Paedophile networks traffick young boys across Europe

Previously unpublished, October 1 1998
Researched on commission from the New Yorker.

It is easy to miss the truth. For example, you could stand in the middle of the Bahnhof Am Zoo in the centre of Berlin and imagine

that it was simply a railway station – warm light, the smell of

food, trains clattering in from all over Europe. Indeed, you might

think it was positively a comforting place, even for the old men

with broken teeth, who shelter there and fish for titbits in the

wastebins. You have to look closer to see what is special here.

From time to time, as the trains rattle in to the platforms, an

adolescent boy will appear. Sometimes he has come from one of

the provincial towns of the former East Germany like Meck vor

Pommern or Brandenburg, old farming communities now ravaged

by poverty. Sometimes he has come from much further afield,

stumbling into the light from the desperate upheaval of Poland or

Romania or Bosnia or Slovakia. Always, he has about him the

mark of the refugee – the sagging bag of belongings and the deep

fatigue – and he slips through the crowd, quite unnoticed by all

of those around him. And yet, to a few of those here, he is

instantly of consuming interest, and so he finds himself

entangled in a subtle ritual.

He will be approached by a man who will offer him help. More

than that, this man will offer him the stuff of his dreams – a

room to stay in, warmth and clothing, food and drink, alcohol if

he would like it, cannabis if he would be interested, cocaine

perhaps, computer games, all kinds of games. Sometimes the boy

will sense the danger and refuse the dream, but other times he

will be diverted. Every day, this invisible game is played, the

watchful men hovering outside the Teehaus in amongst all the

ordinary people, spotting their target like an owl on a mouse,

making their move, and then the boy slipping away beside them

with a shrug. Such a gentle abduction.

It was a social worker who made this visible to me, a young man

with a battered beard named Wolfgang who works for an

organisation called Subway which specialises in trying to help

young people on the streets of Berlin. He told me stories about

these boys which were pure Dickens, for example his experience

with the little gang of eleven-year-old Romanians who had been

found wandering around the Bahnhof. Wolfgang and his colleagues

found that years earlier each of these boys had been sold by their

impoverished parents to a gang of Polish pickpockets.

One boy had fetched a price of $300, a genuine fortune in the financial

dereliction of rural Romania. Another, he said, had been sold cut

price, for a bottle of vodka. All of them had been herded together

by their new owners who had taken them up to Poland and taught

them to steal and put them to work in various cities, bringing

them finally to Berlin where, for some reason, this urchin rabble

had been abandoned to fend for themselves on the streets.

Wolfgang told me, too, about the Polish boys who come from

villages where a man must live on only a hundred Deutschmarks a

month ($50); about the Bosnians who wash up on the banks of the

Bahnhof Am Zoo not only financially destitute but also

emotionally mutilated; about the steady trickle of lost boys from

Turkey and Kurdistan, the latter periodically scooped up for some

unknown purpose by Kurdish nationalists from the PKK.

But more than that – and this is why it was so important to heed

the covert ritual in the Bahnhof – Wolfgang explained what

happens to the boys who agree to go with the men.

To begin with,he was really only confirming my common sense conjecture.

These men had a sexual interest in young boys and so they took

them away and seduced them (‘groomed’ them, in the jargon of

this world), keeping them discreetly in their apartments,

perhaps introducing them to trusted friends who might provide

their own boys in exchange, until they reached the age of 13 or

14, when they were no longer so attractive to them, and they

were pushed back out on to the streets from which they came.

Many of them then would become prostitutes. Wolfgang

estimated that there were now some 700 boys selling

themselves on the streets of Berlin, twice the number that had

been doing so only three years earlier. Most came from Eastern

Europe, some came from the West, all shared a history of poverty

and distress.

This was an unpleasant picture but, in truth, not such a shocking

one. In Britain, over the last decade, I have watched the growth

of just such a trade. Children who have been emotionally

damaged by the new poverty in which they have been reared, have

started to collude willingly in the sale of their bodies as a

source not only of income but also of some kind of perverse

consolation. In search of affection, they find the punter’s touch.

In search of power, they settle for being wanted, if only as sex

objects. Fertilised by the growth of poverty in Britain, this

market has now reached the point where it is a simple matter

for a man to drive into almost any city in the country and, on the

pavements of the traditional vice areas, to buy a boy or girl to

have sex with. Wolfgang, however, had something else to say.

He started to hint at the existence of an organised industry. He

explained that while there might be some 700 boys who had

ended up on the streets of Berlin, there were many hundreds of

others who had been taken off on a kind of underground railroad

which fanned out to major cities across Europe, to Zurich and

Hamburg and Frankfurt and, most of all, to Rotterdam and

Amsterdam in Holland. There, he said, these boys were being sold

quite overtly in child brothels (that Dickensian note again). And,

in talking about this, Wolfgang used one particular word which

was especially poignant because it was so peculiarly

inappropriate to the lives of children. They were, he said, being

trafficked.

The idea of a traffic in children is one that has taken on a

special power in northern Europe since the arrest in August 1996

of the Belgian Marc Dutroux. As he awaits trial for the abduction

and rape of six young girls, four of whom are said to have died in

his suburban dungeon, Dutroux is surrounded by an intense

speculation that he was part of a much wider conspiracy,

reaching into the heights of the Belgian church and political

hierarchy, and that he was merely a humble supplier of

adolescent sex objects for the consumption of the rich and

powerful.

