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Cult Kidnap Boy

cult kidnap boyOn the 14th of July, 2000, the words "Cult Kidnap Boy Aged 16" were published on the front page of the Daily Express, accusing the Jesus Christians of kidnapping 16 year old Bobby Kelly.  This is an account of what led to that allegation, what happened during the scandal and how it all ended.  Links to television footage, radio interviews and scores of newspaper articles can be found at the bottom of this page.

In late June 2000, the Jesus Christians met Bobby Kelly in his home town of Romford, Essex.  He had lunch with us and because he was on school holidays, he asked if he could come travelling with us as a visitor, and help us with our Christian work.  When we found out he was only 16, we insisted that he go home and ask his grandmother, Ruth (who was his legal guardian at the time), if he could travel with us.

That same night, Sue spoke at length with Ruth over the phone, to find out if she was happy for Bobby to be travelling with us, and Ruth said she was thrilled he would be seeing some of the country, socialising and staying away from computer games for a while.  We then arranged for a visit the following day.  We had a lovely dinner with both Ruth and Bobby, sharing more about our travel plans and what it would be like for Bobby to stay in the van with us.   Ruth was very happy with the idea, and said we were the nicest people she had met for a long time.  Bobby was never expected to forsake his possessions to come travelling with us.  Instead, he simply picked up a sleeping bag and a small travel bag with what he needed for the camping trip.

For the next 10 days Bobby travelled with us.  Every night he phoned his grandmother, and fairly frequently his mother (who lived separately to Bobby) as well, each time telling them where he was and what he had done each day.  The phone calls were always positive.   

During that time, we had two other visits with Ruth.   On one of those visits Bobby stayed the night with his grandmother and on another visit he asked us and his grandmother if he could bring his small TV with him to put in the van we were travelling in for some evening entertainment.  We were reluctant to bring the TV due to space limitations, but we agreed for Bobby to bring it in the end.  

We had previously been planning an outreach to Germany for August, so we discussed with Bobby and Ruth the idea of allowing Bobby to come with us on that outreach.  Both Ruth and Bobby were thrilled about that.  Ruth gave her permission, on the proviso that we phoned Bobby's mother and got her blessing.  We did that and Bobby's mother also gave her blessing for Bobby to come with us to Germany.  Ruth signed a passport application form so Bobby could begin the process of getting a passport.

However, all of us were unaware something more sinister was brewing behind the scenes.  After the first few days away from home, Bobby started receiving phone calls from the Anglican minister from a local church youth group he had attended on a few occasions in Romford.  The minister, David Whitehouse, insisted that Bobby personally come and visit him, so we drove Bobby back to Romford to have a cup of tea with the minister and his wife.  During the hour and a half meeting, David Whitehouse put a lot of pressure on Bobby to come on a church youth camp that Bobby had previously been interested in attending, but Bobby told the minister he didn't want to come as the camp conflicted with the scheduled plans to go to Germany with us, which Bobby explained was a lot more exciting.  At one point in the discussion, David Whitehouse promised to Bobby that if Bobby came on the camp, David would pay for Bobby to fly to Germany to join us AFTER the camp was over!   That sounded very strange to us, (why was David so interested in Bobby coming on this camp?).  Nevertheless, this enticement still failed to change Bobby's mind.   David Whitehouse was sorely displeased, and as we were leaving, he whispered threateningly to Roland "We will see what we can do about this!".

The next night Bobby discovered that he was unable to get through to Ruth on the telephone, as she was not answering her phone.   So we drove Bobby back to Romford for the fourth visit in two weeks to see his grandmother.   Ruth was behaving very strangely and was very emotional about "losing" Bobby, and would not allow us or Bobby to come into her flat, but instead met us outside in the street. We asked her if she wanted Bobby to come home and she said she didn't want to interfere with what Bobby wanted for his life as he was old enough to make his own decisions.   Bobby wanted to put his TV back in his room, but his grandmother would not let him back into the flat, which we all thought was strange! (In the subsequent media reports, we were accused of taking Bobby's TV against Ruth's wishes!)  Ruth's out of character emotional behaviour must have been because she had just been pressured to sign away her legal guardianship of Bobby, at the behest of Graham Baldwin and David Whitehouse, to help with his sinister and secret plan to accuse us of kidnapping Bobby and get a lot of media publicity for himself (as well as slander the Jesus Christians).

