Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Midsummer Murders & Knowl View School

by Les May

THE TV land of Midsummer is a fictional place of pretty villages and dark deeds. People who always like to grab the moral high ground may complain there aren’t enough non-white faces, but no-one can complain that the stories are not intricate with a wealth of suspects.

Blood Will Out, which was episode 4 of season 2, involved an ex-military landowner, a bunch of Travellers led by another ex-military man who obviously had a grudge against the landowner who in turn was determined to drive the Travellers from the village and a man, who had in the past exchanged wives with the landowner.   His daughter had followed her mother.  When the landowner is found dead from the blast of a shotgun Barnaby and Troy have the task of sorting through the list of suspects.

We finally discover that it was landowner’s step daughter who had pulled the trigger. Her motive, she was being abused. But there was a twist in the tail. Barnaby assumed, as you probably did, that it was sexual abuse.  It wasn’t.  The victim got his way in the family by beating her with a leather belt.   He tried to do it once too often and got shot.

After the publication of the book Smile for the Camera by Simon Danczuk and Matthew Baker.  in April 2014 I devoted much of the next two and a half years to untangling the truth and falsehoods in stories about Cyril Smith that this pair were telling.   My basic concern was that they were conflating two separate issues.   Smith’s antics at Cambridge House hostel in the early 1960s with the goings on at Knowl View school in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Solid evidence of Smith’s antics at Cambridge House was published in 1979 in Rochdale's Alternative Paper (RAP) when Smith was very much alive and able to sue if RAP got it wrong.  He never did.  The unsavoury events at Knowl View were sexual activity between the boys, some of it coercive.

These were detailed in a report to Education and Social Service officers, the ‘Shepherd report’ and confirmed in the ‘Mellor report’. The significant contents of the former were later published in an article which appeared in the Independent on Sunday in September 1995.

Danczuk and Baker muddied the waters about what really happened at Knowl View.   As a result any subsequent ‘evidence’ from individuals is tainted.  They did it by conflating two separate issues, Cyril Smith’s antics at Cambridge House and the reports about what went on at Knowl View. Long before their book was published we had TV documentaries based on Danczuk’s unsubstantiated claims about Smith’s involvement at Knowl View, claims which were not made in the Independent on Sunday in September 1995, though in both cases the source seems to have been the same.   Without throwing in the Knowl View connection they had only the stories that we already knew about Smith’s antics at Cambridge House when he was a member of the Labour party.  This story, regurgitated from the May 1979 edition of RAP, would not have filled a book and without a book there would have been no lucrative contract.

We are seeing this same conflation again. It is happening in the local press where lazy journalists, who cannot be bothered to sort the fact from the fiction simply recycle the same old stuff ad nauseum, Cambridge House, Knowl View, Cyril Smith equals a story to fill a corner of the paper.

And it is happening again with a local parents group which are managing to conflate Cambridge House, the grooming and sexual abuse of girls by a group of asian men, and the unsavoury events at Knowl View.

Danczuk’s book muddied the waters about Knowl View. Has this led us into making the same mistake as Barnaby made in the Midsummer Murders drama? Have we been led along the path of assuming that any abuse by adults at Knowl View was sexual in nature?

I am prompted to ask this because of a story which was passed to me by two people I have known well for many years. It was recounted to them by the mother of a boy who had been a pupil at Knowl View.

He had run away from the school and made his way home.   She telephoned the school and said she would take him back in a little while.  Before she could do this two burly men appeared at her door. When she opened it her son ran upstairs. The men said they had come to take her son back.  One man went upstairs. The boy screamed.   When she looked her son was being held by his legs and dragged down the stairs.   She complained to the school.  Nothing was done about it.

If this story is true and if it is typical of what was going on at the school, then this is the real scandal of what happened at Knowl View, not some vague innuendo about Cyril Smith being involved in sexual abuse at the school.  We will never know whether events like this were commonplace, or even if they happened, unless men now in their later thirties are willing to break their silence. If they feel they want justice it will be too late when the perpetrators are dead.



Unknown said...

I AM that mother and I can guarantee that story is TRUE.the names of the 2 staff members are available on request. I have minutes of a meeting on 8/5/1992 which clearly states "ASHWORTH JUNIOR UNIT INVOLVED IN SMITH STREET TOILETS " and at the side of this sentence is the comment "KEEP QUIET" the IICSA report found no cover up in Rochdale.
Of that's not a cover up I'll eat my hat..or yours.

Unknown said...

Plus an incorrect part of the comment by Les May ( who I have never met) is where he states the second member of staff backed up the perpetrator..I never said this, and the man was never involved in any discussion I had with the school about the incident.
So any information Les May has about me or my son is relayed to him through another person..chinese whispers. He has never contacted me directly to hear the story or look at my documental evidence...I guess it's easy to come to the wrong conclusion when you're hell bent on putting forward your own agenda. Has he ever thought why I would continue my fight for justice for the knowl view boys for 25 years if what I say isn't true? If he thinks it's about financial compensation that path could have been trodden 25 years ago, that has never been a consideration in my fight.