The Groucho Club, Soho, central London
On the 10th of November 2010 it was discovered that an online member's forum operating under the name of the Groucho Club forum was being used over a prolonged period of time by a network of paedophiles.
The forum contained hundreds of web pages and links to pornographic videos and images of young children and infants available for sex. This discovery was made by award winning filmmaker and writer Tyrone D Murphy while investigating the sale of alcohol through the Groucho Club's website for Chapter 13 of his book The Groucho Gate Affair
. The filmmaker immediately reported the discovery to the Metropolitan Police Service and to CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre).
The search terms on Google that led to the discovery of the child exploitation was 'Site:thegrouchoclub.com' and 'Site:thegrouchoclub.co.uk'. These search terms on Google will only list all the web pages within a specific domain. Murphy also discovered that the evidence of the offensive content was being deleted from the website forum, and the links on the Google listings were now forwarded to a home page of the Groucho Club's own website. However, the evidence was also stored on cache pages (snapshot) by the search engine Google of the Groucho Club forum and the illegal content. Within a week of the report to the Police, Murphy discovered that the cache pages were now also being discreetly deleted.
The preservation of the evidence at this stage was crucial to assist any criminal investigation and prosecute the offenders. Murphy again contacted the Metropolitan Police Service and CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) several times by telephone and e-mail as a matter of extreme urgency, and he relayed his concerns that the evidence was now being destroyed.
On the third of December Murphy discovered that the cache pages and links were still being deleted as almost all of the cache pages were now deleted and nothing appeared to have been done to preserve the evidence. The filmmaker then wrote to the commander Simon Bray of the Metropolitan Police Service and to Peter Davies the chief executive of CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre). On the sixteenth December 2010 Mr Murphy received a reply from CEOP about his report. The letter stated that Murphy's report to CEOP was processed in accordance with CEOP standard operational procedure and forwarded to the Police for investigation. The letter also stated that the Police have concluded their investigation into the matter and have decided to take no further action on this occasion. Despite Murphy sending 24 emails, 4 letters and numerous telephone calls to the Police and CEOP, he was neither consulted nor interviewed by the Police about the forum. Murphy said "This forum attracted the lowest form of individuals in society; the sheer scale of the illegal activity on the Groucho Club forum is overwhelming".
On the fourth of January 2010 Murphy contacted the Groucho Club's Managing Director Mr Matt Hobbs for a comment. When Mr Hobbs was informed of the evidence, he stated "I have no idea about any domain other than the www.thegrouchoclub.com which was the property of the club and have no knowledge of the domain www.thegrouchoclub.co.uk or the forum and the explicit content". Murphy asked Hobbs's to search Google while they were on the telephone so Mr Hobbs could view the evidence for himself; Mr Hobbs refused. He stated to Murphy he was going to contact the Police. Murphy promptly informed him he had done so already months earlier. Although Mr Matt Hobbs appeared clueless about the domain name www.thegrouchoclub.co.uk, Murphy contacted Nominet, the UK domain registry authority in relation to the domain name www.thegrouchoclub.co.uk. He was informed by Nominet that the domain was registered on the 22 of July 2009 in the name of the Groucho Club Limited by the former Managing Director Margaret Levin.
In some cases a domain name can be hijacked, if this is indeed the case, then who is making the requests to Google? Who has deleted the forum pages and directing all links to the Groucho Club home page? This is a cleanup operation on a colossal scale, has been ongoing over a number of months and must be costing substantial sums of money. According to Google the legal owner of a web site or domain can make specific requests for the removal of cache pages and links. This prevents a website's pages from being listed in the search results or from appearing as a cache copy in the search listings. This is done by submitting a webpage removal request to Google. The search engine will then take steps to verify legal ownership of the domain or website before a specific change can be made.
The forum has posts made by child pornographers as late as September 2010. The forum has 42,348 members, 663,709 topics and 900,987 posts
. Hundreds of the web pages and links are dedicated to gross and indecent material of young children. Murphy has compiled a list of the forum members with their age and birthdays. Some of the forum members are still very active on the internet and one user is listed on a number of websites for toddlers and other websites for girls dress up games. What is even more disturbing is that another user has stated their preferences on another website as bondage, sadism, masochism, beating and self mutilation.
Whoever owns and operated the Groucho Club forum seems to be somewhat of a mystery. What is certain is that someone is going to a lot of time, trouble and expense in making the requests to Google for the removal of the cache pages and links. Given that the forum was being utilised by the child pornography ring for such a prolonged period of time, did anyone in the Groucho Club management team or the new MD Matt Hobbs ever conduct a complete review of the clubs affairs or its online profile, as one would expect. In spite of Murphy making several reports to CEOP and the MPS, it remains to be seen what the Metropolitan Police Service have done to investigate the forum and have steps been taken to preserve the crucial evidence? Murphy said: "The callous way this evidence is being destroyed, without first informing the Police, will seriously hinder an investigation and will also contribute towards the exploitation of the young helpless children who are the victims in all this."
Tyrone D Murphy is an award winning filmmaker director and writer. He is known for tackling controversial issues in his films and won best international documentary for his Graffiti Gown
film on Aids awareness. He is also a former electronic surveillance specialist and investigator. He was responsible for exposing many illegal bugging operations in the UK including the illegal bugging operation at the offices of Goldcrest TV & Video in London. He also exposed a bogus IRA extortion racket at a London based solicitor's firm, was responsible for the closure of a multi million pound illegal wheel clamping operation and uncovering a multimillion fraud by a bookmaking chain. During this time he was recommended to clients by Lloyds of London and provided counter surveillance services to Hughes Aircraft during the takeover talks between the company and McDonald Douglas.
He was in a lengthy libel court battle with the Groucho Club for almost a year over the content of his book about the club The Groucho Gate Affair
. According to Murphy his book is based solely on the management of the club and its business affairs and not any of the members. Murphy who defended himself as a litigant in person won the legal battle after a manager of the club came forward and provided a large amount of evidence to support Murphy's case.For more information contact:
Mr Tyrone D Murphy
Tel+44 (0) 7779977769Additional Contacts:
Mr. John Henry Lewis OBE, Chairman of the Groucho Club email@example.com Tel (0)207 730 5420
Mr Rod Richards, CEO of Graphite Capital LLP firstname.lastname@example.org Tel (0)20 7825 5300
Mr. Matt Hobbs, MD of the Groucho Club email@example.com Tel (0)20 7439 4685Press Contact:
223 regents street