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Thursday, 29 March 2012

‘A New Passover Sacrifice’

In the Spring of 1144, the Jewish community of  Norwich, England was charged with the ritual murder of a 12-year-old boy.

It was the first such accusation to be made anywhere in Europe  but there was no allegation of blood being used as a Passover ritual. Such an allegation was first made in Blois, France about 25 years later.

These imputations possibly migrated slowly from the Middle East  where a late 4th Century blood libel  in Syria, recorded by Socrates Scholasticus, went unquestioned.

As present-day Israel supporters often equate hostility to the Jewish State with these ancient libels, my  story here attempts to portray how such a calumny would affect the modern Anglo-Jewish community.

Easter Saturday March 25 1144

William, a 12-year-old apprentice St.William.of.Norwichtanner of Norwich, East Anglia, England, was found dead in Thorpe Wood, a beauty spot on the eastern outskirts of the city.

William’s body was first discovered  dressed only in a jacket and  shoes,  bearing  strange wounds with a wooden gag pushed into his  mouth. 

Chapter 1

Easter Saturday Evening,

April 07 2012

(Second Night Passover)

Ricky was picking miserably at his food.

“What’s the matter? Aren’t you well?”, asked his mother. “It can’t be that we’re not observing Passover too strictly – that never seems to bother you!”

“Sorry, Mum. I’m not hungry. I’m really upset by something I saw on Facebook before I came downstairs.”

“Nu?”

“It’s about Walid. Y’know …”

“Of course, I know.

“Mum, you don’t know.” Ricky put down his fork and pushed his plate away.

“Walid’s not been seen since you drove  him home on Monday – he’s not even replied  to  any messages  or  voice mails.  Now Kevin Mason  has posted  a status update saying he’s been found dead in Thorpe Wood.”

“Walid? Thorpe Wood?”, echoed Ellen Lever.

“But that’s out of town. You remember that he didn’t want to hang around here while you had your barmitzvah lesson? Well, when we got into town he asked me to let him out near The Tannery. He wanted to buy his mother a coin purse for Easter designed like those he’d seen at the souq in Acco. He must have been saving hard. They’re not cheap!

“He’s such a sweet kid. If your Dad were still here, he’d be delighted that you’re  good friends with the  Ibrahim family. It’s  the  sort  of relationship he’d worked so long to promote …”

Ellen broke off and sighed.

“I won’t call Samira as I don’t want her to worry for no reason.  There’s probably a good explanation for everything – and I’m still looking forward to seeing them all in synagogue on your big day. Now let’s look at television to see if there’s an item about Thorpe Wood.”

But even as she switched on, Jonathan Wills of Anglia Tonight was speaking from the wood in front of a tented area cordoned off by police barrier tape.

“The body of a boy, estimated to be aged 11 – 12 years-old was found today here in Thorpe Wood. Police have confirmed that the corpse was covered in sand but have released no further details.”

Ellen’s phone rang.

 

“Mrs Lever? Hi, this is Alex Bennett from the synagogue. I’ve got to cut this short. My call is not directly about Ricky but about an Arab lad named Walid Ibrahim. I believe the boys are – or were - close friends at Norwich School.”

Ellen, finding it hard to comprehend what was happening, did not know how to react.

“What? Can you tell me exactly what’s going on and I’ll relay the details to Ricky as gently as possible?”

“I can’t do that. As the lay minister at Norwich Hebrew Congregation, the Police came to me first to help them liaise with potential witnesses. They prefer to meet us at the synagogue than at Bethel Street Station.

“But why …?

“Mrs Lever, I urge you not to ask me more questions now, but to bring Ricky to an emergency meeting at the synagogue at 8.30 a.m. tomorrow.”

Chapter 2

Easter Sunday,

April 08 2012

(Second Day Passover)

When the Levers arrived at the synagogue, they found Mr Bennett with other committee members and Rabbi Stephen Howard  representing the Progressive Jewish Community of East Anglia. They were in deep conversation with police personnel and Steffan Griffiths, the recently appointed head master of Norwich School.

