THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY 30 DECEMBER 1990: page 1
Caroline Marchant claimed to have been a victim of satanic abuse, but there is strong evidence that she was making the story up. In the end, it may have been the pressure to sustain the fiction that drove her to suicide.
At 8.30am on Friday 16 February this year,
Caroline Marchant- ("Hannah", as she
preferred to be known ) - appeared
downstairs at St John's Vicarage, Great Harwood, near Blackburn, Lancashire, still in
her nightdress. The evening before she had
stayed up late talking to the vicar, the Rev
Kevin Logan. When she came down, the
house was deserted except for another
young guest, Lee B???, to whom Caroline
gave an envelope to be delivered to Mr Logan
then she went back upstairs.
Mr Logan arrived soon afterwards. He read Caroline's note, then rushed up to her room and found her semi-conscious on the bed. On the bedside table was an empty chemist's bottle labelled "amitriptyline", a commonly prescribed but powerful anti-depressant. Rather than risk waiting for an ambulance, Mr Logan carried the girl to his car and drove the five miles to Blackburn and East Lancs Royal Infirmary, where her stomach was pumped. But amitriptyline in large doses causes irreversible damage, and Caroline had swallowed more than 70 (seventy) x 300mg capsules in what looked like a determined attempt to kill herself. Her transfer to the intensive care unit was the start of a 19 day battle to save her life.
The police were routinely informed that same Friday morning. Det Supt Sandy Robson of Blackburn CID took charge of the investigation. Her family first learned what had happened when a local policewoman appeared on their doorstep in Hayes, Middlesex later that day. Les Marchant, 43, a self-employed builder, had not seen his daughter for some time. With his second wife, Pat, and his mother, he drove the 200 miles up to Blackburn that evening.
Kevin Logan met him at the hospital. their encounter was not cordial. Mr Logan began by telling an astonished Mr Marchant that his daughter had been heavily involved in satanism since the age of 13. He then asked Mr Marchant if he too was a witch. The answer was no. Apparently reassured that he was not dealing with a "multi-generational" coven, Mr Logan invited the Marchants to tea at the vicarage. This provided an opportunity for Les Marchant to go through his daughter's pathetically sparse belongings, and what he discovered in the cheap suitcase at the foot of her bed seemed to confirm the vicar's allegations.
Mr Logan had made St John's Vicarage into a refuge for reformed satanists and witches. He was also known to perform rites of exorcism, which he had described in his book, Paganism and the Occult (1988). When he discovered Caroline Marchant had taken an overdose at his house, Mr Logan phoned Maureen Davies, the director of the Reachout Trust, a Christian organisation which provides help and support for "victims of the occult". It was through her that he had met Caroline.
Two days after the suicide attempt, while Caroline's life was still in the balance, Mr Logan phoned another active supporter of Reachout — Marshall Ronald, a Liverpool solicitor who described himself as a specialist in mental health and medical negligence.
Marshall Ronald's record of his 15 minute conversation with Logan states: "He (Logan) is concerned about the implications... of Hannah [Caroline] dying. I ... said I would sort it out as [her] solicitor."
Over the next few days, Mr Logan kept Marshall Ronald informed about Caroline's Condition. Mr Ronald arranged to visit Blackburn if she regained consciousness and volunteered to represent her father. But Caroline Dawn Marchant died on 5 March without regaining consciousness. She was 23 years old. The note she had left for Kevin Logan read: Kevin , this is so hard to write and I'm so scared as I can't cope any longer death is so strong, Satan won't let me go, maybe Jesus will let me into his Kingdom as I've taken these pills not knowing where I'll end. Tell Mary I love her, oh God I need him and thanks for your love and Maureen too. I guess in death it will repay all of those I've destroyed I so need Jesus and want to be with him I'm sorry...
She has been heavily involved in, the occult for eight years, from the age of 13 onwards.
While her family was recovering from the shock of the allegations about "Hannah's" life and the grief at her death, the Blackburn coroner, George Graham, was instructed by the police to carry out an inquest. The coroner's officer, PC Clive Carroll, wrote a report on the circumstances of the overdose, and Blackburn Royal Infirmary's chief pathologist, Dr Aruna Mene, submitted a post-mortem report.
