Is John Davies a baby trafficker and pimp, or a reknowned academic and philathropist?
Hiding in Plain Sight: The Life & Crimes of Dr John Davies
Julie Bindel, London, March 2017
In July 2009 a 52-year-old man named Dr John Davies appeared in Kingston Crown Court, England, charged with two counts of child sexual abuse between 1980 and 1981 – criminal offences that carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The complainants, two sisters, now in their late 30s, were aged six and eight years at the time the alleged rape and sexual assaults occurred.
John Davies, aka John Shelton, aka John Glyn Davies, aka Glyndwr Selwyn Owain Davies, holds a Doctor of Philosophy from the prestigious University of Sussex and was at that time a fellow of the esteemed Royal Society of Arts, and is a member of the European Commission’s expert network on migration, integration, and social cohesion.
Considered a renowned expert in migration, and in particular the trafficking for prostitution of women and girls from throughout Eastern Europe, Davies held senior positions advising government ministers, and leading major well-funded research projects for governmental and non-governmental organisations. His research findings have been relied upon in migration tribunal hearings and have informed countless other researchers and organisations including the United Nations and various AIDS organisations.
Davies also enjoyed visiting fellowships at two prestigious academic institutions his University of Sussex and University of the Witwatersrand, in South Africa. He travelled the world speaking at academic symposiums and high level policy development gatherings, coming across to many as a highly intelligent eccentric. Standing 6 feet 4 inches tall, Davies dressed his imposing frame in meticulous, though overly ostentatious, suits and hats. He was remembered by all that met him.
Rumours had been circulating about Davies amongst police officers, feminists and other human rights activists as far back as the early 1990s. No matter which country I found myself in, if I was in the company of activists campaigning against the trafficking of women and girls, I would find someone who had terrible stories to tell about this man.
Davies travelled to Romania following its revolution in 1989 when its former dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena were executed on Christmas Day. Under the guise of delivering food and smuggling Bibles to the dispossessed, Davies was suspected of being a baby trafficker. Despite this suspicion, he was only ever convicted for fraud in relationship to bogus documents obtained in Romania including multiple credit cards and passports operated under various aliases. By this time, John Davies had moved his family – his wife, three daughters, and a son – from their London home to a farm in the Hungarian border town of Balástya close to Croatia, Serbia, and Romania.
There was talk about the late 1990s, when Davies was immersed in his anthropological field research for his doctoral thesis on sex trafficking, that he was in fact pimping women into Greece and France.
At the 2009 child rape Court case, which I attended as a journalist, the alleged victims were granted permission to give their evidence behind a screen. The law permitted them anonymity, but I managed to pass a message to both women asking if they would like to speak to me, explaining that I had been following the exploits of John Davies for a decade, and most importantly I believed their testimony. The women agreed to speak with me. Police officers at the trial told me, off the record of course, that police officers from Interpol and several European countries had been in touch with them requesting details of his alleged crimes, and offering them in return thick files of evidence on this man. It was only a matter of time before Davies would collared. It would be several years, as it turned out.
After the 2009 trial, at which he was acquitted by the jury, I wrote to Davies' PhD supervisor and head of the academic department he had conducted his studies: the Sussex Centre for Migration Research. I explained in an email that I was researching an article on so-called trafficking denial – in other words those academics denying or minimising the harms of trafficking into the sex trade, and who publish peer-reviewed articles and academic books on the subject which in turn influences policy and legislation on the sex trade. I mentioned Davies as one key example, throwing in the fact that he had been expelled from several countries, arrested and charged in Croatia on suspicion of baby trafficking, and investigated by the European commission for fraudulently using grant money. Rather than maintain my confidence and investigate my allegations, the head of school passed on my email directly to Davies. Within a week I received a legal letter threatening libel action in court from Davies. The only way I could avoid this was to pay £5000 to a women’s charity of his choice, and issue a public apology. That was not going to happen.
Davies also ran a number of charities that claimed to support impoverished women and children around the world including the Sompan Foundation,Kurbet Foundation, and Tanya Foundation. Since the trial I had received two telephone calls from police officers who told me that they were investigating the possibility, or rather the probability, that Davies was running these charities fraudulently and raking in many millions of pounds stolen from the British taxpayer using the identities of deceased persons. They just needed hard evidence and he would be back in court.
I had more pressing tasks as I set about finding proof to back up my allegations contained in the email to Davies supervisor. I found far more than I had set out to uncovering even more allegations of criminal conduct. It took me two months and cost around £5000 – but my productive time, earning capacity, and the stress I suffered cannot be calculated. I was thrown completely off the scent and to this very day I remain overly cautious in my investigations and tend to compulsively re-validate and re-verify.
