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Mick Brown investigates ‘personal development coach’ Anne Craig, who’s been accused of encouraging false memories of abuse and tearing families apart
Towards the end of 2016 I received a telephone call asking whether I would be interested in talking to a woman named Anne Craig. Described to me as a ‘personal development coach’, Craig, I was told, was involved in an interesting case where she had been accused of attempting to separate young women who had been her clients from their families by implanting false memories of having been abused as children.
A few months before I received the call, she had appeared in court as party to an action by a family who were attempting to gain access to documents from a Metropolitan Police investigation into Craig’s activities, in order to bring a civil case against her.
Over the course of the case, the family had claimed that their daughter, who was not named, had been one of a number of young women whom Craig had ‘brainwashed’ into believing their parents were guilty of ‘horrendous’ behaviour towards them, attempting to ‘dictate’ their every move, and isolating them from family and friends.
In a statement submitted to the court, the young woman in question said that any allegations against her family had come from her and not from Craig. Their sessions together, she said, had enabled her to express ‘deeply held and private’ matters about her childhood, and had actually given her ‘the strength to distance herself from her family’.
In another statement read out to the court, Craig said she was ‘shocked and alarmed’ by the ‘untrue’ allegations made against her, and categorically denied that she used psychological techniques to encourage the young woman to believe certain things that were untrue.
Craig, her barrister said, viewed the case as ‘part of a continuing campaign of harassment’ conducted against her by the family. The family failed in their action against the police after the judge ruled that it did not meet the legal tests for forcing the police to hand over the documents.
In the reporting of the case, much had been made of the allegations against Craig, but less about her allegations of ‘harassment’. And she had remained conspicuously quiet on the matter, refusing to comment publicly.
I had not paid much attention to the case at the time. It was not until the telephone call asking if I wished to speak to Craig that my curiosity was aroused. When I called the number I’d been given, Craig was on a bus. Over the next 20 minutes she gave a confusing account of events, repeating her claims that she had been the victim of harassment, and accusing the police of negligence in investigating her complaints. At one point she started to cry. Her life, she said, had been ‘absolute hell’. She wanted to tell her side of the story.
We arranged to meet. What I had not expected was to become embroiled in a story of considerable complexity, calling into question the nature of memory, its fallibility, and its propensity to be manipulated. It’s the story of a woman who was able to set herself up as a life coach, with no training, no qualifications and no supervision – with calamitous consequences; a story of the struggle between two mothers and the woman they believe has stolen their daughters from them. Above all, it is a story that raises urgent questions about the role of therapy in treating emotional problems, and the need for stricter regulation of those who practise it.
We met in the café of a London department store. Craig is in her mid-60s: a pale-looking woman with sharp features and long, dark hair, her face devoid of make-up, who speaks in a soft Irish accent. She asked for camomile tea, and when none was available ordered hot water, and produced her own teabag.
Craig has been variously called a therapist, a holistic healer and a life coach; but she described herself to me as a ‘teacher’, and her field as personal development. Over the course of two hours she gave me a truncated version of her history. She was born in Ireland, but came to England as a young woman, working firstly as a stewardess, and then a training manager for an airline. She married Rodney Craig, a Royal Navy commander, and gave birth to a daughter, Tara.
In 1999 the family moved to London. Rodney frequently travelled, and Tara was away at boarding school. Craig set up on her own, practising ‘personal development’ using a range of techniques, including dream analysis and ‘unblocking energies’. Over the years, she had gained a certificate in counselling skills in the development of learning, and had been a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the professional body for people working in the field of HR. She said she had ‘extensive professional work experience in this field’.
While anybody can set up in business calling themselves a ‘therapist’, Craig emphasised that was not how she described herself.
