Dirty Dozen Inquiry
The ‘Dirty Dozen’ (Feb ’86 – Jun ’87)
Hackney police raided a flat on the Kingsmeade Estate in November 1985 after a report that a 13 year old was being abused there, but failed to find the child who was hidden there. Essex police later picked up this information and visited the flat, at Templemead,to question the occupants, Lennie Smith and Robert Oliver, about Jason’s death. Both men had previous convictions for sexual offences against young boys.
In February 1986, Essex detectives found the same 13 year old boy by chance when they raided a house in Croydon as they made inquiries into Jason’s murder.
They rescued him from the gang and sparked off a massive investigation. Two of the first names supplied by the boy were Lennie Smith and Sidney Cooke. Both men had had brutal sex with him. Within days, Smith and Cooke were arrested and charged and remanded to Brixton Prison to await trial.
In June 1987, twelve men from this paedophile network who had preyed on runaway boys were convicted. Crown prosecutor Mr John Sevan told the court that between January 1984 and January last year the defendants procured and corrupted boys who had run away from home or from council care. Boys were “hawked about” all over London, staying for a week or two at the homes of different men who passed them on when they got tired of the lads. To keep one step ahead of police, social workers or parents, the men hid the boys. The victims were plied with drink and drugs including cannabis, amphetamines and LSD to weaken their resistance to sexual demands
This network became known as the ‘Dirty Dozen’
Walter Ballantyne, 46; a stallholder at Dalston Market, was one of the ringleaders of the network, he was given 6 years 3 months
Leonard William Smith, 31, 30 months;
Sidney Charles Cooke, 59, remanded for bail reports / got 2 years *
Simon Haeems, 35, 2 years
Colin Byrne, 18, 1 year probation
Daniel Paine, 33, 2 years;
Roy Alan Morris, 26, 30 months,
Alfred Goddard, 58, 2 years;
John Thornton, 36, 8 years;
John Stead,23, 5 years;
Edward Talbot, 47, 1 year;
Brian Turner, 5 years
Victims snared at fair grounds
Sidney Cooke is currently serving his life prison sentence at HMP Wakefield
Paedophile Sidney Cooke set up his own funfair stall at fairgrounds around the country to lure his unsuspecting victims.
The 72-year-old, nicknamed Hissing Sid, used a children’s Test Your Strength machine to meet his victims and trap them into under-age sex orgies.
With his friends Robert Oliver, Lennie Smith and Leslie Bailey, former farm worker Cooke would drug the children before subjecting them to brutal assaults
Habitually dressed in a dirty suit and trilby hat, he was one of a gang in the 1980s suspected of the deaths of up to nine boys.
Operating from a flat on the Kingsmead estate in Hackney, east London, the gang hired underage male prostitutes or snatched children off the streets to torture them sexually, including Jason Swift, (pic below) a 14-year-old rent boy from Hackney.
A group of men each paid £5 to have sex with Jason in the Kingsmead flat. He was later found strangled in a shallow grave on the outskirts of London.
‘Appalling beyond belief’
Det Supt Bright of Essex Police described Cooke as “cocky and arrogant” before he eventually confessed to Jason’s killing. It was appalling beyond belief,” he said.
Det Bright described how the gang would stalk boys at fairgrounds as if they were hunting prey.
He added: “There are certain cases that you work on during your career that will never leave you. I will never forget Jason.”
Cooke was sent to prison for 19 years in 1989 for Jason’s manslaughter but managed to get his sentence reduced to 16 years and was released after nine.
Bailey named him as one of the killers of Mark Tildesley, seven, who disappeared after visiting a funfair near his home in Wokingham, Berkshire.
Police believe he was lured away from the fair by Cooke on the promise of a 50p bag of sweets.
He was then tortured and killed by Cooke’s gang in a caravan in almost exactly the same way as Jason.
But in 1991 the CPS declined to prosecute Cooke for Mark’s death as he was already in prison for killing Jason.
Cooke has indicated that he knows where Mark’s body is buried but refuses to tell police or the boy’s grieving parents exactly where his grave is.
During his time in Wandsworth Prison in London Cooke was held on a special wing for sex offenders.
He became the centre of attention, admired by other paedophiles for the extent of his depravity and the lengths he was prepared to go to ensnare his victims.
Detective Constable Tina Birnie said: “He (Cooke) has been put on a pedestal because he killed all of those kids. It was a fantasy to all those paedophiles to go a bit further.”
After his release in April last year Cooke lived, at his own request, in a suite of three cells at Yeovil police station in Somerset for his own safety.