A Life Derailed, Part 1 of the Story of Alan Kerr; By Joseph de Burca.
Alan Kerr was sexually abused by three men at Williamson House, a Belfast Corporation Welfare Department care home in Belfast. He was only six years of age when it started. One of his abusers was Eric Witchell, the Office-in-Charge of the home. Witchell was a friend of both Joe Mains, the infamous paedophile and Warden of Kincora Boys’ Home and William McGrath, the Housefather at Kincora.
Alan is the younger brother of Richard Kerr who has featured heavily in Village during the last two years. Alan did not realise he had a brother until he met Richard at Williamson House when he was six. He also met his sister at it and learned that he had another brother, and two other sisters; moreover, that both of his parents were still alive.
Later, he was moved to Shore House where he was abused by another two men, one of whom may have been Witchell’s friend, William McGrath.
Alan eventually fled from institutional care for a life on the streets of Belfast but it was no more than jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Having been neglected, groomed and abused throughout his childhood, and finding himself desperate for food and shelter while on the run, he fell into the hands of a network of calculating paedophiles who abused him. At one point in time he was manipulated into working for a while at a brothel off the Lisburn Road where boys as young as 13 were made available to Belfast’s paedophile community.
Later again, he was trafficked to Birmingham and thence to London by Billy ‘B’, one of his abusers. Out of desperation and with neither an education nor any sort of a qualification, he would end up being exploited as a ‘rent boy’ at Victoria Station; as a ‘Dilly boy’ on the ‘Meat Rack’ at Piccadilly Circus; and for approximately a year in a brothel in Earl’s Court alongside other boys who were younger than him; possibly even as young as 13 or 14. He also had a bizarre encounter with two members of the Royal Family. Alan’s life in London will be described in the next edition of Village.
A FOG OF FEAR AT BREFFNI NURSERY 1969-1974.
ALAN AGED 0-6
INCARCERATING TODDLERS WHO CRIED AT NIGHT IN A PITCH-BLACK BOILER ROOM
Alan Kerr was born on 8 May, 1968, and was taken into care at Breffni Nursery when he was only a few months old, sometime in late 1968 or early 1969.
There was a lot of sobbing at night time in Breffni, a care home which catered for infants and pre-school children. Alan recalls how, if a child in the dormitory began to cry out loudly at night, some of the more brutal member of the night staff would put the child in a boiler room, well out of earshot. They were often left for hours alone in the pitch black. Alan often found himself crying because he was surrounded by cold strangers; had no family ‘to love me’; and had to cope with the unrelenting stress of a threatening environment. He too ended up in the boiler room on a number of occasions. He recalls one particular night when two of the night staff marched into the dormitory, hauled him out of bed and carried him to it, then pushed him inside and left him alone in the darkness four hours.
RAPE AT WILLIAMSON HOUSE
ALAN AGED 6-9
ALAN KERR WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED ON HIS FIRST NIGHT AT WILLIAMSON HOUSE. HE WAS ONLY 6 YEARS OLD
A caveat must be entered before we proceed any further: Alan Kerr does not have access to his institutional records from Belfast and therefore cannot provide precise dates. Instead, he has done his best from memory.
Alan left Breffni Nursery when he was about six, sometime in 1974, or thereabouts, and took up residence at Williamson House for the next two or three years. He describes it as being ‘worse’ than Breffni. ‘Things did happen there which I still can’t talk about.’
Alan would be abused by men who were not members of the staff at Williamson House; yet more proof of an organised child abuse ring operating in NI at this time. Astonishingly, the existing of a network has been dismissed by a series of lightweight inquiries which were no match for the corresponding heavyweight cover-ups organised by the British Establishment and which have lasted for nearly four decades. The most recent example of this was the mistake riddled Hart Report of January 2017, a document that even manages to contradict itself.
‘The abuse began on my first night at Williamson House when a man climbed into my bunk bed. I didn’t understand what was happening.’ The event was so traumatic, Alan manages to black it out most of the time and certainly prefers not to talk about it.
Alan’s brother Richard and his sister were at Williamson House. Prior to his arrival, he had no idea that he had any family. He also discovered he had two other sisters and a brother. Alan, Richard and his sister were together for about a year before Richard was shipped out to Kincora Boys Home, perhaps the most concentrated cesspit of child sex abuse in Ireland at that time. Alan’s sister remained with him at Williamson House. He received his first visit – or at least the first visit he can remember – from his parents at the home.