The inquest was held on 7 March and the coroner recorded an open verdict. Caroline's family did not attend; nor did any representative of the media.
But Marshall Ronald was dissatisfied with the inconclusive nature of Dr Mene's autopsy and with the inquest, and he telephoned the coroner. On 12 March, George Graham told him that he had talked to Caroline's family and decided "to keep a very low key on the matter" but agreed to send Mr Ronald the papers on the case. Meanwhile, somebody told the local press that the true facts about Caroline Marchant's case were being deliberately concealed.
Marshall Ronald called Les Marchant and secured his agreement to pay for a second, private post-mortem. Mr Ronald approached a Leeds-based pathologist, Dr Michael Green. In a letter dated 12 March, Mr Ronald told Mr Green that Caroline had told him that "she has been heavily involved in the occult for eight years
starting at the age of 13". Her body "contains markings which are of satanic significance," Mr Ronald wrote, adding that these were "believed to be on the inside of her vagina".
"It is also known," the letter continued, "that she has given a live birth to a child who would now be aged seven." The solicitor added that the birth had not been registered, but that he was "also aware of the fact that she had an abortion and that there may be particular markings on her scalp". The letter instructed Green to make a careful note of any unusual scars on Caroline's body as well as any evidence indicating that she had successfully given birth.
Dr Green carried out the second post-mortem in Blackburn on 14 March. His report to Marshall Ronald records that he followed instructions and looked for physical evidence of "satanic marks", anal abuse and confirmation of pregnancies to back up the claims about Caroline's past.
He found that the scars on Caroline's arms and forehead "are in sites which are sometimes associated with satanic practices. They could be self-inflicted." Other scars on her temples and fingers, all several years old, "tend to suggest infliction by others". Dr Green found a moderately severe posterior tear at sometime in the past. Accidental injury in this site is rare. The finding is therefore consistent with an episode, or episodes, of anal abuse, but some considerable time ago."
"I cannot say with absolute certainty," Dr Green wrote, "that Caroline Marchant has had a child." There were strong suggestions from the state of the womb, vaginal wall and pelvic bones that Caroline could have been pregnant. He noted strong pigmentation of the nipples, but no stretch marks on the abdomen.
Caroline was cremated in Accrington on 15 March, apparently contravening her expressed wish to be buried. The ceremony was attended only by close relatives, who had been told that attempts might be made to snatch the body for use in satanic rites.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Mirror had got wind of the case. Kevin Logan, Marshall Ronald and Maureen Davies were the prime sources. The version of Caroline's life they told over the next few weeks was supposedly based on what she had written in her diary and what she had told Maureen Davies and Marshall Ronald in recorded telephone calls, supplemented by details from conversations with Kevin Logan the day before she took her fatal overdose.
At the age of 13, so this version ran, Caroline had been sexually initiated into a Satanic sect in Norfolk by the parents of a boyfriend. She had illegally aborted a child, the foetus being used in a devil-worship
ritual. She had subsequently become a "high priestess of Satan", had been involved in prostitution and drug abuse, and had later borne a full-term child. This child, a boy who would now be about seven, had been handed over at birth to be brought up by satanists, who had taken him to America. The teenage father of her first baby, it was alleged, had been ritually slaughtered in her presence by his own father, a leading member of the sect. Kevin Logan claimed that Caroline admitted regular involvement in the ritual murder of new-born babies. Maureen Davies added that, according to Caroline, video recordings had been made of some of these murders. For several years Caroline had herself been the victim of ritual sexual abuse by satanists. Then, in 1986, she had undergone a conversion to "born-again" Christianity. She had changed her name to Hannah and tried to put her satanic past behind her.
The satanists, however, had relentlessly pursued her. She had become increasingly fearful that the net was closing in. She believed that when they caught her they would kill her for betraying them. In desperation, she took her own life.
That was the story handed to the Sunday Mirror - which, on 25 March ran an account of Caroline's life under the headlines: I SACRIFICED MY BABIES TO SATAN - From sex orgy to death at the hands of the Devil's disciples. The article did not mention that the young woman had taken the fatal overdose at Kevin Logan's vicarage.
