The five-year-old girl cowers naked and crying in a corner. She is so frightened that she urinates. One of the men in the room hits her repeatedly. The others laugh. Another man picks her up and throws her face down on the bed. Then the men rape her. She dies soon afterwards of atrocious injuries.
This is the scenario that the respected art historian and curator, Roger Took, boasted repeatedly about in internet ‘chat rooms’ to fellow paedophiles. In the chat rooms, Took relates how a Dutch man bought the child in Cambodia, kept her for a week and how Took was part of the group who enjoyed ‘splitting her apart’ one night. After Took was arrested last April, the police interviewed him in connection with the child’s murder but Took insisted it was mere fantasy and the police passed the case on to Interpol. Fantasy it could be, but the fact so many like-minded men laughed and masturbated over a helpless child’s torture, terror and death is chilling and profoundly disturbing.
Roger Took was sentenced this February to a minimum of four and a half years in prison as part of an indeterminate sentence for 17 other crimes relating to child abuse. They included molesting two of his step-granddaughters and the possession of 260 photographs, including 102 ‘Level 5s’, which mean they contain images of children being tortured or penetrated, including by animals. One photograph showed a penis entering the vagina of a baby. Many images showed small children shackled to chairs or bars, in obvious pain. The police recovered these images from Took’s laptop. There were, apparently, thousands more on his main computer but the hard drive had broken and police experts were unable to retrieve them. When police raided Took’s home, they found a locked case containing a large bundle of photographs of naked young Russian women, believed to be prostitutes, one having sex with Took, and clippings of children’s hair.
Also on Took’s laptop were 742 chat logs of a sexual nature relating to children, adding up to over 1,500 pages. Took posed as ‘Dad of 2 Superkids’ in the chat rooms and, pretending they were his daughters, posted photographs of his step-granddaughters, Grace, aged nine, and Gillian, aged 11, comparing their vaginas and inviting others in the chat room to masturbate over the images. Judge Blacksell, presiding over the sentencing hearing, referred to the chat logs as ‘unrestrained filth and depravity of the worst type’.
Depravity exists and we are all aware that there are dangerous paedophiles at large. However, what is remarkable about Took’s case is that his respectability and status blinded some who knew him to the true horror of his crimes and, to an extent, protected him from the public outrage that normally follows the exposure of such appalling acts against children. Took’s sentencing was followed by one UK internet news report and a single paragraph in a side column of the Saturday edition of the Times. Compare that with the enormous publicity and accompanying outcry following the conviction of 64-year-old Arthur Morley, jailed indefinitely just two weeks ago for having the ‘worst child porn collection ever found in Britain’, according to several news agencies, including the BBC, ITN and Sky. Morley was very publicly slated whereas Took’s high profile as an art historian of note means that some are still unwilling or unable to believe the full extent of how dangerous he is. After his conviction, one of his woman friends emailed Took’s wife, Pat, saying, ‘I choose God’s way and I know He would forgive Roger... We have no right to judge and to destroy a person’s life when he wants to live a different life.’ The woman clearly could not, or chose not to, grasp the destruction Took himself had wreaked.
Pat has not seen her husband since he was arrested. The first Pat knew of his gruesome activities was when two Gardaí arrived at her Irish home to inform her of his arrest. At first she was in shocked denial, but once the evidence was shown to her, she accepted that she had been the victim of betrayal on an almost unbearable scale over 25 years.
I first met Pat three months ago. She is a gentle, intelligent, sensitive woman of 69. She has money, taste and a considerable reputation as a painter. She decided to tell The Spectator her story to make people aware of the harm Took has done to her family and what he is capable of doing to other children, should he be released from jail.
When Pat met Took 25 years ago, she was divorced from her first husband by whom she had a son and two teenage daughters. Took, her junior by seven years, charmed Pat and paid flattering attention to her daughters, particularly Jennifer who was 13 at the time. Now Pat says wearily, but without a trace of self-pity, ‘He married me for my money. And for my children.’ It was Pat’s money that enabled Took to lead his double life, giving him a substantial Chelsea home as a base and all the attendant means and prosperous gloss to hide behind.