Wolfgang was not suggesting that there was any concrete link

between Dutroux and the boys in the Bahnhof Am Zoo. Rather, he

appeared to have some knowledge of an entirely separate

network of men who had created a commercial enterprise in

children and who had been trafficking these boys from Berlin

into the sex industry in Holland. The link lay in the possibility

that despite all of the machinery of child protection, despite all

of the sophisticated superstructure of police and criminal

justice that spans northern Europe, these men, like Marc Dutroux,

had got away with it. I set out to find out whether Wolfgang was right.

By mere chance, it turned out that there was a door which

apparently led down into this underworld only a few miles away

from the Bahnhof, in the old proletarian suburb of Tempelhof in

east Berlin. This proved to be the point of origin of a scandal

whose fuse has been burning slowly for more than five years but

which finally this year has exploded into the press of northern

Europe. At the heart of this scandal is a 12-year-old boy named

Manuel Schadwald, who lived in a small apartment in Tempelhof

with his mother, Marion, pursuing a perfectly ordinary boyhood,

making model aeroplanes and chasing around with his best

friend, Kaj, until one sunny afternoon, on July 24 1993, when he

disappeared.

It is not in itself unusual for children to disappear. They run off

to upset their parents or to find adventure with such frequency

that, in the absence of any objective sign of crime, police all

over the world habitually refuse to react to a report of a missing

child for 48 hours, confident that in nearly every case, the child

will return and the family who were once so distraught will not

even bother to contact them with the good news. And so it was

that when Manuel failed to come home that evening and Marion

Schadwald went to the police, she was tempted to believe that

they might be right, that there really was nothing to worry

about. She told friends that she had had several fights with

Manuel in the previous week, just silly domestic things, and then

she had caught him stealing from her purse and she had slapped

him. Perhaps he had run off to sulk.

But the days passed, and Manuel did not return, and the police

continued to show an infuriating indifference to Marion

Schadwald’s insistence that there must be something wrong. In

the absence of any official activity, she and her mother set out

to do what they could on their own and started distributing

posters with a drawing of Manuel, with his fine features and his

dark black hair, and an open letter from Marion forgiving him for

anything he might have thought that he had done. “Take the fear

from me,” she wrote. “Please get in touch. Your mother.”

However, the posters were greeted only with a terrible silence

which lasted for nearly a year, until the evening of June 16

1994, when the telephone rang in the office of a Berlin youth

group called Mannometer, which works with gay men and which

had helped Marion Schadwald to distribute her posters. Bastian

Finke, who works there still, remembers how he came in to work

the next day and heard on the answer machine the voice of a man

who spoke German with a Dutch accent. When Finke heard what

the man was saying, he played the message again and again until

he had written down every word. “I have proof that little Manuel

is in Amsterdam in Holland,” the voice said, “and that he is

dead.” He went on to give a detailed description of a man who, he

claimed, spent many hours in the Bahnhof am Zoo and who could

lead them to Manuel’s body. However, he offered no explanation

as to how the boy might have reached Holland or why he might

have been killed.

If this were a fictional story, the police would have rushed to

the Bahnhof and followed a trail of clues, thus discovering either

that Manuel was indeed dead in Holland or alternatively perhaps

that the voice on the answer machine was lying to conceal the

living truth. In the event, Bastian Finke handed over the tape, and…

nothing was done. No one even told Marion Schadwald about the

mysterious message. Finke did not want to upset her with news

that might be false. The police apparently simply did not think to

contact her.

Several weeks later, however, the police were forced once more

to consider the fate of the missing boy when, from two quite

separate sources, they were confronted with evidence not only

that he was alive but also that he had been swallowed up by the

hidden industry about which Wolfgang had spoken.

In August of that year, 1994, two young German men named Dirk

Grund and Stefan Reijmuller, then aged 19 and 20, went to the

police in Hamburg and told them a bizarre story. At the time, this

received no publicity but subsequently it was leaked in a

haemorrhage of police paperwork to journalists at the Dutch TV

programme Network with the result that we now know exactly

what they had to say.

They explained that earlier that year, they had been living on the

streets of Hamburg, slipping into male prostitution to survive,

and that on May 24 they had been approached by two Dutchmen

who were carrying guns and who made them an exciting offer: if

they would come with them to Holland, they could earn 5,000

Dutch guilders ($2,500) each for making a pornographic video.

The men offered each of them an immediate advance of 500

Deutschmarks ($250), and so the two young Germans took the

money and sealed the deal. On June 2, they said, having spent

their money, they were put on the train to Holland with six other

boys, aged between 14 and 16, and transported to Rotterdam.

There, they were taken to a house in Hekelingenstraat where they

were offered a very different deal to the one that had been

proposed to them in Hamburg.

The house turned out to be a brothel and, they claimed, they were

forced to work there as prostitutes until they had repaid the 500

Deutschmarks which they had been given in Hamburg. In their

statement to police, they said that their passports were taken

from them; they were made to sign a contract which they could

not understand; and they were informed that they now belonged

to the owner of the house, a 34-year-old German by the name of

Lothar Glandorf. They added that there were other boys in this

house, some of them much younger, and that they had been made

to take part in a pornographic video with two 16-year-olds.

Twice, they said, they had tried to escape and failed before

finally, they had succeeded in eluding Glandorf’s grasp.

If the Hamburg police were tempted to invest little sympathy in

two men who were, by their own account, professional sex

workers, they were nevertheless compelled to pay heed to the

allegation of force and, in particular, to its use against much

younger boys. When they asked the two men for more detail about

these boys, they were told that there were several who were

aged 16 or under and that there was one, in particular, who was

only 13. He was a German boy who was being sold to Glandorf’s

customers under the false name of Sebastian but who had told

the two men privately that his real name was Manuel Schadwald.