In 2008, Tara was visiting Florence, and it was there that she fell in with a group of young English women studying art at the Charles H Cecil Studios, a prestigious training ground for aspiring artists, most from well-off families. When one of the group talked of suffering from unexplained fainting fits, Tara suggested she should meet her mother. The sessions apparently helped and over the course of the next year up to a dozen young women, all of whom either knew, or were referred by, each other, became Craig’s clients. All were privately educated and mixed in the same social circles. Some were in search of help for emotional problems of varying degrees of severity – ‘stuck in their development’, as Craig would put it; others came simply because they were intrigued by her methods of dream analysis. In Craig’s phrase, all were ‘on a journey’.
She conducted her sessions at her home in Camberwell, south London. She would charge £90 – a fee that over the years would rise to £125. Conventionally, therapy sessions last for 50 minutes. But Craig’s could run for up to three hours, and sometimes longer, supplemented by phone calls and email exchanges. ‘Most therapists,’ she told me, ‘don’t go far enough.’ Dealing with her clients, it was necessary ‘to get to the very root of the problem’. And in all the women’s cases, she said, this was relationships – particularly with their parents. ‘A certain group of people would say, “I can’t take my mother’s anger any more,” and I want to know why. I look at a pattern, and then take it back and back until you actually get to the root of that. And then you take it out of the root, and that is the only way it is ever going to dissipate.’
What she was describing, I said, sounded far removed from the HR skills she had been trained in. She agreed. ‘But if you’re doing personal development you’re doing emotions. I’ve been to counsellors myself who’ve never gone deep enough. If someone has really done the work on themselves, they can take you wherever you need to go because they have that understanding.’
It was not until much later that she would go into more detail about what this ‘work’ entailed.
One by one, the group of young women stopped seeing Craig. By early 2014 only three remained. One was a 24-year-old named Victoria Cayzer, another an artist named Laura Huewilliams. Both had been seeing Craig for almost four years – and both had broken off completely from their families and friends.
Victoria’s father is Charles Cayzer, an investment banker. Her parents are divorced and in 2008 her mother, Amanda, married Nicholas Alexander, the 7th Earl of Caledon. Victoria had not been one of the Florence group. She was introduced to Craig by a friend in 2010, towards the end of her first year at Leeds University, where she studied English. Victoria had been suffering from eating issues. She told her mother that Craig was helping her by using dream analysis and reiki – a healing technique based on the idea that an unseen ‘life-force energy’ flows through us. Craig assured Victoria that she could ‘cure her in three years’. Amanda Caledon told friends that she was alarmed by such a specific promise, but because Victoria seemed happy with the arrangement she felt it might be beneficial for a short period. After leaving university, Victoria moved to a flat in London and worked as a tutor. But by 2012 her family had begun to notice a marked change in her behaviour. She became increasingly remote and uncommunicative. On one occasion over dinner with her father she talked darkly of ‘abuse’, without specifying exactly what she meant. Due to spend Christmas with him, she failed to turn up.
A few months later she cleared the last of her belongings from her parents’ houses. Within a few weeks she had broken off with her family and all her friends, including her boyfriend.
Fearing for her daughter’s well-being, Lady Caledon employed a private investigator, who interviewed other young women who had been Craig’s clients. The Caledons discovered that Laura Hue-williams had also broken with her family after seeing Craig, and made contact with her parents. Laura’s father, Timothy, is a retired stockbroker; her mother, Sarah, is now married to businessman Henry Strutt.
In February 2014, lawyers acting for the Caledons wrote to Craig, accusing her of manipulating Victoria, Laura and others by implanting false memories, leading the young women to believe that their parents had been guilty of ‘the most heinous of crimes’, and encouraging them to cut themselves off from their families and friends. ‘It would appear,’ the letter alleged, ‘that not only are you using this as an opportunity to extract money from the targets but you are also seeking to use them for your own emotional needs.’
The letter demanded that Craig cease communicating with the ‘targets’ forthwith. Craig replied through her lawyers, vehemently denying the charges. Matters quickly escalated.
