Yesterday’s verdicts represented the culmination of an investigation that has lasted almost a decade
and was sparked by one little Australian
girl whose father was stationed on Pitcairn as its minister.
One night the 12-year-old girl was found missing from her bed. When she returned home and her frantic father demanded to know where she had been, she
said she had been raped by a Pitcairn man in his early 20s.
When the detectives arrived, they found their suspect defiant. Shawn Christian, the son of the mayor,
admitted sleeping with the 12-year-old
Australian girl, but said the sex was consensual and produced love letters signed by the girl, to prove it.
All Mr George and Mr McGookin could do was give Christian a formal caution against sex with minors.
But upon their return to Britain, the detectives presented the FCO with a strong warning: Pitcairn urgently needed a police officer
. A Kent
Constabulary constable, Gail Cox, was sent out to provide basic training for an island volunteer, Meralda Warren.
Then in December 1999, she heard that a visitor to the island, a New Zealander named Ricky Quinn, had slept with a 15-year-old Pitcairn girl.
Ms Cox charged Quinn with unlawful carnal knowledge of an under-age girl, and a hearing was staged in the public hall before Jay Warren, who was then
the island’s magistrate. Quinn pleaded guilty. Mr Warren sentenced him to the maximum penalty of 100 days’ imprisonment in the island’s long-disused
white wooden jail.
But already Ms Cox’s investigations were being undermined. Meralda Warren, the island policewoman, persuaded Quinn to plead not guilty
another charge, of indecently assaulting the girl’s best friend, also 15.
Ms Warren believed that Cox had misunderstood the island’s culture, where under-age sex was a natural part of life — a line still argued
passionately by the wives and daughters of the defendants.
Ms Cox agreed that Quinn could avoid jail if he left the island immediately aboard a departing yacht, then set about digging for more clues.
Interviews with the two girls produced the names of other Pitcairn men, including those of Shawn Christian and his older brother Randy. One of the
girls said that as a 10-year-old girl, she had been gang-raped by Randy Christian and another man.
In April 2000 the detectives Peter George and Robert Vinson flew to Australia to interview the Christian brothers. Randy Christian denied ever having
had sexual contact with the girl, but both brothers admitted that they had slept with other under-age island girls. In his interview Randy described a
society where sex-play was natural for children.
“We used to play around when we were little kids,” he said. “We never, like, penetrate, but we always, like, play around in the nude,” he said. The
detectives flew to New Zealand to interview one of the girls Randy said he had slept with. She told them she did not want to make a complaint, but
mentioned that when she was 12 or 13 she had been raped by Dave Brown, another islander.
She was one of many Pitcairn women to describe the strange sexual antics of older islanders, such as Maurice Warren, now dead, who was notorious for
masturbating in front of very young children. The detectives visited dozens of Pitcairn women in New Zealand, Australia and Britain, as well as on the
island itself. The trail of evidence never went cold.
“Every woman we went to see was giving us disclosures (of abuse),” Detective Inspector Vinson, the chief investigating officer, said. “We’d fly
somewhere, get a hire car, knock on a door, disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. We didn’t have to persuade anyone to talk.”
Most said they had never spoken about the abuse before, not even to their husbands or their parents. “I was ashamed of what happened to me,” said one
woman who was repeatedly raped by Steve Christian and Len Brown. “You get abused, you get raped. Back on Pitcairn, that’s the normal way of life,” she
When the detectives interviewed the men, they got admissions of sexual relations from five out of the six who were found guilty yesterday. But all
said the girls “wanted it”.
Steve Christian systematically raped virgins of 11 and 12,
telling them he was “intitiating” them into sex. Once he had led the way, other men
on the island would follow, raping the girls whenever they chose.
Brothers were raping their sisters while parents turned a blind eye. Several complainants told how one man, now deceased, would rape girls of 6 or 7
after forcing them to watch him have sex with his wife.
Many of the men named were long-dead community leaders such as the former magistrate Purvis Young. However, until this investigation began, there was
no police officer, no independent magistrate, nowhere for the victims to turn.
The Pitcairn Island Chief Justice Charles Blackie said in his judgment yesterday. “In reality, who could (a victim) turn to? Who would believe her?
And what would they be able to do about it?”