The Hamburg police relayed this information to Berlin where it

might conceivably have disappeared into a file if it had not been

for a 17-year-old German boy named Alexander Quart who, on

August 23, made his own statement to Berlin police, describing

his experiences in Rotterdam at the hands of the same Lothar

Glandorf. His story echoed that of Grund and Reijmuller: he had

been approached, 15 months earlier, and persuaded that he would

earn good money and a roof over his head if he went to work in

Holland; he had been transported to Rotterdam, with three other

boys, aged 13, 14 and 18; and there he had found himself in a club

belonging to Glandorf. He claimed not only that he had been paid

to take part in a pornographic video with his 14-year-old

travelling companion, but also that he had seen boys and girls of

only nine years old being forced against their will to do the

same.

Alexander Quart went on to describe to the Berlin police how he

had spent some time in a vice area near the central station in

Rotterdam, where several times he had seen a young German boy

who was selling himself to men. This boy had spoken to him

briefly. “He just wanted to know if I lived in Holland or if I was

only visiting,” Quart reported. When the Berlin police asked him

to identify the boy from a collection of photographs, Quart

picked out the picture of Manuel Schadwald.

Faced with these two independent reports, the police finally

began to move. The Berlin officers said nothing to Marion

Schadwald but they did speak to their counterparts in Rotterdam.

The mass of leaked police paperwork reveals that the Dutch

police had already received and ignored a series of complaints

about the activities of Lothar Glandorf. Now, finally they decided

to act. In September 1994, Rotterdam police set up a team of

officers which was given two objectives: to investigate Glandorf;

and to find Manuel Schadwald.

The Rotterdam officers began to tap Glandorf’s telephones and

covertly to follow him as he moved around the city and

eventually they produced an extraordinary report entitled De

Handel In Kinderen – The Trade In Children – known colloquially

as the HIK report. Together with the transcripts of their phone

taps, the report caused a national furore when two years later it

was leaked to Dutch TV. It was the first hard, detailed evidence

that paedophiles had indeed created an organised industry.

The HIK team found that Glandorf and his partner Henk Sniekers

owned two clubs, Euro Boys and Young Boys, both of which sold

boys to customers; a chain of private houses where younger boys

slept and were also sold to clients; an escort agency which sent

boys all over Holland; and a pornographic video business. All this

flourished behind the mask of a company which claimed simply

to be serving the gay community and to be working only with

young men who were at least 18 years of age – the minimum

required by Dutch law for those working in the sex industry. The

truth was that this was a commerce in child abuse, as the HIK

report revealed.

The taps on Glandorf’s phones caught the voices of his customers

whose demands were most clearly for children. One announced:

“I’m looking for a young boy, a very young boy, a nice little

blonde one, who can stay the night.” When Glandorf asked another

caller what age boy he wanted, the man replied simply: “You

know. No hair.” The HIK police heard of hundreds of boys who had

worked in Glandorf’s brothels but could trace the details of only

27 of them. Their report revealed that 12 of them – nearly half

of those they traced – were not only under 18 but under 16, some

of them by many years.

There was one particular boy who was only nine years old when

he was delivered to Glandorf’s brothel by his own mother, an

impoverished local woman who had been persuaded by Glandorf

that her son could earn money for her by providing innocent

entertainment. The mother duly waited downstairs in the bar

while her son was taken upstairs to be ‘groomed’. The child was

put into a bath with a customer; he was then taken out and laid

naked on a bed so that the customer could massage him while

Glandorf promised him a trip to a theme park. When Glandorf

came downstairs to pay the mother her fee and to tell her how

much her boy was enjoying himself, she replied – in a

conversation that was being secretly recorded by police – that,

in that case, the boy could come again and she would bring her

14-year-old son as well.

Boys who tried to leave were threatened with violence, the HIK

team reported, and also blackmailed with the promise that their

work in the brothel would be revealed to their friends and

family. One boy who tried to leave was told by Glandorf: “My boy,

we have taken photos of you and, if you don’t come back, we will

spread them all over the country and even all over the world, so

your parents will not have anything to do with you again.” Police

taped a conversation in which Glandorf cooly told another boy

that he would shoot his head off if he tried to run away.

This was a thriving business, with customers coming not only

from Holland but also from Belgium, Britain and the United

States. All of them were well-heeled middle class men. Most of

them used false names, the HIK report concluded, because they

were married or because they were afraid of jeopardising their

‘high social position’. One was a senior Dutch civil servant.

These men paid at the minimum 100 guilders ($50) for half an

hour with a boy of legal age, more for a longer visit, much more

for one who was much younger. The scale of their obsession was

daunting. On average, each of the regular customers visited

Glandorf’s brothels twice a week. One managed to turn up once

every week even though he lived across the North Sea in England.

Another customer, who declined to visit the brothels but was

happy to use Glandorf’s escort service, ordered up 400 boys over a

period of two and a half years. Another spent 2.5 million guilders

($1.25 million) in a year.

The HIK report described how Glandorf would feed young boys to

customers regardless of the danger to the child: “Even if Glandorf

knew the perversions of a customer, he would still send a young

boy to a customer who had a sexual preference for sadomasochism. Glandorf had one customer who specialised in

deflowering young boys.”

Some of the customers were walking nightmares. One of them,

Martin Smollners, from Arnhem, was particularly feared by the

boys because of his violence. He liked to drug them and abuse

them in sadomasochistic games and had cemented his reputation

by raping a boy in Glandorf’s bar. What the boys in the brothel did

not know was that in 1986 Smollners had lost all control with

one boy and murdered him, shooting him seven times. He had been

jailed for this and then released after only three and a half years.