“The news could not be worse,” Chief Superintendent Les Parrett was saying as they entered the room.

“It is difficult in the first instance to describe the Ibrahims’s grief at their loss. What’s happened to Walid almost defies description. As it is such a delicate matter I will lead the investigation myself.

“Under the exceptional circumstances,  William Armstrong, the Greater Norfolk Coroner, has ordered an emergency autopsy for tomorrow so the family may then arrange to take Walid home to Acre (‘Acco’) in Israel for burial. It  is the custom for Christian Arabs to arrange a western-style funeral a couple of days after a death. We feel we must allow them that privilege.

“Abbud and Samira Ibrahim are PhD research students in Language and Communication Studies at the University of East Anglia.

“I understand,” added Mr Parrett, nodding at the Leversthat they were friendly with local Jewish academics and that Walid and Ricky were very close.”

"That is correct”, interjected Mr Griffiths. “Walid was a popular Year 7 student and intellectually most able.

“Norfolk School is a ‘cathedral school’, but we ensure that pupils from minority backgrounds feel comfortable. It is interesting that our roll of distinguished past pupils includes Lord Mancroft – a scion of a most notable Jewish family.”

Chief Superintendent Parrett chatted to Ricky and then  asked the community support officer to take him home while he described Police findings in full.

“Walid’s body bears all the hallmarks of a ritualistic paedophile attack. His body was only partially dressed, as we expect in these cases. But his head bore a crown of thorns and the initial forensic examination by our police surgeon based at Thorpewood Medical Practice also discovered  stigmata-type stab wounds on his body and a wooden crucifix-shoved in his mouth. Was the murderer simply mocking the Easter Passion or was it an attempt to implicate others? These are questions we must answer if we are to solve the case.”

Mr Parrett continued: “What I have to say now is also distressing. Do any of you know a Professor Theo Sutton from the University of Cambridge? He has been among the first to suggest possible Jewish  involvement  in  Walid’s disappearance and has  made staggering allegations concerning Jewish practice.”

Ellen snorted. “That won’t surprise many  Jewish people here, Mr Parrett. Professor Sutton – ne Tuvia Ben-Tzion Schlager – is from a family of noted Talmudic scholars. He renounced Judaism, converted to Christianity and is – hmm – most vocal in his criticisms of our community and the State of Israel. I’d like to know if he’s put any of his allegations in writing!”

“We’ll take note of what you’ve said but I must advise you that we’re also concerned that unauthorised persons may have been at Thorpe Wood. All news outlets have received  disturbing  pictures  of  Walid  sent    anonymously via  iwitness24.

“They have agreed not to publish them but they may be from the same clown who has circulated a note reading ‘The Juews are the men that will not be blamed for nothing’ and signed as ‘Jake The Ripper’.

“And there’s another reason why I arranged for us to meet here. While British news outlets have agreed not to publish the pictures, we have no control over the social networking sites which are heaving with speculation and innuendo about Walid. Many people automatically believe he was Moslem so along with tribute pages there’s a noticeable overall increase  in online antisemitism.”

As Mr Parrett stopped speaking, everyone else felt paralysed by the spiralling events and looked on helplessly while congregation elder, Eliezer Baum rose as if to speak but collapsed in pain.

“Call for an ambulance,” he croaked. “I’m having an angina attack. Please don’t let me become another statistic of anti-Jewish-hatred.”

Chapter 3

Easter Monday and Tuesday,

April 09 and 10 2012

(Third and Fourth Days Passover)

Prime Minister David Cameron was in private session at Chequers during the Bank Holiday when the Chief Rabbi called.

“Good morning, Chief Rabbi. I’m going to Norwich  later today and would appreciate your company,” he said.

“I believe the riot there last night was relatively short but that the synagogue in - let’s see - Earlham Road - sustained quite severe damage. I’ll ensure the congregation receives a financial grant to make good the losses.”

