by Andrew Foote
It was with a feeling of enormous relief as we went about our daily lives knowing that Carl and his thugs were soon to stand trial. Another reason was knowing that the bust that had brought him to court didn't involve us so there was the possibility he wouldn't suspect our involvement, and perhaps the heat had died down. None the less, we were cautious when we went out.
We had met a team of forensic scientists, Mr Bushby and some other officers at Wootton Park as arranged, showed them around, and following the tour they promptly sealed off all the bedrooms, concentrating their efforts on the playroom.
I told them about my poisoning incident, so after a cursory examination of the floors, work surfaces and play areas, confirming that someone had tried to do a clean-up job, went for the places that might still reveal something of interest.
Following that, we left for my house in Solihull where I half expected it to have been turned over by Carl's people, but it was as we had left it.
I followed the Old Bailey's website and discovered that he was due to appear on September 12th in Court number one and come the time, we all followed the case as reported in the press, telly we didn't have.
His legal team had cross-examined all the witnesses rigorously, argued obscure points of law, but never once did they deny the charges outright. They tried to argue that the yacht had been boarded outside of UK territorial waters, thus making it sound like an act of piracy, but the coastguard cutter that had escorted the boarding party had an electronic log which disproved their argument, and actually, it made them look stupid.
The young boy didn't appear in person, his evidence was given over a video link with his face hidden from the camera but, that didn't stop him from being on the sharp end of some pretty aggressive cross-examination, however the presiding Judge soon put a stop to that.
It was also reported that at no time did any of the defendants show any remorse, and sick fuck that Carl is, apparently, he was smiling during the boy's evidence, but finally the jury was sent away so they could come to a verdict.
On three consecutive days, they reported that they still hadn't come to a decision, then on day four they announced their findings.
Carl came top of the list.
Charge one. Being in possession of class A drugs, to wit, fifteen hundred kilograms of uncut cocaine, Guilty by a unanimous verdict.
Charge two. Attempting to import class A drugs. Ditto the amount, and ditto the verdict.
Charge three. Abduction and false imprisonment of a minor. Guilty by a unanimous verdict.
Charge four. Six counts of Statutory rape. Guilty by a unanimous verdict.
Charge five. Fifteen counts of Committing an act of gross indecency. Guilty by a unanimous verdict.
Charge six. Ten counts of Assault occasioning Grievous bodily harm with intent. Guilty by a unanimous verdict.
Charge one. Aiding and abetting the importation of class A drugs. Guilty by a majority verdict.
Charge two. Knowingly assisting in the abduction and false imprisonment of a minor. Guilty by a majority verdict.
Charge three. Six counts of Perverting the course of justice. Guilty by a unanimous verdict.
Then came the four thugs, each of whom had been charged with the same offences, although the verdicts reached were read to the court individually. However, the end result was the same for each of them.
Charge one. Aiding and abetting the importation of class A drugs. Guilty by a majority verdict.
Charge two. Procurement of a child for the purposes of sex. Guilty by a unanimous verdict.
Charge three. Knowingly assisting in the abduction and false imprisonment of a minor. Guilty by a unanimous verdict.
Charge four. Six counts of Perverting the course of justice. Guilty by a unanimous verdict.
By the end of the day, all six of them had been found guilty of all charges brought against them, but the Judge deferred sentence for two weeks, remanding them in custody for the duration.
I called Callum.
"Yeah. I've already heard! I wanna come back to Brum, that is if you'll take me in?"
"It's still your place and it would be great having you back."
"Can I um…… bring my boyfriend?"
"Of course? I don't want a miserable Callum cluttering up the place!"
"You'll like him. He's another egghead just like you!"
"There's a lot of us around, what with Donny wanting to get back to school, Bubba going to catering college, Ian want to train to be a teacher and Pip taking his HGV licence. You'll be the only numbskull on the premises!"
"Fuck you Anderson. I used to like you!"