Craig had moved to Battersea, and in June 2014, anonymous leaflets were posted through the letter boxes of Craig, her neighbours and her daughter, with the warning: ‘Holistic healer Anne Craig has moved into your street! Your daughters are in grave danger!’, claiming that Craig would implant false memories and pressure them into believing, ‘You, their loving parents’ had abused them as children. It included Craig’s address. Printed on the leaflet was a photograph of Craig’s parents’ gravestone in Ireland.
Seeing it as a death threat, Craig reported it to the police, who investigated, but were unable to determine who had posted the leaflets. Matters took a further dramatic turn in August. Having discovered where Victoria was living, Amanda Caledon posted a birthday card through her daughter’s letter box and left a tiny bunch of flowers on her doorstep. A few weeks later she posted a book on the risk of psychological abuse in therapy, along with a letter warning her against Craig, through Victoria’s door.
The next day, acting on an allegation of harassment from Victoria, seven police officers, in two cars and a van, arrived at Lady Caledon’s home and placed her under arrest. She was taken to a police station but immediately released when the custody sergeant decided it was a case of wrongful arrest. But the incident led the police to look more closely at the background to these events, with the result that their investigation now took a 180-degree turn – and focused on Anne Craig.
Four other young women came forward and gave statements, telling how, following lengthy sessions with Craig, they had experienced growing feelings of hopelessness, and of negativity towards their closest family and friends. On the basis of those interviews, on 27 October 2014, four plain-clothes police officers arrived at Craig’s home. She was taken to a police station and booked on three charges: fraud, administering a noxious substance and occasioning psychological Actual Bodily Harm. The noxious substance charge arose from two women claiming to have felt drowsy after being given a drink by Craig. That charge, and the psychological ABH charge were dropped. But Craig was bailed on the third charge of fraud for six months.
In what appeared to be a deliberate strategy to remove the women from her influence, under her bail conditions she was prohibited from seeing or communicating with any of her clients – a stipulation that Craig described to me as being ‘under house arrest’.
What exactly went on in Anne Craig’s sessions with her young clients? I spoke to a number of women who had seen Craig between 2009 and 2013. None of them wished to be named. One described how the sessions concentrated mostly on her family relationships. ‘It was always about my mother; if there was a peach in my dream it would be my mum sucking the joy out of my life. It was a way of putting ideas into your head.’ Craig would also give ‘homework’. One exercise was for the client to draw a heart, writing in it the names of those closest to her. ‘Then she’d say, “I think that’s a lot of people for you to carry, don’t you think?” As if I should be cutting them out of my life, and she would become my mother.’
After four months she told Craig she no longer wanted to see her. ‘I was scared of her.’
Another woman, who had gone to see Craig for help with feelings of depression, described how during her first session Craig told her to lie back on the couch, saying that she was going to use a form of reiki to ‘read my dreams’. She promptly fell asleep. When she woke up, Craig told her that she had dreamt of being five years old, at a party at her grandmother’s house, and being in a dark cupboard at the top of the stairs. ‘I said there wasn’t a cupboard at the top of the stairs in that house. I said, maybe the house I grew up in? And she said yes, that was it.
‘And she said, “Something very frightening happened to you in this cupboard.” None of it made any sense to me. I said I would see if my parents could remember anything. She said, “Don’t speak to your parents. They won’t understand.”’
Unsettled by the experience, the young woman never returned.
Another, Angela*, started seeing Craig in 2011. She was 23 and deeply confused about her sexuality, she told me, and fearful of telling her family and friends that she might be gay. Craig suggested she would need up to eight sessions with her. ‘One of the first things she said was, “I break you down and I put you back together. Then you’ll have finished your journey and you can go on to have the career, the social relationships and everything you’ve ever wanted.”’
Angela started to see Craig once every two weeks, then once a week. It would be 18 months before she finally broke with her. As ‘homework’ Craig would encourage her to write ‘angry and negative’ things every day, using her left hand – ‘because that connects to the heart, not the head, and everything should come from the heart’ – and then burn what she had written. ‘She really sculpted us to be negative, angry people.’
