Chennai

‘He wouldn’t speak much to adults, only to children’

Children in Nochikuppam knew Bartle Frere as John and said he had visited the area until early 2013.

Children in Nochikuppam knew Bartle Frere as John and said he had visited the area until early 2013.   | Photo Credit: Handout

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Most residents of Nochikuppam, a hamlet on the Marina behind the Santhome Basilica, know the suspect in child sex abuse cases, Bartle Frere (50), as ‘John,’ who would often visit the area until early 2013, and shower boys between 10 and 14 years with gifts.

Children of the hamlet were quick to recognise Frere’s photograph that was published in the Daily Mail. He was arrested in November 2013 and is on trial. “He is Bartle Frere, a pilot, whom we started calling John as his real name was hard to pronounce. He bought us cricket bats during his visits. He often took us for lunch and swimming in the sea,” said a 10-year-old boy from the hamlet, as a bunch of his friends echoed his claims.

Mallika, who runs a petty shop behind the church in the hamlet, remembered the foreigner taking only young children, not teens, for outings and swimming. “He never spoke to adults and would hang out only with the kids, boys especially. If we made an attempt at conversation, he would merely ask the children to hurry up and leave with him,” she added.

The children knew very well that “John” resided in a five-star hotel in Adyar during his frequent Chennai visits and was a pilot by profession as he had showed them photographs of him in a cockpit.

Some children and a few teens from the hamlet stated that they had often interacted with Frere on Facebook but his page has been now been shut down.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 8:21:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/british-pilot-bartle-frere-child-abuse-suspect-nochikuppam/article6466622.ece

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