Smollners now had learned to video his excesses and, on one

occasion, wired a boy’s testicles to an electrical generator,

lovingly recording the sound and sight of the generator’s whining

excitement as he increased the current to the electrodes on the

boy’s naked body. (In one of Glandorf’s houses, the HIK team found

an unmailed letter from a boy called Attila, written to a young

girl named Aysum. “Don’t feel sad about me,” he wrote. “Things

are the way they are and there is nothing to be done about it. You

can do what you want. Don’t be sad.” Attila, who wrote in German

but was evidently Turkish by birth, was the boy under the

electrodes in Smollners’ video.)

There is a powerful cultural tradition among detectives that

work with children is not real police work at all. Equally,

however, there is a recurrent pattern among those few who are

persuaded to leave the world of armed robbers and drugs barons

in order to investigate paedophiles, that they find themselves

overwhelmed with a ferocious desire to enforce the law against

them. The ruthless exploitation of boys in Glandorf’s private

empire rapidly had this effect on the HIK team with the ironic

result that they were so determined to arrest their man, that

they were distracted from their search for Manuel Schadwald.

This became clear in a dramatic sequence of events which began

in the early hours of the morning on September 19 1994.

One of the HIK team’s phone taps picked up Glandorf talking about

a boy who had no passport, who was wanted in Germany and who

would need to be smuggled across the border. A little later, the

surveillance unit which was covertly following Glandorf’s every

move saw him leaving his home with a boy. He was slim with

dark hair and striking features, and the officers who were

watching immediately identified him as the missing Manuel.

Police surveillance logs show that three different officers made

the same identification and that all three of them then hesitated

– tempted to move in to rescue Manuel but nervous of ruining the

operation against Glandorf by giving themselves away. They

asked for orders. None came.

That night, the officers observed silently as Glandorf took this

boy to a cafe where three others boys were waiting for them. The

next day, the surveillance team – still waiting to be told

whether or not they could intervene – watched in impotence as

Glandorf put all four boys from the cafe into his car and drove

them across the border to Germany. Paralysed by fear of exposing

their operation, the officers held back, and they never saw the

boy again.

Evidently embarrassed, the Rotterdam police said nothing of the

sightings to anyone. They did not contact Marion Schadwald in

Berlin to tell her that three of their officers thought they had just seen her

son alive. And although finding Manuel was one of the two stated

objects of their operation, they did not even mention the

sightings in their final report. However, their own leaked logs

confirm what happened.

Having uncovered this much of the story, I concluded that

Wolfgang was right. There was an industry here. But two groups

of questions were begging to be answered. The first was about

Manuel Schadwald. It was just conceivable that all of these

sightings were false, that the boys who had gone to the police

were merely hoping to cause trouble for Lothar Glandorf by

claiming that he was harbouring the missing boy, and that the

Rotterdam officers were simply mistaken in believing it was

Manuel they had seen in Glandorf’s grip. Nevertheless, the

coincidence of six different witnesses all placing Manuel in the

same location was impossible to ignore. So how could he have

got there? Was he still alive and, if so, where was he now? The

second group of questions concerned the numerous other boys in

Glandorf’s empire, hundreds of them if the HIK Report was

accurate . Who were they? Where had they come from? Once

again, the answers began in Berlin.

Wolfgang had mentioned a bar where, he said, some of the East

European boys went to work when they reached puberty and

became too old to interest the men who had given them a kind of

refuge in their apartments. It was down on Fuggerstrasse, about

15 minutes walk south from the Bahnhof Am Zoo, and it was

called the Pinocchio.

The bar proved to be a cramped, dark place from whose ceiling, at various

points, there dangled little Pinocchio puppets. Was that

significant? A little boy on a string? A perfect boy who behaved

badly? Whatever. The real boys who sat on bars left no doubt

about what they were doing, catching the eye of men who came in

to drink, sitting next to them, hunched over the ashtray to talk

terms, then moving off together to a quieter place. It turned out

that there were several other ‘boy bars’ in the area, one of

which, the PC Inn, had recently been closed down by police who

had discovered Bosnian boys of only 12 and 13 years of age on

sale to customers there.

Several social workers, in Berlin and in Holland, had suggested

that the Pinocchio Bar was a meeting place for some of the men

who were involved in trafficking these boys across northern

Europe. There were two Berliners, in particular, who, they

claimed, had earned an easy living in this way, and whom they

named as Peter Goetjes and Lutz Edelman. In Holland, digging into

the background of the boy brothels in Rotterdam, I had found a

police record for Peter Goetjes who had been convicted for

stealing a car in Berlin and then selling it in Rotterdam – to

Lothar Glandorf. Now, working my way along the Fuggerstrasse

grapevine, I found a man who was on close terms with Peter

Goetjes and his friend Lutz Edelman and who, on the condition of

anonymity, was willing to talk about them.

He made it sound so casual. Sure, he said, Goetjes and Edelman

used to do it a lot. They were were into a little

crime, they were in and out of the Pinocchio, they had met Lothar

Glandorf who often used to come to Berlin and they had agreed to

do this work for him. They had started in the autumn of 1991. It

was simple. They had found a couple of boys at the Bahnhof and a

couple more in the Pinocchio, they had given them the good news

about the easy money in Rotterdam and then driven them to

Holland where Glandorf had bought the boys at the going rate,

two thousand Dutch guilders ($1,000) a head. One of the boys had

been under 16. But who was counting? It was good money.

Before long, Goetjes and Edelman had been making regular runs.

Sometimes they would do no business for several weeks and

then, if they were short of money or if Glandorf was on the phone

to them, they might make two or three trips in a single week. He

guessed the two of them must have sold at least 150 boys that

way, some of them pretty young. And there were numerous other

men working just as hard in the same traffic.

