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‘Operation Fernbridge’ arrests ex-manager of Elm Guest House

Police detain Haroon Kasir ‘on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children’

The 69-year-old was arrested at an address in west London on suspicion of the possession of indecent images of children

Met statement

Detectives arrested the former co-manager of the guest house at the centre of a VIP paedophile ring that was allegedly based in south-west London.

Haroon Kasir, known as Harry, was arrested at an address in west London yesterday on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children. He was bailed without charge until September.

Exaro asked Kasir about his arrest soon after police released him. He said: “I think that I shall just stick to what I have said before. Leave me alone. If you are going to harass me, I am going to have to complain to the police complaints commission,” adding, “I do not want to comment.”

Kasir ran Elm Guest House with his late wife, Carole, for about four years from 1979 in Barnes. Carole died suddenly in 1990, with a coroner recording a verdict of suicide by insulin injection.

Exaro traced him in January to an address in the borough of Richmond near to where the guest house used to operate.

The Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit is investigating allegations, under ‘Operation Fernbridge’, that boys were sexually abused three decades ago by prominent people – including MPs – and others at the guest house and the nearby Grafton Close children’s home.

Exaro also found out in April about the Met’s plans to arrest Kasir, but agreed to a request to hold off on the development for fear of jeopardising the police investigation. Kasir is the third person to be arrested by Operation Fernbridge.

Detectives in February arrested John Stingemore, a former officer in charge at Grafton Close, and Tony McSweeney, a Roman Catholic priest. Both men were bailed without charge until later this month.

The Met said in a statement: “Officers from Operation Fernbridge – the investigation into historical allegations of child abuse in the early 1980’s at Elm Guest House, Barnes – have arrested a third man as part of their inquiries.

“The 69-year-old was arrested at an address in west London on suspicion of the possession of indecent images of children.

“He was taken into police custody, and has since been bailed to return, pending further inquiries, next due on a date in September.”

The third arrest follows comments in a letter sent by Boris Johnson, mayor of London, to an Exaro reader that Operation Fernbridge is “going well”.

The investigation into the alleged paedophile ring in Richmond sprang out of ‘Operation Fairbank’, which is “scoping” other allegations of child sex abuse against senior political figures.

Detectives on Operation Fairbank last month arrested Charles Napier, the half-brother of a leading Conservative MP, John Whittingdale. This marked the launch of ‘Operation Cayacos’ as a new strand of the Met’s wide-ranging investigations that followed the exposure last October of Jimmy Savile, the late BBC star, as a paedophile.

The Met has since said that it has bailed Napier without charge until November.

The reaction of authorities to the sexual abuse of children in the UK has sparked increasing concern since Savile’s exposure. Only last weekend, Exaro revealed that the Church of England was preparing to issue a public apology for the cover-up of sexual abuse of children by the Anglican church and was considering the launch of a “truth and reconciliation” commission on the issue.

Update 22 July 2013: Detectives on Operation Fernbridge today charged John Stingemore, a former officer in charge at Grafton Close children’s home, and Tony McSweeney, a Roman Catholic priest.

The Met confirmed in a statement tonight that it had charged Stingemore, 71, of Stonehouse Drive, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, on 11 counts. The charges comprise eight counts of indecent assault, two of taking indecent images of a child, and one of conspiracy with persons unknown to commit buggery.

McSweeney, 66, of Old Brighton Road North, Pease Pottage, West Sussex, was charged on eight counts. The charges consist of three charges of indecent assault, three of making indecent images of a child, one of taking indecent images of a child and a further one of possessing indecent images of a child.

The Met added: “The charges related to seven victims, all of whom were aged between nine and 15 years when the offences took place during the 1970’s and 1980’s.”

The third man arrested by Operation Fernbridge, Haroon Kasir, 69, former co-manager of Elm Guest House remains on police bail until September.

Kay Scudder, a prosecutor in the rape and serious sexual offences unit of the Crown Prosecution Service in London said in a statement that the seven victims were residents of Grafton Close children’s home.

She said that the charges against Stingemore date between 1980 and 1981, and relate to six boys who were aged between 11 and 15 at the time.

She said that the charges against McSweeney of indecent assault and taking indecent images also date between 1980 and 1981 when he was a trainee Catholic priest. The three counts of making indecent images date to January this year or before.

The pair will appear before Westminster magistrates’ court on September 4, she added.

If you have information that might help our investigation, please contact us. Keep re-visiting Exaro for more on this investigation.

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