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Family Torn Apart After Vigilante Attack on Home

The Independent (UK), 16 August 2000 by Cahal Milmo

A neat family home, devoid of the children that played in its front garden days earlier, bore testimony yesterday to the endgame of a fortnight of anti-paedophile violence on the Paulsgrove Estate.

A neat family home, devoid of the children that played in its front garden days earlier, bore testimony yesterday to the endgame of a fortnight of anti-paedophile violence on the Paulsgrove Estate.

Housing officials and social workers will today start knocking on the doors of 15 people named on a hit list of suspected child sex offenders, which provoked nightly disorder and demonstrations on the streets of the Portsmouth estate.

But no official will be calling at 9 Painswick Close where Wendy Adams and her family believed they had found her dream home just yards from where her elderly mother and eldest son lived.

Yesterday, the home that Mrs Adams, a 44-year-old shop assistant, shared with her husband, Lee, and teenage son, Matt, lay empty as it emerged that the family were one of five who have been wrongly driven from Paulsgrove by anti-paedophile vigilantes.

The house, which has been extensively refurbished by the Adams over the past two years, will now be put up for sale after the couple lost both their jobs in the wake of Mr Adams being labelled a child abuser by a baying mob on a Sunday night two weeks ago.

A family member said that the marriage between Lee Adams, a fireplace fitter, and his wife is over. The couple have vowed never to return.

Leaders of the group behind the demonstrations, The Peaceful Protesters of Paulsgrove (PPP), yesterday claimed that six of the 15 names telephoned to Hampshire Police by an anonymous caller last weekend, had left the estate. They included Lee Adams, whose only previous brush with the law was a conviction for a minor offence, 28 years ago. The fact that Mr Adams, 48, was not convicted of any sexual offence against a child, was of little concern to the protest leaders and of scant comfort to his remaining family on the estate.

Paul Jones, 20, the eldest son of Wendy Adams, described how a group of protestors, including mothers pushing prams, had turned up in the quiet cul-de-sac where he lived alongside his mother and 76-year-old grandmother two Sundays ago, shouting: "Paedophile Out!"

Mr Jones said: "The crowd was shouting how my step-father was a child abuser. My mother somehow knew immediately that was it - they packed their bags and went within hours. She said that once people had an idea in their heads, they wouldn't forget, no matter whether it was true or not. It disgusts me that innocent people can be driven away."

Turning to point at the empty house next door, Mr Jones added: "This was going to be an ideal home, my mother invested a lot of energy into it but they are gone now and they are not coming back."

Mrs Adams, whose son said she did not know of her husband's previous conviction, is now living in hiding elsewhere in Portsmouth - estranged from her husband, prevented from visiting her son or mother and looking to move far away.

Mr Jones said: "The strain of it all has ended the marriage according to my mother. They have been torn apart by the past fortnight. She now wants to get as far away as possible from the mob."

Portsmouth City Council would not confirm that the Adams were one of the five families so far moved off the sprawling estate, but said at least one family with a man convicted of an offence unrelated to paedophilia had been re-housed.

Meanwhile, the aftermath of what is being called locally "The Battle of Paulsgrove" was still being calculated in terms of the number of "correctly targeted" paedophiles and a second, more disparate category, referred to as "mistakes".

Katrina Kessell, 33, de facto organiser of the protests, said: "We know that six on the list are gone. It is our belief that they were correctly targeted but there have also been some mistakes. We are now waiting for the council to keep its promises that it will approach those we have named and advise them to move on. Otherwise we march again."

But along with the claims of justification from the protestors came further proof of the ill-founded combination of gossip and malicious score-settling that has turned much of the PPP's hit list into a liability.

The source of the names supplied by residents remained unclear with none of the organisers able to confirm who had telephoned the list to police.

It emerged that the roll call of "paedophiles" included a 17-year-old who was named in the whispering campaign because of a previous sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. Of the original 20 names, three had their details circulated out of little more than opportunistic malice.

They included one 36-year-old father of three, whose name was allegedly supplied by moneylenders to local youths, thought to have been responsible for the fire bombings and stone-throwings which left Paulsgrove pock-marked with a series of burned-out cars and boarded-up windows.

A further two names on the list were men questioned about alleged sexual offences and never charged, while one man with a paedophile conviction, whose sister's home was attacked by missile-throwing youngsters, has not lived on Paulsgrove for 17 years.