Four years ago, Dawn Beech sat down to watch a BBC Panorama episode. It was a particularly explosive one about Operation Midland and allegations of a VIP paedophile ring that included, among others, former Prime Minister Edward Heath, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, Lord Bramall and former MP Harvey Proctor.
Their accuser, known as Nick, was filmed in a shadowy silhouette to protect his identity. But there was one person they couldn’t hide Carl Beech’s identity from: Dawn, his ex-wife and mum of his teenage son.
‘As soon as I saw that silhouette I knew it was him,’ she says. ‘My exact words were: “What the hell?” I was gobsmacked. I didn’t know who these people were. Lord Bramall? Never heard of him. Harvey Proctor? Never heard of him. I thought: “What has this come from. He never said anything to me about this. Is he making it up?”
Dawn Beech, pictured on her wedding day in 1992 with husband Carl Beech recognised him as ‘Nick’ when she sat down and watched Panorama which made a number of shocking allegations about a child sex abuse ring
‘I was in shock. I went to bed and had to go to work the next day. I’d taped it, so when I got home from work I watched it again, because you do start questioning yourself and thinking: ‘Maybe it isn’t Carl. Perhaps I’ve got this wrong. But when I saw it again I knew it was him. I’d lived with him for 18 years. You know his mannerisms — when he does this, when he does that.’
Later that week Dawn confronted Beech when she went to his home to pick up their son. ‘I said: “Can I ask you a weird question?”
‘He was in a good mood, so said: “OK.” I said: “It is a bit odd. Were you on Panorama?” He looked at me and laughed: “Me, on Panorama? What would I be doing on that?” I said: “Obviously, you’ve got a double.” ’
Fast forward four years, and Dawn Beech gave evidence against the monstrous fantasist to whom she’d been married. She had insisted on doing so from behind a screen.
‘He really frightens me,’ she says. ‘I knew it was the right thing to do to give evidence to help the jury make an informed decision about these horrific lies of his, but I couldn’t have done it if he was staring at me.
Dawn Beech, who is a nurse, said: ‘As soon as I saw that silhouette I knew it was him’
‘I’d have felt so intimidated. I’m terrified on so many levels — terrified of him, terrified he could imagine all that disgusting stuff and terrified about how this is going to affect my son.’
Three weeks ago, a fortnight after Dawn summoned the courage to give the moving testimony at Newcastle Crown Court which helped convict her former husband, her teenage son collapsed at their home in Gloucester. ‘It frightened me to death. He lost colour to his face and started shaking,’ says Dawn, a likeable, articulate woman who works as a nurse at Gloucester Royal Hospital.
He was taken to hospital in so much pain they thought it was appendicitis, but couldn’t find anything. ‘I can’t stop worrying about him. When I heard on Monday Carl had been convicted on every charge [of fraud and perverting the course of justice], I left work to be with my son. When I told him he’d been found guilty and was going to prison for a long time, he just shook his head. I started crying and said: “I feel so sorry for you. Your dad’s going to be in prison.”
‘My son’s reaction has always been the same — he doesn’t react. This blank look just comes over his face. It’s as if he’s blocking it out. I think we both are.
‘How can you accept someone you once thought you’d share the rest of your life with is this liar, this horrible person?’
Yesterday, Beech was sentenced to 18 years in prison for 12 counts of perverting the course of justice, one of fraud, over a £22,000 criminal compensation payout, and for several child sexual offences involving indecent images of children found on his computer.
‘Part of me was hoping he’d get life so he’s completely out of my mine and my son’s life for ever. Then I think my poor son has lost his dad.’
Dawn is an emotional wreck. One moment she sobs uncontrollably, the next she flushes red with fury, particularly over the fact this despicable man actually tried to blame their son for the indecent images of children police found on his computer, before pleading guilty in a court case earlier this year.
Dawn, pictured with Carl in France in the late 1990s said her ex-husband had attempted to blame their son for child abuse images which had been found on a computer
The first she knew of the paedophilia charges was when a social worker called her at work in December 2016.
The Metropolitan Police Service’s investigation into the monstrous allegations of a VIP paedophile ring made by her husband against some of this country’s most distinguished figures had fallen to pieces nine months earlier. Attention had then turned to the fantasist himself.
‘The social worker said: “You’ve got to come to the school. There’s a safeguarding issue with Carl,” says Dawn, who, following her separation from Beech in 2010, shared custody with her ex.
‘I was told Carl was a potential risk to children and shouldn’t be with anyone under the age of 18 unsupervised. He’d been living with our son unsupervised for the past six years. They wouldn’t say what had happened.
‘His grandmother [Beech’s mother] brought round a bag. At the bottom, under some clothes, was a computer.
‘We never used it because there weren’t any wires. Then Gloucester Police rang me up to say they were looking for a laptop. They’d turned Carl’s house upside down but couldn’t find it.
