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Abuse of sanity: The truth about how a council allowed a paedophile gay couple to adopt


So politically correct has adoption become, a council allowed these gay paedophiles to foster young boys ? even, as one mother reveals here, turning a blind eye when presented with evidence of their horrifying abuse

While the events unfolding in her living room were tense and awkward, the young mother did not believe that her unease augured anything more inauspicious or alarming.

With the benefit of hindsight, of course, she has now had ample time to reflect on how that gnawing anxiety was justified.

Miss X, as she must be known, had placed her eight-year-old twin boys into foster care in 2004 after finding herself unable to cope with life as a single parent of four boisterous youngsters.

That they had been placed with a gay couple, Craig Faunch and Ian Wathey ? the first homosexual couple in Yorkshire to be approved by the authorities as foster parents ? was, she told friends, incidental: she was just happy that someone was taking good care of them.

That sentiment changed, however, when she was shown a compromising naked photograph of her son while they were on one of their regular visits home.

The photo ? featuring her son urinating ? was unsettling enough for Miss X to complain to the social services department of her local council in Wakefield, Yorkshire.

It is the sort of serious incident that might, you imagine, herald the start of a strict set of investigative procedures.

Instead, the matter was resolved ? if that is the correct word ? over an uncomfortable meeting in Miss X's living room in May 2004, during which, she recalls, 32-year-old Faunch declared that he had taken the photograph to embarrass her son into closing the door when he went to the toilet.

The dubious explanation was enough to satisfy the social services managers present, who brought the inquiry to a swift conclusion (as well as apparently losing the incriminating photograph in the process).

It was to be another eight months before another boy in their care was to raise the alarm.

Eighteen months later, in June last year, both Faunch and Wathey were jailed for a total of 11 years after being convicted of a dozen offences relating to four of the boys in their care.

The pair had looked after 18 children in only 15 months after being approved by the council, but under the guise of caring men offering a helping hand to disadvantaged youngsters, had sexually abused vulnerable children for their own gratification.

Neither man, Leeds Crown Court was told last year, had shown any empathy or remorse.

Both are now serving prison sentences for their despicable crimes.

Nonetheless, the repercussions have continued to rumble, and in a scathing independentlyauthored report issued this week, Wakefield Metropolitan District Council found itself the subject of robust condemnation.

They had, the report concluded, left the couple free to sexually abuse youngsters in their care because of fears of discrimination if they launched an investigation.

By virtue of their sexuality, the report suggested, the men were "trophy carers" who were not subject to the same rigorous assessment as others.

At a time when gay couples can legally adopt children for the first time, the criticism raises serious questions about vetting procedures, as well as

fears that the crimes of two men could have repercussions for genuine gay foster parents.

For Miss X, of course, the issue is a far more simple one: a shocking betrayal of trust.

As she says: "I was so angry when I found out that the council hadn't taken their investigation further and, at least, contacted the police about it.

"I am horrified that they let more children go into that house ? it's sick.

"Now, so many more people have also had their lives turned upside down.

"Like others, I trusted them 100per cent and they let me down."

It is a sentiment echoed by the mothers of Faunch and Wathey's two other young victims, not to mention others who have found themselves at the sharp end of council mismanagement.

For it is not the first time that Wakefield council has found its provision of care for disadvantaged young people in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Last month, six care workers formerly employed by the council won a compensation payout estimated to be in the region of £1million in an out-ofcourtsettlement after blowing the whistle on standards of care in the children's homes where they worked.

All of them had been sacked after revealing a shocking catalogue of mismanagement, a raft of failings which included allowing children as young as 12 to engage in sexual relationships, a child worker buying and smoking drugs with children in his care and failures in staff criminal record checks.

Such a depressing litany of failures would seem to have had no bearing on sending the boys to stay with the two men in Sides Road, Pontefract, from the summer of 2003.

Faunch and Wathey had settled in the three-bedroom semidetached house on a pleasant cul-de-sac five years earlier and, like so many paedophiles, appeared to be perfectly respectable members of society.

This strikingly odd couple ? 40-year-old Wathey, 6ft tall and thick set was regarded as a quiet, "Gentle Giant" while Faunch is a slim 5ft 6in and nicknamed "Tweetie Pie" at school because of his voice and stature ? both grew up near Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

The men were living at home with their divorced mothers when they met ten years ago, quickly coming out to their respective friends and families before, in 1998, they decided to move in together.

Money, according to friends, was often in short supply, with both men undertaking a number of distinctly mundane jobs over the years, including working for a local frozen food firm and a mail order home shopping catalogue company.

They seemed, neighbours recall, unlikely trailblazers for gay rights, although in fact Faunch in particular was outspoken on the subject.

And whether or not it was at his behest, five years ago, the couple applied to Wakefield council to become professional foster parents.

When, in July 2003, they received permission, Faunch and Wathey became among the first homosexual couples in England to be approved, and the first in Yorkshire.

The milestone passed quietly enough.

Faunch and Wathey were treated no differently to any other foster parents by social services, passing the same training courses and undergoing the same standard vetting procedures.

