Abuse scandals probe widens: The man who may hold key to UK’s biggest paedophile network ever
Charles Napier could provide vital evidence for police investigation a child abuse scandal spanning three decades.
In the picturesque Dorset town of Sherborne, Charles Napier is an upstanding member of the community.
He is known as a respected retired languages teacher, a playwright and theatre director.
Only last month he gave a lecture on William Shakespeare at the town’s literary festival.
But Napier’s sordid past threatens to drag him into the heart of new inquiries into a child abuse scandal spanning three decades.
Evidence now being examined by Metropolitan Police detectives links Napier to Peter Righton, one of Britain’s most high-profile paedophiles.
Righton is now long dead. But Napier is not. Now 68 and living with his mother in the West Country, he could prove a vital witness to the unfolding police inquiry into child abuse on a massive scale in this country.
Both men were linked to a shadowy organisation called the Paedophile Information Exchange which campaigned in the 70s and 80s for what they called the age of “child love” to be reduced to four.
Righton was a founder of PIE, Napier its one-time treasurer. Righton, incredibly, was also one of Britain’s leading child protection specialists.
But when police raided his house in Evesham, Worcs, in 1992 they found not only hard-core child abuse images from Amsterdam but a “quarter-century of correspondence” between paedophiles in Britain and around the world.
The probe led police to the kitchen of a flat in South London where they found a letter from ‘Napier – who had a child assault conviction 20 years before – boasting of his life in Cairo as a British Council teacher.
He bragged of easy access toyoung boys and how he could send obscene images back to Britain indiplomatic bags.
The scandal erupted again when Labour MP Tom Watson raised the matter with David Cameron in the House of Commons last month suggesting a network of paedophiles working in the UK had links to high levels of Government.
He believes there was an Establishment cover-up of the Righton files and his claims are now being investigated by a Scotland Yard team.
Since Mr Watson’s first dramatic announcement, dozens of victims have come forward with allegations of shocking abuse by paedophiles at care homes across Britain.
Several names of senior politicians have been put in the frame though, it has to be said, without any evidential corroboration. However, what is clear is that there are real concerns that more could and should have been done after Righton’s 1992 arrest and subsequent caution for indecent assault of a boy 30 years before.
Even Michael Hames, then head of Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Squad, who handled the Righton files expressed disappointment more was not done. Writing in 2000 of the Righton inquiry, he called for a national team to be set up to investigate paedophiles, adding: “I remain convinced that we have only touched the tip of a huge national and international problem.”
The story of Charles Napier is an extraordinary one that shows how a paedophile was able to operate with impunity while holding down a thoroughly respectable lifestyle.
It illustrates how there was little or no safety net to prevent child abusers from returning to their sick ways and it begins at Copthorne Preparatory School, West Sussex, in the late 60s.
This week, respected author and journalist Francis Wheen told the Sunday People how he was just 11 when Napier arrived at the school.
He says Napier, then in is 20s, charmed the youngsters with his sports car, dashing good looks and claims that he was a professional actor.
Mr Wheen said: “He recruited a few of us, saying ‘spend more time in the gym’ and appointed himself gym master. There was a room off the gym and that became his haunt.
“Four or five of us started regularly going down there, vaulting over horses and things like that, in our gym shorts in all our innocence.”
“At the end of it he would take us into his room off the gym and give us beer and cigarettes – bottles of Mackeson’s and Senior Service untipped.”
“We thought this was terrifically exciting. Here we were, 11 years old, being given beer and fags – we were thinking he’s on our side not like any of the other masters. cigarettes , and kind of like masters.”
“And of course this was for an ulterior purpose which very soon became clear when he stuck his hand down my gym shorts and I had to sort of fight him off.”
Napier then revealed his terrifying technique for grooming the youngsters by trying to humiliate the 11-year-old Francis.
Mr Wheen said: “He said ‘Don’t be such a baby’ and said I wasn’t grown-up enough for that sort of thing. He would point to a couple of other boys, saying ‘They let me do it. You just won’t let me because you’re so babyish.’
Francis Wheen said that “I think he was hoping I’d say ‘No, I’m as grown up as them’ and let him get on with it but I didn’t. It meant I was excluded from his ‘charmed circle’ after that – but by then I knew where he kept his beer and cigarettes so I used to break into his room, steal them and go sit in the woods.”
“I could enjoy them without being sexually abused.”
Mr Wheen also described the culture of silence that grew up around the assaults, with youngsters reluctant to report the teacher, feeling they wouldn’t be believed.
He added: “A year or two after I left, my younger brother – who was still at the school – came back from holidays and told me Mr Napier had been sacked.
“At long last one boy who had been sexually molested had been innocent enough to go to the headmaster and report him.”
“There was a very hasty exit made by Napier. He had a flashy sports car and as soon as the game was up, he roared off at speed and pranged it on the school gates. I think I got away quite lightly – I can’t pretend I’ve been scarred for life by it. But I’m sure there are children out there who have been badly damaged by Charles Napier.”
In 1972, Napier was found to have indecently assaulted pupils at a Surrey school where he was working. After being banned from teaching, he left the country.
In 1978, he was working in Sweden where he taught at a junior school with pupils as young as 11 – and was visited by Righton.
Napier later surfaced in Egypt, where he worked as the assistant head of studies with the British Council in Cairo.
A letter from the time saw him boast to a friend that the city was “full of boys, 98 per cent of them available”.
He also helped set up and run a school in Turkey. His picture appears on a website offering English as a Foreign Language, where he boasts: “Most of my posts have been in Europe, North Africa or the Middle East, and for the last eight years I’ve been in Istanbul, running my own school and writing a series of course books for Turkish students.”
Back in England, Napier was jailed for nine months in 1995 for sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy he’d lured to his home in the 80s.
He befriended the lad, enticing him with lager and computer games – then abused him.
Prosecutors said: “It wasn’t just a stranger grabbing a boy in the park. This was a slow insidious process. The boy was trapped – not forced.”
Righton, a founder member of PIE, was at one time the UK’s leading authority on the protection of children.
Yet he used his power to not only hide his paedophilia, but to help other child abusers – among them Napier.
The latter’s ban on teaching meant he was added to List 99, a precursor of the Sex Offenders’ Register.
And Righton – the subject of a 1994 documentary on paedophiles – used his influence to try to have Napier removed from the list so he could be allowed back into schools.
Righton wrote to the Department of Education saying: “Mr Napier is a gifted teacher of both adults and children.”
“I believe that during the years since his conviction he has acquired a knowledge and disciplined mastery of himself which would justify the conclusion he no longer constitutes a sexual risk to children in his charge.”
“It would give me great pleasure – and cause me no anxiety – to hear the Secretary of State had reviewed his decision of October 24, 1972, in Mr Napier’s favour.”
In 1981, the ban was relaxed to allow Napier into colleges and universities. In 1990 he applied for the ban to be further relaxed – this time enlisting Dr Malcolm Fraser as his referee.
Dr Fraser was convicted in 1992 for possessing indecent photographs of children. His third conviction saw him struck off – and Napier remained on the banned list.
Mr Wheen thought he’d seen the last of his former teacher but their paths crossed again in 1977, when he was commissioned to write an article about PIE and its desire to lower the age of consent.
A senior group member told Mr Wheen: “You must speak to our treasurer. He’s very good. Very well informed about the issues.”
And Mr Wheen was astonished to discover the expert he was being put in touch with was his former teacher – now PIE’s treasurer – Charles Napier.
Mr Wheen added: “I didn’t really want to speak to him. I couldn’t believe what my old teacher had become.”
Napier declined to comment yesterday.