Incest and violence ‘not uncommon’ says 1990s governor


Governor Smallman referred to sex crimes in his 2003 book. Click for larger image

Problems with sex abuse and domestic violence on St Helena were acknowledged in print by a former governor more than a decade before the issue became an international scandal.

David Smallman’s brief mention of the issue shows action was being taken against at least some offenders – but it does not undermine allegations made in a Daily Telegraph investigation.

The newspaper said the UK was warned in 2002 that the island did not have the resources to protect children, but took too little action. Ivy Ellick OBE told journalist Tom Rowley that when cases were taken to court, they were often dismissed because they had not been handled properly.

David Smallman's book, Quincentenary

David Smallman’s book, Quincentenary

Mr Smallman referred to the problem in the introduction to his 2003 book, Quincentenary, marking 500 years since the island’s discovery.

He said strong family values and sense of community had grown up, creating “a society in which there is no overt racism, there are no muggings, or murders, no hard drugs or organised crime, and where it is still the rule rather than the exception to leave one’s house and car unlocked.

“Nonetheless,” he continued, “drink-related crimes, battered wives and domestic violence, even incest, are not uncommon.

“The local jail customarily has a majority of its inmates (an average of between four and six convicted prisoners) serving sentences for sex offences…”

The passage confirms that action was taken against sex offenders, despite an alleged culture of acceptance of sexual abuses.

But the Telegraph, like the Lucy Faithfull Foundation before it, was concerned with allegations that “establishment” figures went unpunished and that UK officials failed to deal with the issue adequately.

St Helena Government has made child safeguarding a high priority in response to the Lucy Faithfull report, launching a number of initiatives to support victims and prevent offending. Frequent action in cases of domestic violence has been reported by police.

David Smallman was governor of St Helena from 1995 to 1999. The fly leaf of his book says he was not always popular in London because of the way he championed the island’s cause.

The book says his legacy includes a strengthening of the island’s legal and judicial system, which included bringing independent legal representation to Jamestown through the creation of the public solicitor’s office.

Ivy exposes years of inaction over St Helena sex abuseAbuse: don’t drag down the good with the bad, says blogger


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Abuse: don’t drag down the good with the bad, says blogger

A robust defence of St Helena has been posted by ex-pat blogger Paul Tyson in response to a Daily Telegraph investigation into alleged mishandling of child abuse.

In a piece titled Angry and Saddened, he says the good people in island society are being dragged down with the bad ones.

“My great sadness is the overall picture that has been painted of the island and its people,” he says: “one of sexual predation and of a dirty seedy place of the night, all of which could not be further from the truth.

“Now I am not trying to deny that wrongs were done in the past, and neither do I know whether wrongs continue now, but I do know that this article does not reflect St Helena and its people today, in 2015 at the start of a hopefully bright new era.”

Paul has attracted 1,300 online followers with his striking photographs and descriptions of local life since arriving on the island in 2014 with his teacher wife and two young children. He has enthusiastically taken on volunteer work as well as writing his blog, Two Years in the Atlantic.

He admits he has limited knowledge of the abuse crisis and cannot dispute the facts in the Telegraph’s story. But he challenges the paper’s interpretation of the facts.

He quotes one line that says: “In HM Prison Jamestown, seven out of 11 prisoners are paedophiles.”

And he comments: “To me, this could just as easily read, the authorities are now doing their best to correct this situation.”

He also writes: “A fortnight is such little time on St Helena, but clearly not enough to cast a picture of a place and its people.”

That is a familiar complaint – but two weeks is actually an unusually long time for a writer to spend on a single story, and it is rare for a journalist to spend more than a few days on the island – or to interview so many people.

Paul picks out the reporter’s descriptions of drinkers playing suggestive games at Donny’s Bar on the seafront, early on a Friday evening.

“What Tom neglects to tell anyone is that the night in question was ladies’ night, a special one off where ladies were invited to let their hair down and be a little naughty.

“Show me a hen do or ladies’ night in the UK that does not get a little saucy.”

Paul also criticises the reporter’s descriptions of weekend drinkers going from bar to bar. “Jamestown at the weekend is one of the most relaxed, enjoyable friendly nights out I have had,” he says.

