Timebomb at Elm Guest House: Pop stars, a bishop and a top politician appear on a list seized by police investigating child abuse

Stephen Wright and Richard Pendlebury – Daily Mail Feb 2, 2013

Peter Hatton-Bornshin killed himself six days after his 28th birthday. He had taken an overdose of codeine and choked to death. ‘The tragic end to a tragic life,’ is how the coroner summed up the stark facts presented to the inquest.

And who at the time would disagree? Peter was only a baby when his father died in an accident. He was orphaned at 13 when his mother threw herself in front of a train. His stepfather then handed Peter and his older brother to social services.

And that is how Peter ended up at the Grafton Close Children’s Home, which was run by Richmond borough council in South-West London. Truly, he was a lost soul.

When his life finally came to an end in a Kingston-upon-Thames bedsit, he left a note which explained that he feared he would be unable to control his violent fantasies against women if he remained alive.

This personality disorder had caused him briefly to be a patient at Broadmoor mental hospital. His case worker said that while he did not consider Peter to be a danger to society, his mental problems were partly a result of the abuse he had suffered while in local authority care. One line in his suicide note seemed to refer to this. It read: ‘I will get those bastards.’

But while it was the ‘tragic end to a tragic life’, his story does not finish there.

Eighteen years after his death, the police are again looking at the Peter Hatton-Bornshin case, as part of a wider investigation, launched last month, into allegations that in the early Eighties a paedophile ring of VIPs preyed on boys from the Grafton Close Children’s Home.

If the historic allegations at the heart of Operation Fernbridge are proved, they would represent one of the more sensational and disturbing Establishment sex scandals of the modern era.

Long-existing allegations of a cover-up would again have to be aired.

During a police raid on a property in central London last month, detectives seized a list of names of high-profile alleged visitors to the Elm Guest House in Barnes, South-West London — a gay-friendly establishment, and one where under-age rent boys and children from the Grafton Close home were reportedly brought to have sex with adult men.

The list includes a number of senior MPs, a high-ranking policeman, a leading tycoon, figures from the National Front and Sinn Fein, an official of the Royal Household, an MI5 officer, two pop stars and the traitorous Soviet spy Anthony Blunt.

Cyril Smith, the late Liberal MP for Rochdale, has already been named as a regular at the guest house, where he allegedly met teenage rent boys when the homosexual age of consent was 21.

The guest house has also been linked to a now-defunct Tory fringe group that promoted homosexual rights.

Operation Fernbridge detectives are also believed to be on the trail of almost two dozen photographs that are supposed to have been taken by the guest-house owner — which place a number of these figures from the worlds of politics, showbusiness and national security at her establishment.

Some pictures are said to show these men in the company of under-age boys.

New police interest in the Elm Guest House allegations stems from October last year, when the campaigning Labour MP Tom Watson called for an investigation into the political links of one Peter Righton, a notorious paedophile who had first been exposed 20 years before.

In September 1992, Righton pleaded guilty to three charges of importing or possessing obscene material — paedophile gay porn — after customs officers at Dover intercepted two packages addressed to him.

It was a squalid case that in other circumstances might have warranted only local interest.

But Righton, then aged 66, was no ordinary child sex offender. He had been a very senior and respected figure in the field of residential child care, and a former consultant to the charity the National Children’s Bureau, whose patrons included the then Health Minister, Virginia Bottomley.

After his conviction, it emerged that Righton was a founder member of the Paedophile Information Exchange — a contact group for men interested in sex with children. He is now believed to be dead.

Westminster sources say that following his intervention in the House, Mr Watson received more than 200 phone calls, many of them from alleged victims of paedophile abuse by public figures unconnected with Righton. The MP passed the information on to the police.

Righton’s links to figures in the Thatcher government are still being assessed by detectives.

The Mail understands that no formal decision has been taken yet on whether Watson’s  allegations will be formally probed.

However, one person who contacted Mr Watson had specific information about boys from Grafton Close Children’s Home being abused at the Elm Guest House.

In 1982, Britain was a very different place for gay males than it is today. Only 15 years had passed since homosexual acts between consenting adults had been decriminalised.

Gay public figures did not come out of the closet voluntarily and places where they met were still necessarily discreet. Apparently one such rendezvous was the Elm Guest House in Rocks Lane, Barnes.

It was only yards from Barnes Common, which was, and still is, a well-known gay cruising ground.

Run by Indian-born Haroon Kasir and his German wife Carole, the guest house was openly advertised in the gay press of the time as nothing more sinister than a place where homosexual men could meet.

There was a sauna with ‘video facilities’ and a solarium.

One publication to ‘strongly recommend’ the guest house to its readers was the newsletter of the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality. There is a review of it in a June 1982 edition.

The CGHE campaigned for the lowering of the gay age of consent to 16.

One of its chairmen was Ian Harvey, a junior foreign office minister who was forced to quit government in 1958 after being caught having sex with a Coldstream guardsman in a London park. 

Other residents of Rocks Lane were aware that the Elm Guest House was unlike the other small hotels in what was then a ‘scruffy’ area. Some understood it to be a brothel.

Yesterday, another long-time resident told us: ‘It had a reputation. Somebody told me that their daughter had come home and saw a lot of naked men in the front room as she walked past.

