May 12, 1995
Producer: Max Allen
The Trials of London: Part 4Lister Sinclair: I'm Lister Sinclair, with IDEAS. Tonight we have the fourth program in our series called "The Trials of London." You can access transcripts of previous programs in this series on the Internet. Our World Wide Web site is at this address: radioworks.cbc.ca
In London, Ontario, fifty-five men have now been arrested in what was originally called a child pornography ring. It's the biggest sex scandal in North America.
It turns out that there was no ring, and after the first two cases, little or no child pornography. But a police taskforce called Project Guardian has been arresting men for having various kinds of homosexual sex, mostly with teenage boys.
In Canada, though the general age of consent is fourteen, it's illegal to pay anybody under eighteen for sex, or for anybody under eighteen to have anal sex. (See footnote 2.) The Guardian project has focussed on these two crimes. There have been no heterosexual cases; all the arrests have
been for gay sex.|
IDEAS tonight is about the impact Project Guardian has had on people's lives. "The Trials of London" is based on the work of journalist Joseph Couture, and is presented by IDEAS producer Max Allen.
Max Allen: The word conspiracy means, literally, breathing together. And when I suggest that in London there's a conspiracy between the police and the press, I mean it in that sense: not some kind of criminal scheme, but a shared view, an endeavor in common, a breathing together.
The result has been, to use a term from sociology, a moral panic. The impression you get from local press coverage is that the city of London is strewn with victims, innocent boys dragged into sin by insatiable perverts.
To reinforce that view, two images have been central. One of them is a physical image and the other is mental.
The physical image is of a mountain of video tapes, over 800 of them, presented by the London police at a press conference, and implied to be "child pornography."
The mental image is of "victims as young as eight," whose existence is often evoked. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to respond.
But what, exactly, was on those tapes? And who were those eight-year-olds? We set out answer those questions.
Two key players in the London drama were the eight year old boys who, police said, were forcibly abducted and sexually assaulted. Charges were laid. The story has been repeatedly published and broadcast. But here's what one of them, who we'll call Tommy Eberts, says about his interrogation by the police:
Joseph Couture: So what happened when you sat down in the room?
Tommy Eberts: They just asked me questions. They asked me if I remembered anything, and what happened. I said I couldn't remember anything, and it didn't happen to me.
Joseph Couture: So you're saying no one ever assaulted you sexually.
Tommy Eberts: Right.
Joseph Couture: What do you think of what the police said?
Tommy Eberts: It's not right, 'cause it never happened. I'd never go down Adelaide on my bike. I go to the park behind the apartment building; that's all.
Joseph Couture: Did you ever tell anybody that nothing happened?
Tommy Eberts: Yeah. I told the police that nothing happened, and it's the truth.
Max Allen: We'll come back in a few minutes to the eight-year-olds.
In the London cases, everything depends on what people say. In the first two cases there was concrete, visual evidence on tape of underage sex. But otherwise it all comes down to whose story you believe: Was there payment? Was there consent? What kind of sex took place?
After the first two cases, there came a stampede of guilty pleas. Eighteen men, one after another, pled guilty to some of the charges against them, out of embarrassment and "wanting to get it all over" some of them said, or because the charges and the publicity had ruined their lives anyway.
All of these cases involve gay sex. During eighteen months of work, Project Guardian, remarkably, has laid no heterosexual changes.
They could have. Guardian officers could be charging lots of men with illegal sex involving girls, instead of just boys.
An example: Last November the owner of a massage parlour in London -- a former policeman -- was arrested by the London vice squad, not Project Guardian. He was charged with a string of sex offenses involving girls under eighteen, including, in the old-fashioned words of the Criminal Code, "keeping a common bawdy house." That's a place where customers pay for sex. This woman, Miss X, applied for a job at the massage parlour.
Miss X: When I got there I asked him, How old do you have to be to do this? He said, "Well, labour laws say twelve. But I wouldn't hire anybody under sixteen."
Joseph Couture: What did he say the job entailed?
Miss X: To give massages; that was it.
Joseph Couture: With your clothes on or off?
Miss X: It had to be either topless or nude.
Joseph Couture: How much did they charge an hour for this?
Miss X: It all varied. A half-hour, topless was $50, an hour $75. If the lady's nude, a half-hour is $75, an hour is $100. We also have reverses. A reverse is where you get to massage the woman as well. A half-hour is $100, an hour is $125. Can you tell I do this a lot on the phone? I go through this day after day after day, saying this on the phone. There are a lot of customers who call about it.
Joseph Couture: Who's the average guy who comes to a place like this?
Miss X: Forty. Married. Fat, basically.
Joseph Couture: How old were most of the girls that you worked with?
Miss X: That I knew of, I was aware that I was the youngest there. I thought I was. There was a girl who was a couple of months younger than me. I thought we all -- little did I know that there were, like before the place got busted the first time I found out there was a seventeen-year-old working there. I didn't know there were a sixteen and seventeen-year-olds working there until after the place did get busted. But the one girl who was sixteen, she just told everybody she was twenty except for [the owner], because she didn't want any of us to treat her different.