Accordingly, I obtained copies of documents from the Croatian court, letters from the European Commission inspectors, a note from the US State Department regarding Davies being expelled, and messages on now defunct list serves where Davies admitted being expelled from other countries including Croatia. I also obtained copies of documents from a prestigious national British newspaper that Davies had attempted to sue back in the late 1990s when it ran a feature on his arrest for baby trafficking. Davies failed his attempt, and the newspaper had done a sterling job digging up dirt to cover itself. I also found obscure references in books to Davies where the allegations of his criminal exploits were repeated, and contacted the authors all of whom were glad to help in any way they could.
That year, in 2009, Davies book, based on his doctoral thesis, My Name Is Not Natasha, a classic rewriting of the trafficking experience if ever there was one, had just been published by Amsterdam University Press. This was the year there was a vote in British Parliament as to whether or not sex buyers should be criminalised, and whilst I and my abolitionist colleagues supported this measure, the pro-prostitution academics and other campaigners were out in force desperately trying to discredit the notion of holding men to account for their demand for paid sex which fuels this violent and exploitative trade. John Davies, despite being on bail for child rape, was prominent in the pro-sex industry campaign as were other academics for the University of Sussex.
A special investigation published in the Guardian Newspaper weeks before the parliamentary vote was based around the reality that there had been very few convictions for trafficking of women into prostitution in the UK. The abolitionist campaigners saw the reason for this is rubbish policing; an impoverished comprehension of how poverty, coercion, and violence impacts upon women’s choice and agency; and the understandable fear of trafficking victims to identify themselves and involve themselves in protracted trials which would cost them and their families dearly. And why would they endure a criminal justice system in which perpetrators routinely escape justice? Common sense prevailed, the bill passed, and paying for sex with a woman who is either trafficked or otherwise coerced became a criminal offence.
I kept an eye on Davies, Googling him regularly and asking around to see if he had landed any plush job as an anti-trafficking expert, or had been speaking at a conference on the topic. Things were very quiet. I didn’t forget about him, and I could not forget the women who said they were raped by him, but I prioritised other investigations. I kept in touch with the women who took Davies to court for rape and sexual assault, and would occasionally get in touch with the police officers that were after him for charity fraud.
In April 2016 I discovered that Davies had been arrested by HMRC and was on trial for charity fraud. The following month he was convicted and given a 12 year prison sentence. Sentenced alongside him, and also given prison sentences were his co-defendants. One was his son, and the other was the brother of Davies’ former lover. All three had attended the same Centre for Migration Research at Sussex University. All three consider trafficking of women to be a fairly reasonable career option for poor Albanian women. The former partner had been with Davies in both Greece and France during his doctoral studies, as his “cultural advocate”, in which he interviewed, or at least claimed to interview, victims of trafficking and their traffickers.
Davies’ trial, conviction, and imprisonment were reported by the press, including by me. This had the effect of rattling the proverbial cage. New information and different people were now coming forward with disparate pieces of information for me to make sense of. And I was ready and waiting to follow up these fresh leads. As Davies languished in prison, I travelled to a number of countries to investigate allegations of criminal activities for which he has not yet been caught. In the UK, the USA, Hungary, Bangladesh, South Africa and New Zealand I follow the trail and piece together bits of the jigsaw that makes up Davies’ life and activities.
I investigate the people who I believe collaborated in these alleged crimes, and those who - either out of fear or misplaced loyalties or mutually assured financial benefit - helped Davies evade justice and indeed drove a knife through the heart of the British criminal justice system. Did, for example, the senior clinician and AIDS expert, who is close to the ANC and holds a position in the South African Deputy President’s Office really commit perjury during the 2009 child abuse trial? Is the respected academic residing in New Zealand a criminal involved in charity fraud alongside Davies and his co-defendants? Or were they simply duped and deceived? Are the relationships connecting Davies to a number of important persons characterised by collegial fraternity or is there something else at play?
And what about the academics who provided a smoke screen around Davies and defended him over the years against accusations of pimping, baby trafficking, and child rape? Why did one prominent self-proclaimed “expert” in migration studies, and who believes trafficking to be largely a myth propagated by feminists who campaign against the sex trade accept an award and a prize of €5000 from one of Davies sham charities? What actually happened in Greece and France when Davies was supposedly researching his PhD? And what ethical approval and checking mechanism was in place to enable Davies authority let alone funding to conduct his research?
Finally, I meet with an Australian anti-male violence campaigner and former postgraduate student of renowned feminist Professor Sheila Jeffreys whom she described him as “a man who gets it”. This man also happens to be a career police detective with an interest in Dr John Davies. Buried in the reams of his brilliant research and correspondence he conducted to inform an unpublished academic paper and research thesis on Dr John Davies, he handed over to me, I uncover several vital pieces missing from my investigation: which in its totality now revealed a series of explosive allegations.
The claims I make and questions I ask have extremely serious implications for very important persons, prominent organisations and government representatives at the highest level across the globe. I expect they will be brought to account.
All of this and much, much more will be explored in our ten-part podcast.