‘She was very shocked. I don’t know if she made a complaint to police about it. I just assumed it was a male brothel.’

The woman, who did not wish to be named, witnessed a 1982 police raid which saw Mr and Mrs Kasir and two others arrested. One of those detained was a 17-year-old rent boy who acted as ‘in-house masseur’.

We understand he was a teenage actor who had appeared on television in Doctor Who, as well as on stage at a Royal Command performance.

The youth — paid more than £100 a night when working at Elm Guest House — was initially charged with assisting in running the brothel.

The charge was later dropped. This week, he declined to comment when approached by the Mail.

Undercover police officers had been inside the property for a number of days posing as clients, while watching sex parties that took place there.

A planned police raid had to be brought forward after a hidden police radio was activated by accident. Officers had hoped to catch several dozen clients — and who knows how many public figures — but there were fewer than ten customers there when the operation was compromised.

The Kasirs were subsequently charged with running a disorderly house. At the Old Bailey the following year they were convicted, fined and given suspended sentences.

All other charges in relation to the raid had been dropped by then.

We understand that the police had become interested in the guest house not simply because it was a male brothel, but because of concerns for an under-age boy at the address.

At the time of the raid, the child was removed from the premises and placed in local authority care.

So where was the child ‘safely’ accommodated following his rescue? At the Grafton Close Children’s Home in Hounslow, some eight miles away…

Several figures at the centre of these allegations are no longer alive. One of them is Carole Kasir, a diabetic, who died of an insulin overdose aged 48, in 1990.

The curator of the queen's art collection and Soviet spy, Sir Anthony Blunt, was another well known figure alleged to have frequented Elm House. Click to enlarge

Shortly after her death, a child protection campaigner from the National Association Of Young People In Care (NAYPIC) called for a criminal investigation into events at Elm Guest House.

The campaigner claimed that he had been told by Mrs Kasir that boys had been brought in from a children’s home for sex. She had told him she had photographs or video of many establishment figures at her hotel, including a bishop.

One photograph allegedly showed a former cabinet minister in a sauna with a naked boy.

The same campaigner told us this week that he could not speak at length because the police wanted to interview him.

However, he claimed he knew of 11 boys from Grafton Close Children’s Home who had been abused at the Elm Guest House.

He added: ‘Carole Kasir had logbooks, names, times, dates, even pictures of people who went in and out of Elm Guest House. Her house was raided in the Eighties.

‘The police say it was done by a local force, but I know it was done by Special Branch. That evidence — of who visited Elm Guest House — no longer exists.

‘I’ll leave people to draw their own conclusions, but Carole Kasir was held without charge for three days, and you don’t do that on a run-of-the-mill vice raid. There was more to it than that.’

He added: ‘There were boys found in the home, but they were only ever interviewed as witnesses to the brothel, never as victims of abuse.

‘I won’t say any more as I don’t want to risk prejudicing this inquiry, because finally it seems the police are doing the right thing.’

The same allegations were pursued for several years by Mary Moss, a former colleague of the campaigner at NAYPIC (which is now defunct).

Ms Moss is clearly a troubled soul, who on her blog website claims that she, too, was abused as a child.

In another online posting, apparently written by her, she described meeting Carole Kasir. ‘She told me she was running a hotel and had some fab parties.

‘Yes, there were prominent people there but, hey, this was a nice suburb and [the guest house] was her business . . . but it was only on that night the police raided, when she stupidly thought it was just gay-bashing, that her eyes were peeled open for years to come about what was going on under her nose.’

Ms Moss believes Carole Kasir was murdered to cover up for the famous people who had used her brothel.

Detectives now investigating the allegations of paedophilia at Rocks Lane have been in a protracted dialogue with Ms Moss, which led to them executing a search warrant on her home in central London last month. There is no suggestion that she was involved in any offences.

What, then, is the truth about Elm Guest House and Grafton Close Children’s Home, which have both long since closed?

The acid test for the Operation Fernbridge detectives is whether or not — as happened in the Jimmy Savile child sex abuse inquiry — there is now an ‘avalanche’ of credible witnesses and victims, encouraged by this new investigation to unburden themselves after years of nursing horrible secrets.

The police need several victims telling the same stories in order to make a case.

The fallout from the Savile revelations means there is renewed interest in historic child abuse allegations against famous figures. And the police do not want to be accused of doing nothing again.

We have seen in the case of Lord McAlpine what can happen when an apparently politically-motivated witchhunt latches onto an innocent man.

But there is the other, longer-term human cost. The abused can become abusers in a perpetual cycle. Such might have been the case with the tragic figure of Peter Hatton-Bornshin.

At his inquest, the coroner paid tribute to him by saying: ‘It is clear he had decided to avoid causing any distress or grief to other people by taking his own life.’

But were Peter’s traumatic ‘fantasies’ really about women?

A child protection campaigner told us this week: ‘Peter was a victim at Elm Guest House in the Seventies — but by the time I knew of him in the Eighties, he was an abuser.

‘He had been groomed as a child, but he crossed the line at some stage: as an adult, he was organising the abuse of kids. By the mid-1980s we were pushing for his arrest. We weren’t treating him as a victim any more.

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