In 1986 she converted to
THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY 30 DECEMBER 1990: page 2
to be placed in the care of Hillingdon Borough social services department.
Following spells in a number of local authority homes, Caroline and her younger brother lan were placed with permanent foster parents in Hayes. This household, run by Gordon and May Porter, moved to Norfolk in 1979, a few days before Caroline's 13th birthday, taking both Marchant children. For the next four years, Caroline and lan lived at Border House Stables, in the fenland viuage of Fordham, just outside Downham Market, with a number of other foster children and the Porters' own three daughters. It was a large and lively establishment, with a riding school and a dancing academy. Caroline shared a room at the top of the house with two other girls.
Involvement in the riding school encouraged Caroline's interest in horses. After she left the local high school, where she was an undistinguished pupil from 1979 to 1982, she stayed with the Porters for a further 15 months, helping in the stables and the house for a small wage and board. In late August 1983, the Porters helped arrange for Caroline, to, take a year's course at Park Farm residential riding school in Northwood, Middlesex. She left Norfolk with the Porters' blessings, although May Porter admitted recently that she had doubts about Caroline's ability to cope in the wider world. A year later, aged 18, Caroline left Park Farm with a certificate as a trainee instructor in horse management.
But Caroline turned down an offer from Park Farm to follow a career with horses. She began to drift into a series of live-in jobs as a children's nanny, the first in the Buckinghamshire town of Amersham. It was there in early 1985 that she took the initial steps to become a born-again Christian. She joined the Baptist church and gave a public "testimony" -describing an unhappy childhood and mentioning that she had been raped while living in Norfolk.
Through the church she met another young nanny, Sarah Cloughessi, who found her work and lodging in the Epsom and Ewell area of Surrey. Eventually Caroline moved in with Sarah at the Epsom Downs house of her employer, Louise Shah, another Christian.
In the summer of 1986, Sarah suggested that they both move down to Cirencester, where she had friends, and they agreed to buy a caravan. Caroline's emotional condition was deteriorating, according to her friends at the time, and she found it hard to cope with her factory job. When she handed in her notice after only two months, her relationship with Sarah became strained. She had a brief relationship with a young local man, Colin Sayles, who recalls her as
"being in a very nervous state, practically agoraphobic."
In the summer of 1987, after a row with Sarah, Caroline moved out of the caravan. She was taken in by Suzie Ursell, a local woman with close links to the Harnhill Christian Healing Centre, just outside Cirencester. "She was not physically well," Suzie Ursell recalls, " and she wasn't sleeping well. She was on anti-depressants, she was quiet and withdrawn."
Over the next three years, Caroline was to become increasingly involved with evangelical Christians. She had been introduced to the Harnhill Centre herself by a Cirencester friend, Lucy Cole, and it was at this stage that she adopted the born-again name of "Hannah". She received counselling from Harnhill and at the centre's instigation moved from one address to another in an informal network of Christian households.
She also spent several periods at residential evangelical Christian centres, in Eastbourne, Bristol, Pembroke and Peterhead in Scotland. She became close to a succession of older women who worked for evangelical ministries. She told them stories of her unhappy childhood, and of the alleged rape, and then began to recount tales of involvement with satanists, including clandestine pregnancies and physical abuse.
Her writing, and the testimony
that the doctor appointed by Norfolk social services would have noticed something during one of Caroline's six-monthly medical check-ups.
May Porter, who now lives in retirement with her husband in Scotland, is adamant. "Nothing of the sort ever happened at Border House," she says. "Anyway, it would be pretty hard to hide a pregnancy when you're wearing a leotard." Caroline was an enthusiastic pupil at the Porters' dancing school.
In Caroline's own written allegations, composed early in 1988, there is no mention of satanic initiation at the age of 13. When she does describe being lured into satanism, the period mentioned is the spring and summer of 1982, just prior to leaving school, when she was almost 16. And this story too is dismissed by her former room-mate, Pauline Duffy, who still lives in Norfolk. "It wouldn't have been possible," Pauline Duffy insists, "and there was no way Caroline was ever pregnant at Border House".
