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Wednesday, September 16, 1998 Published at 18:36 GMT 19:36 UK


'Huge' child abuse network uncovered

Keith Spratt and Dennis Ward: Admitted charges of child abuse

The BBC's Alison Holt reports: "This investigation is far from over"
The trial of four men connected to a breakaway scouting group has led police to disclose their discovery of a "huge network" of child abuse.

The four men pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey on Wednesday to abusing a boy who was a member of the self-styled UK Baden Powell Scouting Association.

[ image: Brian Turner: Linked to child killer Sidney Cooke]
Brian Turner: Linked to child killer Sidney Cooke
Police say they are now trying to trace more than 50 boys who may urgently need help.

The two scout groups involved - both part of the UK Baden Powell Scouting Association - are nothing to do with the mainstream Scout association.

One of the four men who pleaded at the Old Bailey was Brian Turner, 60, a convicted paedophile who was a member of child killer Sidney Cooke's "dirty dozen" gang.

Boy passed from abuser to abuser

[ image: Douglas Braithwaite: Died before abuse was discovered]
Douglas Braithwaite: Died before abuse was discovered
He and three others - Dennis Ward, 66, Keith Spratt, 50, Robert Kearns, 50 - admitted sexually abusing the boy after being introduced to him by a scoutmaster.

The boy was 10 years old when he joined one of the self-styled scouting groups, which was run by scoutmaster Douglas Braithwaite, who died last year.

The scoutmaster became friends with the boy's family, but, unknown to them, he started to abuse the boy and then passed him on to the other men who also had sex with him.

Thousands of pornographic images

The investigation now continues into the abuse network uncovered by police.

[ image: Robert Kearns: Police found thousands of pornographic images in his house]
Robert Kearns: Police found thousands of pornographic images in his house
They say they have discovered thousands of pictures and videos hidden in Kearns' home and are desperate to trace the children in the pornographic images.

Some of these films were recovered abroad and showed some of the men violently assaulting young children.

Five police forces are now involved in the inquiry, which has spread to France, Belgium, Holland and Spain, and could involve as many as 300 victims.

The Baden Powell Scouting Association, founded in 1978, has about 2,000 members and 100 lodges nationwide, the Old Bailey heard.

Systematic abuse

Prosecutor Mr Mark Garsden told the court: "Doug Braithwaite spend more and more time with him [the boy] in a systematic attempt to abuse him and thoroughly corrupt him."

He added: "What purpose could there conceivably have been at the time when Doug Braithwaite placed that child together with one of the other defendants other than to enable them to indulge in sexual abuse pursuant to an agreement that already existed between them.

"There was a conspiracy that existed between them - he would be introduced to them and thereafter abused by them."

A fourth scoutmaster, Malcolm Murchie was cleared on Monday of conspiracy to bugger and indecently assault boys between 1990 and 1997.

Link to Sidney Cooke

Judge David Radford lifted a publication ban, which had kept secret details of the police investigation, at the end of the week-long trial.

The four men are to be sentenced on October in Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Turner, who was not a leader in the scouting organisation, was jailed for five years in 1987 for conspiracy to bugger and indecently assault boys.

Police say he may have may have introduced child sex killer Sidney Cooke to Jason Swift, a 14-year-old rent boy who was killed during a sex orgy in 1985.

Cooke was jailed for 19 years in 1989 at the Old Bailey for Jason's manslaughter. His recent release provoked violent protests in towns where he was thought to have been living.

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