WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE AND DISTRESSING CONTENT
By Mark Watts
Playland is one of those scandals that the British establishment would prefer us all to forget. It marks another episode that draws together paedophiles, pimps and VIPs, combining the seedy underworld with Britain’s ruling ‘elite’.
A scandal that has never properly been told.
And as the establishment continues to seek to snuff out anyone who bears testimony to ‘VIP paedophiles’, Playland has become the title of a book that contains important, if deeply troubling, testimony. It sharply contrasts with the official political histories of the so-called ‘great and the good’.
Anthony Daly, author of ‘Playland: secrets of a forgotten scandal’, writes in the introduction: “A generation of youngsters had been treated as sordid play-things by the rich and powerful. Their stories had never been told. It was as if they didn’t matter. I knew what I had to do…
“I had a duty to tell the story.”
And so, in Playland, published by Mirror Books in March, Daly tells the sordid story of the arcade near Piccadilly Circus that attracted young lads to play on pin-ball machines, in turn drawing the pimps and paedophiles that would prey on them.
The lads ranged from young men to run-away boys, who would have been under today’s age of consent – let alone then. The age of consent for homosexual sex was 21 at the time, before it was equalised with heterosexuals at 16 in 2001.
Daly was a youthful-looking 20-year-old in 1975 who had just arrived in London from his native Derry in Northern Ireland for a job at Foyles bookshop.
A “wide-eyed Irish innocent abroad”, Daly had wondered along Oxford Street on the Saturday after his first week in the rare and antiquarian book department of Foyles, and fallen for a dice-and-cup game played on a fold-up trestle table. He lost his following week’s rent.
In a daze, he continued to wander round, walking down Regent Street and, unfortunately for him, to Piccadilly Circus. He saw the Playland arcade, and thought that his luck would improve if he used his last few pennies on the fruit machines.
He was wrong.
Back outside Playland, amid the pool of neon lights of the iconic advertising displays of Piccadilly Circus, he was dejected, penniless and hungry.
From there, Tony describes how he descends into a hidden circle of hell of sexual exploitation by an assortment of businessmen, politicians and other members of Britain’s putrid establishment.
This book, required reading for anyone interested in how power works in Britain, is an evocative and gripping account that captures the time, the place – and the stench.
A man of about 30 struck up a conversation with the dejected Tony. The man called himself Keith Hunter – almost certainly a false name. ‘Keith’ invited Tony for a meal with him and his friend.
That friend was Charles Hornby, a 35-year-old Old Etonian and a Lloyds underwriter. He had inherited a country estate in Gloucestershire and had been shooting with Prince Charles. Charming, with a distinct air of British sophistication, the ‘country gentleman’ had a peculiar bond with the rough-mannered and foul-mouthed Keith.
After dinner, Charles invited Tony to join him and Keith for a nightcap at his Knightsbridge flat, saying that he had cash there and could lend some to Tony.
There, Tony recounts, Charles raped him as Keith helped to pin him down.
The following morning, according to Tony, Charles told him that he knew what he was doing by agreeing to return to the flat. Charles realised that Tony was edgy, he said, so had drugged his drinks to relax him.
Charles said that Tony was not even his type because he was about five years too old.
But Charles knew some people who would love to meet Tony – “important people”. Tony could make a lot of his friends very happy and would be well rewarded.
Tony said, no.
Charles, though, was in the insurance business, he reminded Tony. He had taken pictures the night before, he said, and Tony’s mother back in Derry might never recover from the shock of opening an envelope full of them.
Trapped, Tony says that he was prostituted to an array of establishment figures. First up, Charles Irving, elected as a Conservative MP the previous year. He slipped £30 in Tony’s coat pocket for services rendered.
Irving invited Tony to a party that weekend organised by the Monday Club to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s election as Conservative leader. Tony recalled what Irving said: “It’s a great opportunity for you to be presented.”
Irving, who was knighted in 1990, remained an MP until 1992.
The party was at a plush setting, within earshot of Big Ben, Tony recalls. Men in suits and formal evening wear mixed with teenage boys aged from about 16, some in flamboyant clothes and wearing rouge and eyeliner. There were no women.
One guest explained to Tony that some of the men were celebrating their first anniversaries as MPs, as well as toasting Thatcher’s election as leader. Members of the Monday Club had piggybacked on the bash, the guest added.
Tony was introduced to a few ‘First Years’, including Peter Morrison who later became Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS) when she was prime minister and who was knighted in 1990.
Another man introduced himself to Tony as Sir Keith Joseph, who was later education secretary.
As the party wore on, Tony saw boys sitting on men’s knees. Boys started kissing some of the men in full view of the others, which turned into a “tableau of sexual frenzy”.
Tony describes how Joseph watched on excitedly and started to kiss and fondle him.
He noticed one man staring at him. He later identified him as Sir Michael Havers, who became Lord Chancellor – and a client of his.
Morrison then took Tony off to a room for sex, swearing as he dismissed protests from Joseph and others. “He’s booked. This one’s mine.”
