Gordon Raynor and Martin Evans — Telegraph.co.uk June 14, 2016
Sylvia Woosley was a lonely 10-year-old desperately missing her absent father when a 24-year-old Clement Freud came into her life.
After being introduced to him at a house party thrown by her mother, she was thrilled when he began paying her attention, arranging to take her on trips to the beach and filling the vacuum her father had left.
“I was overcome by his warmth, by his love, by his caring, by his generosity,” she recalled. “I felt ‘here’s someone who cares for me’.”
In fact, Freud’s behaviour was what we now know as grooming, and it was followed by decades of abuse of Sylvia and at least one other girl, which included violent rape.
Mrs Woosley, now in her late 70s, has lived with what Freud did to her for the past 60 years; a life destroyed by misplaced guilt and by the isolation of having her story disbelieved even by her own mother.
She finally decided to go public on ITV’s Exposure programme because, she says: “I just want to clear things up before I die. I want to die clean.”
It was 1948 and Freud, known to his friends as Clay, was working as a manager at the fashionable Hotel Martinez in Cannes in the south of France when he was introduced to Sylvia, nicknamed “Pooh” because she liked honey.
Her social climbing mother and stepfather (her father had left when she was three) were living in Cannes and had invited Freud to a party at their home. As the grandson of the great Sigmund Freud, he was an A-list guest.
“He immediately took a liking to me,” Mrs Woosley said. “Just to me. My mother was thrilled, Clay Freud is paying attention to her daughter, you know.”
The 10-year-old Sylvia was vulnerable to the attention lavished on her by Freud, and was delighted when he bought her clothes and presents. He also took her on day trips, where his grooming became physical.
She said: “He’d stroke me, and he’d kiss me at the back of the bus on the mouth, he put his tongue in my mouth and it was wet. It was horrible and I didn’t like it. I was disgusted and helpless.”
Freud carried on abusing her for another year, before returning to England and marrying actress Jill Flewett.
By 1952 Mrs Woosley’s mother’s marriage to her stepfather had fallen apart, and, struggling to cope, she turned to her friends the Freuds for help. To Mrs Woosley’s horror, her mother arranged for her to move in with the Freuds.
It meant he had Sylvia completely in his power, and the abuse of her picked up where it had left off.
“He used to sort of touch me a lot, quite a lot,” she said. She recalled one occasion when she was 14 when Freud pulled up her nightdress and molested her.
He told her: “You feel just like your mother.” Mrs Woosley said she thought “he’s slept with my mother…I suddenly realised that maybe I’m like a prize”.
Later that year Freud took over the Royal Court Theatre Club in Sloane Square and became a regular feature in society columns.
He later boasted that he had given Rolf Harris his first break – another man later exposed as a paedophile.
Jill Freud’s acting career was taking off, meaning Sylvia was often left at home alone with Freud. He would creep into her bedroom and “put his hand up my nightdress and cuddle me and touch me, and so on”. She said the abuse never included full rape.
When she was 19 she told the family nanny about the abuse, and eventually managed to move out, after getting a job, and Freud wrote to her castigating her for misconstruing his “affection” as “having an unhealthy sexual motive”.
Her mother forced her to ring Jill Freud and tell her she had been lying when she told the nanny about the sexual assaults.
Over the next 20 years, she saw Freud’s career take off, as he became a feted chef, a newspaper columnist and, from 1967, a regular panellist on Radio 4’s Just a Minute.
In 1973 he added Liberal MP to his growing list of jobs. He shared an office with another new Liberal MP – Cyril Smith, though whether either of them knew the other was a child abuser is unknown.
Freud remained an MP until 1987, and used his status as an MP to help groom and abuse another young girl.
A woman known as Joanne told ITV that Freud became a friend of her family when she was 11 in the early 1970s, and he quickly started calling her on the phone and telling her she was “a special child”.
He invited her to the Houses of Parliament and his home, kissing and hugging her. When she was 14 he invited her and a friend over to his home and tried to lock them in the bedroom, saying: “Would you like to get naked and have some fun?” but the friend told him “to get lost” and nothing happened.
But four years later, when Joanne was 18 and Freud was 54, he brutally raped her.
After going to her house and cooking for her, “he came down on me and I froze up with terror.
“I kept saying I did not want him to continue forcing me, but was terrified that he would become violent.
“He then just took me by the hand onto my parents’ bed where he brutally and perfunctorily penetrated me.”
After asking her if she was on the Pill (she said she was not) he turned her over and anally raped her with such violence that she had blood “streaming down my thighs” and “bled profusely for a week afterwards”.
After raping her, he told her “you can stay there my dear” and went into her living room to watch the World Cup on television.
He later contacted her mother, before she had a chance to tell her she had been raped, and said Joanne had had a “bad” sexual experience and that she should have been “flattered” by his attentions.
When Sylvia Woosley was in her 40s, she plucked up the courage to confront Freud, and arranged to see him at the House of Commons.
She asked him: “Why me?” and he replied: “Because I loved you, you were a very sensual little girl.”
In 1987, the year Freud was knighted, she told Jill Freud that she had not been lying all those years before, and Mrs Freud admitted to her that: “I think now it’s possible that what you said was the truth.”
She gave Mrs Woosley £100 and Freud sent her a cheque for £500 after she asked him for money because she was broke.
Sylvia and Joanne’s accounts of being attacked by Freud have been corroborated by people they told at the time.
Joanne said: “I live in constant terror that I will be found out, exposed. I have already suffered across nearly 40 years…this is disempowerment, self destructiveness and grief. This is what real suffering looks like.”
Mrs Woosley said the abuse “affected my behaviour all my life”. Married twice, she said the abuse caused “my lack of trust, my lack of self-confidence, my self-destructions”.
“I don’t want to take this to my tomb,” she said.
“At the end it’s come out. So you can’t bury the truth.”