After a while, he said, they had begun to look further afield.

Peter Goetjes had started driving across the border into Poland

to a run down industrial town called Gorzow Wielkopolski.

Goetjes had soon found his way around. There was a shabby

discotheque where young people used to hang about smoking

cigarettes and killing time, and Goetjes had walked in there like

an instant millionaire with his pocket full of Deutschmarks.

When he offered boys 50 marks to come back to his hotel room, it was too much

money for most of them to ignore, and so he had his fun with

them and then offered them the big deal – come to Rotterdam and

earn big money and never spend another dull evening blowing

smoke rings in Gorzow Wielkopolski.

Some of them changed their mind once they found themselves being driven across the border

into a strange world, but Goetjes was tall and thin and muscular

with a shaven head and armfuls of tattoos and so when he told

them it was too late to change their minds, they didn’t argue. He

made a dozen or more of these trips to Poland, each time

bringing back a couple of boys, before he was caught on the

German border in the summer of 1992 with a boy stashed in the

trunk of his car. He was charged with smuggling, released on bail

and then simply drove away and never came back for his trial.

It was tempting to conclude that many of the boys who were

wandering into this industry were willing victims, that they

were choosing to escape poverty by becoming sex workers.

However, the social workers who dealt with them insisted with

some passion that this was not real consent, that only a small

proportion of these boys was gay, that many of them reacted to

their new life with signs of extreme psychological distress and

that all of them were being compelled by the effects of poverty.

In Holland, Raphael Beth, a child psychologist who has

specialised in the treatment of boy prostitutes, told me: “They

live in an emotional prison. In my opinion, most boys in

prostitution are not able to discover their own will, what they

want to do with their lives. They are rent boys and this is the

outcome of psychiatric problems earlier in life. They give

consent, but it is not real consent.” In this respect, they are like

the child prostitutes I have met in England.

It was the summer of 1998 when I was in Fuggerstrasse and by

then the HIK Report had been leaked, and several journalists in

Holland and Germany had started to search for Manuel Schadwald.

On June 6, a Dutch television programme called Nova broadcast a

brief interview with an anonymous man, whose face was blacked

out, who claimed to know the truth about the missing boy.

This man’s anonymity was rapidly penetrated with the result

that his word was taken very seriously.

He was identified as Robbie van der Plancken, aged 23, a veteran boy prostitute who

had grown up in a chaotic family in the Belgian town of Boom

before going to work – willingly or otherwise – in the brothels of

Lothar Glandorf in Rotterdam. There he had become so embroiled

in this world that he had attempted to sell his own twin

brothers, then aged 14, to two of Glandorf’s customers. Robbie

van der Plancken was an insider speaking out.

He said that he personally had been in Berlin on the day that

Manuel had disappeared, five years earlier. What was more, he

had seen Manuel – in the Pinocchio Bar in Fuggerstrasse. There,

for some reason which he could not explain, the 12-year-old had

been sitting, apparently waiting (as though someone had sold him

a dangerous dream like the boys in the Bahnhof). Robbie van der

Plancken said he had seen Manuel being taken away and put in a

car by a man he knew very well, a man who had just driven with

him from Rotterdam to Berlin in the hope that they could find

some suitable boys – Lothar Glandorf himself. Robbie was sure

that Glandorf had taken him to his brothel, because later in

Rotterdam, he had seen the boy there. Finally, he said, he knew

where the boy was now. Five years later, he claimed, Manuel was

still alive, still working in the sex industry, but he had moved

now, to Amsterdam.

It turned out to be easy to find the boy brothels of Amsterdam.

Ask a taxi driver at the central station, walk south for five

minutes into Spuistraat and look for the door plaques that make

no secret of their business. And there they were. The Boys for

Men Club at 44b Spuistraat, the Boys Club 21 across the road, the

Blue Boy and the Why Not just next door.

Inside, they seemed at first to have a dull familiarity. There was

a small, dark room with a bar full of spirits, a tiny dance floor

at the far end, and some low-level rock music thumping in the

background. It was nine in the evening but the place was nearly

empty, just a Japanese man in a suit at the bar and a face or two

at the tables in the shadows. It could have been any bar in any

town, just another refuge for out-of-town businessmen. Then the

barman threw some switches, the remaining lights went down

lower, the rock music came up louder, and two young men

wearing nothing but groin thongs walked out on to the dance

floor in a tide of dry ice.

While they wriggled with the music, the Japanese man reached across the bar for a book that looked like a family photograph album and started flipping through the pages,

quietly considering the pictures of naked boys inside. It was a

catalogue, advertising the goods for sale. Now, several more young men in thongs drifted into the room. One of them came and put his arm around my shoulder and smiled and

told me his name was Gino. We engaged in a game of mutual

deceit: he befriending me in search of my money; I leading him on

in search of information about Manuel. Neither of us got very far.

He told me about the club, about the little rooms upstairs with

the white towels on the beds, and the Punishment Room with the

sadomasochistic gear, and the fees which started at 200

guilders ($100) an hour but if I wanted a slim young boy with

fine features and dark hair, I would have to look in the book on

the bar. The Japanese man was finished with it now and was

engaged in negotiations with the barman. I took the album and

fingered my way through it – boys in bed, boys in jeans, boys in

fields but none that looked like Manuel. The Japanese man took

out his cash and headed for an appointment in a room upstairs. I

left to find out more.

