The Alan Brent Inquiry (The Baby-Sitting Network)

By the early part of early 1987, new leads relating to the Operation Stranger inquiry into Jason Swift and Barry Lewis were drying up, and the number of detectives working on the case had been reduced.


On Good Friday 1987, the Hackney crime squad investigated a complaint that a four year old local child had been abused by the family baby-sitter. Later that night, an anonymous telephone call to Hackney police led them to an address where they arrested Alan Brent, a 46 year old council cleansing department worker. Brent admittted immediately to DS Stan Brand that he had molested the child and a check through records revealed that he had convictions for similar offences dating back twenty years. WPC Carol Tonks struck up a rapport with the child and it became apparent that the assault was not an isolated incident and, over the years, other members of the family had been subjected to abuse.


DI Bob Brown decided to form a squad to undertake ‘The Brent Inquiry‘. He did not want a large, unwieldy team, preferring to hand-pick a ‘small, well directed unit’. To join Brand and Tonks, he selected DC Jackie Owens to concentrate on interviews with the children and DS Eddie Boardman for his ability to organise complex investigations. Three further young constables completed the team: Stuart Faure, Neil Vowden and Martin Austick.


Brown told his group ‘If we were to do this inquiry strictly by the book, we’d need about two hundred officers. Well, we don’t need that. I just want you fired up and committed to achieving


The ‘Brent Inguiry’ uncovered a catalogue of abuse against members of families that Alan Brent and his gang had been baby-sitting for. These men, who were linked to other groups, including the ‘Dirty Dozen’, wormed their way into the confidence of working-class families solely to abuse their children. For years, young victims were passed from man to man and from group to group.


On the 26th June 1987 three men including a 72-year-old pensioner were remanded in custody on child sex charges by Old Street Magistrates Court.
Alan John Brent, 46, also known as John Alan Spicer and Andrew Spicer,
Roy Becker, 72, and
Bryan Owen, 62,
Brent and Owen were remanded in prison custody until July 8, while Becker was remanded in police custody.



In March 1988, the Brent Inquiry reached its conclusion at the Old Bailey. Alan Brent pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault on young boys and was jailed for five years. 

Four other men were given prison sentences ranging from 18 months to two and a half years.


The officers from Hackney received commendations from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police arising out of the inquiry, including for ‘dedication and diligence in a protracted inquiry