(originally publish September 2008)
When the disgraced former glam-rock star was released from jail in Vietnam, Bangkok based journalists Andrew Drummond and Andrew Chant made sure the convicted paedophile went back to the U.K., despite a Hong Kong diversion which was billed in the UK as Glitter’s Asian Tour 2008.
It was fitting as both Drummond and Chant were the journalists who had originally tracked him down to Vietnam and exposed his activities in Vung Tau after first finding his home in Cambodia.
But as Andrew Drummond reports he could easily have slipped away. He also illustrates the role journalists are playing in this controversial issue of child sex abusers and the problems they encounter and the criticisms, some justified, they face.
‘Look here. This is their card. On it, it says ‘Protecting Children Everywhere’ – but they are clearly not. Had we left it up to Scotland Yard’s CEOP (Scotland Yard’s Exploitation and Online Protection unit) Gary Glitter would now be roaming free in Thailand.
‘Once in Bangkok he could have got a false passport, changed his appearance, and quite literally disappeared.’
I’m talking to Sudarat Sereewat, a member of Thailand’s National Committee on Child Protection, and as Secretary General of FACE (Fight Against Child Exploitation) the foreign paedophile’s worst enemy in Thailand.
Gary Glitter, real name Paul Francis Gadd, had finally been put on Flight TG901 to London after 48 hours of screaming, feigning illness, and balling out British Embassy officials and police.
But, as Sudarat intimated, he was within a hair’s breadth of freedom in Thailand. He just needed to escape a posse of reporters.
She adds: ‘It appears Scotland Yard was busily telling the world they were waiting to meet this man in London but they failed to tell Thailand’s Immigration department he was coming here.
In the ‘No Man’s land’ of Suvarnabhumi airport earlier this year I watched as Scotland Yard’s CEOP tried to get their man.
Because indirectly I, who was the person, who told Thai police what they were about to face, and initiated his Asian tour.
There has been considerable debate about the ‘Glitter’ story. On the one hand its quite clear that there something quite appalling in the massive coverage Glitter’s latest tour and his subsequent hounding merely because Glitter is a ‘celebrity paedophile’.
The News of the World and SUN were leading the ‘Hang em high’ brigade, but there was, nevertheless, a pretty clear consensus that having served 2 years nine months in a Vietnamese jail for offences against Vietnamese children – his lawyers paid compensation to two families to avoid rape charges – he should be returned to regulators in Britain in all possible haste.
That’s what the British Government had planned, but on August 19th at Tan Son Nhat international airport in Ho Chi Minh City as I waited to join Glitter, on his 8.50 p.m. flight, there were already signs that something would go wrong with this particular deportation.
In London, Scotland Yard had leaked information to journalists that the convicted paedophile would be met by police on his arrival in Britain, specifically at Gatwick airport. He could not travel anywhere.
Scotland Yard even leaked to favoured and trusted journalists that he was flying to London via Doha by Qatar Airways. One TV crew actually went leaving my colleague Andy Chant holding the ITN card, myself running for Sky TV, and Jonathan Head and Andrew Harding alternating for the BBC.
Meanwhile Britain’s Home Secretary Jacqui Smith selected August 19th as the day she would announce new legislation which would stop convicted paedophiles – ‘people like Gary Glitter’ – from travelling abroad. This would be announced shortly before Glitter was led ignominiously off from Heathrow airport.
In Ho Chi Minh City Glitter’s lawyer , Le Kinh Tanh was also publicly saying his client was being deported to London, which was odd, as he had told my colleague Andrew Chant the week before; that Glitter was free a free man as soon as he left Vietnam.
I already had the print-out for Glitter’s reservation in ‘tourist class’ in seat 63K on the Thai Airways flight to Bangkok so I booked the seat beside him.
The Vietnamese authorities had announced that Glitter would have to travel tourist class.
So when a local Vietnamese took the seat next to me and Glitter took his seat in Business Class I knew that a local Asian deal had been done and pretty sure Le Than Kinh had done his client a last favour.
I immediately called Sudarat Sereewat in Bangkok. We had discussed Glitter previously. We both knew that, as he had no convictions in Thailand, no alert would go up if he tried to go through immigration unless someone took action. She assumed the British Government had everything under control. Scotland Yard had paid enough visits to Vietnam.
She quickly established however that Thai Immigration had no inkling of his arrival or for that matter who on earth he was, and had less than two hours to go to work on the case.
A fax was immediately sent to Police General Chatchawal Suksomjit, Head of Thailand’s Immigration Police together with a copy of Glitter’s full indictment in Vietnam, which I had passed on earlier. In it also were the details I had sent including Glitter’s passport number, and date of birth.
Sudarat made it to Bangkok’s just ten minutes before the plane arrived on the night of Tuesday the 19th. Police there, led by Colonel ‘Pop’ Putiporn, had been ordered to work closely with her.
Thai Immigration Police were waiting at the aircraft door together with hospitality staff of Thai Airways. Glitter had told the cabin crew he was a star who wished to avoid the press.
For the next 24 hours there ensued what Fleet Street concluded was an ‘oriental farce’ which began almost immediately as Glitter, first feigning illness, locked himself in a room airside at Louis Tavern, as a CEOP officer Martin Joss tried to coax him to go home.