Routine checks revealed they did not have a criminal record and had never been in trouble with police, and, with a desperate shortage of foster parents in the Yorkshire area, began their new role in the summer of 2003 as soon as the social services fostering panel formally approved their applications.

The couple's request only to look after boys in the five to 12 age bracket apparently passed unremarked, with managers accepting Faunch and Wathey's explanation that they didn't feel "equipped" to care for girls.

Perhaps social services should have talked to members of the local community, many of whom had a strong sense that it was not pure altruism that had persuaded the gay couple to bring young boys into their home.

As local gossip would have it, it was the money.

Neither man went out to work and appeared to be living off funds from Wakefield's social services department.

Cash was used, according to one neighbour, to fund weekends away with the boys at the nearby seaside resorts of Cleethorpes and Skegness in the motorhome they owned.

Of course, we now know that the couple's motivation was even more sinister: both men were paedophiles.

And less than a year after they had first been approved, Miss X was moved to flag up her concerns to social services.

During one of her regular visits with the twins, a grinning Faunch had shown her the picture of her son urinating during a visit to Butlin's holiday camp in Skegness.

A similar snap had also been taken of the other twin.

Deeply disturbed, the 34-yearold single mother refused to let the twins return to the foster home and lodged an official complaint with the council.

But while a social worker took the offending photograph and promised a full investigation the result, as we have seen, was merely that awkward living room meeting.

After that, Miss X was told nothing of what happened next, left instead to assume that the council had thoroughly investigated the matter.

In fact, far from taking any further action, the council had sent Faunch and Wathey more youngsters, including some with more serious problems, even providing extra bunk beds and a Ford Galaxy people carrier to assist with any transportation problems.

"Moving up in the world," one neighbour ruefully remarked.

Behind the scenes, however, it was the couple's deviancy that had moved on to another level.

Among the new "recruits" to their foster army was a 14-year old-boy with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, who spent the weekends with the men to afford his mother some respite care.

With a mental age of seven and learning difficulties, the boy's 36-year- old mother found it hard to juggle her son's special needs alongside those of her other two children-and had turned to Wakefield-social services for help.

"I was at breaking point when Craig and Ian came along," she recalls.

"At the time, it was the answer to my prayers.

"I looked after my son myself during the week and at weekends could recharge my batteries and spend time with the other kids."

How could she have guessed that her son was being sexually abused by the foster carers in the privacy of their home ? knowing that he was unlikely to say anything because of his condition?

In harrowing evidence given to Leeds Crown Court last year, the boy recalled how Wathey had made him watch gay pornography while he touched himself and, on nine other other occasions, had also subjected the boy to an explicit sex act as he lay in bed, telling him he must not tell his mother.

He had also, the boy also told the court, been fondled on several occasions by Faunch as they sat on the living room sofa. "I don't like them anymore," he told the court.

"I want them to go to prison."

Who knows how long this catalogue of abuse may have continued?

In fact, it was only after a fourth child, also aged 14, reported to an adult friend that he had been inappropriately touched that the police became involved.

After one of the incidents, he told the court, he had used a full bottle of shower gel in the shower in a bid to scrub away the memory of the event. "It hurt," he said.

The police were finally informed, and launched an investigation, during which they discovered an indecent video of the fostered twins taking a shower which had been filmed just days after their naked photo had been taken.

Police also uncovered a hardcore gay pornographic film in the recorder of Faunch and Wathey's bedroom.

The film, A Young Man's World, features the exploits of a group of older men lusting after and performing sex acts with young males.

In June last year, Faunch was convicted of five sexual offences of sexual activity with a 14-year-old and two offences of taking indecent photos.

Wathey was found guilty of four offences of sexual activity with another 14-year-old boy and a charge of encouraging a child to watch a gay porn movie.

Neither showed any remorse.

Indeed, it perhaps suggests something of the couple's attitude towards the legal proceedings that just weeks before they stood trial in June last year, the men chose to formalise their relationship in a civil partnership ceremony in Pontefract.

Little wonder that, when sentencing Faunch and Wathey at Leeds Crown Court last summer, Judge Susan Cahill said it was "quite incredible" that the police had not been called in after concerns were initially raised by the mother of the twin boys.

It is a sentiment echoed by the authors of this week's report, who also made 41 recommendations for overhauling the council's fostering process.

Only time will tell, of course, whether these recommendations will be implemented.

In the meantime, the mothers of the boys concerned are left to deal with the emotional consequences behind the bureaucratic machine.

As the mother of the 14-year old with Asperger's put it. "I just do not know the long-term damage this may have done to my son.

"If social workers had done their job and taken the twins more seriously in the first place, my son would never have gone there."

This week, a spokeswoman for Wakefield council declined to comment, declaring it would be "inappropriate" to do so until after a meeting of all council members is held on Wednesday.

"Inappropriate", of course, being rather a key word throughout this sorry saga ? and one that should have been used far earlier.

Additional reporting by Chris Brooke.

2007 Sep 8