The ready availability of social platforms on which to disclose historical impropriety and especially, behaviour of sexual control, abuse and cover up, has quite properly led of late, to a healthy sub-culture of identification disclosure. Such a feed is hungrily foraged by the voracious news industry and duly despatched to our desks, mobiles or other platform of choice.
I cannot catalogue that entire sorry narrative, other than to note the operational complacency, sadly conspicuous at institutions from Parliament to the Constabulary; from GMTV to the BBC; from the outing of Philip Schofield to the recent exposure by The Sun of Huw Edwards. And which of us is unaware of some tale of perversity from within our own communities?
The world of chess is certainly not exempt, and I return this week to chess’s own sex scandal, in the person of the notorious paedophile, Brian Eley, about whom the authorities received no fewer than 70 complaints from damaged victims. And to put that already frighteningly high number into a meaningful context of scale, the BBC report that, ‘83% of victims do not report their experiences to the police.’
Recent columns, both from myself and that ethereal poetess, Fiona Pitt Kethley, have completed the exposure of Brian Eley as the Jimmy Savile of chess (read further at: Brian Eley: the Jimmy Savile of chess; Unnatural acts: chess, Paedophilia and Brian Eley; and Damnatio Memoriae). This week I return to the charge with an excoriation of those sports officials who not only put the wolf in charge of the sheep pen, but also rallied round to protect the depraved carnivore, when the huntsmen’s bugles were heard in the far distance.
British coins, both gold, silver and even base metal, used to boast the proud inscription Decus et Tutamen around the milled edge. Dating from the reign of King Charles II and based on a line from Virgil’s epic, The Aeneid, the Latin original translates as: “an ornament [or decoration] and a protection”. Protection was needed against the capital offence of coin clipping, a self evidently high risk practice, which, however, could prove most lucrative, in that perpetrators could have their cake (the coin itself) and, given sufficient clipping, could eat it too, in terms of creating surplus precious metal from said clippings.
The opposite of Decus is Dedecus, “a disgrace”. The title of this article is consequently: “Dedecus et Tutamen”, signifying the disgrace of extending protection to Eley by British chess officialdom, when the wolf was on the prowl. According to Fiona, whose tireless efforts to expose the vicious cycle of predation and protection, have proved an inspiration to me, there had been multiple failures of the system. The chess world failed to protect children at a time when the first complaints were made. More should have been done and lessons should have been learned. The police failed to follow up leads after Eley’s first escape. Others in the chess world chose to shelter him, while knowing about the allegations made against him. More recently, even before Eley’s death, someone, somewhere, chose to take this man off Interpol’s lists. It is all disgraceful and “…if I [Fiona] were one of the seventy plus people who filed accusations against him, I would be very, very angry.”
One of those propping up the shield around Eley, was the late David Anderton, President of the now defunct British Chess Federation (BCF) at the time when Grandmaster James Plaskett (who himself had a narrow escape, quite literally, from Eley’s hands) submitted a formal complaint — which was, however, brushed under the carpet.
Anderton was a publicly plausible, but privately slippery character. Having pledged his support, and that of the BCF, for my 1986 election bid, strongly supported by Kasparov, to unseat Florencio Campomanes, the then president of FIDÉ, the world chess federation, Anderton struck a deal with the Filipino to stab our campaign in the back, in exchange for a top post in Campomanes’ administration.
It’s my opinion that Anderton’s experience as a solicitor, of the checks, balances and constraints of the English legal system, left him vulnerable to the magnetic attraction of watching an untrammelled dictator in action, unfettered by any regulations or precedents. As the popular joke ran at the time of our British electoral challenge to Campomanes, after he unilaterally halted the 1984/85 world championship Britain may rule the waves, but Campo waives the rules.
An habitué of the Gambit chess cafe in Amsterdam, where Eley had been a regular, remembered Eley and the occasion when Eley came in, just after Jim Plaskett’s cri de coeur letter had appeared in the magazine Chess, demanding to know why Eley had not been arrested. The cafe used to subscribe to the magazine and several of the denizens had seen the letter. One walked over to Eley, handed him the magazine and pointed out the damning epistle. Eley consumed it, went very quiet for a while, then got up and left, never to be seen there again. Subsequently, a couple of those regulars went to Eley’s rented apartment to look for him. They were told by the landlord that he had come in that day, thrown his stuff into a bag and said: “I’m leaving.” He had then headed to Schipol Airport, to board a flight to Thailand.
This Thailand story appears to have been untrue, and Eley in fact remained in hiding in Holland for the rest of his days. Maybe Eley himself spread the Bangkok story as a red herring to deflect scrutiny from the authorities.
In line with our policy at TheArticle of presenting both sides in any argument and avoiding suppression of inconvenient contrary opinions, I should add in defence of Anderton, that perhaps he considered that he was acting, not corruptly but prudently, from the BCF’s perspective. He was at that time, the BCF’s International Director, later going on to become President.
The fact is that times were very different and one could not just throw accusations of sexual abuse around with the freedom one can nowadays. The Eley case was ongoing in the late 1980s. In 1987, the Cleveland child abuse scandal erupted, when many parents were falsely accused of abusing their children, all because of the over-zealous medical examinations carried out by two subsequently discredited paediatricians. This set back child abuse investigations by many years, and made people very reluctant to make such accusations.
However, according to my legal consigliere it would be wise to consider the following. Although contrary opinions have later been expressed, the inevitable enquiry, conducted by Baroness Justice Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, concluded that: “The kindest description of Dr Marietta Higgs and Dr Geoffrey Wyatt would be to say that they were naive, but naivety should not number among a consultant paediatrician’s characteristics. By their bull-headed approach, Dr Higgs and Dr Wyatt… have set back the cause they sought to promote.” In July 1988, six MPs tabled a House of Commons motion for charges of indecent assault and conspiracy to be brought against Higgs and Wyatt.
Playing Advocatus Diaboli, it is possible that this miscarriage of justice and misplaced mass hysteria, unduly influenced Anderton’s judgement, when faced with the problem of how to deal with Eley. BCF officials may have put a wolf in charge of the sheep pen, but taking action against the suspected predator could have provoked an unwelcome legal counterblast from the lupine Eley. Exit, pursued by a wolf, was probably the last thing that timorous BCF officials of the day wanted inscribed on their epitaph.
In the two games this week this maleficent molester is for once hoist by his own petard – and then some.
Raymond Keene’s latest book “Fifty Shades of Ray: Chess in the year of the Coronavirus”, containing some of his best pieces from TheArticle, is now available from Blackwell’s . His 206th book, Chess in the Year of the King, with a foreword by The Article contributor Patrick Heren, and written in collaboration with former Reuters chess correspondent, Adam Black, is in preparation. It will be published later this year.
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