One of Alan’s abusers at Williamson House was Eric Witchell. He was a friend of Joe Mains, the Warden of Kincora, and William McGrath, the Housefather at Kincora. Although Witchell’s title was that of Officer-in-Charge, his responsibilities were confined to one of the two buildings at the institution, each of which was administered separately. Alan was not a resident on Witchell’s wing. Nonetheless, Witchell managed to lure him across to his attic room where he groped him sexually.
Witchell, he recalls, ‘always had a grin on his face’.
Alan hated the place from the word go. ‘Sometimes when things went wrong we were starved for no good reason.’ On more than one occasion, he was sent to bed without having been fed although he had done nothing wrong but someone else had – but had not owned up to it – and everyone was punished. ‘It was very hard to be happy at Williamson House. There was no joy there. It was scary in these places’.
Williamson House was not investigated by the Hart Inquiry although a number of other care homes were.
MISERY AND MORE SEXUAL ABUSE AT SHORE HOUSE.
ALAN AGED 10 – 11
WAS ‘JOE SOAP’, THE ABUSER WHO VISITED SHORE HOUSE, WILLIAM McGRATH FROM KINCORA?
Alan left Williamson House around 1977. He was about ten and took up residence at Shore House, also in Belfast. He stayed there until was 11, perhaps even 12. ‘It was not a nice place either. One of the staff, [NG], was very physical from the start. He would grab you by the throat, lock grab you; and drill march you up to the dorm and throw you into it. When you were in a lock, you couldn’t breathe properly’.
One lady beat the children with a wooden spoon on the legs and put soap and mustard in their mouths. “She was the worst female member of staff. If a child was making noise at night, she came upstairs and pulled the cover off and took your pyjamas down and beat you on the bum or the legs. It was pure physical hitting; hard-hitting. She could get furious.’
‘One thing the staff had to do was to make you afraid of them. This was how they kept control. They couldn’t ever lose control’, Alan emphasises.
Sadly, a lot worse than this lay in store for Alan.
A man Alan refers to as ‘Joe Soap’ abused both him and another boy at Shore House. Village is withholding the second child’s name. Alan had known him earlier at Williamson House.
‘Soap’ was a man who ‘smelt and was dirty’. He materialised at Shore House one day out of the blue, a complete stranger to Alan. Yet, ‘Soap’ knew exactly who he was. At the time Alan’s parents were both alive. ‘Soap’ knew about them too. Clearly, someone must have furnished him with the relevant details about Alan, most likely someone with access to his welfare file. ‘Soap’s’ opening gambit involved telling the staff that he was a friend of Alan’s parents. This was accepted at face value. ‘One of them came in and told me that there was someone outside who was a friend of my family and I was brought outside to meet him. It was as simple as that.’
Many years later Alan was looking at a picture of William McGrath, the notorious Housefather at Kincora Boys’ Home, when he realised he knew him; and then it came to him: McGrath was ‘Joe Soap’. If his recollection is accurate, this would explain how ‘Soap’ knew so much about his background and where to find him. For a start, McGrath and Witchell were friends. Witchell even had his own nickname for McGrath, ‘Master McGrath’, after a then popular dog food. (See Village July 2018.) Witchell, of course, knew all about Alan’s background from his time at Williamson House. McGrath might also have picked up Alan’s trail from his visits to his brother Richard at Kincora. Richard had entered Kincora in 1975 and stayed there until 1977.
McGrath was also known to abuse very young boys. One of his Kincora victims, James Miller, has described how he had an appetite for boys ‘with no hair between their legs’. Miller told the Hart Inquiry how the staff at Kincora ‘each had their favourites and they kept those boys for themselves. However, McGrath wasn’t that fussy about who he abused. He said himself he ‘liked’ all boys as long as they weren’t too old’.
Miller also stated that the abuse he suffered at Kincora ‘started within the first week. It continued over the entire two years I was there. I have thought about it and I would say McGrath abused me on 325 occasions, ranging from getting in to bed with me to buggery. He used to bring me downstairs behind Mains’ office and down to where the freezers were. It was quieter for him down there. The things he used to do to me were sick. He would try to get me to have an erection but I wasn’t old enough. I wasn’t even developed which was the way McGrath preferred it. He used to say he liked boys with no hair between the legs.’
Alan was about 10 or 11 at the time ‘Soap’, the man he believes was McGrath, began to abuse him.