Flight TG901 was getting close to boarding. Joss was failing, what’s more the Scotland Yard officer was in an unenviable position as he was there ‘unofficially’ and not accompanied, as is normal, by a Thai Police officer.
Nor at first did he get a warm welcome from Sudarat. His boss, Jim Warnock, Director of Operations at CEOP, had been particularly difficult, she felt, in helping secure the arrest of another British paedophile in Bangkok earlier in the year.
But if Martin Joss could quickly persuade Glitter that Britain was his only option then perhaps the problem would go away.
There was little Thai authorities could do, as the Vietnamese police had not given Thai Airways any documentation that Glitter was being deported.
But when Joss was asked whether he had any paper work showing Glitter’s convictions in the U.K.,’ he said: ‘No,’ adding, a little timidly, that as this was not his jurisdiction he wished to keep a low profile.
He was however given time with Glitter, with Thai Police and Sudarat witnessing the interview.
Glitter remained rigid: ‘I am a British citizen. I am entitled to full rights. I have served my time and now I am a first class passenger.’
He now wanted to see a British Embassy official.
Stephen Buckley, an Attach? representing Britain’s Department of Trade & Industry, whose duty that night was to answer calls from Brits in life or death situations, arrived at 12.40 – just a few minutes before Glitter’s onward flight was due for boarding.
Glitter again demanded his rights.
‘I’ll need to speak to the Ambassador,’ said Buckley, diplomatically.
But flight TG901 pulled out before Ambassador Quinton Quayle could be contacted, or at least before he could give a reply.
The next morning Glitter spent some frustrating hours waiting for a ‘promised ticket to Singapore’ to arrive from Thai Airlines and the CEOP officer snuck up to Glitter’s room for some last minute persuasion.
Perhaps as Jacqui Smith had already made her ‘Glitter is going nowhere’ proclamation broadcast , which could be picked up in Thailand this was again fruitless. He left telling Glitter ‘I am not missing tonights flight to London. If you are not on it I cannot help you anymore.’
And Thai Police were still in a pickle. Although they now had a fax from Jim Warnock CEOP’s Head of Operations, saying that Glitter should sent back to London, there were still no details of his British conviction.
All they could do however, was, having warned Glitter not to attempt to go through Immigration, arrest him for being in breach of a police order if he did, and throw him into Bangkok’s Immigration Jail. When that happened, they felt, it would not be long before he demanded deportation.
Not surprisingly, as he had a police escort, he did not attempt to get through immigration.
They chose the much simpler course. They allowed him to fly on to Hong Kong, while telling the Hong Kong authorities to expect him and send him back with deportation papers.
I joined him on the flight in the seat behind. We spoke briefly.
He simply replied that he was going to Hong Kong from medical treatment. He was either feigning or had a lot of trouble hearing my questions. Lots of shrugging and pointing to his ears. Then he spent time on his phone calling his lawyers in London and trying to fix his Hong Kong accommodation whom he seemed to hear perfectly.
Glitter was of course detained by the authorities in Hong Kong then sent back to Bangkok. Glitter would now be on Thursday’s TG109 by hook or by crook. By now he was too tired to fight.
By the time he got to London however the British Government, and CEOP, and The Home Office had received a minor roasting by the press and by the public on internet forums.
The exception may have been the The Sun, who were happy with their report by Virginia Wheeler under the headline ‘Glitter stroke my arm and called me sweetie!’ from the Vietnam -Bangkok leg.
CEOP will say of course that they notified the Thai authorities. They no doubt did. But their warning must have still been sitting in an in-tray in Police HQ.
Christine Beddoe of the charity ECPAT(End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) said that the British authorities tended to ‘turn a blind eye’ to British nationals indulging in child sex tourism.
Sexual offences prevention orders were already in place, she said, which would compel registered paedophiles to tell the police when they intended to travel abroad, and allow the police to share that information with their colleagues at the destination country, if it is decided that the journey should even be allowed.
‘But only five such orders were issued between 2004 and 2007 even though during that time some 15 British nationals have been charged in Thailand alone for sexual offence involving children’.
In the Independent newspaper, under the headline ‘The Real Scandal of Gary Glitter’, Deborah Orr wrote: ‘Tabloid pursuit of Glitter may well be uncivilised and distasteful. …. But at least his lamentable tale has the potential to draw attention to a much more widespread horror. If the tabloids don’t track British paedophiles abroad, then no one tends to at all.’
And there Deborah Orr has it. A British child sexual abuser in Thailand is much more likely to be identified by a member of the British public. And the public are much more inclined to call a British tabloid newspaper than Thai police, or even CEOP.
For two years now there has not been a Police Liaison officer at the British Embassy. There is a member of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) but calls about sex offenders in my experience will all be referred to London. It’s not serious enough under SOCA’s rules of engagement.
When people tip off civil servants things can go badly wrong.
Earlier this year a member of the British public living up in north east Thailand sent an email to the British Embassy notifying them that his neighbour a registered paedophile from Accrington, Northern England, had not only been cheating the British Social Security system, by illegally claiming British government benefits while in Thailand, but had also had secured a job teaching at a school in Bangkok.