“I do not contest the facts within this article, the cases that have been brought, the apparent cover-ups, the whistle-blowing stories and subsequent job losses make for very difficult reading.

“But let’s be clear, St Helena is one of the safest places I have ever visited. Its people are lovely and friendly; my children can play outdoors without fear of cars, kidnapping or indeed abuse.”

Read Paul’s blog post in full here

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Ivy exposes years of inaction over St Helena sex abuse

Click the pic to see the Telegraph's article

Click the pic to see the Telegraph’s article

The Daily Telegraph has published a front-page exclusive alleging years of failure to act on warnings of sex abuse on St Helena – “the British island where child rape was just a game”. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has praised the paper’s investigation. SIMON PIPE reflects from a distance.

When the Daily Mail ran shock stories on child abuse on St Helena, it was denounced for irresponsible journalism by the island’s executive council. Then a lawyer published the expert report that St Helena Government had chosen not to make public, and it became clear that the Mail’s reporting was faithful and accurate. There was no retraction by ExCo.

In fact, it would have been irresponsible – reprehensible, even – for the Mail to keep quiet about such disturbing revelations, made by highly regarded experts.

Now the scandal has spread to the front page of one of the world’s most respected newspapers, backed up with a double-page spread and a piece in the leader column.

Click the pic to see the Telegraph’s front-page story

Telegraph special correspondent Tom Rowley, helped by Andrew Turner, travelled to the island and spoke to 51 people to flesh out new information about what had been going on while Britain told the world there was no problem of abuse.

Chief among them was one of the most respected people on the island: Ivy Ellick OBE, sometime head of three separate government departments during her long career in public service. The Telegraph could have added that she was also a long-standing churchwarden.

The paper quotes her saying that she warned the British government about child abuse as far back as 2002. It says at least 20 children were abused between her raising the alarm and action being taken. And that throughout this time, the UK repeatedly told the United Nations there was no evidence of sexual exploitation on the island.

The British ex-pats now occupying senior jobs on the island were not around when all this was going on. The current public crack-down on abusers has taken place during their time in office.

But the Telegraph also follows the St Helena Independent in pointing out that the St Helena Government “largely buried” the Lucy Faithfull Foundation report, publishing only a three-page summary of its 85 pages.

The Telegraph's leader. Click for a larger image

The Telegraph’s leader. Click for a larger image

Governor Mark Capes claimed that the rest had been kept from the public to protect victims, but when the report was leaked on the internet, no victims were directly identified.

In fact, much of the leaked report was severely embarrassing to the police, suggesting that some officers avoided dealing with crime because they did not like confrontation.

It even named one officer, Jeromy Cairns-Wicks, as a probable paedophile. He has since been jailed for 11 years – a vindication of the Lucy Faithful investigators, one might think.

An inquiry was ordered into the police. It was not published.

The leaked report was only a first draft, but St Helena Online understands that the final version was not substantially different.

The St Helena Independent published two extracts from the report to demonstrate that a great deal of it could have been published without any harm being caused to victims.

One was a damning description of conditions at the island’s challenging behaviour unit, which was described by the investigators as being redolent of a Victorian lunatic asylum.

The rival, government-funded Sentinel newspaper denounced the Independent for exposing the scandal. No effort was made to report honestly the Independent’s reasons for publishing a story of very clear public interest and concern.

Not exactly in the highest traditions of public service journalism, then.

The Sentinel even argued that it was right that the full report should be kept secret – a strange position for any newspaper to adopt.

A legal problem then came to light, and the Independent’s revelations had to be stopped almost as soon as they had begun – for the time being.

In the meantime, reports had emerged of strained relations between police and social workers in tackling complaints of abuse. Two UK social workers turned whistle-blowers to highlight what they saw as continuing failures to act effectively. They lost their jobs, and launched employment tribunal cases. Their statements – yet to be tested in a full hearing – make disturbing claims about how they were treated.

Their case led to the first revelations in the Daily Mail. Then the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London appointed Sasha Wass QC to investigate their allegations of a cover-up.