“A grant?”, exploded Lord Sacks. “One of the community elders is dangerously ill following a heart attack; several of the congregation’s most holy items have been desecrated and many people in public life are now spreading anti-Jewish hatred quite freely.

“Some of my lay leaders, knowing what happened in Norwich during the historic past are saying that once more, they are being challenged to stand for ‘trial by ordeal’. I don’t think it’s the time to talk about money – but moral restitution.

“Yes, I too would appreciate your company tonight, when I will conduct a service in what remains of the synagogue and you will witness a community in mourning that is anxious to learn what you can do for them as fellow British citizens.”

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To help restore some calm, British media outlets again agreed to an almost total news blackout and on the morning after the memorial meeting only brief details from a Downing Street Press Release were published..

So the public was largely unaware of the wall of almost stifling warm support that local  Jews received from official sources. Councillor Jenny Lay, the Lord Mayor of Norwich, offered a 24-hour police watch on private Jewish property and also invited particularly vulnerable Jewish residents to have an over-night stay in a city-centre hotel “where they can be looked after.”

“We mustn’t have this very gracious help made public,” said Vivian Wineman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. “We don’t want more talk of an ‘international Jewish conspiracy’ or of our ‘exerting undue influence.’” 

Chapter 4

Wednesday and Thursday,

April 11 and 12 2012

(Fifth and Sixth Days Passover)

On Wednesday morning, Ellen was clearing up after breakfast when Mr Parrett asked her to visit the station for ‘a chat’.

“We’ve got a bit of a problem, Ellen,” he said inviting her to sit down. “You’re welcome to call your solicitor if you wish.”

“Please tell me why I am here and why I may need a lawyer.”

“Do you know Maria Hadley?”

“Only very slightly. She’s the cleaner at the B & B across the road from the synagogue and also works occasionally at the synagogue.”

“I need you to tell me again exactly what happened when you drove Walid into town last week. ”

“I was going to take him home but he asked me to stop instead near The Royal Arcade so he could buy something for his mother from The Tannery. I did so; he thanked me very politely and that is the last time we spoke.”

“What time was that?”

“About 5.15 p.m. Walid hoped the shop would still be open when he got there and said he would get a bus home.”

"But Ellen, Mrs Hadley has a different version. She claims that as she left Beaufort Lodge at 6.00 p.m. after doing an extra shift, she caught a glimpse of you and Mr Baum with two  younger men leaving the synagogue.

“She says you were all struggling with a cumbersome-looking bag which would have been big enough to hold a child of Walid’s age. She saw the bag being loaded into the back of a silver Skoda Estate car which then headed in the general direction of Thorpe Wood.”

“Superintendent, please let’s talk common sense here,” Ellen retorted.

“I can prove that I was back home on Monday evening by 6.00 p.m. Further, I drive a small Fiat which would have been left in the street if I had been a passenger in another car.

“Last, it would have been impossible for anyone to judge the vehicle’s intended destination as it turned out of Earlham Road. I think Maria’s desire to be public spirited  has overtaken  her sense of  … her ability to tell the truth. Her story is a pack of transparent lies.

“If the events of the past few days had not been so dreadful, many of us in the Jewish community would begin to indulge in some black humour.

“Mr Parrett, I realise you’re anxious to find Walid’s murderer and I wish I could help you further. My deepest regret is that I left him vulnerable to attack by not taking him home. I’ve already been punished. I’ll live with this for the rest of my own life.”

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Late on Wednesday evening, Chief Superintendent Parrett was about to clock off after a long, fruitless day when he got a call from officers on ‘active patrol’ near Thorpe Wood. They had arrested a couple of men who had pushed their way through the barriers and had got as far as the original burial-site.

Mr Parrett removed his coat and made himself another coffee. It was going to be an even longer, harder night.

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At 8.10 a.m. on Thursday a news flash on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme brought the tweeters out in a frenzy.

