A Boy Called Graham (2005)
by Graham Gaskin (Author)
Graham Gaskin has spent most of his life on the run: either from the hands of abusers or from the authorities. He was given a life sentence when found guilty of the murder of a British man in Manila. He finished writing his autobiography while in prison, knowing that he was about to die of AIDS.
Graham Gaskin's story is the kind of story that will touch the reader deeply. It is a story of suffering, neglect and abuse on many levels. When Graham was only nine months old, his mother committed suicide by throwing herself from the Wallasey ferry. This formative loss triggered the start of a lifetime of pain for Graham, both boy and man. For most of his life he was passed from children's home, to foster family, to institution, often being mistreated by those in authority. As he came of age, Graham had nowhere to turn but to a life on the streets, eventually living by his wits around the world. This is the controversial story of a forgotten child who, through no fault of his own, was left to fight his own battles.
The Grapevine: Issue 9 Autumn 2005
The Story of Graham Gaskin is shocking, thought-provoking and heart-rending. When he was only nine months old, his mother committed suicide by throwing herself off the Wallasey ferry. This formative loss triggered the start of a life of neglect and abuse which would set the scene for the continual suffering
and pain that he would endure. Unable to cope with his children, Grahams father handed him over to social
services and, from that moment forward, he was passed from pillar to post, with no one person ever taking responsibility for his welfare. Having fled from abusive foster parents, he was sent to an adult psychiatric unit and from there to a strict school for orphans. Having escaped from the institution, he set a pattern that was to be repeated throughout his life - fleeing, sleeping rough, petty crime, capture and incarceration.
Using his streetwise guile, he managed to get his hands on his social services file and, with the help of the Liverpool Echo, exposed the years of neglect and suffering and claimed for damages against social services. Yet, throughout the catalogue of pain, he refused to let his spirit be broken. Despite the tough exterior he had been forced to cultivate, he displayed an inner gentleness and an eagerness to find some level of happiness.
Unable to settle and always filled with the need to escape, Gaskin fled the UK and traveled around the world living by his wits and often making money by smuggling drugs. Never quite able to shake off the past and forget the brutality he encountered as a child, he was suspected of murdering a British man in
Manila and extradited to Britain. It was while serving a life sentence that he died of AIDS.
This is the controversial and emotional story of a forgotten child, told in his own words. It is a shocking expose of the abandonment of a boy who, through no fault of his own, was left to fight his own battles, and how he struggled to survive and see justice done. The way in which he remains haunted by his childhood throughout his life makes the book a valuable social document.
Miss Emma Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what conclusions he has reached on the implications of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Graham Gaskin for people seeking access to personal records for which he has responsibility ; and what action he intends to take.
Mr. David Hunt : My Department has consulted relevant agencies in Wales about how existing legislation
Column 612and practice on the subject of access to social work records might need to be modified in the light of the judgment given by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Graham Gaskin. I am considering, together with other Ministers, what action should now be taken.
Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for Health following the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the Graham Gaskin case, what steps the Government have taken to implement the ruling ; whether an independent procedure has yet been established to consider the release of Graham Gaskin's file ; and what legislation is being considered arising out of the case.
Mr. Dorrell : The implications of the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights for the arrangements governing access to personal records are being carefully reviewed. Decisions on the need to modify those arrangements will be taken on completion of the review, at which stage I will write to the hon. Member.
Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will take steps to ascertain whether the GrahamGaskin file is complete and request that a copy be deposited with his office for safe keeping.
Mr. Dorrell : The file relating to Mr. Graham Gaskin is, quite properly, held by Liverpool city council. We have no wish to assume its responsibility for its safe keeping, nor does my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State have power to require the council to supply a copy.
Mad dog gets life
From the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, first published Friday 22nd Dec 1995.
RUTHLESS assassin Graham Gaskin, known as Mad Dog, was today beginning a life sentence for the brutal Christmas Day murder of a nightclub manager from East Lancashire.
Gary Poyser was shot in the head and chest at point-blank range by the sinister gunman as he enjoyed a drink with friends in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, in 1991. The shooting took place after an argument between Rossendale-born Mr Poyser, the manager of the city's Superstar Club, and Gaskin.
Liverpool-born Gaskin, 36, showed no emotion as a jury at Manchester Crown Court branded him a murderer after nearly 11 hours of deliberation. But, before he was led away, he told them: "I am not guilty . . . I didn't do it."
Jailing Gaskin, Mr Justice Maurice Kay said: "It was a very carefully planned murder carried out with utter ruthlessness and I have not seen any sign of remorse in you."
Gaskin fled Manila after the shooting and even confessed to the murder to a Roman Catholic priest.
He was arrested last year in Germany and extradited to Britain. Officers from Lancashire were praised for the painstaking operation to uncover evidence for the case.
Officers took on the investigation because the dead man was a British citizen and because they feared widespread corruption in the Philippines force would prevent the killer being caught.
The judge said the Lancashire force had conducted a "remarkably thorough investigation" and added: "It has my admiration and commendation."
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From the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, first published Tuesday 14th Jan 1997.
AN INQUEST heard how a hitman wished his victim 'Merry Christmas' before blasting him to death at point-blank range in front of his friends and a young girl in the Philippines.
Nightclub manager Gary Poyser, 33, from Rossendale, was shot twice by the assassin who walked casually into a house in Manila.
Mr Poyser had been enjoying Christmas drinks with friends when the assassin struck.