The Telegraph quotes the FCO as saying that it believed it had done what it could.

In fact, the UK government discreetly drew attention to the problems of abuse in its 2012 White Paper on Britain’s overseas territories. Money would be made available to address the issue, it said.

No direct reference was made to St Helena, but it provided the spur for stories in the St Helena Independent and St Helena Online that made it clear the island had severe problems.

Those reports, which began appearing from July 2012, were sympathetic to the difficulties of those trying to rehabilitate known offenders in woefully inadequate conditions, on an island where victims could have no prospect of avoiding contact with their abusers – or avoiding retribution if they complained.

Given the global publicity about abuse on the far-smaller British territory of Pitcairn, it was clear that it would be possible to interest the UK media in St Helena’s troubles. There was no desire to cause the kind of reputational damage suffered by Pitcairn.

But even the suggestion of a cover-up on St Helena would be enough to draw media interest, once the story got out by other means.

In the English town of Rotherham, where more than a thousand girls were said to have been assaulted and raped, claims of concerns being suppressed by police and officials only added to the media wildfire.

Remarkably similar claims were made about the official response on St Helena: against that background, it was inevitable that the media would latch on to the island’s story once it got further afield, attracted as much by the cover-up claim as by the abuse itself.

The Mail and the Telegraph have had a go. Channel Four television is also known to be interested. The tribunal hearings – if they happen – will inevitably produce more negative publicity.

St Helena Government has welcomed the announcement of the Wass inquiry and the barrister’s expected arrival on the island in March. If nothing else, they bring the prospect of ending some of the speculation, and allowing the island to move on.

On the other hand, it is difficult to see how SHG can justify publishing only a three-page summary that presented a somewhat different picture from the full Lucy Faithfull report, while the UK government insisted on publication of nearly the whole of the very harrowing report on the Rotherham case.

Sasha Wass may or may not declare a cover-up, especially as there was never an intention that the full report would be published, even in the new era of so-called open government.

But we can expect much more of the truth to come out in the Wass report.

One thing is now clear: there will be no shortage of people willing to talk to her about St Helena’s dark secrets. Unlike the Telegraph, she will also have access to serving government officials.

And the island will suffer far more damaging publicity than it might have done, had the Lucy Faithfull report had been published in full in the first place – with a few details removed to protect victims.

  • The Telegraph reported David Cameron saying: “Let me commend the Telegraph on its report from St Helena. It is a very important issue and it is absolutely right that wherever we are looking in the world we root out problems of paedophilia and sexual abuse and we are very, very tough on it, as we should be in St Helena and everywhere.”

Read more from the Telegraph:
Foreign Office ‘was warned British island couldn’t cope’
How did sex abusers get away with it for so long?
‘A lot of dark things do happen on this island’ – video

See also:
The Sundale Scandal – St Helena Independent’s Lucy Faithful extract
‘A culture of sexual abuse of children’ – Daily Mail, July 2014
Top barrister to investigate child abuse cover-up claims – November 2014

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Medics perform St Helena’s first heart op

Medics on St Helena have saved a patient’s life by performing the island’s first-ever heart surgery, reports St Helena Government. 

It was carried out in at the hospital Jamestown by Senior Medical Officer Dr Attila Frigyesi and Surgeon Dr Carlos Soto on Friday 16 January 2015, assisted by the theatre nurses.

The emergency surgery was successful and the patient was doing well and recovering at home, said a press release. 

Dr Atilla said: “Friday’s operation highlights the fact that it is possible to perform relatively advanced healthcare on St Helena if we have appropriate trained staff and suitable equipment.

“I would like to thank all of the team involved for their efforts in saving the life of this patient.”

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Black Cat gets lucky at last in surprise yacht race win

Black Cat sets out in high winds. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography. Click the pic for more images

Black Cat sets out in high winds. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography. Click the pic for more images

For the triumphant crew of Black Cat, the Governor’s Cup Yacht Race has provided proof of the unpredictable nature of their sport. They have been named overall winners of the 2015 race, in a boat that finished near the back of the fleet two years earlier – despite sailing faster than the leaders.

