Four convicted over strangling of teenage boy prostitute – Jason Swift
Times, The (London, England) – Saturday, May 13, 1989
Author: Stewart Tendler, Crime Reporter

Four men were convicted at the Central Criminal Court yesterday of the manslaughter of Jason Swift, aged 14, the runaway who died in a homosexual orgy after becoming a male prostitute.

He was strangled as he was held down and sexually abused at a council flat in Hackney, east London, in 1985. The court was told he died “with a tear running down his face”.

All the youth had when he was killed were a few clothes, 98p, a battered Monopoly game with his initials scratched on it and a tobacco tin holding his coin collection.

Yesterday the jury convicted Leslie Bailey, aged 35, and Robert Oliver, aged 34, both of Frampton Park Estate, Hackney; Sidney Cooke, aged 61, of Kingsmead Estate, Hackney; and Stephen Barrell, aged 28, of Arnold Road, Dagenham, east London. They will be sentenced on Monday. Bailey was found guilty of attempting to choke the youth, and he and Cooke were also convicted of committing acts tending to pervert the course of justice by disposing of his body.

The court was told Jason was squashed face-down on a bed, surrounded by six men. Experts said it would have taken 15 minutes for him to die.

The inquiry into his death and two Scotland Yard investigations into rings of north London paedophiles have so appalled senior London detectives that Scotland Yard has been urged to set up a special squad to investigate widespread child abuse. Officers involved in investigating the rings were so affected that debriefings are still being held to help them to cope with their experiences.

Police argue that if the paedophiles preyed on young girls, investigations would already be under way. They point to the Swift case as an extreme example of the degradation and danger that some boys face.

A well-organized and financed group of paedophiles operating in east London, which has international links, is believed to have recruited at least 60 boys into their ring. From their headquarters, a shoe shop in Hackney, they produced manuals on how to entice and gain the trust of youngsters before seducing them.

A children’s charity worker said Jason painted “an all too typical picture” of a runaway. “In the old days, runaways used to turn to pick-pocketing. Now they become rent boys or prostitutes it pays well. And it is my belief that the problem is growing,” Dr David Tithers, of the Methodist-funded National Children’s Home, said.

Jason, who ran away from home to escape bullying by his family, “scrounged a living by lending his body to men who used him as no more and no less than a vehicle for their sexual satisfaction,” Mr Julian Bevan, for the prosecution, told the court.

The last months of Jason’s life were spent begging on the streets, selling his body for cash, food and a bed for the night. The lonely teenager, who went to a school for slow children in Stoke Newington, north London, was described by his headmaster as “quiet, likeable and popular”.

Unhappy at home, he left to live with his sister, on the same housing estate as the four men who killed him. In July 1985, he ran away again, taking Pounds 75 of stolen money and his treasured possessions in a plastic shopping bag. He became a male prostitute who “would do virtually anything for money and became easy prey for men who found sexual gratification with young boys”, the prosecution said.

He died in November after being held for more than three hours in the council flat at Ashmead House, Hackney.

A farmer and his dog subsequently found his body in a copse beside a cornfield at Stapleford Tawney, near Ongar, Essex.

Police have interviewed Cooke and Bailey about the murder of Barry Lewis, aged six, abducted from a street market near his home in Walworth, south London, in September 1985. His body was buried in a copse at Waltham Abbey, Essex. Like Jason, he had been severely sexually assaulted. Both boys had been plied with the same muscle-relaxant drug.

Detectives are also hoping to solve the disappearance in 1979 of Martin Allen, aged 15, of Islington, north London. He was last seen on a London Underground train.

Four convicted over strangling of teenage boy (13.5.89)