Piccadilly Circus, Abraham Jacob (an Islington-Lambeth link) and the Playland Cover-Up of 1975
The Dilly Boys, Mervyn Harris, 1973
Piccadilly Circus appears to operate as a child abuse prostitution hub over such a period of time it has become part of the heritage, history and tradition of the area and The Dilly Boys sets the scene for updating that scape
Spotlight: The Playland Cover-Up (May 2014)
“In 1975, Scotland Yard carried out a high-profile child abuse investigation which centred on the Playland amusement arcade near Piccadilly Circus, and involved the sexual exploitation of homeless boys. The investigation led to five convictions in September 1975. Four of the men convicted were ‘nobodies’, but one – Charles Hornby – was a pillar of the Establishment. He was a wealthy socialite, a Lloyd’s underwriter, and an old Etonian, “who on occasion had Prince Charles among his dinner guests”.
The four ‘nobodies’ later had their sentences reduced in mysterious circumstances. One of them, David Archer, alleged that Hornby was far from being the only VIP involved in the Playland scandal.
Last night Archer said he would present the police with a dossier naming the ‘millionaires and titled and influential people’ involved in the Playland affair. He added: ‘I believe there was a tremendous cover-up to protect these people.’
A clue as to the identity of one of these ‘titled and influential people’ appeared nearly a decade later with the publication of Philip Ziegler’s biography of Lord Mountbatten.
In 1975, Mountbatten was told that gossip had linked him to a homosexual scandal. He recorded in his diary: “I might have been accused of many things but hardly the act of homosexuality.”
Spotlight: Kenneth Martin (Playland and Operation Hedgerow)
1985/86: Spotlight: Major Probe ‘into a police homosexual ring’
Spotlight: Abraham Jacob and Piccadilly Circus and the Meat Rack
Islington social worker Abraham Jacob procured boys for serial killer Dennis Nilsen
social worker Abraham Jacob (‘Uncle Abe’) made his living in the ‘meat rack’ at Piccadilly Circus
About the Author: Mervyn Harris
From inner sleeve: “Mervyn Harris is a South African who has lived in London for the past ten years. He spent a year researching the book on the Dilly while at the London School of Economics.”
Mervyn Harris (b. 1938 – d. 2005 aged 67) Obituary from Allafrica.com
“MERVYN Harris, a well-known and respected journalist and former Business Day markets editor, died at his home in Johannesburg this past weekend after a long illness. He was 67.
His passing deprives the journalistic fraternity of one of its most versatile, dedicated, humble and professional practitioners, a true “journalist’s journalist”, and a character who left a lasting impression on all he came into contact with, not the least those who may have had the misfortune to be on the receiving end of a well-aimed barb.
Harris was born and raised in Johannesburg’s Yeoville, of Jewish parentage. Brought up in exceedingly humble and difficult circumstances, made all the more acute by the early death of his father and his mother’s subsequent remarriage, Harris was profoundly influenced by that remarkable generation of Jewish people who came to play so prominent a part in Johannesburg’s, and indeed, SA’s political, legal, business and academic life.”
Mervyn was approximately 25 when he arrived in London c. 1962/3 and almost 30 when he started researching The Dilly Boys in 1969.
In November – December 1973 Harris also published a three-part article in The Spectator (On the Dilly – Part 2, 1 December 1973, On the Dilly – Part 3, 8 December 1973)
“I first met Paul when he was seventeen and had been in the West End of London for several months. Occasionally he used to hang around the Arts Laboratory Theatre in Drury Lane where I was a frequent visitor around the time my brother’s play was being rehearsed and then performed there.” (Part 2 – 1 December 1973)
Lee Harris, now 78, is a South African writer and performer who arrived in England in 1956 aged 20, and who was one of the few white members of the African National Congress. In the UK Lee Harris spent the next decade setting up the Arts Lab and writing and putting on amongst other works, “Love play described by Lee as “A boy’s journey through the underworld of emotional revelation”” and becoming quite a figure in the late 60s/early 70s counterculture with Home Grown with his 1972 opened shop Alchemy on Notting Hill’s Portobello Road.
Mervyn his journalist brother also went on to write further articles on British society for The Spectator on the drugs culture (Hustlers, straights and freaks, The Spectator 17 August 1974)
Inside sleeve: The Dilly is a whirlpool of sex, glamour, money, drugs and drop-outs. It’s the most exciting place in London but it can be the most lonely. This book describes the world of the boys who survive on the Dilly by homosexual prostitution.
On the cover a sketch of a man above the Piccadilly station entrance saying ‘Trains and Toilets’
“This book is based on my study of male homosexual prostitutes in and around Piccadilly Circus from September 1969 to October 1970. I decided to get to know a few boys as well as possible – this turned out to be six – and follow them.
All the boys were between the ages of 15 and 23.”
second page of preface
Chapter 5: Sexual Encounters
The Old Bailey Trial of 1 March 1972 of five men admitting various sexual offences involving boys, some between 13 – 15, solicited while playing the arcade machines in Playland features some unpleasant remarks that manage to offend both on behalf of gay men in general and also specifically the boys involved (Evening Standard, Wednesday 1 March 1972 and Interview, Evening Standard, 4 December 1969 to be obtained)
The timing of this trial suggests Playland was already being observed by police during 1971 – following Mervyn Harris’ time spent amongst some of the boys ending October 1970.