‘It was only when I met an officer at the hospital to hand it over he told me that they’d found indecent images of children on Carl’s other computer devices. He said Carl had tried to blame our son — who was then just 14. I just lost it. I said: “What a b*****d.” I couldn’t believe he was trying to blame this on his own son. I felt so sick and shaky. I said: “Oh my God, has he touched our son because if he has I might actually kill him?”
‘The police completely assured me he hasn’t been touched.’
Dawn said she met Beech when they were both student nurses at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading in 1988. They had a son in 2002. Later, Dawn admitted that sex with Beech was ‘never brilliant’ and ‘minimal’
Over the past two-and-a-half years, Dawn has gone over and over the years they spent together. It wasn’t a happy marriage but she never suspected he was a paedophile and fantasist. Dawn met Beech in 1988 when they were both student nurses at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading. He was, she remembers, a bubbly, friendly individual who, once they became lovers, showered her with gifts, meals at expensive restaurants and holidays to New York and Menorca.
Their sex life though was, Dawn says, ‘never brilliant’ and ‘minimal’. Beech blamed his sexually and physically abusive stepfather Major Ray Beech.
‘He was doing a psychiatric placement in his third year as a student nurse when all this emotion came out,’ she says. ‘He showed me a letter he’d written to his mum basically saying his stepfather had abused him.
‘When I read it I felt quite sad. I hugged him and told him I was sorry for him. I never asked him about the detail of what had happened because I didn’t want those images in my head.
‘I always thought what he told me about his stepfather was true. Why would you make something like that up? And now? I just don’t know. He said it was why he found it difficult to be intimate.’
Despite their love life, Dawn was over the moon when Beech proposed to her in New York in 1991.
‘I think I fell in love with him because he was showing me so many things I hadn’t experienced before,’ says Dawn, from Swindon.
‘I’d barely travelled. He had a computer — which wasn’t usual in the late Eighties — a colour television and a video recorder.
‘We had a black and white telly. He always had a nice car and would take me to nice restaurants. I think I was just sucked in really.
‘There’s so much that doesn’t make any sense. Carl loved children. He went straight onto a paediatric ward when he qualified, then did his sick children’s nurse training.
‘When he was a student nurse, he used to go off and help at a school with children who had difficulty reading. That’s something I’d hang onto in the beginning, after he was first accused. I’d think: “He’s a children’s nurse. Why would he be looking at indecent images?”’ In the first years after their May 1992 wedding, Dawn believed them to be ‘happy enough’. With hindsight, though, she sees he was isolating her from her friends and family and exercising increasing control over her life.
‘It wasn’t control in a “you’re not leaving the house wearing that” way,’ she says. ‘It was slow, subtle, mental control.
‘We saw a lot of his mum. Most of our married life we’d go on holiday with her. I think, to be honest, she paid for a lot of the travelling and hotels.’
‘People have said he’s a mummy’s boy but, having been married to him, I saw he could be very manipulative with his mother and not treat her so nicely.
‘When we had our son, she gave us about £50,000 to help us buy a four-bedroom house but, after four years, we were getting increasingly into debt.
‘Carl had lots of credit and store cards. If he had a card with a £4,000 limit that was £4,000 to spend. He didn’t worry about paying it back.
‘In 2006, his mum thought we should sell the house because we didn’t have the money to maintain it. By the time we moved out, Carl and she weren’t speaking. He said to me: “If Mum tries to contact you, don’t speak to her.’’ ’
Beech was estranged from his mother until the following February. ‘It meant she wasn’t allowed to see her grandson. I used to look at him and think: “I can’t believe you’re treating the person who gave birth to you in that way.” ’
Dawn has a strong sense of right and wrong. It is why she took the stand at Beech’s trial. Why didn’t she stand up to Beech?
‘I was probably a bit scared.’ She gulps and the tears flow. ‘He was quite…quite controlling really. It’s like I had my own bank account but whatever money was left in my account after the household bills were paid I had to hand over to Carl. Looking back I think things really began to change when our son was born.’
Unable to conceive naturally, owing to ‘unexplained infertility’ Dawn had ‘assisted conception’ and fell pregnant with her son in July 2001. They were both ecstatic but cracks in their relationship began the day she brought him home from hospital.
‘Carl got out of the car, got my suitcase out, put it in the house and disappeared. Our son was still in the car sleep asleep. I thought: “OK.’’ I put him in the front room and went to find Carl. ‘He was sitting on the back doorstep crying — really crying. He said: “What are we going to do? How are we going to manage?”
‘That night we were both in the same bed and I woke up to our son crying. I rolled over and Carl had him lying on his chest. He said he couldn’t go to sleep because what would the baby do.