Her closest friend at this time was Angela Porter. "If Caroline had even missed a period," she argues, "she would have told us about it".
Norfolk social services reports on Caroline do not mention a pregnancy, although they do note that she was "immature" on arrival at Border House. In fact Caroline had sex for the first time only a few weeks before her 16th birthday in August 1982. It happened in the toilets of Watlington village hall near Downham Market, during a Saturday night disco. Angela Porter kept guard outside the door.
The boy concerned was Melvin Upton. He confirms the story and insists that Caroline did not become pregnant. He had intercourse with her on three occasions. He used a condom each time and claims that he went to the unusual lengths of taking them home with him and filling them with water to test them for leaks. Nobody who knew Caroline during her stay in Norfolk, including her brother lan, now married and living in the West Country, can remember her having any other serious boyfriend at this time.
Melvin and Pauline Duffy also deny Caroline's repeated allegation that she had been raped by a young man called Danny Clayton. Danny was a friend of Melvin Upton and the regular boyfriend of Pauline Duffy. He is unable to defend himself against Caroline's accusation, because he was killed in a motorcycle accident on 18 August 1983. His mother still lives in Downham Market and his sisters knew Caroline slightly. All of them, as well as Stephen Hathaway, the driver of the motorbike on which Danny Clayton was a pillion passenger when he was killed, dismiss Caroline's claim as preposterous.
There is also a straightforward explanation for the "satanic" scarring on Caroline's arms and temples, and it reveals much about her disturbed condition. Sarah Cloughessi, now Sarah Pollard, clearly remembers that Caroline was in "a bad way, emotionally" during the spring of 1985. She also remembers that her forearms and hands were bandaged.
"I know why her arms and hands were scarred," Sarah says, "because I had to watch her do it. She would compulsively scratch herself until she drew blood. It was difficult to be in the same room while she was doing this. I used to grab her and beg her to stop. The scratches would bleed and eventually go septic." This phenomenon, extensively documented in Sarah's diary, continued for nearly a year and only stopped when Sarah improvised an "incentive scheme", according to which she would give Caroline a present every day she didn't scratch. Caroline did the same to other parts of her body, and even told Sarah that on one occasion she had put a knife into her vagina.
An examination of each allegation has turned up evidence to refute claims made by Caroline and others about her supposed satanic past. Norfolk police carried out a thorough investigation, drawing a blank. Dr Michael Green, the Leeds pathologist, conceded that his privately commissioned autopsy had been influenced by Marshall Ronald's briefing. Now withdrawing his original findings, he observed that "pathology is like a computer. If you put garbage in, you get garbage out."
In Blackburn, Det Supt Sandy Robson's file is closed. "A very intensive investigation
THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY 30 DECEMBER 1990: page 3
was carried out," he says, "and we found no
evidence to support the allegations. In fact,
we found evidence to the contrary."
But if Caroline Marchant wasn't a victim of satanism, she was certainly a victim of something.
Caroline's satanic past may have been a figment of her imagination, but the question remains: where did she get the idea?
The details of the story - ritual sacrifice, breeding foetuses, prostitution, sexual abuse, pornography - echo an American book called Satan's Underground, which has been accepted by anti-occult campaigners as a definitive account of long-term satanic abuse.
First published in 1987, it has sold 100,000 copies. Its author, Lauren Stratford, regularly appears on US television and radio shows and at seminars as a credible "adult survivor". Until recently, her book was sold in Britain by the Reachout Trust.
Satan's Underground has, however, been utterly discredited. Late last year, a small Christian magazine in the US called Cornerstone published an extensively researched article in which three co-authors concluded that the book was a fake.
"The hard evidence we have uncovered," they wrote, "and which we present here, speaks for itself. The story of Satan's Underground is not true. And the same exploited children it may have been designed to help have been cheated of the truth." Most so-called "adult survivor" books like Satan's Underground owe something to an earlier book called Michelle Remembers, sold by Reachout and also subsequently discredited. But even Michelle Remembers, published in 1980, was not the first of the genre.