Joseph Couture: Did you ever see police officers in ExecuStress?
Miss X: Yeah. [The owner] was an ex-cop. I've seen uniformed cops walk in there, sit down and have a coffee with him. But they probably didn't know half of what was going on.
Joseph Couture: So did a lot of the men who came there think there was more sex involved?
Miss X: Basically, anyone who walks in there and thinks the place isn't sexual is full of it, because 98 percent of the men masturbated during the massage. During the reverses, what is not sexual about a man masturbating while massaging my breasts? What's not sexual? There's nothing therapeutic about it; like he's not trying to relieve the tension from my breasts or anything. It's totally sexual, 100 percent.
Max Allen: A list of customers was seized during a police search of the premises. It includes the names of "prominent media people and politicians." A London lawyer told me that "it wouldn't be much trouble to prosecute the customers in a case like this, and there's a real chance of success in obtaining convictions -- if a decision was made by the police to go ahead."
But unlike the Project Guardian cases involving gay men and boys, here (with straight men and underage girls) no charges have been laid. Maybe it's a case of special rights for heterosexuals.
In the Guardian cases involving men and boys under eighteen, the mainstream London media have been uncritical. Clarence Crossman, a prominent London gay activist:
Clarence Crossman: Part of my concern in the media reporting is that there have been a number of charges reported as being laid. But when the charges are withdrawn then that does not get reported in the media. Thewhole implication is that those charges are still pending, still being taken seriously, when they are very damaging charges -- and, in fact, were very questionable from the very beginning.
Max Allen: London writer Alistair Holloway:
Alistair Holloway: Very often, in fact, the media will not tell things, so they can keep perpetuating -- and I saw this particularly in the early days -- the myth of a child-pornography ring.
Max Allen: Brian Hinchberger, a board member of London's gay community organization, HALO:
Brian Hinchberger: The way it seems to working is, the police issue a press release; they don't bother giving as much detail as they should; that press release is usually the only thing that ever really takes place. The local media is not renowned for going out and doing any follow-up. So if anything changes in the courtroom, it's not reported.
On the other hand, the police don't bother retracting anything, or saying, "This charge was dropped." So The London Free Press, not knowing any better, they just keep the statistics up. In my opinion it's beneficial for both of them. It sells newspapers and it renews police budgets.
Max Allen: Two examples of trial by media: The first is the case of Buryl Wilson, a high school teacher who was "invited" to resign after police charged him with paying boys under eighteen for sex, and for possessing child pornography. It was the Wilson videotapes that were piled up in that mountain at Police Chief Fantino's press conference, a press conference that was followed by additional funding for Project Guardian.
Peter Wilson: What was on the tapes was Hollywood movies that, having owned a satellite dish for many years, I'd taped for him off of HBO -- they're mostly American movies -- Showtime, Cinemax, a lot of channels that we don't get up here.
Julian Fantino, when he seized these tapes, used the 850 to 875 tapes as a basis to get his extra money. These are not child-pornography tapes.
Joseph Couture: When they searched the apartment and took the videos, what happened there?
Peter Wilson: What they went in and did was, they trashed his apartment. And it was trashed. They took videotapes, his journals and his photo albums.
Max Allen: For the police perspective on this case, we turn to an interview with Chief Fantino and Superintendent Jim Balmain, who were interviewed by Gerald Hannon for an article in The Globe and Mail. Superintendent Balmain speaks first.
Jim Balmain: When we seized the Buryl Wilson tapes, there was about 875 tapes; there was about 800 or 1,000 photographs, Polaroids. When that seizure was made, myself and the co-ordinator went to the chief and we sat down and projected months and months of work just reviewing this material; and then, after we'd reviewed it, putting the stuff together and then getting out and making arrests and charges. We could see just a pile of stuff here. It was at that time that the chief decided, and said that he was going to do something. And you can tell what happened then. But that was the reason that we took it into the chief and said, Look, do you want us into this? This is months and months of work here.
Julian Fantino: It became a very labour-intensive, very demanding work for us. We obviously needed to get to the bottom of things as best we could. I just didn't see that we should be filing this stuff as a done deal knowing, as we knew, the debilitating, very damaging situations that prevailed, as was obvious to us.
Gerald Hannon: So you, I think, held a press conference, in which you had a lot of the tapes around you, did you not?
Julian Fantino: Yes, we did.
Gerald Hannon: Had you seen any of them at that point?
Julian Fantino: I had seen some, yes.
Gerald Hannon: How many, can you think, of those 800?
Julian Fantino: I have no idea.