Craig, she said, ‘Tried to tell me, many, many
‘You’ve been talking about yourself for two hours, and that is the moment she asks, “Have you been abused?”’
times I’d been abused, that’s why I had fears around my sexuality.’ Everybody who came to her, Craig told her, had suffered abuse at some time in their life.
‘You’ve been talking about yourself for two hours and what a terrible victim you’ve been all your life, and that is the moment she asks, “Have you been abused?” Everything in the room is begging you to say yes. But I just haven’t. And then she would imply that I was not ready to deal with it.’
For Angela, the breaking point came when she received an offer of work abroad. Craig, she said, tried to pressure her not to go. ‘She said it would be selfish, because I would be breaking the intense connection we had.’ After leaving Craig, she told me, she finally decided to come out as gay. ‘It was the happiest day of my life.’
Craig, she went on, ‘wants to bring you to a place where you need nothing, or nobody but her’.
When I asked Craig about Angela, she told me that she was ‘a very complicated character’.
Child abuse can be physical, sexual or emotional, or it can be the result of neglect. In all forms of abuse, the common factor is psychological trauma and the long-term damage it can do to the mental health of the victim.
The past cannot be revisited, only invented. Stories become exaggerated, facts misplaced, distorted or forgotten. Memory is a fragile anchor to our versions of ourselves. Our family history is a part of this. There are moments of rupture, upset, but life goes on. Fences are mended, harsh words forgotten. Then into this placid pool of memory a drop of ink falls, and then another, and another – until the pool is dark and murky and we can no longer distinguish between what is true and what is imagined.
Discussion of false memory in therapy first began to emerge in America in the 1980s, at a time when increasing numbers of women – it was mostly women – were coming forward claiming that in the course of psychotherapy they had ‘recovered’ repressed memories of being sexually abused as children. The growing number of such cases gave rise to concerns within the psychiatric profession that suggestive questioning by therapists could result in memories of trauma that are objectively false but in which the person comes to believe strongly.
The term false memory syndrome (FMS) is controversial. It is not recognised as a psychiatric condition, giving fuel to critics and abuse survivors who maintain that claims of FMS undermine the plight of genuine victims and provide a ‘cover’ for paedophiles.
But Professor Chris French, the head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London, and a member of the scientific and professional advisory board of the British False Memory Society, says he is in no doubt that the phenomenon of false memory is genuine. ‘Therapy,’ he says, ‘is almost the perfect environment for generating false memories.’
A therapist who is predisposed to look for evidence of sexual abuse, for example, might easily
influence their subject to ‘remember’ it. And once the client has accepted the possibility of repressed memories of abuse lying at the heart their problems – and they have developed what Prof French calls a ‘shared understanding’ with the therapist that ‘recovering’ those memories is part of the therapautic process – it is very easy for false memories to appear.
Professor Elizabeth Loftus, an American cognitive psychologist and one of the world’s leading authorities on the malleability of human memory, has written of how dream analysis in therapy can be especially problematic in the hands of a therapist who discusses sexual abuse during the day, causing sexual material to appear in the patient’s dreams at night. The therapist then uses those dreams as a ‘resource’ to reconstruct supposed childhood sexual abuse. ‘The danger that these questionable activities might lead a patient to a false belief and memory that sexual abuse actually occurred is more than a passing risk.’
The human cost of false memory, Prof French adds, can be enormous. ‘The person who believes they have been abused is deeply traumatised: they are 100 per cent certain it has happened. Families are torn apart, because the person who thinks they’ve been abused will cut off, or completely ostracise, anyone who doesn’t accept that it has actually happened. The therapist becomes like a guru.’
In April 2015, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute Anne Craig, and the charge of fraud was dropped. Freed from her bail conditions, she started to see both Victoria and Laura again, without charging for her services.
No longer their ‘personal development coach’, she had now become their ‘friend’. Both Victoria and Laura told me that Craig was the person they trusted most in the world.
