EXCLUSIVE: Essex Police probe uncovers link between Shoebury ‘sex ring’ and paedophile gang behind Jason Swift killing

POLICE have uncovered a link between the ’Shoebury Sex Ring’ and the paedophile gang which killed schoolboy Jason Swift in the 1980s.

A witness alerted police to the link without even realising it.

Last month, sex crime officers in Rayleigh concluded months of interviews with the man, who was contacted last year after police found his name on a 1990 list of boys linked to the Shoebury ring.

The man’s allegations are corroborated on many key details by a stack of paperwork from a 1989/90 investigation into the ring, the contents of which have never been placed in the public domain.

During his interviews, the man told officers that one of the Shoebury ringleaders often referred to a mystery man called ’Lennie Smith’.

Unbeknownst to the witness, Smith was one of the paedophile gang known as the Dirty Dozen, whose members raped and killed three children – Jason Swift, Mark Tildesley and Barry Lewis.

Smith was linked to all three killings but never prosecuted because in each case all the witnesses against him were fellow paedophiles, deemed unreliable by the CPS.

But he was convicted of other serious child sex offences. He died in prison in 2006.

The new Shoebury witness mentioned Smith’s name to police repeatedly, including in a videotaped interview in November – but had no idea who he was.

He told officers how Brian Tanner – who was convicted in 1990 of running the Shoebury ring – would threaten boys if they argued or tried to escape, saying words to the effect of, “If you keep this up, I’ll take you to Lennie Smith.”

But the boys were baffled by the threats, as none of them had ever met Smith or knew why they were supposed to be frightened of him.

By the time of Smith’s late 1980s tabloid infamy, the new Shoebury witness was already an adult. He told police his abuse began in the late 1970s, continuing into the mid-1980s.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lennie Smith lived in Westcliff, not far from Brian Tanner, who died in 2006.

Smith worked in a Southend amusement arcade, which he used to entice and abuse children, then sell them as rent boys. He was convicted for gross indecency. Then, in the early 1980s he moved to Birmingham, then Hackney’s Kingsmead estate.

It was at his Kingsmead flat that he was first questioned over Jason Swift. After police visited, he attempted suicide and then fled – to Southend.

Retired detective David Bright, who worked the Jason Swift case, said police had known Smith had links to Southend, as did his pal Sidney Cooke, a fairground worker convicted over Jason’s death.

After running away from home and falling into the clutches of the gang, Jason, 14, even sent his mother a postcard from Southend, saying he was working there at the fair.

Mr Bright said: “Cooke used to work in fairgrounds so he went all over the coast and used to visit Southend seaside fairground and Chalkwell. He used to buy his sweets and candyfloss-making stuff down here.

It wasn’t just him in Southend. You would have the others like Lennie Smith, Robert Oliver. Wherever there was a likelihood of getting their prey, they would go.”

http://www.yellowad.co.uk/article.cfm?id=137127&headline=EXCLUSIVE:%20Essex%20Police%20probe%20uncovers%20link%20between%20Shoebury%20%27sex%20ring%27%20and%20paedophile%20gang%20behind%20Jason%20Swift%20killing&sectionIs=news&searchyear=2018

Charles Thomson

Chief Reporter Email: basildon@yellowad.co.uk