Jim Balmain: We only showed the boss a couple of tapes. We had not reviewed them at that time. But the issue here was not that every one of those tapes was child pornography; the issue was that it was that many tapes that had to be reviewed. It wasn't the fact that there were 800 tapes just jam-packed full of child pornography, per se. It was the fact that there was pornography and they all had to be reviewed. So by the time of the press conference we'd only had those tapes, I think, for about a day and a half.
Julian Fantino: Yes, just a short time.
Gerald Hannon: How many of them do you think finally were pornographic?
Jim Balmain: Pornographic? Just pornographic?
Gerald Hannon: Yes.
Jim Balmain: Oh, I would think most of them.
Gerald Hannon: Most of them?
Jim Balmain: Yeah.
Gerald Hannon: Well, I have a list here. Can I show it to you?
Jim Balmain: Sure.
Gerald Hannon: This is allegedly a list of all the tapes seized by the police I've gone through it; it seems to me that they're almost all commercial films.
From the titles? I couldn't tell you from the titles. There are a number of times where we opened up a box and there was one title on the outside and something entirely different on the inside. It just goes on forever. That was why I said before, we put absolutely no faith in what was on the outside. And even when we started watching it, we had to watch the whole thing.
Gerald Hannon: So you've now watched them all, have you?
Jim Balmain: In fact, we just finished not so long ago. On the Buryl Wilson tapes. We've watched all of the tapes.
Gerald Hannon: And so you would still say that the great percentage of them were, even though they have something different on --
Jim Balmain: I have no idea. I didn't watch all of the tapes myself. I'm told that a lot of them were pornography tapes.
Gerald Hannon: He wasn't charged on any of the tapes, though, I believe. Was he?
Jim Balmain: No, probably not.
Gerald Hannon: So they were all legal pornography, then, if they were.
Jim Balmain: Yes. If they weren't, they would have been charged.
Gerald Hannon: Right.
Max Allen: "Legal pornography" is the stuff that you find in the "adult" section of video stores. So there were no children in that mountain of tapes.
How about the photographs? What was on them? This is Jane Sutherland, a longtime volunteer at London's gay organization, HALO, who was asked to help identify the men in the photographs.
Joseph Couture: You were recently brought in for questioning by the police. What happened in that interview?
Jane Sutherland: I was shown approximately 400 pictures of naked men, varying in ages anywhere from fourteen to -- probably the oldest I saw was about thirty -- and asked to identify the people in the pictures to the best of my ability. Out of the 400 there were probably fifteen that I actually recognized (by first name only).
Some of the pictures were Polaroids; some were actual photographs; some were magazine photographs. But there were only about six photographs that actually depicted a sexual act. These were adults. I could not see faces. The rest were just single shots of a person with no clothes on. Some of the people have passed away since those pictures were taken; and some of them were high-school pictures, fully clothed, which I thought was very strange.
Joseph Couture: Like yearbook pictures?
Either yearbook or somebody's high school -- like when you go and have your photographs done every year? One of the pictures was that of a friend of mine. I couldn't understand why that particular picture was in the book.
Joseph Couture: You said that the age ranges of the boys were fourteen to thirty. How many were teenagers and how many were older men?
Jane Sutherland: Very few were under the age of twenty.
Joseph Couture: How did being shown these photographs make you feel?
Jane Sutherland: Nervous. Tense. Afraid of actually seeing somebody who was close to me. Afterwards, it was very difficult to actually come down to a club that I've been part of for twenty years and see faces that I knew to party with on weekends or speak to during the week, but not on an intimate level. And suddenly I've seen these men with nothing on. It made me feel very uncomfortable for quite some time. I was embarrassed, very embarrassed.
Max Allen: Other people have been embarrassed in other ways. In some countries, the names of people accused of crimes are never published; only convicted people are named. But Canadian policy (and that came under fire just this week by judges in Prince Edward Island) -- our policy is to publish accusations. London's Project Guardian issues press releases about their charges, and the London media publicize them: names, addresses, and often occupations.
What results is a public trial before the criminal trial.
Two of the most recent Guardian arrests were for possession of child pornography and "possession of narcotics" (as the papers said). The men arrested say they'd been warned nine days before that a former friend with whom they'd had a falling out was planning to turn them in for kiddy porn, which they say they had none of. The information used as the basis for the police action says that the arrests resulted from an anonymous tip to Crimestoppers.
The two men were handcuffed and marched out of their house in full view of the neighbours. Their colleagues at work read about the charges in the paper, and heard about them on the radio. And there's always the looming danger of vigilante action.
John: Since this has all happened, every time I go out I look to see if there's somebody sitting out there, watching. When I get in my car, I look and see if we're being followed.
Patrick: We went out the first night and had a bite to eat. We got enough cigarettes and we stayed in the house, basically, three days straight.
John: I had a great deal of respect for our police force. I know they have a job to do and I admire them because it's not easy; I wouldn't want it. But I feel that it is getting to the stage now that it's becoming out of hand. They're losing the whole idea of what it's all about.