"Still got a silver tongue I see."
"Nothing much changes Ed. I wouldn't want to be a disappointment to you."
"You could never disappoint me. What are you planning on doing once you're back?"
"Dunno. I'll think of summat."
"How's about doing an RYA Helmsman course? We have that sodding great big boat, and it would be good to have someone who can drive the damn thing? I want to set stuff in motion so we can open up this hovel as a working museum. The boat was built here, so why not deck it out and do cruises."
"Could do I suppose. Sounds like fun!
I better scoot now, but I'll give you a call once I've got everything squared away at this end. I wanna be back to hear the sentencing 'cos that will signal party time. A real party. Round up the boys and have a blast."
The day sentences were handed down found us back in Solihull where we could catch up on the news as soon as it broke.
Carl received a thrashing from the Judge telling him he posed a real danger to society. A paedophile drug baron who had shown no remorse during the entire trial. He was handed the maximum penalty for drug importation, a fifteen-year period behind bars with no possibility of parole until he'd served at least twelve years.
For possession, he received eight years, abduction and false imprisonment, a further eight years, Statutory rape he got hammered with a life term. Minimum time before parole would be considered, twenty years, counts of ABH with intent, ten years and for the counts of gross indecency, a further ten years giving a total sentence of sixty-eight years, but these to be served concurrently, meaning he could be out after serving just a twenty-year term.
His wife got off with lighter sentences.
Aiding and abetting importation, five years, Assisting the abduction and false imprisonment of a minor got her clouted with seven years, but the longest sentence was for Perverting the course of justice for which the judge handed down a fifteen-year term, with no possibility of parole until she had served at least ten.
The four thugs received the same treatment, and all things considered, we were happy enough with the outcome.
I had a call from Mr Bushby.
"Are you all happy with the sentences?"
"By and Large. Shame those will be served concurrently rather than consecutively."
"I know what you mean, but the justice system has to be seen to be fair. If His Lordship had swung the axe harder, then an appeal of sentence would be inevitable and something that would be a waste of public money.
Think on the positive. If we can nail him for all the other stuff, the likely outcome will be that he'll never see the outside world again. Life will mean life Edward and he won't be released unless he's at death's door.
There's a hearing next month that will see him stripped of his assets. We aren't in a position to touch his offshore interests, but everything else he'll lose, and if he makes any attempt to transfer assets from abroad, we'll take them as well.
On a lighter note, there will be a substantial reward coming to all of you, plus Donny and Callum will receive a pay-out from the Criminal Injury Compensation Board.
I can't tell you anything about our ongoing investigations other than they're starting to look very promising, but just remember. These are highly complex, and it may well take years before we're ready to go to court. Stay happy, and if possible, keep the little-un's out of mischief!"
Back at Bishops Wharf we broke the good news to the lads who were in the loop, which somehow turned, out to be all of them.
Two days on and we met with the boys from Wolverhampton who told us that now that they didn't feel the need to stay undercover, would co-operate with the police and give statements. Also, they would have a quiet chat to some of the other boys involved to see if they could persuade them on board. They thought that most would, but some were still very traumatised and might take some time to talk around.
I called Mr Bushby.
"I know you're not allowed to tell me what's happening or what progress you've made, but we've talked to couple of boys from Wolverhampton who were involved in those gigs at Wotton Park . They're prepared to give you statements, plus they'll talk to the other boys they know. Would that help you?"
"You're right. I can't tell you anything. You are material witnesses and it would render your evidence inadmissible in court, and if his legal team came close to suspecting we'd talked to you off the record, our case might be dismissed on a technicality, but having said that, we would be very interested in gathering as much information as possible. If those boys are willing to come forward then fine, we'd like to hear what they have to say."
"We were thinking of getting everyone together at our place; not so you could take statements, but some of them are terrified and might need to hear from you about how they might be treated."
"That might work. Do you feel comfortable with us coming to you?"