McGrath occasionally wore glasses, just as ‘Soap’ did, although all the published photographs of him depict him in spectacles. McGrath did not always wear them while he working at Kincora according to Richard Kerr who saw him every day for nearly two years. In a similar fashion, ‘Soap’ did not always wear spectacles inside Shore House.
The defilement perpetrated by ‘Soap’ began after the second or third visit. ‘Soap’ could hardly have acted so confidently unless he knew that Alan had already been abused and had not complained.
‘Soap’ became a frequent visitor to Shore House. The early encounters involved Alan being raped in the upstairs toilets while the staff were downstairs in the living room unaware of what was going on. ‘I didn’t talk to them. You couldn’t talk to them. I was so scared of them. I thought I would get into trouble if I said anything to them.’
Later, ‘Soap’ took him to a derelict house to defile him.
The second boy was also abused in the upstairs toilets. Alan was instructed by ‘Soap’ to stand guard outside them while it took place. The other child was later rescued from the care system by a relative. Alan has neither seen nor spoken to him since.
One day ‘Soap’ disappeared never to turn up again at Shore House. Although Alan cannot be specific about dates, this may have been early in 1980 which is at the time the Kincora scandal erupted and McGrath’s reign of terror came shuddering to a halt.
Whether ‘Soap’ was McGrath or not, the essential point is that a paedophile was provided with confidential details about a boy at Shore House who had been broken and moulded into a sexual plaything at the age of six by Eric Witchell and others at Williamson House. Clearly, a paedophile network was operating in the shadows. Yet every State-sponsored probe into the Kincora scandal has concluded that an organised network of paedophiles did not exist in NI.
Shore House was not investigated by the Hart Inquiry either.
AN EMPLOYEE AT SHORE HOUSE, IS FOUND NOT GUILTY IN COURT OF MASTURBATING IN FRONT OF ALAN KERR
The staff at Shore House had access to a property in County Down where the children were occasionally taken on what should have been happy and memorable excursions. Alan went on one trip led by ‘G’, the man who was given to grabbing children by the throat. Alan was the only boy on the trip. That night the girls were shepherded into one of the bedrooms while Alan was instructed by G to join him in another room. When the doors were closed, G “took off his clothes and stood in front of me naked with his erection on display and began pleasuring himself’, Alan recalls. ‘Then he got into his own bed and continued. I told another boy about this and we were probably overheard and the story [eventually] leaked back’ to the other staff at Shore House.
Something similar happened during a subsequent visit to Portrush with G. On the second occasion, ‘he got into the shower with me erect. Then he masturbated himself in the bathroom. He was probably about 27-28 at the time”, Alan recalls.
Alan was attending a meeting of the Boys Brigade in a hall near to Shore House one day not long after these events had occurred when a member of staff called him out early and brought him back to see Miss Kavanagh, the woman who ran the institution. She was in her office with the Area Head social worker who was seated. She quizzed Alan about G’s behaviour. At first, he was afraid to talk but she persisted. She used hand gestures to depict what she understood had taken place. Alan was eventually able to confirm what had transpired. The RUC were then called in and took a statement from him. A prosecution was pursued in a court in County Down. The presiding magistrate was male in his 50s or 60s.
Alan, who was 10 or 11, recalls that he was ‘set upon by [G’s] lawyer and I started crying. The defence tore into me. I was accused of making it up. I denied I had lied. I was accused of being the one who had exposed myself to others on the trip’. That, of course, was a blatant and malicious lie.
On her way out of the court after Alan’s cross examination, Miss Kavanagh said that she was convinced that G was lying about Alan’s alleged behaviour because she was the person in authority to whom any such misbehaviour would have been reported and not a word of it had reached her ears.
Kerr was the only prosecution witness to testify about what had transpired inside the bedroom. In the event, her colleague was found not guilty by the magistrate. However, he soon lost his job at Shore House.
Alan never received any counselling after the trial. Shortly afterwards, he was fostered by a family in the community. The arrangement lasted approximately two years before the relationship broke down and he returned to Shore House, albeit for a brief spell only before he was moved on to Bernardo’s Sharonmore Project.
ESCAPE FROM RATHGAEL JUVENILE DETENTION CENTRE FOR A LIFE ON THE STREETS OF BELFAST 1982-85.
ALAN AGED 14-16.