There proved to be no shortage of police officers and city

workers who knew all about the brothels in Spuistraat and the

bars in Paardenstraat and who had settled into an ambiguous

indifference towards them, born of deep cultural tolerance but

also apparently of great indolence. On the one hand, they insisted

that all of the boys who were sold there were over 18 (just as

Glandorf had insisted in Rotterdam) and that they worked there

as a matter of free and adult choice. On the other hand, they

acknowledged that these brothels and bars had spawned a series

of alarming scandals because for years the Dutch government had

provided no law to control them.

It remains lawful in Holland to have sex with a child as young as

12, providing that the child’s parents approve. Without the

parents’ consent, it can still be lawful if the child’s sexual

partner is under 21 and the courts decide that the child is happy

with the relationship. In any event, the offence is lightly

punished by the courts. As to the sex industry, Dutch law claims

to forbid anyone under 18 from becoming a sex worker. Until

recently, however, the maximum punishment in a Dutch court for

someone who was caught producing or distributing child

pornography was only three months in jail. The possession of

child pornography remains no offence at all.

Police and city workers described how the 1990s saw this legal

vacuum suck in a hoard of foreign men whose behaviour with

children had led to their being driven out of their own countries.

Many of them were English. There was Warwick Spinks who worked at Boys For Men in Spuistraat and who was caught in the UK with a 14-year-old boy whom he had found homeless on the streets of London. Spinks had taken him to his apartment in England, raped

him at knifepoint, photographed him, filled him up with drugs,

ferried him across the North Sea and sold him into one of the

brothels on Spuistraat. There was Alan Williams, known as the Welsh Witch, who managed Boys Club 21 and who liked to boast of the ten-year-old boy he claimed he had raped and strangled.

And there was a sequence of disturbing reports that as a

subsidiary to their brothel business, these men had invested in

the production of pornographic videos of a peculiarly sadistic

character. Four different informers told police that in one of

these videos, a young boy had been killed for the camera. Was it

possible that Manuel had fallen into the hands of these men?

A quarter of an hour’s walk to the east, just around the corner

from the Rembrandstplein, where the tourists sit in the yellow

light of the international cafes, I found a short, dark alley called

Paardenstraat, a seedy place with tattered posters on the walls

and crumpled scraps of garbage on the sidewalk. In the shadows

of the doorways, well away from the streetlights, there were

knots of boys standing and smoking, spitting and speaking what

turned out to be Polish. Occasionally, one of them would peel off

and dip through a lighted doorway into a bar.

There were three of them – the Festival Bar, the Music Box and the Cupido – all dark,

all smokey, all well supplied with boys from Poland and Romania

and the Czech Republic, sitting and waiting and drinking and

chewing the skin around their finger nails. There were no little

rooms with beds and towels here, no catalogues, no dancing

shows – only the toilet at the back or the street outside where

the boys did their punters’ bidding for a few guilders a time. This was

the bottom of the drain whose opening I had found half way across

Europe in the Bahnhof Am Zoo. And in this place, they had heard

about Manuel. Not that they wanted to share the secret.

I spoke to Cor, who owns the Cupido, who told me he was pretty

sure he had seen Manuel once with the Englishman Warwick

Spinks, but very quickly he bit his words and said he could easily

have been mistaken. I found a man who looked like Fagin in a flat

hat. His real name is Karel Maasdam but he is known here as Alex

Privee, owner of the Bell Boys escort agency, producer of boy

pornography, close friend of Lothar Glandorf. He is a clever man.

He did not try to say he had never met Manuel nor that he had

never been seen down here with him. He claimed instead that he

had come across a boy who looked very like this Manuel

Schadwald but he had checked it out and he was sure it was only a

lookalike. For all their denials, it was hard to dismiss the possibility that

Manuel had been here. Serving drinks at the Festival Bar, Ricky

the transvestite said quite simply that he remembered the

German boy coming in.

In an unbroadcast section of his interview

with Dutch TV, I found that Robbie van der Plancken had claimed

that some time after being taken from Berlin by Lothar Glandorf,

Manuel had been sold to the Englishman Warwick Spinks in

Amsterdam. These English paedophiles had been the core investors in the

Amsterdam branch of the industry.

I found one of them at home in

a small, terraced house in the south of the city – a chubby,

bespectacled figure with a diffident air and a surprising

willingess to dish the dirt on his friends. I sat on his sofa, next

to the two black-and-white photographs of himself as a proud

schoolboy in uniform, while he set up his ironing board and

assiduously neatened his crumpled shirts and talked about life in

the boy brothels. He knew them all. He had used them all. They

were part of his life and he ruminated on them just like another

man might talk about his local supermarkets.

He flattened his shirts and nodded his head and said he knew that most of these places

sold boys who were under 18, and that some of the men who ran

them were tied up with Dutch gangsters and drug dealers, and

that they had made some pretty rough videos in there and that

there had been rumours for quite a while about boys being killed

for the camera. “The video business hit Amsterdam like a gun

going off,” he said.

He explained about the trafficking. Most of the people who were

involved in running the clubs and bars would drive over to Berlin

from time to time to look for new boys, he reckoned. He’d been there often

himself – to the Pinocchio Bar. And, of course, there was a bit of

trafficking from other cities, Frankfurt and Hamburg, for

example, they were always popular. Some of these boys were

well under age.

He recalled his friend, Norman Dunstance, who

liked boys aged between 12 and 15, he was quite a wealthy chap,

and he remembered one particular time when Norman had bought

a boy off some social worker from Berlin who had come over to

Amsterdam. That boy was 12, and the social worker had been

looking after him and had brought him to Amsterdam for a

holiday and sold him to Norman. Norman’s dead now, of course,

heart attack. He was a nice chap. But that’s the way it worked

really. People met people and made little deals. “It’s a spider’s

web, people criss-crossing and finding interests.”