Caroline's friend Sarah Polard never believed her stories, and had good reason for her scepticism. "Caroline first claimed to have been involved in satanism," she recalls, "some time after she read a book called From Witchcraft to Christ. I loaned her my copy of it while we were on a visit to Cirencester in the summer of 1986. She began to hear voices and believe she was possessed by demons."
From Witchcraft to Christ was written by Doreen Irvine in 1972. It has gone through 18 UK editions and is readily available throughout the country in the Church of England's SPCK bookshops. Like other adult-survivor books, this 188-page paper- back includes no dates, names or places which might be used to verify the author's claims of involvement in the occult.
Caroline's fragmentary autobiography plagiarises From Witchcraft to Christ in a number of key passages. Caroline wrote of her first encounter with the boyfriend who "introduced" her to his satanist family: "He explained the difference between being good and what good really was. Evil was right,.. It sounded crazy to me but I was soon brainwashed into that way of thought." Doreen Irvine's version reads: "I was taught that evil... is not wrong, but right and good. It sounded stupid to me, but I started to believe it... It was a kind of brainwashing."
In another key passage, Caroline wrote graphically about her induction into the Norfolk coven: "When the time came I stepped forward up to the altar, an incision was made on my arm and some of the blood caught up in the cup with the cockerel's blood." Doreen Irvine's 1972 version reads: "The chief satanist approached, me and made an incision in my left arm, and my blood was caught in the cup that contained the blood from the slain bird [a cockerel]."
In 1987, shortly before she wrote her unfinished "life story", Caroline had met the author of From Witchcraft to Christ. She spent some time being counselled at the Zion Christian Temple at Yate, near Bristol. One of her tutors was Doreen Irvine.
Doreen Irvine provided one obvious source of Caroline's fictitious life as a satanist. What led her to make these claims?
All her friends at the time recall that she changed during her year at Park Farm. Always somewhat moody and difficult, from 1985 onwards she became depressed about her inability to find security in her life and her interest in Christianity grew more obsessive. She could neither hold down a job nor sustain any long-term relationships. She was regularly taking powerful tranquillisers.
The main shelter and support Caroline received was from evangelical Christians. Her tales of a satanic past were an effective way of bonding herself to this group. They were happy to believe her stories and, so long as they remained gullible, Caroline was happy to continue concocting them.
But the lies were to trap her. Caroline told Sarah and others that she hated living in the "healing ministries", with their strict regime of Bible studies. If she had told the truth about her uneventful life, however, they might have thrown her out.
The agony of Caroline's dilemma is clearly revealed in the diary she wrote at Easter 1988, while living at the Merriefield Christian centre in Eastbourne:
My old ways are still here. I'm really in for it. My heart is still so black & how can I deceive Christians. Jesus I don't know what to say to you, you know my heart, I don't [...] Jesus its Good Friday tomorrow & how can I possibly be true? I feel so guilty. I'm a traitor to you. Have been here 8 wks.
She was to carry the burden of this guilt for a further two years.
In Mid-1988, Caroline went to live with Peter and Mary Cole, members of the evangelical Christian network who offered her a home at their farm in the Wiltshire village of Grittleton. But as the months passed, her presence in the household became a constant strain.
By the end of 1989, Caroline was suffering from clinical depression and was taking increased doses of tranquillisers. She spent much time in her bedroom, with curtains drawn, smoking heavily, refusing to eat. She and Mary Cole — who later told police that she and her husband grew "tired of her manipulation" — had resorted to communicating by writing letters and posting them under the door. On Monday 18 December 1989, Caroline received a long letter requesting her to fulfill certain conditions — to cut down on pills and cigarettes, to take exercise, eat properly — as a condition of being allowed to stay in the household.
The second page of the letter consists of
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Being "cast out" and living as a "wanderer & fugitive" may have seemed to Caroline like a description of her life to date. Now she was being told that it was possibly all she had to look forward to.
The "satanic past" invented to please her Christian friends was beginning to rebound on her. What else could she "confess" - more "ritual satanic abuse"? Yet if she admitted inventing everything, she risked being thrown out of the Coles' farm.