The reply he got from the British Embassy was classic.
In the case of the benefits fraud the informant was told to contact the Department of Work and Pensions. In the case of the Brit being a registered paedophile who was teaching Thai children in Bangkok, the Embassy told the man to contact his local police station in Isaan!
No wonder he called the London SUN who subsequently called me.
On this occasion I also contacted Sudarat, who notified Bangkok Metropolitan Police’s Women and Children’s Investigation Branch. I also notified a very senior policeman in the UK and through him CEOP.
The CEOP call turned out to be a totally pointless exercise. All calls were immediately diverted to the press office. Calls to the Embassy were also re-routed to the Press Office. I did not want any press information.
Besides waiting for an answer from the Embassy’s press department can often take days and the answer is not usually worth waiting for, in the sort of enquiries I tend to make.
Andy Chant and I investigated the Accrington man, Alan Smith, (right)and we came to the conclusion that in any of these cases it really was not worth telling the proper authorities first.
We found the paedophile, verified the case, and the man was removed from the school and deported without CEOP’s help.
Sudarat told us she had much more problems with CEOP than even we had.
Earlier this year the CEOP’ chose as their Liaison Officer on one of their publicised training courses a political secretary at the Embassy, famous for describing a journalist from a respected Sunday newspaper, as being ‘scum of the earth’ during the 2004 Tsunami.
A short while later this young man was back in London. He had taken to writing a blog in ‘The Nation’ newspaper which had to be stopped after two days, after it was described as ,well at best ‘patronising’, and bloggers reported him (no doubt falsely) as having been seen in Soi Cowboy, a red light area, with a $5 whore!’
There are hundreds of ‘angry Brits’ in Thailand, out of sorts possibly because they have failed to get a Thai girlfriend back to the UK, so its open season when a British diplomat puts himself on the net, especially if he likes telling people how he sings karaoke with Thai generals.
Many people are grateful for the British Embassy’s help and I know of many such cases.
But the culture of ‘If you say nothing or do nothing you can’t get into trouble’ (a British official’s off the record comment to me, referring to calls from the Press) can sometimes seem all pervasive.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office, however can and does look after itself and itself.
After the 2004 Tsunami an independent report carried out by the National Audit Office in the United Kingdom was scathing in its criticism of The British Embassy anf FCO effort.
The British Embassy were duly congratulated by a Junior Foreign Office Minister for doing a good job and publish a complete but unconvincing rebuttal, which you can still find on the internet.
(Picture left: British Embassy Tsunami Desk Phuket!)
This year the British Foreign Office are again being condemned for obstruction and deceipt in the case of a Briton Julie Ward, 28, who was murdered in the Masai Game Reserve in Kenya 20 years ago.
The independent report compiled by Jon Stoddart, now the Chief Constable of Durham in Northern England, accused the British authorities of ‘inconsistency, falsehoods and downright lies’. The Foreign office has already issued a denial.
The above reports are not criticisms by newspapers. They are from British Government departments written by government officers.
The FCO I am glad to say did not however go to the aid of a retired diplomat who was caught in Pattaya by a British Sunday newspaper and exposed under the headline ‘Her Majesty’s Vice-Consul and child pervert ring’ for dealing in naked pictures of under-aged boys.
He ran a coffee shop as part of the ‘Boyz Boyz Boyz’ complex in Pattaya – see Fighting for Justice
But the whole point here is that If CEOP want to operate in Thailand to protect children from Britain’s child sex predators they should be talking to people here who actually know the business, who the predators are, and how they evade the law. In short they need to get down and dirty.
The British government, and others, have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds, on courses to train people, especially police, how to deal with child sex offenders.
Cash would be better spent on individual cases to ensure justice. Because the cash paedophiles have enables them to elude justice. This is the reality.
I have been in Thailand for 20 years and have seen scores of paedophiles walk. British, Germans, Dutch, French, Swiss, American, the lot.
A whole series of foreigners, among them three Britons, were arrested in Pattaya earlier this year, for offences against children. Not many of them are still in the system. One Briton in particular, known to the kids as ‘The Ghost’ has been bailed again, even though his latest offence was committed, while on bail appealing a 14 year jail sentence for the rape of two under-aged girls.
Only high profile paedophiles, such as ‘Mr.Swirly’ or Gary Glitter , appear to be unable to beat the system, and usually only after an international furore. This is a basic fact of life here.
British law enforcement officers such as those from CEOP, have to go through the Royal Thai Police Foreign Affairs Division. All well and good. But there they have to join the queue along with the world’s other police forces and the RTP often have bigger and more lucrative fish to fry.
It is at this point that a lot of back scratching, the ritual exchange of police divisional and departmental shields and plaques , the dinners, the Embassy socials, all come in to play.
Their job would be best served in the middle of the action rather than just familiarity tours of Pattaya’s Sunee Plaza.
Until then their motto, ‘Protecting Children Everywhere’, may just be a slogan and we’ll just have to leave it to those who are actually reeling in paedophiles abroad. The international and tabloid press.