Bobby KellyTwo weeks after Bobby first met us, Bobby phoned his mother again.  She was also behaving very out of character and was saying nasty things about ourselves which offended Bobby.  Neither she nor Ruth at any time asked Bobby to come home.   Bobby, as usual, told his mother his whereabouts in that phone call.  Late that same night a friend of ours whom we had all just visited, was watching a late night program which showed the headlines of the next day's newspapers.  He was alarmed to see a photo of Bobby on the front page and the headlines about a cult kidnapping a 16 year old boy.  He tried to warn us, but we didn't get his message until the following morning when we checked the newspaper stands.   To our shock we found Graham Baldwin's fabricated headline and story about us kidnapping Bobby on the front page of one of the British tabloid papers!  We also started to get threatening phone calls from the police demanding that we drag Bobby down to the nearest police station (against his will, if necessary!) to hand him over.   Scotland yard detectives raided the home of that same friend shortly before the newspapers hit the stands, convinced that Bobby was being held there because our camper van was registered at our friend's address.   

Bobby had been made a ward of court, which meant that his grandmother was no longer his legal guardian, but that the State had legal custody of him.  Bobby did not want to be handed over to the authorities, and for the following two weeks, we were on the run with Bobby, trying to protect him from Graham Baldwin, who had engineered the whole thing at the request of David Whitehouse, who was determined to get Bobby away from us.

Graham BaldwinBobby went into hiding with a few other JC guys while Roland and Sue prepared to hand themselves in to the authorities, determined to protect Bobby from an obviously corrupt situation.  We contacted the British Quakers to ask for support, but they said if we had done nothing wrong, we should hand the boy and ourselves over to the police!  (We couldn't believe this was the same religious group that risked their lives to help the slaves escape to Canada during the time it was illegal to help them.)  The media went wild with the juicy story of a cult kidnapping a "boy", often failing to mention that this "boy" was 16 and a half, old enough to leave home and join the army and kill people.   Bobby was able to do a number of media interviews where he denied being kidnapped, and told his side of the story.  However, to prevent the truth from coming out further, Graham Baldwin successfully convinced the authorities to put out an injunction on the media, to ban broadcasting any interviews with either Bobby or ourselves to defend ourselves against his lies.  Graham, of course, still had free reign in spreading further distortions about us.

Roland and Sue were eventually found by police and appeared in court shortly before the media ban was overturned by the BBC.  Bobby was found shortly after Roland and Sue had been in court.

When Roland and Sue were detained by the police, they were kept "incommunicado" which meant that normal rights allowing an accused party to phone their lawyer were denied, a status reserved only for terrorists.  Not able to communicate with the outside world, Roland and Sue were dragged before the High Court without any legal representation.  

Since no kidnapping had ever taken place, nobody was officially charged with kidnapping at any point.  However, because Roland and Sue refused to reveal Bobby's whereabouts (before he was found safe and sound at a camping ground), they received a six week sentence for contempt of court, a charge which was immediately reduced to a six month good behaviour bond.

When Bobby was found, he was taken into custody and we were not allowed any contact with him until he turned 18, at risk of going to jail.  However, Bobby made a few secret phone calls to us and we secretly met up on a few occasions.

Bobby KellyTo this day we still remain friends with Bobby, who visits us and stays with us from time to time.

His grandmother has also apologised to us and to Bobby for being swept up in the fear and frenzy induced by Graham Baldwin and David Whitehouse and for her mistake in signing away her authority as Bobby's guardian, in order for Bobby to be made a Ward of Court.

Watch some of the footage, listen to interviews and read through articles that were published during this controversial chapter in Jesus Christian history.
TV and Radio Television and Radio Clips: Watch some of the footage and hear some of the interviews that were published during the scandal.
Special Articles Special Articles: Read through some special articles relating to the Bobby Kelly controversy, including one that includes information written by Jon Ronson about Graham Baldwin's behind-the-scenes dealings during the whole saga.
Newspaper Newspaper Articles: Wade through the newspaper articles that highlighted the alleged kidnapping and see the story unfold.

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