LIVING ROUGH ON THE STREETS OF BELFAST
Alan stayed at Sharonmore for about two years, 1980-81, where he was not abused sexually. Nonetheless, the trauma of his childhood had caught up with him and he was now a troubled child. He was transferred to Rathgael Training School in Bangor, Co. Down, which catered for difficult children. So intense was his dislike of it, he absconded at any given opportunity, perhaps up to twenty times. His first break-out occurred shortly after his arrival. This began a pattern of traipsing ‘across fields that took me into Dundonald in East Belfast’. When he was caught and hauled back, he would be put into a lock up unit for absconders in ‘House 4’ which had shatterproof plastic windows. All told, he spent about a year at Rathgael before his final and permanent break for freedom.
When he was in Belfast the inevitable happened: he was preyed upon by predators on the lookout for ‘runaways’. ‘Two men – Martin Cassidy and Davey Martin – bumped into me and it started from there. They hung around the town centre a lot picking up boys, especially boys in school uniforms. They often went to the toilets in the city and other places. Cassidy had a beard in those days and wore an earring. He was dirty and badly dressed. Martin was more into suits, snappy suits’.
Alan recalls how Cassidy was ‘a monster’ who asked him to perform grotesque sexual acts on him.
Alan became something for them to show off, to dangle and pass around to other predators. Among those to whom he was circulated was ‘Fanny’ who was a ‘dirty pervert’, as a well as Roy, Hugo and Billy B ‘who all had their own kinks’. Roy is still alive and living in Belfast. Billy ‘B’ is dead as, it appears, is Hugo.
‘I slept with men because I had no choice. I needed food and a bed’, Alan explains. Suffice it to say, by this time his desperation had made him easy prey for Belfast’s calculating paedophiles. He was escorted around the paedophile haunts of the city such as the Whip & Saddle Bar in the Europa Hotel while it was run by Harper Brown, a friend of Joe Mains, the Warden of Kincora. The Europa was where Alan’s brother Richard had been abused by Enoch Powell MP while he had ‘worked’ there as a bell hop for Brown; in reality a flimsy cover for his role as a plaything for pederasts.
While Alan was in the Whip and Saddle, he met some English paedophiles. Some of them knew their depraved NI counterparts who drank in the hotel while the ‘Northern Ireland paedophiles definitely all knew each other. It was a close-knit group; really close.’ The members met in a series of pubs and often exchanged information about boys, especially new boys, ‘the fresh meat or chickens as they called us’. Alan Kerr was also taken to the Crow’s Nest on Skipper Street. It was quite close to the Albert Memorial which was then a ‘cruising ground’ for paedophiles. It was later renamed the ‘Custom House’. He also went to the ‘The Red Barn’ on Rosemary Street which was opposite the Royal Avenue Hotel bar which was also frequented by paedophiles, notably the terrorist and MI5 agent John Dunlop McKeague.
The official line is that network of paedophile abusers did not exist in NI at this time.
THE BOY BROTHEL OFF THE LISBURN ROAD
During another foray from Rathgael, Cassidy and Martin brought Alan to a gay brothel on a street off the Lisburn Road. ‘From the outside it looked just like a house’, Alan recalls. ‘13 and 14-year-old boys were working in it as well as older boys. I knew one of them from Williamson House. He was sitting in the living room on a settee with some other lads when I walked in the first time’.
The existence of this brothel is a new revelation; and this despite countless police, local authority and state-sponsored enquiries into child sex abuse in Northern Ireland over the last four decades. The brothel was within walking distance of Belfast City Hall which was a meeting place for the members of paedophile network.
How did all the enquiries fail to uncover this child brothel?
How many other child brothels were open for business in Northern Ireland at this time?
Alan recalls that the brothel was ‘run by an ugly fat character. I sort of worked a bit in it. I met [name withheld] who was the same age as me. He was a Catholic. I’m Protestant. He lived with his family in the Divis flats.’ Alan disliked the fat man and soon decided to give the brothel a wide berth.
According to Alan, the brothel was frequented by a large number of Belfast’s ‘close-knit’ paedophile community. What are the chances that the men who were involved in the Kincora, Williamson House and Park Avenue Hotel branches of that community never once visited the boy brothel, nor knew of its existence? Did Mains, McGrath, McKeague and Campbell – all British agents – never tell MI5 about it? Did Ian Cameron of MI5, the evil force who protected the ring, and his successors, never learn about it?
