The demise of child predator Scott Rogers began with a simple internet search and ended in a horrific murder/suicide pact.
For years the Svengali-like manipulator spun a slithery web of deceit, abuse and turmoil - all stemming from his time as the principal of a performing arts school in Bury St Edmunds, which was likened to a ‘religious cult’.
How those layers of lies unravelled is dramatically revealed in a new book written by a woman who became one of the architects of his downfall as she tried to help his victims secure justice.
Familiar Evil, penned by public relations consultant Rannah Gray with the help of the Bury Free Press, shines a new light on a dark chapter in the town’s history and may act as closure for Rogers’ victims whose stories had been consigned to the shadows for too long.
Rannah says: “The most important thing this book can do is start a broader conversation about crimes of this nature and how we can identify those who are master manipulators.
“It was important to me that this story be told and that the voices of the heroic survivors of Scott Rogers’ abuse be heard. I think readers will find their courage truly inspirational. I know I do.”
It was important to me that this story be told and that the voices of the heroic survivors of Scott Rogers’ abuse be heardRannah Gray
When he ran the now defunct Academy of Dancing and Performing Arts, in former British Rail buildings, in Fornham Road, Bury, he was known as Richard Scott-Rogers.
Questions about his conduct were first raised when he stood trial in London in 1993 accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy. The court heard of ‘unorthodox behaviour’ at the academy with the jury told Rogers would give ‘Russian wedding rings’ to special pupils saying they were married to the school.
After deliberating for seven hours, the jury acquitted Rogers of committing an unnatural act with the pupil. The jury failed to reach verdicts on three further charges of indecent assault and two of indecency. The judge then entered verdicts of not guilty on these charges after the prosecution offered no evidence.
Two years later, Suffolk County Council took the unusual move of warning parents of the ‘perceived risk’ of sending children to the academy. The authority voiced ‘concerns about the unhealthy atmosphere at the academy and an environment in which some pupils moved their allegiance from their parents to a senior member (later identified by the Bury Free Press as Rogers) and the academy’.
The authority ‘felt the situation was reminiscent of those cases in which parents sought to extricate a child from the influence of a religious or supposedly religious cult’.
At the time the academy denied the allegations in the council statement.
The following week the Bury Free Press published the results of its own two-year investigation into the academy’s affairs.
Parents said Rogers wanted to ‘control’ his pupils, former students recalled ‘sleep-overs’ by young children at his house when Rogers cuddled them in their sleeping bags and another accused Rogers of ‘brainwashing’ them.
We also revealed how Rogers took one boy - later revealed as pupil Mathew Hodgkinson - away from his parents by constant pressure.
During his time at the academy, Mathew’s parents agreed their son could lodge with Rogers during the term and spend the school holidays with his family in France, where they ran a holiday camp.
At the time another boy was also staying at Rogers’ home, which was one of the reasons Mathew’s parents allowed him to live there. However, they had no idea the other boy was there against his mother’s wishes.
After Rogers’ arrest on charges of sexually abusing a teenage boy, Mathew’s parents returned to Bury and took him home to France.
They were then bombarded by telephone calls, letters and presents from Rogers and other academy members. Twice Matthew went missing from the camp site and returned to Bury.
In 1996 his mother told the Bury Free Press: “We were told that whatever we did, Mathew would abscond back to Mr Scott-Rogers. It appears it is not illegal to emotionally turn children away from their parents. We believe Mathew has been taught to hate us.”
Rogers went on to make a life for himself in the United States and became a TV talk show host in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he lived with Mathew.
Mathew, who was married to Rogers’ daughter for immigration purposes, had been in a sexual relationship with Rogers.
Rannah Gray’s dealings with Rogers began when she was involved in a public education campaign for the local Emergency Preparedness Office, which provides information to citizens in the event of a natural disaster.
She worked with his company on video production for the project but the client was not happy with some of his company’s work. Rogers reacted badly and took a course of action which unwittingly sealed his fate.
Rannah, of Baton Rouge, remembers: “He went to a local newspaper, criticised everyone and managed to get a story in the newspaper. When I read it, it had all kinds of misinformation so I wrote a letter to the editor and corrected it.”
Unbeknownst to her, a former pupil at the academy, who was sexually abused by Rogers, had been searching for him for 13 years. He tracked down his abuser in 2008 and emailed him but his former teacher fled to Ohio for nearly a year.
“He lost him after 2008, continued looking for him and then decided that he needed to find someone who had had some problem with him so he started doing a different kind of search - ‘Scott Rogers lied, Scott Rogers deceived’,” Rannah explains.
