Title: Telegraph article on Secret Lives
Author:
rkeller@netaxs.com (Rod Keller)
Date: 20 Nov 1997 14:12:12 GMT


Scientology film-maker says he is victim of 'subtle harassment'
Telegraph
Thursday 20 November 1997
By Tom Utley 

AN American private detective, hired by attorneys acting for the Church of
Scientology, has approached friends and relations of the makers of a
British television biography of the Church's founder, visiting home
addresses discovered by trickery. 

He has then spread allegations that the film-makers may be implicated in
an international conspiracy of extortion and money-laundering. Simon
Berthon, the executive producer of the film about L Ron Hubbard, shown in
the Secret Lives series on Channel 4 last night, condemned the detective's
activities yesterday as a "peculiar and subtle form of harassment". 

He said the Scientologists' agents had somehow managed to establish which
telephone numbers he and the film's producer-director, Jill Robinson, had
recently rung on their private lines. Those numbers had then been rung by
a woman claiming to be conducting a survey of television-viewing habits. 

The woman promised a year's free magazine subscription to those who took
part in the survey - thereby tricking the film-makers' contacts into
revealing their addresses. Soon afterwards the detective, Eugene M Ingram,
of Los Angeles, arrived on the friends' doorsteps, saying that he was
inquiring about Mr Berthon and Ms Robinson in connection with an
international conspiracy of extortion and money-laundering. 

Mr Berthon said that the allegations appeared to have sprung from a
payment of L2,000 that his company had made for access to an archive of
material on the Scientologists. 

Ms Robinson, 45, said yesterday that about eight of her friends and
associates in England, including her parents and her hairdresser, had been
visited by Mr Ingram. Four of those had earlier received telephone calls
from a woman claiming to be conducting a survey of television-viewing
habits. 

She said that she and her crew had also been followed by detectives in the
United States, Canada and England, ever since they started making the film
last June. "It's a bit spooky," she said. "I just don't see what it is
they hope to achieve, except they seek to intimidate me." 

Mr Berthon said that when friends began to complain that they had been
visited by Mr Ingram, he checked with 12 friends and relations whom he had
recently telephoned from home. He said: "Out of 12 calls made, I have
discovered that nine have been telephoned by a woman offering a free
magazine if they take part in a TV viewing-habit survey and give their
name and address." Three of those nine had subsequently been visited by Mr
Ingram. "This is well beyond coincidence,"  said Mr Berthon. 

Among them was a friend and neighbour, Charlotte Joll, whom he had
telephoned recently to accept a children's-party invitation for his
daughter. She said: "Last Friday afternoon a man rang on the doorbell
showing me his private investigator's licence and then asked asked me if I
knew someone he was trying to get in touch with. He showed me three
photographs of a man I had never seen before and said this guy was wanted
for some kind of offence to do with getting money fraudulently. I had no
idea what it was about. Then he mentioned Simon Berthon's name. Did I know
him? I said 'Yes, our children are friends.' I then remembered that our au
pair had told me a couple of days earlier that she had been rung by
someone purporting to do be doing research on our television viewing
habits, offering her a year's subscription to her favourite magazine and
asking for our address." 

Miss Joll said that Mr Ingram had not mentioned the Scientologists. 

Another of Mr Berthon's friends who was asked to take part in a telephone
survey was Dorothy Byrne, the editor of ITV's The Big Story. She said that
Mr Ingram had telephoned her at her office at 20-20 Vision, saying that he
was a private detective investigating extortion, and asking for
information about Mr Berthon and Ms Robinson. 

She said: "I told him that Simon was one of the most highly regarded
people in television. I also told him that in Britain we don't really
appreciate private detectives hanging around outside people's houses. 

"Then on Friday I received a phone call from a woman saying that she was
doing a survey of TV viewing habits. I told her I didn't want to answer
her questions. She said she represented an organisation called Clark TV,
which makes TV programmes. I thought it was peculiar that they would be
doing surveys of viewing habits." 

Bernard Clark, chief executive of Clark TV Productions, said yesterday
that his company never conducted surveys of that sort. "There is no way we
would ever do TV-viewing surveys," he said.  "They have made a mistake by
using our name." 

Another friend of Mr Berthon's who preferred not to be named, said the
family au pair had received a telephone call last Thursday from a woman
telling "a cock-and-bull story about a survey". The au pair had been
promised a free magazine subscription and had given her address. 

On Sunday Mr Berthon's friend answered the door to a man who said he was a
private detective, trying to find a man who had put money into a
laundering account. He showed her a photograph of Mr Berthon getting into
his car and asked if she knew him. He then said that Mr Berthon had put
the money into the "laundering account" and that this was an offence. 

The friend said: "I said I was surprised to hear that because he was an
upright citizen with a good reputation. He did not mention the
Scientologists once. I thought 'how the hell did he get my number?' Then
we worked backwards. The thing that worries me most is how they can get
particulars of the numbers Simon had rung." 

Asked about these facts this week, the Church of Scientology said: "It
sounds very intriguing. It sounds bizarre." Graeme Wilson, public affairs
director of the Church in the United Kingdom, said that Mr Ingram had been
hired by an American attorney, Elliot J Abelson of Los Angeles, which
acted for the Church. He faxed to The Telegraph a letter from Mr Abelson
to D J Freeman, Mr Berthon's solicitor, replying to a complaint of
harassment made by Mr Berthon and dismissing all allegations against Mr
Ingram's conduct as false. 

In it, Mr Abelson said that he had hired Mr Ingram to investigate
international conspirators who were trying to extort money from Churches
of Scientology with help from the media. Mr Berthon and Ms Robinson had
been in touch with some of these people, said Mr Abelson. He said:
"Consequently I have retained Mr Ingram, as part of his investigatory
duties, to determine whether individuals including Ms Robinson and her
producer Simon Berthon are knowingly acting in furtherance of the
intentions of the suspected conspirators." 

Mr Abelson said in the letter: "Mr Ingram is pursuing his investigation
candidly and openly in direct contrast to Ms Robinson's inquiries in the
United States. Any complaints about his activities in this regard from
your clients are rejected." 

For the Church, Mr Wilson said that in preparing the documentary, Mr
Berthon's 3MB Television had made no attempt to contact either the Church
of Scientology or Mr Hubbard's authorised biographer. Instead, Ms Robinson
had travelled around America interviewing the "worst possible detractors
she could dredge up". Mr Ingram could not be reached last night. 

In 1984 a British High Court judge attacked the Church of Scientology as
"corrupt, sinister and dangerous." "It is sinister," said Mr Justice
Latey, "because it indulges in sinister practices both to its adherents
who do not toe the line unquestioningly and to those outside who criticise
or oppose it." Mr Hubbard died in 1986. 

A Home Office spokesman said that he thought it was not a criminal offence
to run a bogus telephone survey in order to discover addresses. He said:
"It is deceptive, but I can't see how it could form an offence of
deception." 

The Scientologists are considering taking legal action against Channel 4
following last night's highly critical programme on the activities of
their founder, L Ron Hubbard, writes Victoria Combe, Churches
Correspondent. 

The movement, which has a following of Hollywood stars including John
Travolta and and Nicole Kidman, has enlisted the services of the libel
solicitor, Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners. The Scientologists claim that the
programme, in the Secret Lives series, was "grossly unfair" and amounts to
a "character assassination" of L Ron Hubbard. 

Their solicitors have written to the Independent Television Commission
attacking the methods used in making the documentary and demanding
"immediate intervention". The Scientology movement is now recognised as a
church by the United States tax authorities. 

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