As Caroline turned over the page, she was in for another shock. Under a heading "THE KINDNESS & SEVERITY OF GOD. ROM. U.22", Mary Cole spelt out what Satan had done for Caroline:
He has stolen your youth, your beauty, your figure, your mind, your education, your ability to handle your life, your money, your parents, your family relationships, your children. He has made you an instrument of death, murder and destruction..."
Having lived with her for 20 months, Mary Cole knew that Caroline Marchant was a deeply disturbed young woman, in desperate need of positive help and encouragement. Above all, she had to discover self-esteem and emotional independence. More than four years after having "found Jesus", Caroline was being told that she was still "an instrument of death, murder and destruction". From her bedroom, she wrote a long reply including these passages:
The pills do help... otherwise I would be even more of a mess emotionally. [... ] At certain times of the year as much as I try I do drift back into the old ways (not in evil) but emotionally the memorys of activities, the guilt and what certain things mean at certain times of the year, the force of nature etc. [ ... ] It's not easy opening up & I've already said ile try and see this lady from Reachout...
Oh Mary I wish you were my mam or some relative then I could come in your room & ask you things. I wouldn't be frightened of sharing & there would be that natural love there. I wouldn't be fearful of making the wrong. move... and wondering if ile get chucked out..
CAROLINE got in touch with "the lady from Reachout" - Maureen Davies - by telephone and recounted her story.
Following Mary Cole's ultimatum, Caroline had moved further around the network, going to stay with the Rev Tony March, vicar of St Luke's, Brighton, and his wife, Gill. From St Luke's Vicarage she wrote to Mary Cole, describing a call she had received from Reachout's director:
Maureen phoned me last Thursday [probably 18 January]. She has got me a solicitor. She's going to send me more information on him. She has six other people that she is hoping will try and speak to him. He's willing to fight even if it takes him more than two years and his reputation is ruined with it.
It will be taken to the highest court in the land with him as our mediator. He is a Christian... His name is Marshall Ronald. Maureen has given me his phone number. He reckons to get me compensation not that I deserve it. I really hate myself for what I've done and I'm not sure that it will ever go.
I'm praying and feel that my life when exposed will give evidence of some top S [Satanists] and know that I will be in real danger then, but I'm praying God will help me..."
Later in the letter, Caroline wrote about a visitor to St Luke's:
I had Chris League [of Reachout]... come and see me the other day (Maureen wanted her to) to give me an interview so that Chris could have more information on what goes on.. .It was hard and very painful but I tried my best...
It was not until 11 or 12 February that Caroline and the Liverpool solicitor finally spoke on the telephone. Marshall Ronald wrote a short note about their conversation. In it he says that Caroline:
.....had been involved in Satanic rings from the age of 13 to 21. She can tell me information about recruitment, snuff videos, political hierarchy systems, places of rituals, Satanic financing etc.
She is very difficult, devious. She has been involved in a significant amount of child sacrifice including her own child. She has also been involved in arms involving the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, Libyan connection. Lined up dates for provisional debrief on the 2nd 3rd March or alternatively 30th and 31st March...
I was quite tough with her on the telephone on the basis that she is very dangerous indeed. The debrief although taking place at MR's house she will sleep elsewhere for security reasons...
On 12 February, Ronald wrote to Maureen Davies confirming dates for his meeting with Caroline. He asked Davies to supply as much information as possible so that he could "de-brief and effectively interrogate" Caroline.
Caroline had been struggling to learn more about satanism, borrowing videos and books. She made incoherent notes trying to turn the myth of her past into evidence that would stand up to cross-examination in a court of law. But she did not live to attend Marshall Ronald's "de-briefing". She cut short her unhappy life only days before their appointment and within hours of arriving at Kevin Logan's vicarage.
Angela Porter's words convey the angry disbelief of Caroline's friends: "Caroline wasn't a satanist. She was a Christian. When we were at Border House Stables, she was the one who always insisted on going to church every Sunday."
Such a protest may have come too late. The story of "Hannah" has already joined the growing mythology of contemporary anti-satanism.
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