Patrick: The whole concept of Project Guardian.
Joseph Couture: Does it look to you like the police are targetting the gay community?
Patrick: Yes, they are.
John: It does to me.
Joseph Couture: Had you heard about Project Guardian before?
John: Yes. And I support it. I supported it 100 percent -- if it's involving children.
Patrick: If it's not just a witch-hunt.
John: But to me, to what I've heard and spoken to other people, they've lost their concept of what Project Guardian is all about.
Max Allen: I want to go back now to the eight-year-olds. They were featured in two cases. One, the case of Alan Seymour, who was eventually jailed on other charges, took place on the banks of the Thames River in London, and allegedly involved spanking. The other, the case of John MacEachern, who was eventually jailed for sex with his seventeen-year-old boyfriend, was said to involve the abduction and sexual assault of the eight-year-olds. Many months later, the mother of one of the boys was told to bring her son to the police station.
Janet McLean: My back was actually to the interview room. There was only a wall separating us, although they closed the door. I believe there were two officers; sometimes a third officer would come in. They told me they were taping what was going on and I couldn't be there, because then I couldn't go in the courtroom.
During the interview I would hear the odd banging, and I could hear a kind of crying. One officer came out during it, and I asked him, Well? Well? still expecting to hear that this was all a tragic mistake; they had got the wrong kid. He said that it was very slow coming, but he was coming around. And as I sat there for all those hours I continued to hear banging once in awhile. That's something that concerned me, because that's something [Peter] does when he's very frustrated.
You can really make them say what you want them to say if you play with words long enough, and I'm wondering if that's what [Peter] was getting frustrated at, at this point. Or he was frustrated at having to discuss what happened. I want to know the answer: which was it?
Max Allen: This is the story of a discovery. It began with a statement made by a person with inside information. This led to a search for inaccessible police documents, finding a misfiled court record, and following what turned out to be a very long trail.
That trail ended when we found Janet McLean, who has five children, owns her own home and is the manager of a London business. One of her children, though never publically named as such, turns out to be the invisible poster child of Project Guardian. This is the famous eight-year-old in the oft-repeated phrase "victims as young as eight."
Just minutes after we'd located her, Joseph Couture was at her door. Janet McLean had no idea why we'd be interested in something that happened over a year ago. But she invited Joseph Couture in to her house, and told him how her involvement began.
In what follows, some names, particularly of Janet McLean's son, who we'll call Peter, have been electronically masked.
Janet McLean: I just got a phone call from the police last February. They asked me if I'd heard, at that time I think it was called the child pornography ring, they asked me if I'd heard of the child pornography ring. I said yes. Over the phone they told me that my son was identified as a victim, and then asked me to go to the police station, set an appointment to go to the police station the next day.
Joseph Couture: Can you tell me about it?
Janet McLean: First of all, I think if your child's been victimized and you're going to find out about it, I don't think you should find out about it on the telephone. Prior to me getting home they had called three times, said they were police officers and were trying to reach my son, who at the time had just turned nine. So when I got home from work the kids had already been teasing [Peter] that the police were looking for him, and what did he do wrong? So there was already an atmosphere that he was guilty of something, because the police were calling. I just think the whole thing was handled very wrong.
Max Allen: So Janet took her son to the police station, where she was told he'd been "identified," and:
Janet McLean: And that they would have to talk to him. I wanted to go in with him; they wouldn't allow me. They said that if, after their investigation, I had to be in court, I wouldn't be allowed to be in court because I would have already heard what [Peter] said in the room. So they made me sit outside. I'm not exactly sure of the time, but I got there at five, and it was after nine pm when they came out.
Max Allen: Was Janet given the details of what was supposed to have happened?
Janet McLean: No. At this point I'm not l00 percent sure of what happened.
Through talking to [Peter] there was a lot of denial --
Joseph Couture: What do you mean by denial?
Janet McLean: I said, Did some bad people touch you in places? And he screamed at me, "I was only a little kid! How do you expect me to remember anything?" And he stormed off. That was my kind of, okay, he's confirming. He didn't say "No, Mom, this didn't happen." He already had his "I was just a little kid, they can't ask me questions, I just can't remember anything." So he had already sort of confirmed the fact that he had been carrying this.
I still don't know what I'm dealing with with this child. I tried to take him to counselling, and he became very depressed, very aggressive. During the counselling session, myself and the counsellor were talking and he was drawing pictures, and when she looked at the pictures afterward he had drawn himself in black, and knives going into him. He's talking about suicide. They said that if I forced him to go to the counselling I could have a serious situation. He began to hurt himself, physically. He would smash his head on walls, on floors, and try to cut himself.
Joseph Couture: Why was he doing that?
Janet McLean: I'm not sure. They tell me because he doesn't want to deal with it at this point. I'm not sure.
Joseph Couture: How do you feel about the charges being dropped? In both cases the charges were dropped against the men.
Janet McLean: In both cases?
