Paedophile flees as town's parents learn of his past

29 October 1997
The Scotsman
John Ross and John Smith

A convicted paedophile was in at a secret location in Scotland last night, after fleeing from Forres in Moray after his past was made public. Parents were incensed yesterday to discover the 52-year-old, originally from the Blackpool area and said to be a danger to young girls, had been living in Forres for two weeks. The man, who was convicted of a series of offences against young girls, is also said to be a prime suspect in the unsolved murder of 11-year-old Lesley Molseed in Yorkshire in 1975. Neither police nor council officials were officially told of his presence in Forres, although Grampian Police became aware he was living locally through its own intelligence network.

Proposed legislation would see sex offenders jailed for up to five years for loitering in areas frequented by children, and a central register has been set up requiring them to notify authorities if they change address. However, this affects only those people convicted of, or released from a prison sentence for sex offences after 1 September.

Last night, as residents expressed relief that the man had now moved on, there were calls for communities to be better informed about sex offenders moving into their area. Pauline Thomson, of Scottish People Against Child Abuse, said that, depending on the category of offender, it should be at the discretion of the authorities as to how much information is released. But she said: "If there is a dangerous perpetrator in your midst, I think everyone in the community has a right to know."

Ms Thomson said she was against the formation of vigilante groups hounding offenders out of one town, only for the problem to re-emerge in another. "Its better the devil you know than the devil you don't. I wouldn't want to pass a problem like this on to someone else's doorstep." Parents were also relieved. Sharon Smith, a mother of two, said: "I would not have felt safe for my family with someone like that in Forres. He should not have been allowed to come here without the authorities being told." Another mother of a 15-year-old boy, who did not want to be named, said: "I'm very pleased he has gone now, although the problem has just moved to someone else's area. Every parent has a right to know if someone like that is in their midst. The only place I would put them is on a desert island."

A spokesman for Moray Council confirmed it had not been officially notified of the man's presence in Forres. "The situation will be kept under review and further investigations will be made to establish if particular action is required."

A Grampian Police spokesman said that in common with other police forces, it constantly monitors intelligence on people who may pose a danger to the community. Through these procedures the force became aware within the past week of the man moving into the Forres area.

The man, who had previously been staying in Europe and Ireland, had been living in rented accommodation in a converted hotel in Forres with a 21-year-old girlfriend. He left the area at 7am yesterday as details of his previous crimes and his link with the 22-year-old unsolved murder were published in a newspaper. Police said they did not know where he is now living.

The man was released from jail five years ago after serving a sentence for abducting a girl. He is also mentioned in a new book Innocents, which claims he is a suspect in the Lesley Molseed murder. It questions his alibi and claims he confessed to cell mates to the killing.  (Blogger note: refers to Raymond Hewlett)

The moves in Forres came as Scotland's council leaders were urged yesterday to come up with a voluntary code for housing paedophiles - including a reciprocal agreement to help with accommodation.  Mike McCarron, the social work spokesman on the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said that there had to be a "degree of come and go" as councils grappled with the problem of what to do with sex offenders.

Addressing the first national conference in Scotland on the management of sex offenders, organised in Alloa by Clackmannanshire Council, Mr McCarron attacked the growth of vigilante groups, which he said would only drive paedophiles underground.

Afterwards, Mr McCarron, East Dunbartonshire Council's social work convener, said that local authorities needed to agree "sensible policies" to make communities safer. "That has to be by finding a way, when a sex offender is able to live in the community, then he can do it in a stable way. But there will be cases, either because of the nature of the offence, or because of lack of treatment resources, that that will not be the appropriate place."

Mr McCarron, a former senior social worker in Strathclyde, said there had to be a national agreement, supported by the Government, which would oblige one authority to help out another. "It seems we need to get the balance between them [the public] having the confidence that the local authorities have good policies in their interests, without people having too much control. "If you say it is up to you local people to say whether or not you want a sex offender to live next door to you, you will never get a solution that way. That would put local authorities in an impossible situation."

Mr McCarron said that when it came to operating the community protection orders proposed by the Scottish home affairs minister, Henry McLeish, local authorities would need to get the public's confidence.

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