‘I took him to feed him. Carl was watching us. He just looked at me and said: “I think I’m going to have to go and sleep on the sofa.” The following night he moved into the spare room. He said he couldn’t sleep in the same room as our son because his breathing disturbed him.’
Dawn says their marriage became increasingly fraught. Beech refused to so much as change a nappy and constantly criticised her parenting skills.
‘I remember him having a go at me about taking so long to get him potty trained. He used to say, “You’ll have him in nappies until he’s 18”.’
Dawn and Beech decided to seek relationship counselling in 2004. Sex therapy followed. ‘The counselling helped a lot. At least we were able to talk to each other. I think I was scared of him.
‘We had sex counselling because I wanted a second child. I didn’t want our son to be on his own. We began in 2004.
‘It was the first time since having our son we’d had a sexual relationship and that was only because we were given exercises to do at home.’
In February 2005, Dawn began to think she might be pregnant.
‘Carl had cottoned on,’ she says. ‘He said, “this isn’t the right time for us to have another baby. If you do have it I will resent it so if you’re pregnant you might need to do something about it.”
We had a big row. I said, “you’re basically saying you want me to have an abortion?” We never had sex again.’
She was not pregnant and the marriage limped along for a further four years.
‘Carl wanted our son to be educated privately so put his name down for a private school. I just thought, “how on earth are we going to afford it?”
‘When I said to him I didn’t think we’d be able to, he said, “the reason you don’t want our son to go to private school is because you will feel inferior to the parents because they’ll be wealthy and have big cars and you’ve just got a Polo and you’re just a nurse.”
‘He was always putting me down. He’d tell me I’d never do very well in my nursing career or be any higher than a staff nurse. He’d also say, “you’ll never leave me. You’ll never be able to cope on your own.” I think I’ve proved him wrong in that statement,’ she says.
She has. Today Dawn is a sister at Gloucester Royal Hospital, but the years of a marriage to Beech have left their mark. She is quietly spoken and hugely apologetic, often when she doesn’t need to be. There is, though, a core of steel.
Steel that gave her the strength to take the stand in court and walk away from the marriage. But such was her fear of Beech, she was too frightened to take their son. ‘I don’t think I’d have ever been allowed to walk out of that house with our son,’ she says.
‘Carl’s excuse for keeping him there was that I was leaving the marital home and it would be fairer on our son to stay in a familiar environment.
‘The rent on the house was £1,100-a-month. I couldn’t afford that. He also said because I was a nurse and worked shifts it would be much easier for him to look after our son because he had a 9-5 job.’
Dawn walked out of the family home in April 2010. ‘I cried. It was really hard. Carl told me I was doing the best thing for our son but the last thing I always used to do at night was kiss him goodnight.
‘He’d usually have kicked the duvet off so I’d cover him up and give him a kiss. To go to my house and not be able to do that…’ She begins to cry again. ‘I thought I was leaving him with a father who loved him and a registered children’s nurse. Why would I have ever have thought any of this.’
Dawn and Beech eventually divorced in 2012 — the year he would make allegations to police about having suffered abuse at the hands of his stepfather and the paedophile Jimmy Savile.
She was at her former husband’s home dropping off their son when she arrived to find Beech sobbing.
‘It was around the time the case was collapsing. When Carl answered the door he was crying. He said, “can I tell you something? You know when you asked me about the Panorama programme the other month? I am Nick.”
‘I had to be a bit of an actress and pretend to be shocked. He didn’t say much else except that he’d asked the Met Police not to approach me or his mother because he didn’t want us upset.’
Beech’s arrest for the possession of indecent images of children followed. Two months later, in February 2017, she received a phone call from an officer at Northumbria Police who wanted to speak to her. ‘We met in an office at Gloucester Police Station.
‘They interviewed me for about five-and-a-half hours. I was terrified but tried to tell the story the way it was.
‘They asked me if Carl could swim. I had photographs from our honeymoon of him by the pool in flippers.
‘They asked me about marks to his body and broken bones [injuries, Beech claimed, he suffered from torture].
‘I said I knew about the ankle he broke when he was skiing but that was it. I also said I’d seen his feet and there were no marks on the soles of his feet — no scars.
‘What they told me he’d claimed was disgusting. I just thought, “how can he even imagine all this stuff?” What he said about Harvey Proctor having a boy tied to the table and stabbing him… I thought, “oh my god, Carl didn’t even watch horror films”. He didn’t like them.’
Dawn looks truly bewildered.
‘It’s so weird. When I came away from court after giving evidence I was just in floods of tears and was for most of the weekend. It’s such a massive thing Carl has done. Terrible.
‘But do you know something else? When my son collapsed at home the other week the first thought that came into my head was, “what if something happens to him and Carl’s not here.”
‘Even though this has happened, even though Carl has been convicted of these terrible things, he is still my son’s dad.’