With thanks to Troy (@snowfaked) and as ever @murunbuch (SpotlighonAbuse) for the below on here that adds an interesting 1976 postscript to the series of police investigations, trials, and research focusing on The Dilly for the preceding seven years, during 1969 onwards if you count Mervyn Harris’ presence there.
The case of R v Andrew Novac & Ors [CAR Vol 65 1977] as found by Troy and as mentioned in the case below.
Neutral Citation no.  NICC 17
IN THE CROWN COURT IN NORTHERN IRELAND
 The accused is to be tried on an indictment containing approximately 85 counts with 15 complainants in relation to sexual offences and offences of violence…
 The accused in this case is charged on an indictment bearing 85 counts stretching over a period between 1983 and 2005. The counts include allegations of rape, buggery, indecent assault, unlawful carnal knowledge, gross indecency, making indecent photographs of children and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
 The prosecution case is that the accused is alleged to have engaged in sexual relations with 15 young girls between 1983 and 2005. The majority of these alleged incidents are said to have occurred since 1994. The ages of the females are said to range broadly from 12 to 19 save in one instance. The accused is alleged to have befriended young girls, collected them from school, brought them to his flat and engaged in sexual activities with them. Whilst the accused has admitted that he knew all of the complainants, he denies all of the allegations made against him in the course of interviews with the police. He admits only to entering into sexual relationship with those complainants who were 17 years or older.
[THIS REFERS TO THE PLAYLAND CIRCUS TRIAL]
 (ii) Equally, judicial criticism has been visited on the overloading of indictments which lead to long and complex trials occupying, as in this case perhaps, up to three months or more. In ***R v Andrew Novac & O[the]rs CAR Vol 65 1977*** page 109 at page 118 Bridge LJ said:
“We cannot conclude this judgment without pointing out that, in our opinion, most of the difficulties which have bedevilled this trial, and which have led in the end to the quashing of all convictions except on conspiracy and related counts, arose directly out of the overloading of the indictment. How much worse the difficulties would have been if the case had proceeded to trial on the original indictment containing 38 counts does not bear contemplation. But even in its reduced form the indictment of 19 counts against four defendants resulted in a trial of quite unnecessary length and complexity. … Quite apart from the question of whether the prosecution could find legal justification for joining all these counts in one indictment and resisting severance, the wider and more important question has to be asked whether in such a case the interests of justice were likely to be better served by one very long trial or by one moderately long or four short separate trials. We answer unhesitatingly that whatever advantages were expected to accrue from one long trial, … they were heavily outweighed by the disadvantages. A trial of such dimensions puts an immense burden on both judge and jury. In the course of a four or five day summing up the most careful and conscientious judge may so easily overlook some essential matter. Even if the summing up is faultless, it is by no means cynical to doubt whether the average juror can be expected to take it all in and apply all the directions given. Some criminal prosecutions involve consideration of matters so plainly inextricable and indivisible that a long and complex trial is an ineluctable necessity. But we are convinced that nothing short of a criterion of absolute necessity can justify the imposition of the burdens of a very long trial on the court.”
15] (v) I have found this a particularly difficult and vexed issue. Notwithstanding my faith in the capacity of juries to consider each charge in an indictment under proper directions, I have concluded that 85 counts in one indictment would simply be unmanageable…
Daily Mail, 30 November 1976 – Four defendants in Playland trial have some of their convictions quashed and sentences set aside reducing their overall sentence. While this would have occurred within the time frame of Sir Norman Skelhorne holding the title of Director of Public Prosecutions there does not appear to be mention of this in his 1981 Memoirs ‘Public Prosecutor’ (a reversal of much of the decisions of the Old Bailey when it sat in September 1975). Skelhorne however does have something to say on the Maxwell Confait case which may be of interest which I will also post here.
Malcolm Raywood, 43 lowered to 6 yrs to time served
Garrett Lane, Wandsworth  —
Elgin Avenue, Maida Hill, London  (PIE headquarters? j/k)
Andrew Novac, 29 – 6½ yrs lowered to 3½ yrs
Elm Court, Harrowby Street, Westminster
occupation: Taxi company telephonist
Basil Andrew-Cohen, 39 – 6 yrs lowered to 3 yrs
no fixed address
occupation: Taxi driver
David Archer, 28 – 5½ yrs lowered to time served
Odessa Road, Forest Gate
occupation: Security Guard
The Bishop of Gleaves and Johnny Go Home
Three years after Mervyn Harris’ The Dilly Boys Michael Deakin and John Willis published Johnny Go Home (based on the highly acclaimed YTV documentary) in 1976.
It tells of Ernie “in his middle twenties, and had been born only about three miles from where he and Johnny now live, though when they first met, Ernie had lived in a squat in Elgin Avenue.” (p.55) Ernie is ‘in a relationship’ with 10 year old Johnny from Elephant & Castle who bunks school each day to meet Ernie where they hung out at Piccadilly’s Playland Arcade until Ernie is put away for stealing a car to drive Johnny home one morning on one of his regular nights staying over with Ernie.
The Elgin Avenue Squat