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After a ‘terrifying’ year, whistle-blower talks of retribution

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Martin Warsama is angry and he’s talking revenge.

It was “terrifying”, he says, to find himself being investigated by the very police force he’d accused of corruption and covering up sex abuse on St Helena.

“It’s been absolutely horrible. It’s been frightening. How can it be right for a police force to investigate the very people who’ve whistle-blown against them? It’s madness.”

St Helena Government has insisted the “close involvement” of another police force meant there was no potential for “inappropriate influence” by police. Try telling that to Martin Warsama.

He and his fellow social worker, Claire Gannon, have now been cleared of any criminal wrong-doing in a family case that actually had nothing to do with the sex abuse scandal. They feared they might face trial on St Helena.

“I have had a year of being terrified, absolutely terrified,” he says.

“They took over my life and Claire Gannon’s life for nothing, for simply doing our jobs, trying to protect vulnerable adults and children.

“They have made our lives a misery for over a year and they’re not going to get away with it because now the boot’s on the other foot. They have to pay for what they have done.”

On the afternoon of Friday, 20 February 2015, he got a phone call from his solicitor saying that an investigation lasting nearly a year had failed to find evidence against them in the family case. They were not told why it took so long.

But in the evening, very briefly, the inner dread returned. “I had a panic attack. I had to tell myself it’s stopped… it’s all over. They can’t get me now.

“This is what all this threat of prosecution has been about – ‘scare them witless and keep their mouths shut.’ But it hasn’t worked, has it?

“This has cost thousands of pounds and the governor is trying to save face. And if the governor wants to have a go at me, let him try.”

Recent statements by Governor Mark Capes and Councillor Les Baldwin do appear to suggest – at the very least – a charm offensive. They assured people that sex abuse was now being taken very seriously. One statement was put out just before new evidence was revealed in an employment tribunal judgement, and the second just before it emerged there was no crime in the adoption case.

And in her own statement, the Attorney General did not merely state that the outcome of the investigation: it also cited criticisms made by the independent counsel.

He says he was not told about the statement before it was published. When he found out, he was outraged. He says he has never seen the counsel’s findings, and does not know the basis for the criticisms. He does not even know the name of his accuser.

(For the record, it should be stated that at no time has it been deliberately implied that there was any dishonesty on the part of the Attorney General in reporting these comments: but it is a matter of legitimate concern when highly critical statements cannot be tested by the public, the media or the people criticised, because the source is not open to scrutiny).

A week after learning they’d been cleared, the social workers handed bundles of written evidence to Sasha Wass, the Queen’s Counsel appointed by the British government to investigate their claims that police had allowed alleged sex abusers to go unpunished. Police officers have vehemently denied the claims, but there have since been successful prosecutions.

“We have the evidence, we are going to produce that to Sasha Wass, and we are going to take people down,” said Martin Warsama before the meeting on 27 February 2015.

“We challenged police practices and they didn’t like it.

“I want them to know we’re not victims any more. Now we are coming for them.”

What’s kept him going for the past year, he says, is “knowing that the truth will out. And it will come out.

“You question your sanity. But we have stood fast, because what we are telling is the truth.”

Warsama and Gannon both live only half an hour’s drive from Rotherham, the UK town where police and council officials were found to have allowed more than a thousand girls to be sexually assaulted and raped by organised gangs over many years. An inquiry found they silenced social workers who tried to raise the alarm.

What happened on St Helena was on nothing like the same scale, but comparisons are inevitable.

“Les Baldwin said it’s just like any other place in Britain. Yeah, it is – it’s like Rotherham. Where the councillors, the police and every bureaucrat was in complete denial and they bullied whistle-blowers.

“I don’t want it to go in the paper that we are completely wounded, that we are just relieved they have done away, that we’re victims. We are victims. But these victims have got up and we’re going to fight back.”

But Martin Warsama knows there is another kind of victim in the St Helena abuse scandal.

“This is what I want them to know,” he says. “Tell them this: we have been contacted by numerous Saints who live in this country who have been abused for years, who are now thanking us for being able to come forward.

“And they will come forward. And they are coming forward.”

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