The crew of Black Cat before the race. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

The crew of Black Cat before the race. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

The win came as a massive surprise to skipper Dave Immelman. A rival crew in the racing class had actually reached St Helena a few hours ahead of him, but they declared that they had used their engine for 95 miles of the race and switched to the cruising class – leaving Black Cat in the top slot.

Fickle fortunes also saw the 2013 winner Banjo set a new speed record in the race from South Africa, while other yachts were becalmed by a lack of wind that meant some might not even reach the island before the deadline for late finishers – extended by three days to Tuesday 13 January.

Banjo covered the 1,750 miles from Simon’s Town in nine days 13 hours and 36 seconds, shaving five hours off the record set by a different crew in the same yacht in 2010.

Banjo set a new speed record for the Governor's Cup race. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

Banjo set a new speed record for the Governor’s Cup race. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

The voyage was by no means straightforward for the crew of Black Cat, which was battered by high winds in the early part of the race. On their race blog, they wrote:

“To our horror the beating had damaged an already old (now 20 years) water tank and our fresh water became bilge water. Not to worry, on with the water maker and all is great.

“Our next little hurdle was a small hole in the main sail. This led to a venture up the mast and some fantastic views of the boat and Atlantic. Hole fixed without a hitch and full speed ahead.”

On arrival at St Helena Yacht Club, skipper Dave said: “We are absolutely delighted. It was such a surprise and we are over the moon. The owner, Adrian Pearson, is ecstatic because it is his first win ever in this boat.

Black Cat digs in. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

Black Cat digs in. Picture by Trevor Wilkins Photography

“He spent a lot of money bringing the boat up to scratch last year and he has now realized spending the money has really paid off.

“Also we started the race in 2012 but had to retire with gear failure, so to actually finish and win overall is a dream come true.”

Dave was also skipper of Black Cat in the previous race, when he had to make for the Namibian port of Luderitz with near-complete electrical failure.

They picked up new parts and resumed their voyage, actually picking up better winds and sailing faster than the race leaders.

Read more reports on the Governor’s Cup website and Facebook page.

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Big waves: the Governor’s Cup race gets under way

Seventeen yachts battled huge waves at the start of the 2014/15 Governor’s Cup yacht race between South Africa and St Helena on 27 December 2014.

The trimaran Banjo – first across the finish line two years ago – was leading the fleet as the yachts left Simons Town behind and headed for Cape Point.

Banjo’s crew had only light winds to carry them towards St Helena in 2012; this time, they were setting out in a strong 25-knot south easterly that tested the mettle of all the competitors.

The Governor’s Cup race has been staged every two years since 1996. The 2014/15 will be the last that allows supporters to follow the fleet out to the island aboard the RMS St Helena – and for crews and yachts to be transported home on the ship. The ship is set to be retired soon after the island’s first airport opens in 2016.

Read the report of the start on the event website, here

Governor’s Cup stories (2012/13)
Governor’s Cup pictures (2012/13)

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The Saints who will be lighting candles this Christmas, because they can’t afford electricity: a councillor’s tale

Many old people on St Helena will spend Christmas in poverty, too poor even to pay for electric lighting, the island’s Legislative Council has heard. The Honourable BRIAN ISAAC told of their troubles at the December 2014 sitting of the council. Here is an extract of his adjournment debate speech. 

Many people are proud to tell how they have lived through the Second World War, and recall the days of hardship on the island. They call those days the Good Old Days.

Picture by St Helena Government

The Hon Brian Isaac

There was strong family support and the island flourished with an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish.

Pay was low and work was hard. Transport was mainly by donkeys and there were few cars. Respect and discipline played a major role in everyone’s lifestyle.

Candles and wood were the main means of lighting and cooking, and for those who could afford a battery-operated radio, that was a luxury.

Social welfare never existed. Families supported each other. And for those who had no family support, the church gave a few shillings a week out of what was called the black box, and later called the parish and then the poor relief.

Social welfare came in later in the Sixties.

We have now moved very much into the 21st century and those days are long gone. But memories live on.

In this modern age of computers, the internet, telecommunications and television, and air access on the horizon, many of our senior citizens are still suffering hardship in silence.

