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Valerie Sinason talks to the Today programme
"There's a lot of confusion about what constitutes evidence"
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Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 11:39 GMT
Police investigate satanic abuse charges




Allegations of satanic abuse are to be investigated by the Metropolitan Police, after a psycho-therapist working for the government said her own clinical experience suggests it exists.

Valerie Sinason, who was commissioned by the Department of Health to carry out research into satanic abuse, will present her findings in the next few months.

The report is based on allegations made by some 76 children and adults involving sexual abuse and murder.

Police investigation

But Ms Sinason, who treats people with personality disorders at the Clinic for Dissociative Studies, acknowledged there is little in the way of hard evidence to support the allegations.

"There is a lot of confusion about what constitutes evidence," she said.

She added there was a lot of clinical evidence but a court of law requires physical evidence.

The Metropolitan Police, however, has now assigned one of its senior officers to investigate some of the claims.

'Horrific'

"Nobody wishes to believe the unbelievable," Acting Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscol said.

"Certainly the allegations that have been brought to my attention are horrific, and I want people to know that we will give them support by looking at them in every detail and if it is possible to prove it, then we will."

Ms Sinason said some evidence she has uncovered is proof that a number of children's births went unregistered.

She was prompted to investigate after allegations that unrecorded children were kept in cages specifically for satanic abuse.

Mutilated animals

"We also have evidence of sites full of mutilated animals and remains of ceremonies with different regalia," Ms Sinason said.

"Also there are physical injuries on the body, which medical evidence agrees could not have been self inflicted."

She said detectives had learnt a lot from the case involving Fred and Rosemary West - particularly about how people could have been killed when no-one even knew they were missing.

Dr Joan Coleman, of the Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support Agency, defines satanic abuse as a combination of sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological indoctrination - often combined with a particular belief system.

Way of life

"It's not just abuse within ceremonies," she said. "It's a way of life."

Dr Coleman, whose agency deals with professionals - such as therapists, lawyers and the police - who come into contact with survivors of abuse, believes that satanic abuse is more prevalent than people think.

She says the difficulty with evidence is that children will not disclose what has happened to them until they have been taken away from the perpetrators for several months, by which time, the evidence has gone cold.

Previous research commissioned by the government into organised satanic abuse followed in the wake of a number of local authority scandals, where claims were found to be without foundation.

These included clusters of allegations, such as the Orkneys and Rochdale cases in 1991 where dozens of children were removed from their homes by social workers.

Leading social anthropologist Professor Jean La Fontaine was asked to look into the allegations of torture and sexual abuse of children and adults, forced abortions, human sacrifice, cannibalism and bestiality.

Her response was unequivocal: "There is no evidence that these have taken place in any of the 84 cases studied."

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