Joseph Couture: Both cases.
Janet McLean: I wasn't aware of that. I was told that Mr. Seymour got two years.
Joseph Couture: Oh, he went to jail, but not pertaining to an incident with your son. It was withdrawn in court.
Janet McLean: They're never made me aware of that. That makes me really angry. That makes me really really angry, because they told me he got two years for that.
They never once have told me that they dropped those charges. That's disgusting. I can't believe that. I was under the impression that he had two years, or two and a half years. Wow. They never told me that. This is the first I'm hearing that.
I don't understand. Why?
Max Allen: Three months pass since the police questioning of Janet's eight-year-old son. And then:
Janet McLean: Again a phone call. "We believe your older son's been identified."
Joseph Couture: How old was he?
Janet McLean: He's just turned seventeen, so he was sixteen. They made arrangements to come out -- no, I was to take him there. Every time I was to take him there, he'd disappear. Like, there was no way he was going to a police station.
Joseph Couture: He didn't want to cooperate?
Janet McLean: Not at all. Then they finally called and said that they would come pick him up. Now, he was only gone a short time; maybe just over an hour or so. Then they brought him back, and they said that he denied having any, whatsoever.
Joseph Couture: What incident was this supposed to pertain to?
Janet McLean: These were supposed to have pertained to some -- this is what I got from the police: It was an incident at Aberdeen School with a guy who owns a duck. It's a weirdo who lives over by Aberdeen who owns a duck.
Joseph Couture: So when they took him into the police station, he denied everything?
Janet McLean: Yes. As far as I know. Now, again, the police never ever talked to me. I called them, maybe a week later. Because I said to him, What went on? "Those guys are nuts." That's what he told me, right? Then I finally called -- McReary? I'm trying to remember the officer's name. Mc-something, I think. I can't remember. And I said, Hey, what happened? And he said, "We still have suspicions, but your son said nothing happened; that he wasn't involved."
Well, they left me with, "We still have suspicions, but...". And that made me think -- during that week, I thought, Okay, did my older son bring my younger son in on this? Because my older son would have been -- was he one of the teens that was out there getting money, drawing my younger son into this? The thoughts that went through my mind. To this day, he says, "The police are nuts. They're nuts; it never occurred."
So how did the police connect those two? I don't know. And how is it I get called for two sons, and all these different -- I don't know. I don't understand. I've been trying to deal with this for a year now, and I just don't know what to do. I find myself second-guessing myself: when [Peter] does something, did he do this because this happened? Or is this just a normal thing that a ten-year-old's going to do? I always find myself second-guessing myself. Even with discipline; should I discipline him this way? Or, no, that might tip him off. It's like I'm wearing kid gloves around him.
I just don't know.
Max Allen: The conversation with Janet McLean we've been listening to was taped in her home early last week. Joseph Couture brought along a stack of documents, and Janet McLean read them carefully. She found something she hadn't noticed before.
Now I want to take you forward a week (we'll come back to the developments as they occurred in a minute).
There was a second boy said by the police to have been forcibly confined and sexually assaulted in the MacEachern incident. We're calling him Tommy Eberts, and he's about the same age as Janet's son Peter. Through a combination of persistence and sheer luck, we tracked this family down too. And as Janet McLean discovered -- and told Tommy's parents -- there's a problem with just when the assaults on their sons were supposed to have happened.
Janet McLean: "The four charges, involving two victims; and these events" -- and they talk about the offences and so forth. Okay, when did you guys move out of Nelson Street?
The Eberts: Two years ago. May.
Janet McLean: May of '93? Okay, so you weren't in the area when these were supposed to have happened either. This is when it was supposed to have happened. These are official court records.
I had been moved out of the area for over a year when they said that this took place. I didn't realize it, because I just found out from court records when this was supposed to have happened. It was supposed to have happened between 1 September '93 and 3 November '93.
Mrs. Eberts: Have you seen -- these are court records?
Janet McLean: I've just seen them recently.
That's what drew my attention to it, specifically: what are these police talking about? I had moved a year earlier. Then I started to wonder: when did you guys move? So you were already moved out of the area at the same time, too.
Mr. Eberts: We were already gone. Yeah.
Janet McLean: So how did our two children connect when we both know that they haven't seen each other since they moved? And how in the hell did they both get over to Terrence Street? They couldn't.
Mr. Eberts: They couldn't. We've never gone back.
Janet McLean: Us neither.
Max Allen: We back up now to our first conversation with Janet McLean, and what her life has been like this past year.
Janet McLean: Okay, just an incident: this is what I mean. [Peter] does something wrong, and maybe Mom doesn't come down as hard on him as hard as she would one of the other kids. My thirteen-year-old will say to him, "Mom treats you special 'cause you got raped."
It's affected every one of the kids' lives in this household. Because, yeah, [Peter] does get preferrential treatment sometimes, because I look at him and I think, Oh my poor baby boy; you've endured so much.