Pat’s family noticed that Took liked teenage girls. They treated it as a bit of a joke, which they feel sick about in hindsight, but none of them ever imagined his passion was for small children. Pat and the police now fear that Took molested another granddaughter, Cathy, a mentally and physically disabled three-year-old whose legs previously had to be pinned back and apart in a brace, meaning she was unable to walk, let alone run away. He certainly bragged about it in several chat rooms. Though police interviewed Cathy, her mental disability made it impossible for her to deliver the reliable evidence they needed to press charges. In her witness statement to the court, Cathy’s mother, Jennifer, wrote of her daughter’s third birthday party and how attentive Took had appeared to be, running errands and helping with the cake, while in all probability he had access to Cathy for long enough to rape or molest her. ‘I will have to live with the uncertainty surrounding this for the rest of my life,’ wrote Jennifer. ‘The last year has been hell. My trust and view of the world has changed forever... I can no longer leave my children in the care of other people without feeling suspicious of them. What remaining innocence I had is lost. I feel that under the surface of the world there is evil.’ Indeed, the long-term impact of Took’s abuse cannot begin to be calculated.
I visited Detective Sergeant Kevin Hudson and Detective Constable Steve Dobson, the Child Protection Officers in charge of the case, at their Kensington headquarters. I wanted to see the transcripts of Took’s chat logs. The five boxes of them, labelled RF Took, sat on the table between us like malicious toads in the child-friendly ‘Family Room’ that was furnished with cosy sofas in cheery hues and cuddly toys. I only read a fraction of the material but it was enough. I cried. The police were sympathetic, offering tea and tissues — the transcripts had upset them too. Both officers told me that their attitudes towards their home lives had been temporarily poisoned by having to wade through the Took pages. Again and again, Took and like-minded men salivated and masturbated over the fantasy of raping, punishing, hurting and ultimately killing little girls. DS Hudson said this was not a job anyone with a small child found bearable. Their job is made harder by the fact that ‘fantasy’, however gruesome and violent, is not illegal and there is nothing anyone can do to close down the chat rooms. They will be investigating 130 other paedophiles identified via internet links with Took.
Took recounted certain incidents, including the gang rape and murder of the Cambo dian child and the abuse of disabled three-year-old Cathy, with such frequency and consistency that the police treated them as potential facts, but were unable to prove they were not fantasies and, despite their violence, Took received a sentence fairly in line with other paedophiles’ sentences. ‘No sentence ever reflects the life of trauma, hurt and anguish suffered by the victims,’ says Hudson. He and Dobson believe that Took is mainly without remorse, does not take full responsibility for his actions and so remains a grave danger to the public. They should know — they interviewed him for a period of 14 hours over four months.
Roger Took was educated at Haileybury college, Sandhurst and the Courtauld Institute. He later became director of the Barbican Art Gallery and then the founder of Artangel, now a hugely successful institution within the field of contemporary art. His book about Russian Lapland, Running with Reindeer, was short-listed for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and more recently he was achieving acclaim as an expert on the mediaeval Russian fur trade.
No one, including his wife, imagined Took was leading a double life, complete with different passport and false ID as Paul Schischka — creepily, his mother’s maiden name was Paula Schischka. Russia, with its lack of infrastructure for dealing with paedophiles, was the perfect country for Took to abuse children in. One chat log related how he plied a prostitute with alcohol till she passed out so he could turn his attention to her nine-year-old daughter. Describing with relish how terrified the little girl was as he began to twist her arm prior to raping her, I noticed the people with whom Took was ‘chatting’ using the acronym ‘LOL’. DS Hudson told me that it meant ‘laugh out loud’.
Then, in February last year, Took made his mistake. He joined Pat, her daughters, Anne and Jennifer, and Pat’s granddaughters on holiday in the Dominican Republic. On the way to the airport after the holiday, Anne found $100 in nine-year-old Grace’s luggage. Grace told her mother that Took had paid her to pose for photographs. Eventually she confessed that Took had been sexually abusing her for as long as she could remember. Anne called the police and Took was finally arrested at Luton airport last April.
Between February and April, Anne was told by the police not to say anything to Pat. The police wanted to ensure they caught Took with incriminating evidence and it was essential not to alert him beforehand. During that time Pat was distraught, imagining from her daughter’s strange attitude on the telephone that she was having marital problems. Both Jennifer and Anne insisted I stress that this was, for them, the worst six weeks of their lives.