Soon after this ‘party’, Charles Hornby arranged Tony’s next client, a member of the House of Lords. Tony says that he was picked up outside Westminster, where, in the back-seat of a chauffeur-driven car, he gave the Lord a blow-job.
Tony avoids naming him in the book, calling him Lord Back-Seat.
Tony accompanied Irving to a party at a house in Essex, where “elderly statesmen” mixed with “Dilly boys”. Among the attendees, according to Tony, were James Molyneaux, the late Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim who would become UUP leader, and Sir Knox Cunningham, Molyneaux’s predecessor as Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim.
When he was later led upstairs for sex, Tony says that he saw a man lead a boy no older than 12 into a room.
Keith pulled him back to the pimps who ran the ‘Dilly’ scene, renting out boys and young men from Playland to punters. “The Firm”, writes Tony, “had connections to and serviced those in the establishment.”
One of those clients, says Tony, was Havers. Tony was his companion for a get-together in Whitehall. Most of the men there had been in the armed forces, and the others included a couple of businessmen, politicians and television celebrities along with “Dilly rent” in their late teens or a little older. Havers took Tony off to a room for sex.
Tony recalls other VIP clients: Viscount William De L’Isle, a Conservative MP before he inherited his peerage and a former governor-general of Australia, and Nicholas Eden, son of the former prime minister, Anthony Eden, who later inherited his father’s title as Earl of Avon.
“The perception was that they were so powerful, so well connected, there was no way I could ever pose a threat to them. Normal rules didn’t apply here,” Tony writes.
“They were unassailable and untouchable.”
He saw to one client, an officer in the Grenadier Guards, at St James’s Palace, a royal residence.
Charles Hornby arranged for Tony, even though he was working for ‘the Firm’, to see another “associate”. His name was Simon.
They had something in common: book selling. Simon explained that he was director of retail at WH Smith, where he had been working for nearly two decades.
He was Simon Hornby, brother of Charles, a 40-year-old Old Etonian and former Grenadier Guard who would become chairman of WH Smith Group and a director of several blue-chip companies. He also became a regular client of Tony, who recounts Simon’s explanation of how the ‘great and the good’ exchange “cake”. Cake might be a directorship, a contract or some other favour.
Tony was a piece of cake, and Simon became another pimp.
Simon’s “network”, writes Tony, “had powerful political connections and links to financial institutions and the military.” Simon was knighted in 1988.
Among further clients named by Tony was Tom Driberg, who had retired as a Labour MP the previous year, a former chairman of the Labour party, and who was named as an agent for the Security Service, better known as MI5, while working as a journalist on the Daily Express before turning to politics.
The most harrowing scene follows a gathering at Prunier restaurant in St James’s of some senior figures in the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which lobbied to legalise sex with children. Tony identifies one of them as Sir Peter Hayman, the UK’s former high commissioner to Canada and a long-time senior officer of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), better known as MI6.
Keith shepherded Tony into one of three cars that transported the dinner guests to a flat in Notting Hill for “the best show in London”. There, they joined a few men in a dimly lit living room.
Two boys – brothers of eight and ten, Tony was told – performed sexual acts on each other before some of the men, including Hayman, abused them, according to Tony. He says that he shouted, “You’re all sick bastards,” which led to his being physically and sexually attacked until he passed out.
After a few torturous weeks on the meat rack of Piccadilly Circus, Tony returned to his parent’s house in Derry. But he was not forgotten. Tony recounts how, the following year, soldiers carried out an early-morning raid on his home. He quotes the officer in charge as saying to him: “Consider this a calling card from your friends in London.”
In 2016, as he prepared to publish the book, police raided his home, claiming to have “intelligence” that linked his address to indecent images of children. Just over a year ago, police told him that 11 indecent images of children were found on his computer.
Since the book was published, Tony tells me that the police have informed him that he will not be charged, although his computer would still be destroyed – along with photographic evidence on it that linked him to Simon Hornby.
All the punters identified in Playland, apart from Lord Back-Seat, as well as the named attendees of sex parties, including those where children were abused, have since died.
Only one was prosecuted: Charles Hornby was committed to trial just days before Keith took Tony to meet him.
Later that year, Charles was jailed for 30 months and fined £1,000 for sexual offences against boys. Others were convicted of running a rent-boy racket out of the Playland arcade. Charles was a client. It was known as the Playland trial.
Scotland Yard was dogged by accusations of failing to pursue other VIP clients of the Playland ring. Even the trial judge remarked that not all the perpetrators were in the dock.
Charles died in ignominy aged 57. Not one obituary is to be found for him on a comprehensive newspaper-cuttings database.
But the establishment gladly buried him – along with the Playland scandal.
However, the ghost of Playland has returned to haunt the establishment again in the form of this revealing book.
The one fault with it, sprinkled with so many references to an array of ‘VIPs’, is its lack of an index.
But Playland is a superbly executed book that is crying out to be turned into a television production or film.
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