May 2021

Edinburgh charity worker jailed for child abuse in Albania set to be released

An Edinburgh charity worker jailed for child abuse in Albania is set to walk free from prison this week – years after abuse victims admitted they had been forced to fabricate evidence against him.

David Brown will be released on Friday, May 7 according to his lawyer Gjystina Golloshi.

He was sent to prison for 20 years for the abuse of boys at the His Children orphanage in Tirana, which was raided by police in 2006.

Ms Golloshi said the 69-year-old is still bidding to have his name fully cleared in Albania, with an appeal process ongoing. He has always protested his innocence, and has always had the support of campaigners from across the world along with church figures and many of the boys he set out to help.

His release comes after two of his accusers, residents at his orphanage, admitted to lying in their testimony because police and a psychologist pressured them into making false statements. 

He was then expected to be released in 2019 when his application for freedom was supported by prison officials.

However these hopes were dashed when a judge in Tirana refused his parole plea on grounds he “does not admit the crime for which he has been sentenced and, for that reason, he doesn’t show repentance”.

Ms Golloshi says he’ll now be granted his freedom, with the appeal referred to the highest court of Albania. The appeal focuses on the statements of the two boys who say Brown did not abuse them.

She said: “Now the case is in the higher court of Albania. Still waiting.

Brown travelled to Albania in 2000 to help refugees crossing the border to escape the war in Kosovo. The following year he opened an orphanage named His Children.

Prior to moving to Albania he worked with children for 35-years in Scotland, and spent time as the chairman of the Children’s Panel.

March 2017

Scots charity worker jailed for child abuse set to be freed after 11 years as accusers admit they lied in court

A charity worker serving 20 years for child abuse in ­Albania is set to be freed after both of his accusers admitted they were forced to tell lies in court.

David Brown, from Edinburgh, has already served 11 years behind bars after being convicted by the testimonies of two boys who were residents in a home he ran for troubled children.

But the boys, now aged 18 and 22, have come forward to say they lied because police and a psychologist ­pressured them into making false ­allegations.

Both accusers told the Sunday Mail they are ready to admit their original lies in court – a move which will lead to Brown’s freedom.

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November 2008

UK Police Withheld Details of Sex Abuse at Orphanage from Albanian Authorities

British police helped cover up a horrific sex abuse scandal at a Christian missionary orphanage in Albania

Senior officers agreed to keep details of abuse secret from their counterparts in Albania after the British director of the orphanage, David Brown, from Edinburgh persuaded them that while children had been sexually abused in his care, he had played no part in it.

Brown, 57, an evangelical charity worker who founded the His Children orphanage seven years ago, was yesterday found guilty of “sexual relations” with minors.

Sentencing him to 20 years in a maximum-security jail in Albania, Judge Gerti Hoxha said the home had been used as “camouflage” for sexual abuse. He hoped the sentence would serve as a warning to other pedophiles.

Looking unstable on his feet, Brown was escorted from the courtroom.

Two other British helpers at the orphanage remain on trial for their alleged part in the abuse. Dino Christodoulou, 45, a social therapy nurse from Blackburn in Lancashire, and Robin Arnold, 56, a salesman from Cromer in Norfolk, were extradited to Albania from Britain in May. Brown’s shelter cared for 40 abandoned children and babies. It was raided by Albanian police in May 2006. Ten children, aged between four and 13, told Albanian police they had been sexually abused by Brown and the two Britons. In some cases the children claim to have been bound to a balcony, gagged and raped.

But an investigation has revealed that Britain’s National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) received details about abuse at the home 18 months earlier, in December 2004, and failed to tell their Albanian counterparts.

Brown gave members of NCIS, stationed in the region to fight organised crime, harrowing accounts of abuse suffered by boys at his home, but denied he was involved. Taking his word, officers decided not to inform Albanian police about the abuse.

Before speaking to the detectives, Brown sought advice from his friend Alan Moir, a retired police superintendent from Inverness. Moir, 64, who supported the running of the home, convened a meeting at a hotel in the capital with officers from NCIS. At that meeting Brown claimed that Christodoulou, whom he had allowed to return to Blackburn, had sexually abused the children behind his back. He did not say anything about Arnold’s alleged involvement and claimed to have had no prior knowledge that children were being harmed.

