A local newspaper crime reporter has told how he spent seven months working mainly in his own time to expose a flawed police investigation into a notorious paedophile.
Carl Eve, of The Herald in Plymouth, was last week named as the first winner of the Local Hero prize in the British Journalism Awards for public interest journalism.
He was recognised for an investigation which revealed allegations that when police secured the conviction of prolific Plymouth paedophile William Goad in 2004 they failed to investigate associates also involved in widespread abuse.
Eve says: “It took six or seven months just to gather everything I needed. The problem with being on a local newspaper is that you don’t have time to be sitting there working on a grand story.
“So the vast majority of what I wrote was in my own time after I’d put the kids to bed. Some of the interviews I did on my days off, and I’d be on holiday when I’d come in and write. My feeling was that this was going to be the big slam-dunk: the one that was going to push very hard for the [new police] investigation.”
Eve had covered a related story back in 2006 when he first joined the paper, where a paedophile loosely associated with Goad had been sentenced.
In recent years Eve has become increasingly concerned about gaps in the investigation of Goad and other potential child abusers.
He says: “The after-effects of the Goad case are phenomenal in this city. Goad went through hundreds of kids with his offending starting in the 50s and carrying on through to the 90s. If you’re a Plymothian everyone seems to know about him. As I was from out of town, I had to do a lot of catching up.
“But the one thing I really noticed as an outsider was just what a stink it was. It’s been a lingering stink on the city and the more you find out, the more it’s kind of incredulous.”
Eve started work on his award-winning series of articles when a victim of Goad approached him along with a retired police detective who had played a key role in the initial investigation. Both were certain there were more abusers and victims associated with the Goad and wanted this to be made public, in the hope of prompting a more thorough investigation.
Eve says: “My first thoughts were that we needed to bring in a lot more people. I ended up looking for the judge who sentenced Goad, now retired. Only afterwards, my editor pointed out that getting a high-ranked judge like him to talk about a case was exceptionally rare. I was just completely honest about what I was doing and why I was doing it.”
Eve managed to secure an interview with Judge William Taylor through local charity Twelve’s Company, where the judge had been made a patron. It was also where many of Goad’s victims had received support in the past. After “a month of going backwards and forwards”, Judge Taylor agreed to be interviewed.
Eve says: “There were certain things he couldn’t say, but he gave us quite a nice line: ‘it would offend against common sense’ to suggest the abuser had acted alone. And that was what the victims wanted. They wanted all the men who had ever been involved with Goad to be dealt with. That’s all they had ever wanted.”
Six months later, the story was published across four days, including interviews from the victim, the investigating officer, the judge who had jailed Goad and an MP voicing support.
Eve’s second British Journalism Awards submission focused on police corruption during the same case, where a victim he spoke to voiced concern that a police officer had helped conceal Goad’s abuse.
“Whilst they couldn’t prove it because he [the police officer] also died not that long ago, enough information came up from FoIs and other bits and pieces, that we could see this guy was way to close to Goad for it to be a coincidence.”
Police are now investigating the claims of a wider child abuse ring involving Goad and Eve believes his reports have helped ensure the police take victims’ concerns seriously.
Although many of those targeted by Eve’s investigation are now “too old or too dead” to be held to account, he believes it is nonetheless important for the victims.
“Paul Wyatt [one of Goad’s victims] was right and everything he said was true. There was definitely a collection of men, who were not exactly an archetypal ring, but they certainly dealt with each other. The investigation exposed an acceptance of fault: that officers 20 odd years ago never did what they should have done at the time.”
Eve’s third British Journalism Awards article was arguably less hard-hitting, but it is the one he is most proud of.
It concerned a scheme set up by a policeman and his wife (a local head teacher) to help children caught up in domestic violence.
The Encompass scheme ensures that if a police officer has attended a domestic violence scene where a child is present, they ring and warn the school the next morning. Previously, if a child had been at the scene of a domestic violence incident, a 121a form was filled in. But this may only reach a child’s school weeks later.
Eve said: “The police officer only realised how slow this process was when he learnt of a case with a 16-year-old girl. She was a really smart cookie, had gone to school to sit her exams and was expected to breeze them. But she screwed up every single one and then left the school.
“Two months later the 121a form came back to the school through the educational welfare officer and said there had been a major incident of domestic violence at the house and she was witness to it.”
The scheme started as a pilot across six schools and was eventually rolled out across the city. Whilst Eve initially focused on the scheme itself, his attention soon turned to the “internal politics” within the police that meant the scheme failed to function. Although it had been adopted by other counties and attracted interest abroad, the scheme in Devon “grew to a standstill.”
The aim of his article exposing the “undermining” of the Devon scheme was “to shame [the police] – ‘you’ve got a great scheme created here that is getting interest in other counties and you’re letting it die in your own city where it was created’: that is ridiculous.”
Despite success elsewhere in the UK, the scheme has continued to lose effectiveness across Devon – Eve says. But he says he will, “keep [pushing] the police force until they do the right thing. If a county as massive as Merseyside can do a scheme like this, what’s their excuse for not doing it in Devon and Cornwall?”
Speaking about police response to some of the criticisms his articles have of the force, he admitted: “A lot of them really get the ache that I’ve done these stories but I’ve played fair with them. The job is to hold them on the line of good and I know that sounds cheesy.
“By the same token, when they do something good I’m under the same responsibility to write about it. If police officers do a nice happy community day with a tea dance we write stories about it and include pictures of PCs doing the Charleston with old dears. Equally, if they do something wrong, I’ll write about it. It’s about being honest. It’s only damaging when you get journalists who only ever write police knocking stories.”
Eve says he is motivated by making a difference to those who need it most. One story about the impact of the Encompass scheme sums this up for him.
“There was a story my news editor cried at when I told it to her. A kid aged five or six went to school, and there had been an incident the night before. Normally, the pupils arrive with their teddies and dollies and put them in the toybox. But because the school had been phoned, when that kid arrived at school clutching his teddy bear he was allowed to hold it all day long – and that’s brilliant. It’s such a tiny thing to grown-ups – but to that kid, it must have meant absolutely everything.”