Maybe [Peter]'s scamming me too. [laughs] Actually, no; because he's always said that nothing ever happened. I've tried to sit down and talk to him, and what I get from him is the same answer I got the first day: "I was just a kid. How do you expect me to remember anything?" I always took that as a confirmation that it did happen, and that was his way of not dealing with it.
Joseph Couture: But maybe it's the truth.
Janet McLean: That's what I want to know now. Because if I've gone through all these months of this bullshit -- I mean, it's been far-reaching. I have one sister who looks at [Peter] like, "Oh, he's going to be funnywhen he grows up." What does "funny" mean? What does "funny" mean? You know what I mean? And then a girlfriend says he's going to be a pedophile. Don't give me that crap! But people look at [Peter] differently now.
Max Allen: There were two boys allegedly involved in the MacEachern incident. London police officer Mike Miletich testified at MacEachern's bail hearing on 14 February 1994, and described that incident in these words (I'm leaving out interruptions by the judge and the lawyers):
"The [two victims] both approximately eight years of age at this time, were playing in the area of Adelaide Street and Terrence Street. And at the corner of the intersection was an apartment building, or apartment house, with the address of 27 Adelaide South.
"The boys entered this building and were playing in the hallway when suddenly, while in the hallway, both boys were confronted by the accused. Without warning the accused pushed the boys from the hallway into apartment number three. Once inside the accused blocked the doorway and refused to let the young boys out.
"The accused approched [instead of his real name, I'll call him Tommy Eberts here] and pulled down his pants exposing his genital areas. The victim tried to push the accused's hand away, but the accused told the victim to stop. The accused then fondled the victim's genitals. During that time he had also pulled the pants down of the second boy [Peter McLean], and did the same to this Peter McLean.
[Both of the young boys were afraid and did not resist any further while they stood there with their pants down and they were being fondled.]
"This behaviour continued for approximately four minutes. When the accused was finished both boys pulled up their pants and the accused warned them not to tell anyone what happened (and they were allowed to leave the apartment).
"From my recollection speaking to the victim, Peter McLean, the accused told them 'Don't you tell anybody this or I'll be back'.
"The boys were afraid as a result of this warning and there was no mention made to their family or anyone with regard to the incident. Until sometime later the police found out about the incident and then interviewed the boys subsequently."
The London Free Press reported this story a number of times, and the eight-year-old victims (never named of course) became a kind of horrid symbol of the perversion of what was still being called a kiddy-porn ring. The incident was never, as far as I know, described in anything like the detail that was given in court; it existed as a kind of shadowy nightmare in the public imagination. On the first anniversary of Project Guardian, in September 1994, a London Free Press article was headlined: "Work with young victims will last for years, extent of damage to them remains unknown."
"Investigators, too, have become victims in the case that has rocked London." Later on in the story the reporter writes: "The children have been at times the forgotten victims -- like the eight-year-old who was dragged into an apartment and assaulted; the boy who was fondled while he was fishing in the Thames; or the others who lost their childhoods in other way, either by choice or for money."
Peter McLean's mother Janet, and Tommy Eberts' mother Geraldine were reading these stories too. They knew each other slightly because their sons were friends, and early on in the press coverage they talked on the phone. Geraldine said that her son insisted that there was no assault.
Janet McLean: She said that he totally denies that it ever happened. When he was taken to the police station, again he totally denied that anything had happened. But she, like myself, fully believed that it happened, because of the things that the police said; because of the way it was handled. When itcame out in the newspaper, she called me: "Did you read about [Tommy] and [Peter] today?"
When you get it from the police and then you get confirmation by reading it in the newspaper -- she had no idea it was going to be in the newspaper either -- that to her confirms it. [Tommy] said that nothing happened, but she's saying that she's having the same behavioural problems with [Tommy] as I am with [Peter].
But if it didn't happen, [the behavioural problems] could have been brought on by the police involvement, the questioning. I'm not sure how long [Tommy] was questioned. I heard crying when [Peter] was questioned; I heard banging.
Max Allen: After talking with us at the beginning of last week, Janet McLean did some research. She questioned her son again, calmly as usual. Then she talked to us again, three days later.
Joseph Couture: You've been spending some time thinking about the incidents that your son was involved in. Where are you coming from on that?
Janet McLean: What is my mind-set on that? I'm believing more and more that my original reaction -- that nothing happened -- I'm believing more and more that that's exactly what occurred: nothing.
Joseph Couture: According to the time-frame that the police say the incidents happened in, you weren't in the area.
Janet McLean: If the MacEachern charges were from September of '93 til November of '93, I was not in that area. I'd been gone for a year and had never returned. Nor have my children ever been near that area.
Joseph Couture: So at this point you're saying you don't believe them anymore.
Janet McLean: No.
Joseph Couture: And [Peter] himself has told you a much different story than the police are telling you.
Janet McLean: Just recently, yes.