And Manuel Schadwald. Well, he had never heard the boy’s name

until it started to come out in the Dutch press, but since then, he

had heard a little bit about him. There was a boy – an escort who

worked for Alex Privee’s agency, Bell Boys – and he had

mentioned that he had seen this boy in Glandorf’s clubs in

Rotterdam. And there were rumours that he had been used in

videos, whether they had been made by Glandorf or by the people

in Spuistraat. Perhaps that was a line worth following, he

suggested, and carried on ironing.

It is a simple matter in Amsterdam to find such videos. Even

though the law has changed now so that the sale of child

pornography is a serious offence, punishable with up to four

years in prison, there is still a considerable reservoir of

magazines and videos in private hands in the city. A couple of

these, it turned out, had already been shown to Marion Schadwald

by Dutch and German police who had belatedly taken up the

search for her missing son.

One was called Steinzeitbengel – Stone Age Scamp. It had been

made by a German pornographer named Sebastian Bleich who

worked from a studio in Schwerin, 120 miles north of Berlin. It showed

a slim, adolescent boy with dark black hair, naked, kneeling,

embroiled in sex with another boy. The Dutch child psychologist,

Raphael Beth, had seen the video in 1994 and thought that this

might be Manuel. He had sent it via the Berlin police to Marion

Schadwald, who watched it repeatedly and confessed that she

could not be sure. Her doubts were justified three years later

when Sebastian Bleich was finally brought to court by the

German authorities who logged the details of some 400

pornographic boy videos and who established that the boy in

Steinzeitbengel was, in fact, one Patrick Moeller and that it had

been recorded nine months before Manuel went missing.

The other video had no title. It showed a boy lounging naked on a

sofa bed, masturbating for the camera. When this video surfaced,

in November 1997, Manuel’s mother once again watched intently

and this time declared that she had no doubt – this was her son.

Yet when police experts examined it, they concluded that it had

probably been made in Denmark in the early 1970s.

In amongst the claim and counter-claim, there was one intriguing loose end.

Unknown to Marion Schadwald, this second video had surfaced

after being passed through a short chain of paedophiles in

Belgium and Holland, a chain which began in Rotterdam with

Lothar Glandorf, who was now so strongly suspected of having

harboured Manuel in his brothels. Glandorf had been accused by

several boys of using them to produce pornography. Was it

possible that he had used Manuel in the same way? If so, who

would have made such a film? The taps on Glandorf’s telephone

revealed that Glandorf had been in touch frequently with the

most prolific producer of boy pornography in Holland, Rudy van

Dam.

In the old centre of Utrecht, not far from the hump-backed

bridges of the Oudegracht canal, there is a short cobbled lane

called Pauwstraat. It is a quiet street, lined with neat and solid

homes built for the Victorian bourgeoisie, and when I knocked at

the door of number five, a handsome grey-haired man with half-

moon glasses came out to meet me. He was apologetic. Rudy van

Dam was not at home today, he explained; and, even if he were at home, he

said, he would not feel like talking. The man with the half-

moon glasses was quite sure of this. He was sorry that I had had

a wasted journey. And yet, perhaps, as he listened to my

explanation, as he considered the possibility that Rudy van Dam

was a man who was much misunderstood, perhaps he himself

might talk for just a moment.

Inside the house, the man sat down in the parlour, which was a

sight of considerable strangeness. It was small and well

furnished in conventional Dutch style: a sideboard, a cupboard

and a large table, all of them in heavy dark wood; some brightly

coloured porcelain fruit hanging on the wall; a picture here, a

tapestry there; hand-made lace on the table; and on the

sideboard, just behind the head of the man with the half-moon

glasses, in the spot where a vase of flowers might well have sat,

there was a collection of video-editing equipment, topped with a

monitor screen on which two quite naked boys were having sex.

The man smiled slightly, quite indifferent to the moving display behind

him, apparently oblivious, too, to the sideboard and the cupboard

on his left which were clearly stuffed with video cassettes,

rows and rows of them, with their hand-written titles on the

spines, “Boys In Bed”, “Boys in Chains”, “Badminton Boys”,

“Strip Poker Boys”, “Bravo Boys”. It took only a few minutes

before the man relaxed enough to concede the obvious, that he

was, in truth, himself, Rudy van Dam, professional pornographer.

He took off his glasses and let them rest on a cord on his chest

and he spoke with ease and confidence, about his life and his

career and about the mystery of Manuel Schadwald. He said he

himself was sadly misunderstood, that he was simply a gay man

who had opened his doors to boys who had nowhere else to stay

and that really some of these boys were so obsessed with sex

that he could hardly prevent them taking part in his videos. All

the time he talked so casually, the images of naked boys

flickered frantically across the screen behind him.

He explained that he had invited the Utrecht police to hold a key

to his home here so that they could come in whenever they liked,

to check that none of the boys in his videos was under 18 years

of age. “Look here” and he jumped up from his chair to fetch a

thick file. “Look here, all identification papers for all boys, all

18 or more.” But was it not true that he had been convicted

several times of offences against children? He shook his head, a

tired man in a tiresome world. There were so many

misunderstandings. Yes, he had been convicted of gross indecency

with a minor but that had been years ago, and it was only a

technical offence. Yes, it was true he had been convicted of

allowing his house to be used by men to have sex with minors,

but this was a bad law that made him responsible for what other

people did. And yes, he had been convicted only a few years ago

of making a video with a 14-year-old boy, but the boy had lied to

him. How should he have known that the boy was four years under

age? So the conviction had been quashed by the court of appeal.

See? He shrugged. All misunderstanding.