"Perfectly comfortable, but don't expect a palace."
"You've talked to your clan then?"
"Callum, Pip and Donny. If we do it on a Saturday afternoon, the rest of our lot will be out and about. Some of the boys from Wolverhampton are still in school so it might be the best time for them as well."
"See what you can organise then call me.
You know how they'll be treated. With sympathy and respect. We're not concerned about any past misdemeanours or petty crimes they might've committed, we could even offer them immunity from prosecution. All we're interested in Edward, is getting sufficient evidence together to file solid charges against some very evil and dangerous individuals."
"Thanks Mr Bushby. I'll call you once I have news."
"Ed? This is Scott from Wolverhampton. Got a few minutes to talk?"
"Yeah, no worries. What's the news?"
"As you already know, Rich and me are willing to hook up with the police, plus I managed to get a few more on-side but not all of them. Problem is, they're still scared half out of their minds, not only 'bout what might happen if Carl suspects anything and manages to put something together from his prison cell, but they're all shitting themselves about talking to the law and I dunno how best to deal with it."
"Yes, I was frightened that might be the case, but I've talked to our man and he's happy to meet anyone who comes along. Honestly Scott, they've nothing to be worried about, and if you could see that for yourself, then you could use your own experiences to convince those who don't want to get involved."
"Okay. When and where?"
"Saturday next at our place. Get the Metro to Moor Street station, call us once you're near and we'll come and meet you. Make it for around two in the afternoon."
"We'll be there. Bye Ed."
Mr Bushby was very gentle in his approach and managed to settle the boy's nerves from the word go. He explained the history about how I'd first contacted him; not the precise details as he explained he was still working to bring further charges of drug distribution and possible murder against someone who I had been the provider of information. I guessed he was talking about the charge card and Vincent's disappearance, as he nodded in my direction.
He then went on to tell them about the hoops I had him jump through to prove he wasn't on the take and that he could be trusted then finished with a plea to them to mirror my trust so he could put Carl and others away for ever.
Callum chipped in with his own verification.
"Look guys? Most of you know me, and remember me as the last person who would have any dealings with the fuzz, but even I trust Mr Bushby. So, the bottom line? If I can do it then so can you lot. Come on, let's help the guy!"
There were questions which Mr Bushby answered candidly and honestly. He didn't tell them that it was going to be a walk-over, in fact he said that it was going to be a tough job to pull everything together; tough but possible, but only if they were prepared to help.
One of the younger boys mentioned that he thought that his father might be involved, and asked if he would he be prosecuted.
"Depending on what we uncover, then he might well be son, it's hard to say without your evidence and what else we might find out about him. Does that worry you?"
"Yeah. He's a bastard, but he's still my dad."
"We can't pick and choose son. If he's been up to no good, then he has to face the consequences of his actions. I can't change, nor would I change my answer just to make you feel good. Honesty remember?"
"It's okay. I'll still tell you everything."
And so it went on until the meeting broke up and we saw Mr Bushby off the premises. Useful and productive I think it's called.
Weeks turned to months, fifteen to be precise, then one day Donny and I were working in the garden back in Solihull when Marie, Pip's girlfriend called us into the house.
"I thought you might like to see what they're reporting on in the lunchtime news. Something to do with a paedophile ring and people being taken in for questioning."
We slipped out of our shoes to save getting dirt on the new carpets and sat down in front of the TV where Pip, Callum and his boyfriend joined us, having been decorating the stairwell.
The Anchor-man handed over to a reporter.
"Thank you, Charlie.
The police are being rather tight-lipped about this morning's events; however, they have told us that following months of investigations, they raided homes and business premises across the country and made a number of arrests which they say are in related to a suspected child prostitution ring. Forensic teams have removed what we believe to be computer equipment and personal items and are also carrying out detailed examinations of these properties.
In addition, four premises in France, three in Germany and two in the Netherlands have also been raided in a co-ordinated operation they call Operation Echo.