Joseph Couture: What do you think of the justice system?
Janet McLean: I think it stinks. I don't see a justice system. If this really didn't happen, I don't see where there's any justice at all in this. At all.
Max Allen: The charges in both incidents supposedly involving Peter McLean were dropped. This was never reported, anywhere.
The eight-year-old victims have continued to this day to fuel the fires built by Project Guardian. "Victims as young as eight" has become a mantra, heard over and over again.
On the evening of May 3rd, Joseph Couture talked to Janet McLean on the phone.
Janet McLean: I talked to my older son today. I didn't tell him anything; at this point he had no idea of what's going on. I said to him, Remember when the police called you down there and you said they were nuts? Can you tell me what they did when you went there?
He told me that when they went down there, they took him into an interview room and they named off a couple of kids' names that he knew, and said that these two gentlemen had said that [Terry] was involved in some sexual stuff with a gentleman who owned a duck. And you might as well tell us, because your buddies have already told us. They were very nice about it but very pressuring, that you might as well tell us because we already know.
Having no fear of the police, he said, "You guys are nuts. None of this stuff ever happened." So I talked to him, and he wants to talk to you about that.
Max Allen: Janet McLean also talked to her younger son, and this time told him she believed his story, that there'd been no assault.
Janet McLean: I kept him home from school because he was out very late last night and I figured, after talking to him and all the stress he's been through, just keep him home for the day and spend some special time with him.
He's been jumping and skipping and actually hugging me. This is a kid who stopped hugging me last year. I was sitting by the table, just in thought, not really doing anything, just sitting at the kitchen table, and he came up behind me and he's got his arms all over me and he's draped on me. He's like the old [Peter], who left last year when all this stuff occurred. He came to my office with me today. We actually had discussions, we talked. I just cannot believe the change in this kid's demeanour. He's so happy. Even his older sister, who's thirteen, said today: "[Peter], what's wrong with you today? You're laughing at everything. Mom, did he bang his head?" So not only did I notice it; his brothers and sisters have noticed it. His younger sister said, "Mom, [Peter]'s acting silly today. He's laughing at everything."
Joseph Couture: Why do you think this is?
Janet McLean: I asked him earlier today, because he actually got me giggling, because he was giggling (over I'm not sure what) while eating french fries, and he just said he felt so much better. I said, Why do you feel better? Because you finally got to talk to Mom about this (meaning what took place at thepolice station)? And he said yeah, that that was it. He just felt so much better since he could finally tell me the truth.
Joseph Couture: So what's going through your mind at this point?
Janet McLean: A lot of anger. At myself, and especially at the police, because, believing what the police said, I reinforced that. Every quiet moment we got, I asked, Okay, honey, do you want to talk about what the bad guys did to you? Do you want to talk about what happened at the apartment? So I was basically reinforcing the fact that I had never believed his initial story that nothing happened.
So I feel that I am partly responsible, because I feel that fifteen months of this kid's life he's been angry and depressed. And now all of a sudden I have back the old [Peter] that I had before. I don't know how to express the change in him, and I can't believe it's so radical in one day. But he's just totally different.
Now, he also expressed to me today -- I did not realize, when I took [Peter] to court with Officer Crosby, and he saw that MacEachern did in fact get two years less a day, [Peter] was under the assumption at that time that Mr. MacEachern got that because of what happened to [Peter]. [Peter] informed me today that that was partly why he was afraid to tell me what happened at the police station: because he thought he was going to jail because he had sent a man to jail who didn't really do anything.
I broke down, and I said, Mr. MacEachern didn't go to jail because of your charges. So I then had to explain it all to him. I think a big part of his guilt was that this man was sitting in jail because of him. He was blown away -- he was scared to tell me because this man was already in jail. I said, But honey, he's not in jail because of you. And he said, "But Mom, we were at the courthouse." And I said, Yes, but he went away for other things that he did, nothing to do with you.
Then I felt compelled to explain to him the situation: how the police dropped the charges, so [Peter] wouldn't have to testify. And he said, "So he didn't go to jail because of me?" And I said, No. And it was like -- just the look on his face. He was excited. Because I think he's been walking around all this time thinking that this man is in jail because of him.
He thought he sent an innocent man to jail by agreeing with the police officers during the interview.
I myself, if I heard through the media or whatever that this took place, I would have a hard time believing it. If I wasn't the one living it, I really would. It would be like, Yeah, right; I don't think police do that. But I'll tell you: I have second thoughts now. And I'm angry at the media for the way they portrayed things as well. I don't think they were fair at all.
Since all of this, I've gone back through the media; and reading some of the stuff through the media, I'm seeing them portraying one child as though he were two different children; they really spectacularized and centred on [Peter]'s story. That was the heart-gripping one. I feel angry that they did that. I think they've made a circus out of this whole thing.
