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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK


UK

Victims snared at funfairs

Jason Swift: Killed by gang in Hackney flat

Paedophile Sidney Cooke set up his own funfair stall at fairgrounds around the country to lure his unsuspecting victims.

The 72-year-old, nicknamed Hissing Sid, used a children's Test Your Strength machine to meet his victims and trap them into under-age sex orgies.

With his friends Robert Oliver, Lennie Smith and Leslie Bailey, former farm worker Cooke would drug the children before subjecting them to brutal assaults.


[ image: Cooke: Tortured children]
Cooke: Tortured children
Habitually dressed in a dirty suit and trilby hat, he was one of a gang in the 1980s suspected of the deaths of up to nine boys.

Operating from a flat on the Kingsmead estate in Hackney, east London, the gang hired underage male prostitutes or snatched children off the streets to torture them sexually, including Jason Swift, a 14-year-old rent boy from Hackney.

A group of men each paid £5 to have sex with Jason in the Kingsmead flat. He was later found strangled in a shallow grave on the outskirts of London.

'Appalling beyond belief'

Det Supt Bright of Essex Police described Cooke as "cocky and arrogant" before he eventually confessed to Jason's killing. It was appalling beyond belief," he said.

Det Bright described how the gang would stalk boys at fairgrounds as if they were hunting prey.

He added: "There are certain cases that you work on during your career that will never leave you. I will never forget Jason."

Cooke was sent to prison for 19 years in 1989 for Jason's manslaughter but managed to get his sentence reduced to 16 years and was released after nine.

Bailey named him as one of the killers of Mark Tildesley, seven, who disappeared after visiting a funfair near his home in Wokingham, Berkshire.

Police believe he was lured away from the fair by Cooke on the promise of a 50p bag of sweets.

Admired in jail

He was then tortured and killed by Cooke's gang in a caravan in almost exactly the same way as Jason.

But in 1991 the CPS declined to prosecute Cooke for Mark's death as he was already in prison for killing Jason.

Cooke has indicated that he knows where Mark's body is buried but refuses to tell police or the boy's grieving parents exactly where his grave is.

During his time in Wandsworth Prison in London Cooke was held on a special wing for sex offenders.

He became the centre of attention, admired by other paedophiles for the extent of his depravity and the lengths he was prepared to go to ensnare his victims.

Detective Constable Tina Birnie said: "He (Cooke) has been put on a pedestal because he killed all of those kids. It was a fantasy to all those paedophiles to go a bit further."

After his release in April last year Cooke lived, at his own request, in a suite of three cells at Yeovil police station in Somerset for his own safety.

He was arrested at the police station by detectives investigating allegations of serious sexual offences.





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