It was Craig who put me in touch with them. The photographs I had seen of Victoria at society parties and gallery openings showed a willowy and gilded young woman in a party frock. The person I met in a café in Kensington looked tired and drawn; she was wearing an anorak, jeans and work boots. She had a whippet with the words ‘service dog’ printed on its lead. It made her feel safer, she said. If you had to choose one word to describe her it would be ‘fragile’.
Speaking hesitantly, she described an unhappy childhood: family arguments, her parents’ divorce when she was 16. As a teenager she had developed an eating disorder, which had worsened during her A-level years. ‘I just couldn’t deal with life at all.’ She had seen a number of therapists and counsellors, but ‘none of it was working. I guess things were very repressed and I needed to go deeper.’ When she met Craig in 2010, she said, ‘I knew that was right.’
At first she would see Craig once a month, but gradually the meetings became more frequent; once a week, then twice a week, with daily exchanges of emails and phone calls. For seven years. ‘Things don’t get better quickly,’ she said, ‘but I started to open up this thing that was underneath that I couldn’t get to. I would feel these really violent emotions that I knew were linked to my parents, but it wasn’t quite clear how.’
Certain things would come up in these sessions, ‘a memory or some kind of issue. And then I would write about it, talk about it, draw it, taking it back to the root.’ I had heard that phrase before.
At the end of a session, Craig would put her hands on the top of Victoria’s head ‘to connect with your energy and feel what’s blocked. And if the emotions are blocked she can open them up so things come out,’ Victoria told me. Each day she would email Craig details of her dreams for analysis. It was through these processes, she said, that she would get ‘a flash of seeing things and remembering’.
It had been suggested, I said, that these sessions had led her to ‘remember’ things that had not actually happened at all.
That wasn’t true, she said. ‘How can someone tell you you’re remembering something? They just can’t. When I relax and let the memories come out it’s so powerful and so frightening. But it’s such a relief at the same time.
‘I had got to a point where I didn’t trust what was in my mind, my emotions, so I didn’t want to let anything come up to the surface. But Anne helped me relax and trust myself.’
Victoria talked about how it had been necessary to cut herself off from family and friends. ‘Because once you step back and start looking at your relationships you realise how unhealthy they are; they were all informed by my relationship with my parents and they were very destructive. I didn’t really want to accept it – but when you’re confronted with the truth you can’t really deny it any more…’ Her voice trailed into silence.
Under the terms of a family trust, Victoria was due to inherit a large sum of money, but in 2014 she had insisted on withdrawing from the inheritance. ‘How could I accept money from a family I didn’t want to be part of ?’
With Craig’s encouragement, she had twice given statements to the police alleging historic crimes. ‘But nothing has been done,’ she said. ‘I think that’s really sinister.’
The café was closing for the day, and we walked in a nearby park where she could let her dog off the leash. For the past few months she had been living in a squatters’ camp near Heathrow airport. I got the sense she was unhappy and felt unsafe there. Laura Hue-williams was living in the same squat. They had not known each other before becoming involved with Craig, but had got in contact following her arrest.
Victoria had now been seeing Craig for almost seven years, but it seemed there was no end in sight. ‘It’s not going to be instant. All the time I’m confronted with traumatic things. Every day there’s something that comes up.’
So, no, she could not foresee a time when she would not need Anne Craig.
In her London flat, Sarah Strutt spread out an assortment of family photographs, letters and Mother’s Day cards – all drawn by her daughter Laura, the messages in bold, exuberant handwriting. ‘Best Mum Ever!!!’ and ‘Thank you so much for always being there for me and giving me everything I ask for, even if it is not the easiest thing to do! Even if you think I do not realise – I do, and I love you very much.’
Strutt and her daughter, she said, were ‘like soulmates’, but she had neither seen nor heard from Laura in the four years since her last letter, saying that she was breaking from the family for good, to ‘grow and heal my spirit from the damage done’. Strutt told me she still had no idea of what that ‘damage’ could be.