I am aware of the recent improvements in the benefits system, the basic island pension, and the free medical care for those on benefits.

But the fact remains that many cannot cope with the high cost of living on the island, and  especially those living alone on £50 and £60 a week. Many of these people, when you meet them on the street, will give you a big smile and a warm Hello, but deep down they are suffering in silence.

Many have said that a few years ago they were given an additional payment at Christmas and Easter as a gesture of goodwill by the government, but now they feel they cannot buy anything extra at Christmas or even give their their grandchildren a little chocolate.

It saddens me to say that while many of us will enjoy the best of this Christmas season, many of our elderly will see a “meek and mild” Christmas

Many of our elderly have now reverted to using candles for lighting, which can become a health hazard; and using paraffin gel for cooking fuel, which again is a health hazard in close surroundings. They cannot afford the high cost of electricity.

I recall when social services provided subsidy for water and electricity for those suffering hardship, but this is now just a memory.

I feel it will get harder for these unfortunate people before we see it getting any better.


Councillor Isaac, a member of the island’s social and community development committee, said the government lacked the funding to implement some recommendations of York University’s Sainsbury Report, which led to the 2013 St Helena Social Policy Plan. 

At the time of the plan’s publication, the island had 196 people receiving income related benefit, 32 unemployed people on benefits, and 587 people living on the basic island pension. The report said: “We aim to empower Saints to take control of the present and the future to make the island self-sufficient on all fronts… as well as protecting and supporting vulnerable groups.”

It added that social bonds were strong in St Helena communities. “This sense of society and community flows through all aspects of Saint life, and that needs to be the basis of future social cohesion on the island,” it said. 

Read the social policy plan here

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Christmas reflection on a year of tribulations and triumphs

Sean Burns, the Acting Governor of St Helena, has issued the following Christmas message: 

When we found out that we were coming to St Helena, our friends on Tristan assured us of a warm welcome. We were not disappointed. It was astonishing how many people here approached us in the street to welcome us and tell us about friends they had down on Tristan.  It was a great start. Thank you.

Reflecting on the last year or so, it has been a busy time for everyone.  The airport project has continued on track and on budget. We have visited the site three times over the last nine months and never ceased to be amazed at what everyone has achieved there. The Dry Gut fill is an astonishing piece of work.

After much deliberation and discussion, decisions were taken on the Jamestown hotel and Enterprise St Helena, with its refocus on supporting local businesses, both new and existing, has seen a significant increase in the number of loans and grant applications it has received and approved. Economic development is on the way.

In the education sector we saw some of the best results and I was honoured to represent the Governor at the awards ceremony at Prince Andrew School only a few weeks ago, where so many of the students received their well-deserved awards.

We also recognise the work of charities and others in the voluntary sector who do so much to enrich their community – and of our sporting youth who were such fine ambassadors for St Helena at this year’s Commonwealth Games.

2015 promises to be an even busier year as the airport opening fast approaches. We also have work on the Rupert’s Wharf project, hospital refurbishment, the new prison and new fire station to push forward. These projects are all for the benefit and long term wellbeing of the community at large.

Later on in the year we look forward to welcoming visitors and dignitaries to the island for the bicentenary of Napoleon’s arrival here, when an exciting programme of events is being organised.

Work continues on providing a sea freight service to St Helena and Ascension after the RMS, as does the contract to provide an air service to the Island.  We should be able to say more about these in the next few weeks. There is still a considerable amount of work to do as we prepare for airport certification and there are many across SHG and elsewhere engaged in this work.  We look forward to seeing test flights in July!

But there have also been problems to address this year, not least around safeguarding those most vulnerable in our society. We have taken steps to increase capacity in this area and with the help of our partners in London, and have secured additional staff and other resources to improve and embed the way we approach these difficult issues.

The creation of a new Safeguarding Directorate is a really positive move as is the opening of Ebony View, which will replace the Challenging Behaviour Unit in February.

As you know, the Foreign Secretary has commissioned an Inquiry into the way we manage these issues. The team arrives in March and will be here for just over two weeks. We welcome this and look forward to delivering those recommendations that come from the Inquiry. We have a real opportunity here to make a big and lasting difference.

