The following article by reporter Peter Hounam first appeared in the Hornsey Journal, 20th August 1976.
DAVID FARRANT IS INNOCENT, OK? That slogan is hardly likely to appear on gas-holders and tower blocks in Haringey because the occult high priest has hardly any supporters willing to carry on a campaign for a re-trial. All the same, David Farrant is as convinced of his innocence as George Davies and determined to clear his name. The odds look stacked against him. The Home Office have already turned down his demand for an appeal. Yet he fights on.
David Farrant became a public figure (some would say a public menace) in the early 1970s. His witchcraft activities were often in the popular Sunday papers, and the Journal, and gradually his name was linked with more and more bizarre happenings in Highgate Cemetery. Vampires were sighted and had to be exterminated. Tombs were discovered broken open. There were bizarre ceremonies of exorcism, using naked girls and animal sacrifices.
For us it made good copy but, not surprisingly, the police felt that Mr. Farrant and his friends were a nuisance. There were numerous attempts to catch him doing something illegal.
In 1972 and 1973 matters got a little more serious. Groundsmen employed to look after Highgate Cemetery found tombs broken open. Bodies in various states of decay were left lying around and one, horrifically, found its way into the passenger seat of a private car parked in Swains Lane.
Farrant was arrested for this offence and several others and it looked as though the bizarre practices were scotched once and for all. But while Farrant was in jail the activities recommenced. It became clear that Farrant wasn’t the only culprit. Could he be right in claiming that he wasn’t the culprit at all?
During the trial, Farrant dispensed with his counsel and carried on defending himself – with some success. He faced three charges of interfering with remains in tombs, the most serious being the case of the corpse placed in a car. A further charge suggested he had conspired to damage property in the cemetery between 1971 and 1974. He was accused of sending voodoo effigies to two policemen and thereby trying to influence their actions.
Farrant was also charged with “unlawfully and maliciously damaging a memorial to the dead” – by chalking a witchcraft symbol on the floor of the vault. Two other trifling offences – having his father’s service revolver and some sheets from a hospital – were tried at the same time. The Old Bailey jury found him not guilty of the corpse-in-the-car offence, another charge concerning interfering with remains, and the conspiracy charge.
The judge was left to sentence Farrant on the remaining charge of interfering with remains. He got two years. Sending voodoo dolls and “frightening” policemen got him two more years. Chalking on the floor of a vault was adjudged “damage”. Farrant went down on this count for six months. Having his dad’s revolver got him one month or a fine – later made concurrent like the six-month chalking offence. Having hospital sheets in his flat (Farrant says they belonged to his girl-friend who was allowed to bring them out of the hospital to wash) got him eight months. This was later made concurrent. Farrant ended up four years’ imprisonment though he was not found guilty of handling any remains.
I said at the time that the sentences were harsh, and I still think so. Farrant could have appealed against sentence but he wanted to appeal against conviction and this was prevented by one or two key witnesses not being available. He argues that only now, when he is free on parole, can he put an appeal case together.
The charge of chalking on a vault floor allegedly occurred on a specific date. Farrant claimed the markings were already there, when he and a French girl-friend – Martine de Sacy – entered the vault. She has now been found, and an affidavit to the effect that Farrant’s story is true has been sent to the Home Office. The Home Office now refuse the appeal because Farrant “admitted” in his trial that he had seen the chalk marks on a previous visit, therefore implying that he could have “damaged” the vault on a previous occasion.
I find this baffling. The original charge accused him of damaging the floor on a specific date, not on an earlier occasion.
Farrant believes he could get himself acquitted of the charge of interfering with remains if he could find a freelance journalist named Hutchinson who took the picture. Unfortunately he has no address for the man and cannot trace him.
On the voodoo effigies charge, Farrant would claim that he was provoked into sending them because two policemen had been putting undue pressure on a friend who was literally terrified of the police as a result.
There are many who would advise David Farrant to give up his campaign. He has served his sentence and is now free so what point is there in trying to change the trial decisions of 1974? David Farrant would argue that he was the victim of a calculated police campaign to get him at all costs – on whatever charge they could throw at him.
The whole involved saga has left him bitter and resentful. He is working almost non-stop to dig up evidence that might give him a new trial and it seems his main purpose in life. Giving up the fight might well be the most logical thing to do, but for David Farrant it would be like giving up witchcraft – unthinkable.