The story of an American journalist who has been held in the United Kingdom for the last five months while police investigate his Facebook post, gained traction after a video surfaced online on Feb. 1.
The video shows Ryan Dawson, a geopolitical analyst and activist and interviewing Rupert Quaintance, a political comedian, journalist and radio host at American Freedom Radio. Dawson began the interview by saying, “This is a pretty crazy story.”
It commenced at the beginning of 2015 when a video appeared online of two children claiming to be the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of their father Ricky and several of their teachers, among other local people. The abuse is alleged to have taken place in Hampstead, commonly known as Hampstead Village, in London.
The children also alleged that they had been forced into participating in satanic rituals at the local Hampstead Parish Church during which, they claimed, babies were decapitated.
Videos of the children describing the alleged abuse were viewed online at least 4 million times, according to BBC Radio 4. The story had gone viral and the allegations were picked up by the national news.
A witch hunt sprung up, targeting nearly everyone alleged to have been involved. The names, addresses and telephone numbers of the alleged abusers and their families as well as 20 other children and their parents, social workers, clergymen, judges and churchgoers, were released online and some received threats, the BBC reported.
The local people of Hamstead and the people at the Church were not happy about all the harassment and negative press.
A short police investigation followed and in March 2015, a family court judge dismissed the claims that Ricky had led a “satanic cult” in north London and that he and other members carried out the abuse as “baseless”. The judge concluded that the children had been forced to make the allegations by their mother, Ella and her new partner, Abe.
The children’s father did an exclusive interview with the BBC. No charges were ever brought against him.
The case was now over but several local activists were not happy with the judgment and for four weeks protested outside the church. Shouts of “stop killing babies!” and “child killer!” could be heard outside the church. Sabine McNeill, one of the activists, went on the run but continued to promote the protest on her website.
Some of the activists were given restraining orders including McNeill and Belinda Makensy.
Quaintance heard about the allegations, decided to investigate and got in contact with the activists. He announced his plans online and was met with a barrage of threats and abuse from anonymous trolls. His home address was put online and his mother received online harassment.
Quaintance travelled to the UK in August 2016. After he arrived, he met with some of the activists and interviewed them. None of the interviews turned up any additional evidence. At this point, the online trolls were in a frenzy and threatened to kill Quaintance if he went to the church to investigate.
Quaintance’s UK address was put online by the anonymous trolls after they managed to identify his location when they recognized the background in a YouTube video he’d put online.
On Aug. 31, Quaintance went to the church and filmed himself looking around outside. He found nothing out of the ordinary; the case was already dead. He posted these stills on Facebook five days later, on Sept. 5.
An anonymous troll jumped on this exchange with a friend, Clay Caricofe, took a screenshot and reported to the police that Quaintance was in the area right then, on the same day the local children’s school term started, and might be carrying a knife.
However, he said he wasn’t outside the church on Sept. 5, or carrying a knife. He was at home.
Rupert’s friend explained to the police that the post refers to an inside joke between Quaintance and himself that referred to an incident involving a sandwich.
“We were at a restaurant after a concert, and I was boasting to another friend how athletic and accurate my throwing arm is and I was asked to prove it. So I took a ham biscuit wrapped in plastic wrap, balled it up and threw it at Rupert across the restaurant and, since my accuracy is excellent, hit Rupert in the back of the head approximately 40 to 50 feet away. I must say, everyone was fairly impressed. Even Rupert. We have been friends for a long time.”
In the interview, Quaintance explains that in hip hop music slang, a biscuit refers to a gun. He didn’t want people to think he was carrying a gun.
In the UK, a biscuit is a cookie.
The UK police and court system are now using UK taxpayers’ money to investigate this sandwich-related Facebook post.
On Sept. 13, Rupert was getting ready to leave when there was a knock at the door. It was the police and they arrested him for five charges of harassment with the intent of violence (the sandwich conversation) and two more charges of just harassment. His laptop that he uses to make a living was confiscated, along with his passport. If found guilty, he could face 5 years in prison.
He has no idea who he is being accused of threatening.
Quaintance has been to court twice and both times he has been harassed, face to face, by strangers who have been waiting there for him. The first time by a man who said he was going to hurt Quaintance after the hearing. The second time by a woman. Quaintance told the woman, “I don’t know who you are.” She smiled at him and said, “You’re about to find out.”
Quaintance maintains, “The simple fact of the matter is I didn’t threaten anyone.”
He is still waiting to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The case has been adjourned twice. He is unable to work and is under a gag order. Quaintance desperately needs donations, although he has not asked for any. He said he’d rather people share his story and raise awareness anyway they can.
If you would like to donate to Quaintance, you can do so using your bank account and entering firstname.lastname@example.org as the recipient, or by using PayPal.
What is really striking about the Hampstead case is the sheer amount of online material it generated, reminiscent of “PizzaGate.” It made the story easy to research. There are many YouTube videos, news articles and interviews and there is even a troll blog that is still reporting with undeniable delight on Rupert’s every move and continuing distress.
WRC will stay in contact with Rupert and will work to keep you up-to-date with the story as it unfurls.