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WEE BURNEY ...THE VILE TRUTH; He filmed himself copying Children's Panel sex crimes.

ACTOR Eric Cullen was part of a paedophile ring that infiltrated Scotland's Children's Panel system, the Sunday Mail can reveal.

They used their trusted position to obtain confidential social work documents detailing sexual abuse against children.

A former police officer witnessed a video of Cullen re-enacting one case study with a terrified 12-year-old boy. The tape's opening shots feature pages from Children's Panel reports.

But the video was deliberately withheld as evidence when the Rab C. Nesbitt star was found guilty of possessing child pornography.

A police source said: "It was felt it could cause irreparable damage to the Children's Panel system."

Diminutive Cullen died, aged 31, four years ago after a high-profile campaign to clear his name by MSP Dorothy-Grace Elder, Esther Rantzen and former BBC TV sports presenter Bill McFarlan.

Cullen, who played Wee Burney in the hit series, always claimed he was a victim of sexual abuse rather than a perpetrator.

But a Sunday Mail investigation exposes him as a calculating paedophile who joined the Children's Panel System with the sole aim of abusing boys.

The police officer who witnessed the Children's Panel tape was Betty Maxwell-Carter, now a crisis intervention counsellor.

Sympathetic Maxwell-Carter, a key member of Cullen's campaign, initially worked with McFarlan and his wife, Caroline, after police found a haul of child pornography in Cullen's house.

But she walked out in disgust after an emotional Cullen asked her to "dispose" of the tape, showing him having full sex with a terrified, fair-haired boy of around 12, which, he claimed, could send him away for years.

Maxwell-Carter has struggled with her conscience for years over whether to tell the sordid truth or let it rest in peace with Eric Cullen.

Now the mother of two is reluctantly breaking her silence, only because Bill McFarlan is planning a book which, it is said, will further exonerate his friend Cullen.

She said: "I, too, believed Eric was innocent. There had been no evidence to show that he had ever abused a child.

"But nothing has affected me as badly as that tape, and I have worked on paedophile investigations for over 20 years.

"I will never forget the look of fear and resignation on that child's face for as long as I live.

"This boy was never found by the police and I don't know anything about him. He should be able to tell his story.

"I have had to live with this knowledge for almost four years and haven't even told my husband exactly what I was shown by Eric.

"The thought that people who should be protecting kids are abusing that position to fuel their own sick cravings is abhorrent.

"To call Eric innocent is grossly incorrect. I personally investigated his case and there is no doubt he was the victim of horrific and sustained abuse at the hands of evil men from a young age.

"However, there is now no doubt that Eric crossed the line and became an abuser himself.

"It is worth stressing that up until that point we had no evidence to suggest that Eric had actually abused any child.

"He always maintained that he was bullied and blackmailed into taking part and at the time there was no evidence to suggest he was lying.

"But in the Children's Panel tape he showed me, he was alone with that boy."

Maxwell-Carter said there was at least one other member of Cullen's paedophile ring on the Children's Panel, but many others may have gone undetected.

Cullen hit the headlines after a police raid on his home in 1993. He was jailed for nine months after pleading guilty to four charges relating to possession of child porn.

He served only around two weeks in Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow, before he was released pending an appeal.

His supporters initially planned to try to overturn the conviction, but lawyers advised them that would be a mistake because of the strength of unseen evidence.

They did succeed in quashing his nine-month sentence, which marked the beginning of a three-year, high-profile campaign to clear his name.

During it, Strathclyde Police were heavily criticised for leaking details of the case.

Police and Children's Panel sources have confirmed that they found a tape in Eric's house containing filmed pages of graphic Panel reports of sex abuse against boys. The actor sat on the Panel from 1988 to 1993.

Last night it emerged that the Children's Panel system was told by detectives of Cullen's filming of the reports seven years ago.

A Panel insider said: "At the time, the police asked us to confirm if these reports were genuine, which we did.

"Eric Cullen would have received these reports three days before the actual hearing. He would have taken the reports to the hearing and then handed them over at the end.

"We take it that he must have made these copies during the three days they were in his possession."

Other Panel reports were also on the tape seen by Maxwell-Carter.

A police source said: "We did find a tape at his house with filmed pages of these reports. There is no doubt in my mind that Cullen and his pals got their sexual kicks from reading this material.