“My letter to the editor had in the headline that the story he gave was misleading so suddenly in his online search up popped my letter.”
The man, referred to in Rannah’s book as Ethan (not his real name - it was changed in the book along with others to protect identities), then emailed her on August 28 2013 to warn her who she was dealing with.
“He contacted me to say he had known him in the past - that he stood trial in England for sexually assaulting a young boy, that he felt he would still be doing that, he was very dangerous and if I had any way of warning parents or people who have children to not let them be around him that would be a good thing.”
She went to an attorney who was a close friend and had represented sex offenders before.
“I went first to him because the email was very frightening to get. I knew that Scott Rogers wasn’t a very reputable businessman but I never imagined what the truth really was.
“I had a feeling he (Ethan) was telling the truth but my attorney advised me to ask some questions.”
After building a relationship of trust through emails and phone calls, Ethan and Rannah spent the next year working to expose Rogers.
With the help of a paralegal and a criminal defense attorney, they became confidential informants to a federal investigation, which uncovered how Rogers used deceit and fraud to gain US citizenship.
While in the US, Rogers had adopted a child and was in the process of adopting another .
“In order to gain United States citizenship, become a foster parent, an adoptive parent and have a permit to carry a concealed weapon you have to fill out many forms. With any state federal forms of this nature you are typically asked some questions like have you ever been arrested or charged with a crime?” Rannah explains.
“You have to answer those truthfully and if you don’t you’re committing fraud against the United States Government. We suspected from the beginning he had not been truthful on his paperwork.”
As this was investigated, they also managed to gain a statement from a second victim from the UK and the defense attorney even spoke to Adrian Randall, who was a detective on the 1993 case.
On August 15, 2014 the two children were taken into protective custody and Rogers learnt he was being investigated for fraud.
Realising his past was catching up with him, Rogers began to talk about committing suicide.
On the day a grand jury was due to meet to decide if there was enough evidence to charge him, Rogers was found shot dead in his bed. Police concluded he was killed by Mathew Hodgkinson, who then turned the gun on himself but survived before he was taken off a life support machine days later by Rogers’ daughter.
Rannah says: “I thought it was over at that point. It ended terribly tragically without some of the victims being able to feel he was brought to justice.”
However, the publisher of the Lisburn Press encouraged her to write a book about the case after learning of her involvement.
She came to the UK last year and spoke with five former academy students - three who were sexually abused (including the man at the centre of the 1993 case), one who experienced inappropriate touching by Rogers and a woman who was turned against her parents and talked into briefly running away from home.
Rannah also met with the Bury Free Press, which provided her with details about its investigation into Rogers.
“The whole story was life changing - meeting these incredibly brave people in person was a gift.
“These are people who are successful in their careers, raising families and doing good work and yet something happened to them when they were young that lives with them and if they can get a little bit of closure to that I think the sky is the limit in what they can achieve.”
Mathew Hodgkinson was also a victim - sexually abused from a young age, manipulated away from his parents and brainwashed.
Rannah says: “To add to the tragedy, at the time of the shooting it was reported that had he survived he would have been charged with murder.
“I don’t think anyone who knew him saw that as a murder - everyone saw that as Scott orchestrating a suicide which he didn’t have the courage to commit himself. Everyone here very much viewed Mathew as a victim.”
The book was published in the US before Christmas and the the eBook is now available for sale in the U.K.
A clinical social worker contributed a chapter to share insight into the minds of sexual predators.
Rannah is also working with Louisiana child advocates so the story of Familiar Evil helps educate people about the tactics employed by child predators. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to programmes which benefit survivors of child sexual abuse.
On what she has learnt from the experience, she says: “The big number one is that it’s very difficult for these young survivors to come forward. Research tells us they’re usually in their 30s when they finally are able to talk about it or report it and that’s exactly what seems to be the case with the man who contacted me.
“Our child services system is broken and I don’t just mean in Louisiana and the United States. I think it’s an international problem.
“I think confidentiality has been taken too far in child services. It’s one thing to protect the child but I think there has to be some scrutiny of the people taking in these children.
“Let’s look at this as understanding just how clever and manipulative child predators are. Let’s don’t languish in shame and embarrassment for being fooled by them - let’s learn from it as how to better detect them and if something isn’t right speak up, stand up.”
n Familiar Evil, published by The Lisburn Press, is available via the U.K. websites for Amazon, the Apple Store and Barnes & Noble. Visit www.familiarevil.com