The European Crime Agency, together with the Home Office here in the UK, have banned us from reporting further details, an injunction which, naturally, we will honour.
Peter Swan, BBC News, outside Birmingham City Police Headquarters."
The shot went back to the studio and the Anchor-man.
"As Peter told us there, we are unable to talk about the names of those who have been arrested, nor can we report on locations, however, most of these raids took place in and around the West Midlands then with one in Hampstead, three in Yorkshire and one in Manchester. Many of those taken into custody are prominent members of society including politicians, high ranking military officers, solicitors and barristers together with prominent names from industry. We have little information regarding the raids in Europe, but we're working closely with our colleagues in those countries and will report what we can, when we can.
We have requested interviews with the Commander of the Regional Serious Crime Squad in the West Midlands together with the Chief Constable, however our request was refused but issued a statement which reads;
"Whilst we recognise that the public has a right to be kept informed, sensitive investigations are still on-going and this has to take precedence over everything. We look to the media for their support and co-operation, and members of the public for their understanding."
"In other headlines today……."
We switched the TV to standby.
Callum was the first to speak.
"Has to be. For me, Hampstead was the dead give-away as that's where Carl lived."
"Yeah, but Ed? He's already in choky, so why go back there now?"
"Big place. Maybe they feel they missed something."
"Probably. I mean if there was something else going down apart from Carl's stuff, I think I might have got a whiff of it, but there was nothing. Just your normal pervy punters on the street."
"Don't tell me you went back on the rent when you were in London?"
"Nope, but when you've had those experiences in the past, you kinda pick up on the vibes and I picked up on Jack Shit. There were the boys out on the street plying their trade as there is in most big cities, but I never caught up with anything like what went down here."
Just then my phone squawked at me, and noticing it was a withheld number, promptly ignored it, but then moments later, voice mail.
I dialled into it and listened.
"Edward? This is Inspector Bushby. Obviously you don't like answering calls from blocked numbers, I don't either, but could you call me on the number you used before as I need to talk to all of you. Thanks."
"That was Mr Bushby. Maybe we're going to get some news at last."
Later that same afternoon we sat around as Mr Bushby set out his stall.
"I'm assuming you all caught the news about the raids carried out earlier today? Police forces across the country together with our colleagues in Europe made a total of nineteen arrests with more to follow in the coming days. We've done a phenomenal amount of work over the past year, so we're confident that all these individuals were involved with the activities at Wootton Park, and also there's evidence that this goes beyond just being a UK problem, we know that similar setups are going on in several European countries together with America, South Africa and Russia.
Now, we expect full co-operation from the authorities in each of these countries, with the possible exception of Russia, where we have little expectation that they'll agree to extraditions, but that said, already we've received assurances that they will carry out their own investigations, and to that end, I have been asked to fly to Moscow this evening and brief them on what we already know.
The reason for telling you this, is because we can see light at the end of this very long tunnel, and depending on how those we might charge plea at Magistrates Court, I'm putting you on notice that it might not be that long before you're required to give evidence.
I don't want you to worry yourselves over this, the prosecuting team will speak to you prior to that time, refresh your memories, show you your statements and guide you through your evidence.
One other point; something I'm sure they will also reiterate; stick to the facts at all times. Don't be tempted into speculating about what you might have believed was going on, just what you actually witnessed, what you saw and what you did. The defence will try every trick in the book in order to undermine your version of events, so no guess work please.
Those of you under the age of eighteen have an automatic right to anonymity and we'll try to get the Courts to impose injunctions on the media to prevent the remainder of you from being exposed. Not a done deal, but given the nature of these cases, I'm reasonably confident that their Lordships will look favourably on such a request.
Have any of you lads got questions?"
Donny's hand shot up.
"Just the one Sir. Has my father been arrested?"
"Yes Donny, he has.
Now, if there's nothing else, I've got a suitcase to pack."
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