Judge Blacksell deemed Took to be enough of a danger to the public to give him an indeterminate sentence but, because the case was hardly reported, it was up to Pat to tell many of Took’s acquaintances and friends about what had happened. Mischa Naimark, a former colleague in Russia, who was collaborating on Took’s next expedition, told Pat she should not go round publicising his arrest. Instead she should be a ‘good, tactful wife’ and suggested she was ‘jealous’ of her ‘younger rivals’. It was as if Naimark was ticking her off for exaggerating while Took’s impeccable social credentials and high-flying academic career served to cushion him from condemnation.
Ute Chatterjee, a woman who had been helping Took with research, was the Membership and Meeting Secretary of the Great Britain–Russia Society. When Took failed to arrive in Russia as planned to begin his expedition, she took it upon herself to lie on his behalf, even phoning the other people involved to tell them he had had an accident. Later she began asking Pat’s friends in England and Ireland if they would receive letters or calls from Took. Pat wrote to the president of the Society in an attempt to stop her. Like others, Chatterjee found Took’s charm and academic reputation so plausible that she was happy to continue helping him.
Took is now appealing. Despite his indeterminate sentence, he will be eligible for parole in just three and a half years, having already served nearly a year on remand. DS Hudson is in no doubt that Took’s addiction to small girls is ‘progressive’ and very dangerous, witness the way Took casually dismissed the harm he did Grace, saying, ‘Everything was all right there, there is no damage done.’ Despite this, Took still seems to have persuaded his supporters of his contrition and enthusiasm for treatment and rehabilitation.
Judge Blacksell was clearly appalled by Took’s crimes but he took ‘into account’ the ‘large bundle of testimonials’ that, according to Took’s barrister, painted him as ‘gentle, kind, caring man who has enriched the lives of many over many years’. In all there were 23 letters of support for Took and three character witnesses, on behalf of five people, who spoke at the hearing, including his older half-brother, John Michael Took, the Reverend Adrian Gabb-Jones and Matteos Los, a schoolfriend from a Greek shipping family. Even when sentencing him, Judge Blacksell at times shied away from the evil of Took’s mind by saying, ‘I have no doubt at all that men such as yourself are ill, you suffer from an illness.’ He even suggested Took could ‘exact some pity’ from the person sentencing him.
DS Hudson was disappointed that the harrowing witness statements from Pat and her daughters did not appear to play a greater role in the sentencing process. The impact of Pat and her family’s own suffering seemed to have been neutralised by the impressive array of respectable friends and family members who wrote supportive letters or turned up to speak or wrote in Took’s defence. Pat’s own witness statement was short but all the more powerful for being so. She wrote: ‘My sanity has been sorely tested. I live from day to day. His very clever, devious and artful betrayal of me, my family and friends for so many years is hard to come to terms with. The dreadful damage he has done to three of my darling granddaughters is heinous in the extreme.’
Ultimately it was precisely Took’s respectability that enabled him to pursue his lusts for so long. As Judge Blacksell said, ‘You were not just anybody, Mr Took, you were the trusted adult, you preyed on them because it was your standing that allowed you to have access to them in the next-door room to where the parent was.’
Child abuse, like domestic abuse, happens behind the most expensive, salubrious of doors and we need to face up to this. It was the complacent conviction that it could not happen in a nice middle-class suburb that meant Fritzel could go about his hideous double life in Austria with his family in the cellar, unnoticed for so long. At least Fritzel’s house looks like a grim prison-block that allows us to set him apart and view him as a freak. Took, on the other hand, lived in a beautiful, spacious home in Chelsea, surrounded by paintings and books, and was able to blind those around him with the sheer weight of his glamour and assured social status. Many paedophiles can. It is as if a man of intelligence and achievement cannot take the intellectual leap into such darkness. But he clearly can — and has.
It has been said often before, but it is time we stopped dismissing child abuse as something that happens on rough council estates — witness the media frenzy over the Shannon Matthews case in comparison with Took’s largely unreported crimes. If we are to learn anything from Took’s case, it is surely that paedophiles are those members of the Establishment whom we meet in university lecture halls, art galleries, boardrooms, on private jets and at smart dinner parties. Paedophiles live among us. It is sickening to report that Took now reads The Spectator in prison as a badge of his learning and respectability. He obtains it, cunningly, via third parties, so his subscription cannot be cancelled. One hopes he reads this article with particular care.
© Charlotte Metcalf 2008
This Article Was Written With The Co-operation Of Pat’s Family, But To Protect The Identity Of Individual Family Members, Their Names, Though Not Pat’s, Have Been Changed.