Mar 11, 2024

Review: Accused: The Hampstead Paedophile Hoax - Channel 4

Joseph Reaidi
Channel 4
March 10, 2024

A horrific hoax in which parents and teachers were falsely accused of being part of a Satanic paedophile ring in Hampstead made for a dramatic news story – but Channel 4’s 90-minute documentary is a stark reminder of how deeply this affected innocent mothers.

"This is a true story on a lie." That’s how Emily Turner’s upcoming film Accused: The Hampstead Paedophile Hoax opens, before it retells the chilling story that caught attention across the globe.

I will never forget my horror when I first heard the allegations of children being sexually abused by a satanic cult operating out of Christ Church and the adjacent primary school in 2014.

When it became clear these were baseless claims, I was baffled at how such claims came to be spread.

Yet despite my knowledge of what unfolded, I was still taken back to hear the retelling of the story through the voices of four mothers accused of abusing children and who had their names and addresses leaked as they faced harassment from the public.

Turner manages to make viewers empathise with these women – while still keeping them anonymous – by having actors lip-sync with the recorded interviews as though they were speaking to a camera.

The claims first spread after two children were recorded telling entirely made-up stories concocted by their mother Ella Draper’s new boyfriend, Abraham Christie.

While snippets were shown of these videos and other uploads which fuelled the conspiracy, a simulated ticker of views and likes rapidly builds up in the corner of the screen, emphasising just how quickly this spread worldwide.

“It felt like the modern world and the internet meets this medieval witch hunt,” one mum said.

Then there is the shocking revelation that paedophiles used the leaked data to email the parents and share their grotesque interest in their children. It was heart wrenching to hear that predators even managed to take images of one mum’s daughter from her Google profile picture for their own gratification.

Accused also bravely gives a platform to two key conspiracy theorists, who to this day believe that the Satanist cult was real.

While there is arguably a danger in letting the same people who spread these false narratives once again speak to a wide audience, it’s almost mind boggling to see their responses even after the fraud was debunked and both Draper and Christie jailed.

In a post-pandemic world where conspiracists thrive more than ever online– whether it’s denying the existence of a global virus or the government controlling the weather through ‘chemtrails’ – it’s undeniably fascinating to hear from a side unwilling to accept that their theories were wrong.

Turner even revealed to us that Sabine McNeill, who was jailed over stalking the parents and breaching a restraining order, tried to walk out of her interview several times.

And as tragic as the circumstances were, it is empowering to hear how the four mothers – described as warriors and not victims – took back control in a world of online misinformation where they faced constant harassment.

No comments: