UK

RAF man Eddie Graham targeted 'easy to access' boys

Eddie Graham court sketch Image copyright julia quenzler/bbc
Image caption Graham was a scout leader on the RAF base in Berlin

A former RAF intelligence officer has been convicted of a series of sexual assaults on children dating back more than 30 years.

Eddie Graham, 63, carried out the assaults on boys, many of whom were aged under 13, while serving at the RAF Gatow base in Berlin during the 1980s.

As well as working there, he was a scout leader on the base and used RAF buildings and surrounding land to carry out his assaults.

The allegations first came to light in 2003 when one of the former scouts made a complaint to police. The man then approached a different police force with the same complaint in 2012.

The matter was passed to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) police because all of the offences were committed by a serving member of the RAF on an RAF base abroad.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The court martial was heard at the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire

That, in turn, is why Graham, who has retired from the RAF, has been on trial in a military court, not a civilian one.

Graham was arrested in January 2013 and admitted assaulting nine of the boys but denied assaulting four others.

A number of the scouts, who are now middle-aged men, gave evidence during Graham's court martial at the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire.

Some were so overcome with emotion, they struggled to get their words out as they recalled the events that had taken place more than 30 years ago.

Their testimony was heard by the board, or jury, which, unusually for a military hearing, was made up of seven civilians who work for the MoD.

In other courts martial, the board is made up of military personnel.

Graham also gave evidence and told the court that, as he worked on sensitive intelligence matters for the RAF, he could not pursue his homosexual tendencies off-base and so, in his words, "targeted" the scouts as "they were easy to access".

Image copyright julia quenzler/bbc
Image caption Graham admitted assaulting nine of the boys but denied assaulting four others

The assaults would often happen during scouting weekends at the base. Some took place at a large, barrack-like building in an area called Wilson's Retreat, others in tents next to the building.

Graham claimed that, with the passage of time, the victims who gave evidence in court had either mistaken him for someone else, or had made up their stories.

Graham was a senior member of the Scouts and met Prince Charles in 1985.

The case is believed to be one of the first large-scale historical abuse cases to come out of Britain's armed forces.

It has prompted calls for the military to be included in the new inquiry into abuse set up last month by the Home Secretary.

The inquiry, led by Fiona Woolf, the Lord Mayor of London, will look at cases of historical child sex abuse at major public institutions, such as the NHS and local authorities.

Image copyright Handout
Image caption Graham met Prince Charles in 1985

Tessa Munt, the Liberal Democrat MP, who was sexually abused as a child, is among those who have campaigned for a wide-ranging investigation into some of Britain's most prominent public bodies.

She says the trial of Eddie Graham has shown that the military, too, should now come under the scrutiny of the inquiry.

The Scout Association said it condemns the actions of Graham and that it has co-operated fully with the investigation into this historical case. It says it has stringent vetting of all adults who work with young people.

It took more than three decades to bring Graham to justice and in the end only became possible after those he assaulted found the courage to come forward.

The case shows that, just like other respected British institutions, the armed forces can also experience the pain of historical child sex abuse.

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