Presenter Evan Davis broke off an interview with the Chancellor for a live report from Graham Barnard of BBC Radio Norfolk:

“We’ve just learned that two men in their 40s have been arrested in connection with the Easter murder of Walid Ibrahim. A woman aged 63 has also been taken in for questioning.

“The police have released no further details and as yet there has been no statement from any Jewish spokesperson, either in Norwich or London.”

Chapter 5

Saturday Evening  December 08 2012

(Eve of Chanucah)

“Mum”, said Ricky, “I feel like going out this evening. D’you mind if I ask Keith and Greg if they fancy a few games at the Hollywood Bowl?”

“Wow! Of course not! I’m relieved that you’re starting to pick up on your social life again. But my lad - cool – or uncool – you guys are going to be driven there and back by me or one of the other mums. No argument!

“Meanwhile, I’ve got some really good news for you,” added Ellen.

“As you didn’t have a party for your barmitzvah, we’ve got the cash for a trip to Israel during the school holiday.

“I had a long chat with Samira and Abbud by Skype this afternoon and they’ve invited us to spend a couple of days with them. So it’ll be a multi-stop tour – Eilat, Jerusalem and then Acco – a great first taste of Israel for us both.

“The Ibrahims’s have decided to stay in Israel to complete their research at the University of Haifa but will maintain links here. I’ve also invited them to stay with us when they return for the start of the court case in February.”

Chapter 6

Wednesday March 20 2013

(Eastern Daily Press Report)

“Easter ‘Paedo Killer’ Given Whole Life Term”

The notorious ‘Easter Passion’ killer was today  jailed for the rest of his life.

Roger Mason, 45, of Elm Hill, Norwich was convicted at Bristol Crown Court for the murder of 12-year-old Norwich resident, Walid Ibrahim in April last year.

Mr Justice Field, summing up “one of the most difficult and painful cases of my career”, described Mason as a “remorseless and bestial sexual predator without conscience.”

The case had received so much pre-trial media attention, both in Britain and overseas, that it was held in Bristol rather than Norwich to allow a fair hearing.

The court heard that Mason, a part-time University of East Anglia lecturer with links to the University of Cambridge was apparently a contented family man with a 12-year-old son. But he had a secret life as a sexual predator.

The police snatched thousands of pornographic pictures of young boys on several computers, both at his home and in his rooms at the UEA and also at Cambridge.

Mason knew his victim, Walid Ibrahim, through his own son, Kevin as they were both pupils at Norwich School. When he spotted Walid  at the Royal Arcade, Norwich, in the early evening of 02 April last year, he offered him a lift home. Instead, Mason took Walid to Thorpe Wood  on the outskirts of the city where he raped and murdered him before subjecting the corpse to a mock crucifixion.

What has made this case different from similar child sex-related murders is that Mason was also a member of several extreme neo-Fascist groups throughout Europe and the U.S.. He viewed the murder of Walid as an attack on Moslem Arabs (although the boy was Christian) and a chance to implicate Jews in an ‘international conspiracy’.

Mason took pictures of Walid’s corpse after the attack and posted them on several news-sites, even using his son’s Facebook account to spread the story.

He  was  aided  and  abetted  by Professor Theo Sutton, 48, a senior colleague at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, who had seized the opportunity to wreak vengeance on the Jewish community into which he had been born but which he had grown to loathe.

Sutton, of Madingley Road, Cambridge and 63-yea-old Maria Hadley,   a domestic of Earlham, Norwich who is also implicated in the affair, have not yet been sentenced. Their cases have been adjourned until after the Easter recess.

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  • Mark.UlyseasThis story appeared originally in Live Encounters magazine, edited by Mark Ulyseas.
  • It was conceived and written before the recent murders at the Ozer HaTorah School in Toulouse, France and in no way relates to that incident.

msniw

(Copyright - Natalie Irene Wood – 29 March 2012)

 

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