So as you can see, we have many challenges ahead, but as we all pull together I am confident we can achieve a great deal over the next twelve months.

Christmas is also a time when we remember those who have lost close friends and family and think of those who are unwell or lonely at this time.  Our thoughts and prayers go to you all.

The Governor is looking forward to returning to the Island on 3 January, just in time to welcome the arrival of the yachts taking part in the Governor’s Cup, the first big event of the year.  Both he and Mrs Capes send their best wishes for the Christmas period and wish you all a peaceful and happy time over the festive season.

Marina and I join them in this and wish you all a Happy Christmas and New Year.

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Trevor O Thomas: a tribute from a friend

Trevor O Thomas aboard MFV Extractor. Picture by Bruce Salt

Trevor O Thomas aboard MFV Extractor. Picture by Bruce Salt

Trevor Otto Thomas did not hesitate when the call came to go to the aid of a yacht crew, drifting rudderless in heavy seas, far out into the ocean. He helped save their lives. Three months later, no one was able to save Trevor’s life. He was found dead a few hours after being reported missing on Monday, 15 December 2014. BRUCE SALT has paid a personal tribute in a message to friends, kindly shared here – with some of Bruce’s pictures. 

It’s amazing to see the amount of emails I’ve received from folk around the world who had either come into contact with Trevor, or had heard of him.

I had the pleasure of knowing him on a personal level for the past 27 years.

trevor o thomas 350Many have inquired as to the cause of death, as they remembered him as being a well manicured, fit, agile and intelligent gentleman who backed down from no man, and as a commercial fisherman has weathered many a storm both coastal and deep sea.

Not only was he a very successful commercial fisherman but a fine navigator and skipper of the MFV Westerdam (a Purse Seine trawler) and in between time his own inshore boat the Catfish.

In 2013/2014 he played a frontline role in the acquisition of the Australian-built 22m Westcoaster Longline Tuna fishing vessel the Extractor from Hout Bay, and sailed her to her new owners on St Helena Island, where he resided with his wife.

Apart from his passion for boats, he also loved stripping and rebuilding engines, especially diesels, with clinical cleanliness and precision. He also drew enormous pleasure from making equipment work again after it had been pronounced dead by its owners.

Ninety five percent of his projects were churned out from the porch of his flat in Jamestown, an area of miniscule proportions (perhaps eight feet long by five feet wide).

Rest in Peace Trevor
9 July 1953 – 14 December 2014


SEE ALSO: Sailing for St Helena with a floorboard for a rudder

Trevor Thomas and Charmaine Salt, pictured by Bruce Salt after he helped bring St Helena's new offshore fishing vessel to the island from South Africa in April 2014

Trevor Thomas and Charmaine Salt, pictured by Bruce Salt after he helped bring St Helena’s new offshore fishing vessel to the island from South Africa in April 2014

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Work halts as remains are found in slave valley

A human grave was disturbed during roadworks in Rupert’s Valley, St Helena Government has reported. Remains are likely to be those of liberated Africans, brought ashore when the island was used as a base for captured slave-running ships.

Basil Read, the airport contractor halted work as soon as the remains were found on 12 December 2014, further up the valley from the area where mass graves were carefully excavated in 2007, in readiness for constructing an access road to the airport site.

The government statement said: “All evidence points to these being further liberated African remains.

“Earlier finds under the airport project have been of scatter material (fragments left from earlier excavations). This find appears to be part of a previously undisturbed grave.

“It also appears to confirm earlier assessments by Dr Andy Pearson of Bristol University, that further liberated African graves might be located in Rupert’s Valley. Works on the access road have specifically avoided areas of known graves, whilst recognising the risk of further remains being uncovered.

“The archaeology protocol under the airport project specifically recognises this risk and sets out measures to be implemented should there be such a find.  This protocol was immediately and effectively implemented, and all works have ceased in the area, which is now closed pending full mitigation measures.”

SEE ALSO: Podcasts – hear the story of story of St Helena’s anti-slavery fight

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