Aug 2006

No stone left unturned

A LINE of police kneel side by side yesterday as they begin their search of the House of Horror at No107.

The officers conducted a fingertip examination of the garden of the council semi where two murdered children are said to have been buried.

Senior officers said no stone would be left unturned as the exhaustive search continues all of today after which they would decide which areas of the garden to dig up.

Eight forensic specialists combed the garden at 107 Walton Green on the New Addington estate in Croydon, South London, where children were sexually abused for 40 years.

The nondescript house is the former home of paedophiles Stephen Dedman, now dead, and Leslie Ford-Thrussell, now serving 12 years in jail for sex offences on young girls.

Police launched the search after Dedman’s son Paul, now 41, tipped off the current occupants of No107 that two children lay in the garden.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said: “We have put up screens to cordon off the area. After the garden we will conduct a search of the house.

“Then a forensic archaeologist will come to the site to decide which areas should be dug up.”

Experts warned yesterday that the police will need to be on the lookout for the tiniest clues.

Professor Margaret Cox, a specialist from the Time Team TV programme who has been involved in the excavation of mass graves in Kosovo, Rwanda and Iraq, said searching for bodies buried for decades was a meticulous task.

She said: “After so many years you would probably find a skeleton though if the ground is waterlogged or the bodies were wrapped in plastic there could be remains of soft tissue or clothes.

“You have to take enormous care though. A child’s skull is very fragile and some bones are so tiny they could be confused with pebbles.”

Horrified neighbours gathered outside the house where Ford-Thrussell lived after marrying cancer victim Dedman’s widow Shirley.

The pair had known each other since they were young and are thought to have made up a padeophile ring with a third man who cannot be identified.

Sickened neighbours recalled how Ford-Thrussell, a landscape gardener, had laid dozens of patios in the area.

One said: “If police do find bodies under his patio all hell will break loose. Half the patios round here were laid by him. There will be a lot of people wondering what may be under their BBQs.”

Victims of abuse at No 107 wept as they remembered its garden as an evil “Santa’s Grotto” filled with gnomes, fairy lights and a wishing well to attract kids.

One victim, Paul Dedman’s daughter Stacey, was only seven when “Grandpa Leslie” as she knew Ford-Thrussell, started to molest her.

Stacey, now 19, said: “It was a hell-hole where children were seen, abused, and not heard.

“I always knew there was something sinister about Grandpa Leslie’s garden and I believe children’s remains will be found. He was always in his shed and in the garden late at night.

“He was obsessed with digging up the lawn and laying concrete. And he was forever tinkering with the wishing well.

“He lured me into the shed with the promise of ice creams, then touched me and made me do the most horrific things.”

Stacey, whose evidence helped send 72-year-old Ford-Thrussell to prison in 2004, recalled how he would invite dozens of children to play in the garden at weekends and give them “special hugs”.

Another victim, now 20, was indecently assaulted and filmed naked in one of the sicko’s home videos.

She said: “He was creepy and smelled of sweets. I remember him digging the whole garden up and covering it with cement.

“He had all these children around but if you went near his wooden shed he would go mad.”