“We made a decision that we would not report [the abuse] to the authorities,” said Moir. “We knew what would happen – someone would be arrested and the children would be back on the street.”

Asked if that constituted a cover-up by those at the meeting, Moir replied: “That is a fair and accurate description. We kept it secret from the Albanians. But it wasn’t that we wanted to hide anything – we were trying to protect the children, open a new orphanage and make something good of this. That was my view at the time – it may have been wrong. Looking back I do feel misled by David. At the time I was under the impression that this was a bona fide home.”

NCIS contacted Lancashire police requesting they check the background of Christodoulou and ensure he was not looking after children. No checks were done on Arnold, who had two convictions for indecently assaulting boys stretching back to the 1980s, leaving him free to travel to Malawi on what he described as an aid mission, where he met children while preaching the Bible.

There were no attempts to rescue the Gypsy children at the orphanage, where Brown slept with boys in his bed.

“A lot of us were uncomfortable about what was going on in there,” said a pastor who agreed not to inform Albanian police about the shelter. ” But we believed David was a good man. And we didn’t want all the good work our churches were doing to be associated with David’s orphanage.”

By May 2006, Brown was under the impression that the attempted cover-up had succeeded and looked forward to opening another home under a new name. Moir took around ˆ20,000 (?17,000) of his own money to Albania, which he said was for a deposit on land where they could construct the new shelter.

But for Brown, the game was up. Receiving a tip-off about a suspected paedophile ring operated from the home, Albanian authorities raided the ramshackle orphanage, arrested Brown and, some months later, extradited Christodoulou and Arnold to face trial in Tirana.

It was only then – 18 months after British law enforcement had been told about abuse at the orphanage – that a full criminal inquiry was opened.

A senior UK police source involved in that inquiry said he was “flabbergasted” to discover the abuse had been covered up by colleagues. “The very basis for child protection is: rescue the children,” he said. “The decisions that flowed from December 2004 were clearly a mistake. It endangered the lives of vulnerable children.”

In a statement, the Serious Organized Crime Agency (Soca), which has taken over from NCIS, denied its officers were involved in a cover-up, pointing out that the allegations “precede the formation of Soca” and communication between Britain and Albanian law enforcement had since improved. “There has been no cover-up. The relationship with the Albanians in 2004 bears no comparison with the relationship Soca has developed since 2006. At the time, officers acted on the best advice available in the circumstances. The excellent relationship we now have has led to three UK nationals standing trial in Albania.”

Interviewed in prison before yesterday’s verdict, all three accused Britons told the Guardian that children had been abused at the home. But all denied their personal involvement in the abuse, instead blaming each other.

Christodoulou said the children had been encouraged to tells lies about him. “It was cruel for someone to use the children to spite me,” he said.

Arnold said that while he had indecently assaulted boys in the past, he too was innocent of the charges. “I am here because God is using me to pull these other bastards down,” he said.

The pair’s defence lawyers have questioned the validity of testimony given by the children, claiming they were “manipulated” by the prosecution.

Brown described Christodoulou and Arnold, whom he blamed for the abuse, as “wolves in sheep’s clothing“. He described his trial as “my day on the cross”. “I am the father of these children and I have a duty under God to defend them,” he said.

Trial and terror

1999 Brown travels to Albania to help refugees from Kosovo and, in Tirana, encounters abandoned Gypsy children.

2001 Vowing to help, Brown returns to open the His Children orphanage, above, initially providing shelter and Bible lessons to a handful of children.

2002 Dino Christodoulou moves to Tirana to work at the orphanage. Robin Arnold begins visiting the home and has unsupervised access to some children.

October 2004 British police are told about sexual abuse. They agree not to tell their Albanian colleagues. Brown continues to run the home.

May 2006 Albanian police receive a tip-off. Brown is arrested and extradition requests are made for Christodoulou and Arnold.

November 2008 Brown is jailed.