And Manuel Schadwald? The pornographer shrugged again. On his

own estimate, he had made some 500 films in the last seven

years – more than one a week, a great many boys. But he was sure

he had never come across this Manuel boy. It was true that he

knew Robbie van der Plancken, who was now saying on television

that the missing boy was in the sex industry in Holland. He had to

admit he knew Robbie well. Robbie had made films here. He had

stayed in the house for two years. Even now, Robbie was a friend

and had been to visit only a few weeks before. But Robbie had

never mentioned this Manuel boy. He did not think Robbie knew

him really. He could not understand why he wanted to say these

things on television. It was a complete mystery to him.

It was true, too, that he knew Lothar Glandorf who was supposed to

have abducted this boy but now that he thought about it, he

believed there was probably another boy who worked for Lothar

who looked very like Manuel, a boy called Omar, who was at least

18. That was probably what had caused all the fuss, another boy

who was quite legal. He smiled. Behind him, the screen flickered.

The next day, police in Rotterdam confirmed that a boy named

Omar was among those who had been working for Glandorf but

they added that this boy looked nothing like Manuel Schadwald.

Manuel remains lost. The police in Holland and Berlin, who finally

this year mounted a special joint inquiry, say they can find no

sign of him. Possibly this trail of footprints across Europe is

merely a concoction of error and wishful thinking. Perhaps the

unknown man who left his voice on a Berlin answer machine four

years ago, claiming that little Manuel was dead, was telling the

truth. But perhaps at the end of all this, despite all the misery of

his mother, Manuel is not the most important part of the picture.

It is the industry itself that matters and the gathering flow of

boys from the poor underbelly of Europe who have been procured

as its raw material.

What Lothar Glandorf built in Rotterdam has now been expanded by new

investors. At the end of the HIK inquiry, in November 1995,

Glandorf was imprisoned for seven years for trafficking and

abusing children, but the HIK Report recorded that “the moment

that the main suspects were arrested, other club owners moved

in immediately.” In Amsterdam, many of the Englishmen who

built the industry there have moved on since February 1997

when the Dutch finally made the production of child pornography

a serious offence, punishable by up to four years in jail. But the brothels and bars in Spuistraat and Paardenstraat are still there,

in different hands, and the paedophiles who created them have

simply moved to Prague and resumed business as usual in a city

where there is a ready supply of poor boys and very little law.

There is no reason to suppose that I uncovered anything like the

whole picture. According to the President of Interpol, Bjorn

Eriksson, there are now 30,000 active paedophiles who are

linked in some way to the production of child pornography in

Europe. No one knows how many boys have been trafficked into

the industry, from the Bahnhof Am Zoo or from the Pinocchio Bar in Berlin,

or from poor families in Holland or Eastern Europe or elsewhere. It is a

safe estimate that the number runs into thousands. Although

Glandorf finally saw the inside of a prison, to this date neither

Peter Goetjes nor Lutz Edelman nor any of the other traffickers

has been convicted.

Looking back over this, it is tempting to see the history of police

inaction as a story of corruption. That may play its part, but the

reality is more significant. The sexual abuse of children is the

most secret crime. Whereas the victim of an offence against

property will almost always go to the police, the child victim of

abuse will frequently succumb to confusion or fear and say

nothing. Whereas the adult victim of abuse can give powerful

evidence of their assailant, the word of a child witness who does

come forward continues to be considered suspect by justice

systems all over the developed world, a problem which is

aggravated by the failure of almost all of these jurisdictions to

protect child witnesses from full-blooded cross-examination by

highly trained lawyers in adult courts. In other words, it is easy

to indulge in the sexual abuse of children and easy to get away

with it.

Sometimes, the confusion of these children will be so profound

that they will begin to collude in their own abuse. It appears that

Manuel Schadwald himself may be an example of this, that he

may have been groomed by his abductors and coated in shame or

doubt or fear until he was quite embedded him in this world. The

most frightening feature of the child prostitutes I met in

England was their willingness to sell themselves. This was not

because they had the most remote sexual interest in the men who

were buying them but because they experience of growing up in

poverty had wrecked their emotions.

This secret crime itself nestles in a framework of denial. You

can see it in the policeman on the front desk who tells the

mother that her missing child has surely only run away and will

be back tomorrow. You can see it again in the culture of

detectives who still think that bank robbers are more worthy

opponents than paedophiles. Most of all, you can see it in the

instinctive and entirely forgivable reaction of any reasonable

outsider, that the civilised centre of Western Europe could not

possibly be harbouring a network of men who are trafficking

thousands of children into a paedophile industry. It is easy to

miss the truth.

For those who are tempted to continue their state of denial,

there is a footnote. A few weeks after he gave his anonymous

television interview, Robbie van der Plancken left Holland for a

holiday. He travelled to France and Italy with a Dutch

businessman named Gerrit-Jan Ulrich with whom he had been

living. Ulrich was a well-known customer down on Spuistraat

who was said to be supplying Robbie with security, affection and

considerable amounts of cash. On Saturday, June 20, in a forest

near Pisa in north-west Italy, police found Ulrich’s body. He had

been shot. They arrested Robbie, who at first denied all

knowledge of the death, but then agreed that he had shot him. He

said it was an accident.

Several days later, at the request of the Italians, Dutch police

went to Ulrich’s home in Zandvoort just outside Amsterdam

where they found a collection of computer disks and CDs. On

examination, they proved to hold pornographic images of

children. Some of these children were adolescent, some were

only four or five years old, one was so young that he was still

wearing a diaper. All of these children were being used as sex

objects, some were being used sadistically. In total, there were

sixty thousand of them.