"I don't know who made the decision not to use it as part of the evidence. We assumed that the top brass were told it could badly damage the whole Children's Panel system."

Maxwell-Carter said: "Eric is dead and he cannot defend himself. The reason I didn't go to the police immediately was because I was in shock. I also wanted to tell the other campaigners about what I had seen and give them the opportunity to go with me.

"Eric was taken to hospital days later and died of a heart attack 48 hours after routine surgery. I took the view that he was gone and couldn't harm any other children.

"I though it best to lay these memories to rest with him, as making this public would have hurt a lot of people who loved and trusted him.

"However, I have never and will never condone the abuse of any child, no matter whether the perpetrator is 4ft 4in tall or 6ft 6in tall. The only reason nothing was said was because I didn't have the tape and Eric was dead."

During our investigation, we interviewed jailed paedophile Francis Currens inside the child sex abuse unit at Peterhead Prison, Aberdeenshire, where he serving 14 years.

The 49-year-old from Springboig, Glasgow, said: "Everyone says Eric was innocent, but he was as involved as me and I'm doing time for my crimes.

"I know how Eric filmed the panel reports. He often pretended that he couldn't even work a video but he knew exactly what he was doing.

"He once showed me a tape of him with two wee tots when he was on holiday in America.

"Eric used to boast to me that he had a boy in every town he visited when he was on tour.

"I also clearly remember he requested that I bring two specific boys with me to the filming of his Wemyss Bay 90210 TV show.

"He had seen the boys on a tape of mine and specially requested that they were there. I was jailed for offences against one of them, but I don't know what Eric did with them. I just assumed he had sex."

Scottish shadow justice minister Roseanna Cunningham last night demanded an urgent inquiry into our revelations.

She said: "This raises a number of serious questions, not least exactly how they vet panel members.

"Most people will not even have considered Children's Panels as possible targets for paedophiles.

"It's extremely alarming that our justice system has been compromised. I hope this was just an isolated incident but I will raise these questions in Parliament.

"I can understand why the panel didn't want this information made public, but I will be asking exactly what internal steps were taken after the knowledge came to light."

The shocking details about the true nature of Eric Cullen come as Bill McFarlan is planning to publish a book about his friend's case.

McFarlan, his wife Caroline, MSP Dorothy-Grace Elder and Esther Rantzen all backed Cullen after his friends and family abandoned him. Cullen and his campaigners argued that the kiddie porn had been dumped on him by former Scoutmaster Currens,.

At his funeral, close friend Rev Stanley Cook told mourners Cullen was "innocent" and pled guilty only because he was a broken man.

But the Sunday Mail can reveal Crown evidence that was never heard in Hamilton Sheriff Court.

Police found undeveloped photographs of Cullen in sickening poses with young boys on the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow's east end.

One, who cannot be named for legal reasons, would have testified against Cullen had he not pled guilty.

The boy was with two pals when Cullen approached them near Dalmarnock Bridge around 1985. He said: "We were only around nine when he asked to take our photos. He gave us pounds 5 each and then made us take our clothes off.

"He touched me up and got me to do the same to him. I was frightened and didn't know what was happening."

And last night the mother of the two boys in what became known as the Florida Tape hit out at the dead actor.

Cullen had been with the family on holiday to the States in 1993. The tearful mum said: "The two boys knew nothing as they were asleep."

But the Mail can reveal that Cullen, alone, filmed himself carrying out a sex act over the sleeping boys.

The mum said: "When I found out, I wanted to kill him. I even left him a threatening message. I had to take a year off work and receive counselling. I also lost a baby, but I don't know if that was because of the stress."

Police decided not to prosecute over the Florida Tape, as it had been filmed outwith their UK jurisdiction.

Last night, Bill McFarlan said: "This comes as a great surprise to me but I can't comment on any evidence that I have not seen.

"Everything we did at the time was to help Eric receive a fair hearing. The punishment he received was an incredible penalty for the abuse he suffered all his life.

"I and Caroline have done a lot to help the charity ChildLine.

"Anything constructive that could help any other victims come forward or help people understand the true horrors of abuse would have my full support."
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Article Details
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Author:Findlay, Russell
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 25, 2000
Previous Article:SYSTEM OPEN TO ABUSE.
Next Article:Scots cops net pounds 17m drug haul.

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