I cannot believe it happened, after talking to [Peter]. I believe that that child was most sincerely scared, going into the interview. I asked him, at what point did he become scared? He told me he was scared as soon as he knew that he had to go to the police station, that he had the interview. He was more scared when Officer Maloney took him into the interview room alone. He said that he decided he was going to do anything they said when Officer Maloney told him that four of his friends had already told them this story, and the involvement with [Peter] at the apartment, so he might as well just tell Officer Maloney. There was no sense lying. At that point, that's when the second officer came in with the tape recorder. But before the tape recorder had even gotten into the room, and while Officer Maloney was the only one in there, he'd already told [Peter] the other kids had said this had happened, "so you might as well just tell us."
In all fairness, I believe I need to hear the tapes. But from what [Peter] was telling me, most of the conversation that took place was the police telling him a series of events, and him agreeing to them.
Joseph Couture: Did he say any more about the photographs?
Janet McLean: I asked him again about the photographs, and he again told me that he had been asked during the interview if Mr. MacEachern had zits all over his face, acne on his face. When they asked him if this man did in fact have this, [Peter] automatically said, "Yes," feeling that that's what they wanted to hear. So when they brought in the photographs -- he's told me on a couple of occasions now -- it was very easy to pick out the gentleman, because he was the only one in the lineup who had zits on his face.
Actually, the way he described it to me was: "Mom, how dumb do you think I am? They brought in these pictures, and I looked for the one with the zits."
Joseph Couture: Did you say anything about the car ride they took him on?
Janet McLean: What he told me was, they did take him to an apartment and asked him, "Is this the place?" [Peter] said he didn't even know where the place was; he just told them, "Yes."
He also told me that when he pointed out the picture, one of the officers jumped up, banged the desk, and said, "Yes! We've got him!" I said, Oh, I bet that kind of made you feel good. And he said yeah, because it made him feel like he did a good thing.
My second son's story was so similar, except that my second son was much older.
Joseph Couture: Who were they trying to say he was a victim of?
Janet McLean: My second son? I'm not sure of the name. He was the gentleman with the duck; that's all I know. But my second son's more than willing to talk to you.
Terry McLean: My mom got a call from the police that they wanted to interview me about the child-pornography ring. I went in for the interview, and as soon as I got in the room there were two officers -- and the interview was supposed to be about me, but the first thing they said to me was, "We know what happened with your little brother, and we really want to get these guys. And we want you to help us out." Sort of making it seem like I would be helping my brother out if I said anything happened to me. But nothing had happened to me.
And the questions they were asking me: they asked me about a man who lived on Grey Street, and he had a duck in his back yard or something like that. They were trying to convince me into saying that it had happened, but I knew it hadn't.
Joseph Couture: What happened?
Terry McLean: They said that me and three other guys were going over to the man's house, and they wanted to know what happened in the man's house. But I had never been there before. They said, "We already have people who have told us this, and they've said that you were there" and things like that. I just kept saying no, nothing happened. And every time I'd say no, they'd come back to: "You know you want to help your little brother out, don't you? You want to help him. You want to get these guys because of what they did to your brother." But I've dealt with the police before; after a while they just stopped bugging me, because they knew that I didn't know anything. Nothing happened. I told them that right from the start when I went in there, but they just kept going back to my brother: "We need to get them, because they did this to your brother. Don't you want to help your brother?"Things like that.
The way that they questioned me, I know that if I was [Peter]'s age I know that I would have just went along with them, because -- like just the way they talked and stuff. I would have went along with it, if I never knew better.
Joseph Couture: Do you think that's what [Peter] did?
Terry McLean: I think so, yeah. Because he was really scared. He thought that maybe he would get in trouble if he didn't help them.
Max Allen: Police interrogation techniques were in the news last week, when the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of a young woman in what's come to be known as the Martensville case. She'd been jailed on the basis of stories told by two young "victims" of sexual abuse. The Court of Appeal, in a blistering judgement, criticized police investigators for improper treatment of the children by using leading and suggestive questions which "did not comply with techniques recommended by experts to get accurate responses."
In Toronto yesterday, Janet McLean filed a request with the Ontario Police Complaints Commission, asking that the treatment of her son by the London police be investigated, and that she be given the tape recording of his interrogation.
I'm Max Allen.
Lister Sinclair: "The Trials of London," from IDEAS. You can access previous IDEAS programs about "The Trials of London" on the Internet. Our World Wide Web site address is: radioworks.cbc.ca
IDEAS tonight was produced by Max Allen, with Joseph Couture. Production assistant: Liz Nagy. Technical operations: Lorne Tulk. The executive producer of IDEAS is Bernie Lucht, and I'm Lister Sinclair.
Printed transcripts of the four programmes in this IDEAS series are available from: |
IDEAS, Box 500, Station A, Toronto M5W 1E6.
Transcripts of programmes 1 and 2 are available on the Internet. Find IDEAS through the CBC Radio's homepage: www.radio.cbc.ca
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