At the very least, the brothel enjoyed a measure of shelter from the protective wall built around NI’s paedophile community by the NIO, MI5, MI6 and the RUC Special Branch. In order for their overarching paedophile exploitation/blackmail operation to thrive, it was necessary for the NI paedophile community as a whole to flourish. If one child abuser was ever to be arrested, it was always likely that others would follow and the deprecations at Kincora, Williamson House and the Park Avenue Hotel would ultimately be exposed.
There is also a deeply disturbing – yet highly likely – possibility, namely that the brothel was a constituent element of the MI5-run operation that also permitted the abuse at Kincora, Williamson House, the Park Avenue Hotel and elsewhere to fester.
THE DAY AN RUC DETECTIVE AIMED A REVOLVER AT ALAN KERR’S FACE
Alan went to stay with the Catholic boy from the Divis Flats he had befriended at the boy brothel. ‘I stayed with his family on and off. I slept on the floor of his bedroom. It was very small and stuffy. His brothers were very Republican. I don’t think they ever realised I was a Protestant.’
During an escapade with his newfound feral friends from the Divis flats, Alan found himself riding as a passenger in a stolen car one day. Suddenly, two jeeps with armed British soldiers started tearing after them. ‘The soldiers always had these large SLR rifles. Our car stopped and everyone jumped out. I didn’t know where to go. The rest went over a footbridge into Divis and got away. I knocked on the door of a house where an old couple lived. I brushed past them and hid inside. But someone saw me and a few police and soldiers came in. They brought me outside and threw me into the meat wagon and took me to a police station. I can’t really remember what I said but I may have admitted to being in the car. The staff at Rathgael were called and came to take me away. When we were going out, I bolted. I got past the barrier. They chased me but I got away. The police jumped into a car and caught up with me but I kept running backwards and forwards and turning around; they couldn’t get me in a corner as their car wasn’t able to turn as fast as I could. Then one of them pulled out his revolver and pointed it at my face and said he would shoot me. I was scared so I stopped. I was taken back to the police station but the staff from Rathgael had gone. They came back later and brought me back to it. At that stage, I just thought of [Rathgael] as somewhere to eat. I didn’t want to be in the system any more. I escaped again and returned to the Divis.’
ROUSING THE SUSPICION OF REPUBLICANS
Alan was not charged with an offence by the RUC, something that roused the suspicion of some of the Republicans in the Divis flats. They were also suspicious at the speed with which he had regained his freedom. ‘They wanted to know if I was an undercover agent’.
Ultimately, they accepted Alan’s friend’s assurance that he was simply an ‘orphan’ and things calmed down.
MEANWHILE, 10 YEAR-OLD BOYS WERE BEING ABUSED IN DUBLIN
Alan remembers one particular individual who preyed on him and other urchins in Belfast, a man called Hugo who was fond of displaying his wealth. ‘He was known as the Money Man. He always wanted people to see that he had money. He would never take out a note; always a roll of banknotes. He drank in the pub opposite the Europa Hotel. He had grey hair and was middle-aged.’ Although he was from Northern Ireland, Alan believed he was living in Dublin. All the signs are that he is the same man as an individual who was the subject of a story in the Evening Herald on 6 November, 1986. It exposed the vile behaviour of a paedophile from Northern Ireland who was spending a lot of time in Dublin. It reported that:
‘Every weekend an affluent businessman from Northern Ireland travels to Dublin by train to hire young boys for sex.
‘Described as middle-aged and grey-haired, his favourite haunts are the public toilets on O’Connell Street and Burg Quay, where there is an alarming number of boys often as young as 10 or 11, who are available for sexual services.
‘Nicknamed ‘Moneybags,’ he uses an elderly Dubliner scout on his behalf procuring the boys and acting as a lookout while business is conducted in the cubicles.
‘In one particular case, a 12-year-old boy was paid £3 for 15 minutes with him.
‘In other cases, he will take boys back to Belfast and spent most of his time in a top hotel where he is well-known.
‘The boys, who are usually from a poor background or even homeless, receive as much food and drink as they can consume, sometimes new clothes and are even promised holidays abroad.
‘‘Moneybags’ comes to Dublin every weekend to indulge himself and he rarely uses the same boy twice’’
The ‘top hotel’ was most likely the Europa where Hugo often stayed.
Alan was later told by Roy, one of the abusers, whom he met by accident on the street that Hugo, had been murdered in Dublin.
Next month: Alan Kerr’s life in London.