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This story is about one of the early pioneers of files access, Graham
Gaskin. Graham was a key influence on getting greater access to our
files, through his famous European court case of 1989. That case
resulted in a judgement that has had far-reaching implications in
opening data on our lives for care leavers. Here, Grahams friend and
author of a biography on him, James MacVeigh, talks about Grahams life
and his journey in accessing his files.
I first met Graham Gaskin in 1980. My girlfriend had left me and I was alone in my Bristol house when I turned the radio on one morning and the voice of a Liverpudlian teenager came into the room to haunt me. Graham had just been released from a Detention Centre, where he had been sent for trashing the house of a care worker who had sexually abused him. He gave clear, verbal snapshots of the horrors of his life up until then: put into eleven foster homes by the time he was eight, running away, sleeping in cardboard boxes behind Tesco's, and, at nine years old, being incarcerated in an adult mental hospital where he was given forcible injections of largactil. A strictly regimented Boys' Home followed and, when he escaped, his life's pattern was set at ten years old: abuse, escape, sleeping rough, capture and return to even worse forms of repression. At fourteen, Social Services had given Graham into the 'care' of a wealthy man who turned out to be a predatory paedophile.
He clearly had no idea what he would do next and this made me remember my own youth, when a move to a different environment could have saved me from serious trouble. I wrote to Graham via the programme and days later opened my door to a tall, handsome nineteen-year-old who was bursting with intelligence. In a normal life, his good looks and charm would have been assets, but as I got to know him it became clear to me that they had merely made him the target for the unwanted attentions of a succession of paedophiles. His bitterness about this, though seldom mentioned, coloured all aspects of his life. It was Graham's idea that I should write his biography and that first book, GASKIN, was made into a BBC film starring Paul McGann.
The ravages of a lifetime of abuse on Grahams personality soon began to show themselves in appalling acts of violence, usually drunken and often unprovoked. I was better able than most people to handle this, but the constant conflict between us still wore me down. He moved in with an older woman, but the police were in the habit of raiding my house in search of him, and this went on until he waved goodbye to the UK and departed for Europe, leaving a legacy of cheque card fraud, broken bones and damaged lives behind him.
I saw little of him then for several years, though there were occasional flying visits which left the same carnage in their wake: fights in my local pub, a massive phone bill after Graham had spent hours making international calls and the arrival of the police in a dawn raid after he had left. I once said jokingly to him, 'Graham, you're an emotional gypsy. You arrive in a place where all is order and peace, and leave devastation behind you.' He laughed understandingly. As far as self-knowledge was concerned, he was always top of the class.
We met up again in Strasbourg in 1989, when the Court of Human Rights ordered that his Social Services file be opened, a milestone victory for all people growing up in care. He was living in Germany by that time, and he showed me the special pockets he had sewn into his overcoat for shoplifting. Disturbingly, in view of what was to happen later in Manila, in the Philippines, he was carrying a dismantled handgun in one of them.
The visits stopped as he moved further and further abroad, but I still got occasional letters, and phone calls, from Manila. In two drunken conversations, he told me he had thrown someone to his death from a rooftop, but both versions were different: in one the victim was a Filipino policeman, in the other an Australian federal agent. Graham was not a fantasist, in the sense of making things up, but he moulded events in the telling so that they showed him in what he considered to be the best light. Later, I received a desperate letter from a prison in Germany, where it transpired that Graham was awaiting extradition to the UK for the murder of a sex club owner in Manila. He asked me to get in touch with various influential people in case they disappear me and I did so, learning in the process that because his victim was British he could be put on trial in England. In the event, the jury were unable to agree on a verdict. At his retrial Graham defended himself, but he was found guilty and given Life.
I visited him in the top security Long Lartin prison, where the staff painstakingly felt along the seams of my clothes and asked me to open my mouth and lift my tongue. There Graham told me a third and final version of the story about throwing someone off a roof, and the hairs on the back of my scalp rose because I knew I was hearing the truth. He always attracted people, and when a guy from a bar where he had been drinking had tagged along when he went up onto the roof to smoke a joint, Graham had thrown him off simply because he knew he would not be caught. There, in a nutshell, is the effect that the abuse of a child can cause.
We had always had a stormy friendship, with violent ups and downs, but I left the prison that day firm in the belief that it would be our last meeting. A few more letters passed between us, especially when he found he was HIV positive, and I was able to put a mutual friend in touch with him who visited him up to the day he died. He left her his autobiography, A BOY CALLED GRAHAM, a testament, at once passionate and chilling, to the destructive effects of the care system that shaped him.
Anyone wanting to read GASKIN, my book about Graham's childhood, can email me direct at: [email protected]
House of Lords
Mr Graham Gaskin
Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) asked Her Majesty's Government:
What action they have taken with regard to the Council of Europe resolution (DH(2000)106) in connection with the release of personal information concerning Mr Graham Gaskin and his time in institutional care; and what actions they intend to take to ensure the early implementation of judgments such as that of the case of Mr Gaskin
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health; Labour) | Hansard source
The Data Protection Act 1998 came into force in March this year. The Act implements the European Directive on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data, and on the free movement of such data. It also gives effect to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the 1989 case Gaskin v the United Kingdom concerning the right of access to social work records. At the same time guidance on the working of the Act was issued to social services departments by the Department of Health.
Local authorities were warned of the Act's pending implementation in 1998 and formally advised to act in the meantime as if the Act were already in force so as to give data subjects access, where possible, to personal information held about them in social services files.
Under the Act, responsibility for the release of personal information held by social services departments continues to rest with local authorities. Local authorities also retain the discretion to refuse access. However, in such circumstances the Act gives people the right to appeal against the decision to the Data Protection Commissioner or the courts.