.
Kerr’s childhood was extinguished by the abuse that engulfed him and would drive him to attempt suicide on a number of occasions.
A very short and incomplete list of those Witchell abused includes Richard Kerr, his brother Alan Kerr, ‘Charles’ and three boys who went on to commit suicide. Village is not naming the boys who killed themselves lest it upset their families. ‘Charles’ has spoken to Village and his revelations about Witchell and his life at Williamson House will be reported in a forthcoming edition.
THE MEN WHO SPIRITED BOYS OUT OF WILLIAMSON HOUSE FOR ABUSE
Another abuser was Dr Morris Fraser, a child psychiatrist. He abused boys in Ireland, the UK and the US. He now lives in Holland. Thus far, IICSA has displayed no interest in questioning him either. He did not assist the Hart Inquiry, yet another reason for its failure to establish the truth.
Kerr was taken out of Williamson House and supplied to paedophiles at various venues in NI and later, when a resident at Kincora, to some locations in the Republic. A few gave him cheap presents including ‘large pennies’ and chocolates. It was common for him to receive boxes of Black Magic. Another boy at the home ‘E’ was also taken out of it and delivered to child rapists. He later committed suicide. On one occasion both of these boys were taken away together on an appalling abuse marathon which lasted two or three days. A story was later concocted to cover their absence that they had run away from the home.
Kerr recalls that two men, one of whom used the name “David” took him out of Williamson House and ferried him to his abusers. They were in their late 20s or early 30s. Both had NI accents. They would usually arrive at about 2 o’clock and return him by 10 o’clock when the other children were asleep. They were very cautious about the manner in which they approached the home. As indicated earlier, Williamson House consisted of two buildings. There were two separate driveways that led up to them with an area of green grass in the middle. When the kidnappers came to remove their victims, they would proceed up the driveway on the right-hand side and park at the side of the house. This would conceal them from the rest of the complex. In this way they could spirit their victims away and return them without unduly alerting the rest of the staff who might otherwise have begun to ask awkward questions. It was they who ferried Kerr to Enoch Powell.
Part Two: Enoch Powell
ENOCH POWELL AND THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND REVIEW INTO HISTORICAL CHILD SEX ABUSE
In 2015, Powell was named in a Church of England review into historical child sex abuse concerning the 1980s. One of its spokespersons told the press that: “The name Enoch Powell was passed to Operation Fernbridge on the instruction of Bishop Paul Butler”. The information originally came from a cleric who has counselled child abuse victims in the 1980s. Last April Village gave Powell the benefit of the doubt insofar as these claims were concerned. In light of Kerr’s account of his encounters with Powell – revealed here for the first time – that benefit must now be replaced with outright condemnation.
Powell’s sexual interest in younger men was a long-standing trait. In 1937, having graduated with a double first from Cambridge, Powell had become a classics professor at the University of Sydney. He was only 25 and held the post for two years during which he wrote to his parents describing his infatuation with his male students. He told them how he was repelled by his female students, while feeling “an instant and instinctive affection” for Australian males between the ages of 17 and 23. This, he added, might be “deplored, but it cannot be altered”, and therefore had to be “endured – and (alas!) camouflaged”. Somewhere along the line Powell developed an interest in much younger boys.
After serving as an intelligence officer during WW2, Powell went into politics and in 1950 became a Tory MP and later served in Cabinet. In 1966 he ran unsuccessfully for the leadership of the Conservative Party against Ted Heath, another paedophile with a taste for young boys. His career went into decline after his infamous 1968 ‘rivers of blood’ anti-immigration speech. Eventually, Powell relocated to NI where he became a UUP MP in 1974.
After he died in 1998, his friend Canon Eric James, a former chaplain at Trinity College, Cambridge, and Extra Preacher to the Queen, revealed that Powell had confided in him ten years earlier that he had engaged in a homosexual relationship as a young man. Powell gave him a copy of a collection of his poems called ‘First Poems’ (1937). He highlighted some verses where he had “tried to put into words what a homosexual relationship had meant to him”. It had been assumed by many that they had described Powell’s feelings for Barbara Kennedy whom he had taken on his first date with a woman to a music hall in 1948 when he was 35 or 36 years old. Canon James explained that Powell did not identify his male lover but said the relationship was “the most painful thing in my early life’. The individual in question was probably Edward Curtis, a fellow male undergraduate at Cambridge. The Canon revealed he had promised Powell he “would not disclose what he had said to me about the homosexual basis of certain of his poems until after his death. Then it would be a matter of literary history”.
One of the lines read as follows:
“I love the fire/ In youthful limbs that wakes desire…”.
Another of his poems leaves little to the imagination: It described how he, as an “unknowing boy” was “led to sin”.
‘I did not speak, but when I saw you turn
And cross your right leg on your left, and fold
Your hands around your knee, I felt a flow
Of white-hot lava seething up the old
Volcano shaft. That self-same attitude,
Though not of yours, it was which long ago
Fired me, an innocent, unknowing boy,
And led me on to sin and on to learn
and onwards to the very font of woe’
BELT AND BUCKLE, ENOCH POWELL’S APPETITE FOR SADOMASOCHISM
By 1968 Powell was making visits to NI where he was active in the support of the Unionist cause. His interest was intense, so much so that by 1972 – if not long before – he was giving speeches at meetings of the British Army in England. Fred Holroyd, the military intelligence officer and whistleblower who worked for MI6 in NI, recalls being at one in England where Powell advocated taking a “robust” approach to defeating the “enemies” of the British Empire. Holroyd came across Powell again at the Seagoa Hotel in Portadown where he found him personally amiable but his wife to be openly racist. He claims she referred to black people as “n***ers”. Powell was elected as the Westminster MP for South Down in October 1974.
Kerr recalls that ‘David’ and his accomplice came to take him away to be abused by Powell on a summer’s day in either 1973 or 1974 when Powell was 61 or 62. By this stage of his life, sexual abuse by adult males had become “normal” for him.
Kerr was taken to Barry’s Amusements in the seaside resort of Portrush, Co Antrim. It was opened in 1926 and became – and remains – the largest theme park in NI. Located in the centre of Portrush, it is a 50-mile drive from Belfast. Kerr was either 12 or 13 at the time of the trip. The group went unnoticed as they mingled with the crowds of children who were laughing and shouting all around them. He vividly recalls being taken on bumper cars. “Maybe I am just having a fun day today”, he allowed himself to think for a spell. However, the visit to the arcade was a cynical ploy. The children at Barry’s provided the perfect cover for what was about to happen: the handover to Powell. If the kidnappers had waited at a cross-roads or outside a hotel for such a high-profile politician, it might have attracted unwanted attention.
When Powell made his rendez-vous with the group, he was in the company of another two men. Powell spirited Kerr away on his own to a guest house near Portrush where he had booked a bedroom. Inside it, he sat him on a chair and then lifted him onto the bed and placed his head on the pillow. Next, he undid his shorts. After this he threw him on top of his chest and started to abuse him. Kerr wasn’t shocked at what was happening since he had been violated by countless men by this stage; nor was he unduly surprised when Powell began to beat him with a leather belt and buckle. The abuse involved a variety of other acts of degradation including oral sex and masturbation but no penetration. Powell smiled a lot during the encounter, he recalls.