Born in England, Laura spent her early childhood in Monaco, moving with her family back to England when she was nine. In 2006 she began a three-year course at the Charles H Cecil Studios, enjoying it so much that at the end of the course she stayed on for an extra term. In 2009, her parents divorced. Laura returned to England, intent on making her living as an artist. Shortly afterwards she started seeing Craig. She told her mother that Craig was ‘teaching her about chakras’ – the ancient Indian theory of energy points in the body. Strutt thought it sounded like doing a yoga class.
It was in the spring of 2011, when Laura was 25, Strutt told me, that her daughter’s behaviour became more worrying. Laura wrote a letter to her boyfriend of four years breaking up with him, and another letter to her mother, saying she needed time to herself to work on her art and music.
‘I trusted Laura; she’s incredibly sensible and if she wanted a bit of time apart it didn’t worry me. She’d said it was nothing personal,’ Strutt said.
But Laura was retreating deeper into herself. She cut off all her old friends and closed her Facebook account. She told her mother she wanted to be left alone; that she was ‘healing my head’.
Then, for a while, Laura disappeared altogether. Eventually, Strutt discovered that she had taken a job teaching at an art school in west London. Strutt and her husband, Henry, waited outside one afternoon. It was almost a year since she had last set eyes on her daughter. Laura looked ‘startled’ to see them.
‘Henry said, “Laura when I first knew you, you adored your mother.” And she said, “Yes, I adored my mother.” He said, “Has she done anything to upset you since that time?” And she said no. So he said, “You adored her before and she’s done nothing to upset you since; shall we just go home together?”’
Laura, Strutt said, ‘started swaying, her head went down, as if she didn’t know what to say. And then suddenly her whole body changed; she put her head in the air and said, “It’s not for me to tell my mother what she’s done; it’s for my mother to find out.” And then she walked off.’
And did Strutt know what her daughter meant by that?
She shook her head. ‘I don’t think she knows what she meant by it. There is no reason.’
Throughout all this, Strutt told me, her daughter had kept the same email address and phone number. ‘I used to regularly text and email her. She never answered, but I thought, if she didn’t want to get these messages she would surely have cut me off.’
But in January 2014, Laura wrote to her mother to tell her she was ‘disinheriting’ her family and cutting all ties to her past. She changed her number, and moved to the same encrypted email server as Craig. (Victoria would also move to the same server.)
In 2015, Strutt gathered all her family, except Laura, in France for her 60th birthday. ‘Everything was perfect,’ she told me. ‘But I just woke up on my birthday and burst into tears. You put everything into this box with a lid on, and then it just bursts open. What makes it such agony, apart from the agony of missing her, is that there is no reason for any of it. It’s not as if there was a row. It was just Laura walking away from a very loving family.’
I met Laura in a café in an unlovely suburb at the end of the Northern line. She was exhibiting a piece of work in a pop-up show, staged by an arts collective. Tonight was the opening.
She talked about growing up in Monaco and England and, with remarkable candour, about deeply personal issues to do with her body that she said had troubled her throughout her childhood and adolescence. It was a picture that bore absolutely no relation to the description of the exuberant, happy young woman described by her family and her friends.
She talked of how these issues had instilled a sense of disgust in her, to the point that by the time she was a teenager she ‘went completely off the rails’ with alcohol and drugs.
In 2010 she was introduced to Craig. She wanted to resolve her body issues, and to develop as an artist and a musician, and thought that Craig could help her. She also, she said, had a ‘gut feeling that things had happened that I couldn’t remember. I just knew it in my heart that if anyone could help me unpuzzle my path a bit more it was her.’
She began to describe vague memories from her childhood that she said had left her deeply traumatised, and which she had repressed. Among the memories that had come to the surface, she said, was one of having been badly mistreated by a relative who had died when she was three years old. ‘I have flashbacks of him. It was just all the time.’ (I later discovered that Laura was actually just 18 months old when the relative died.)
‘I know my parents are trying to say it’s false memory syndrome but it’s not.’ She paused. ‘It’s so hard, unless you’re inside my body to feel it. When I work something out, everything sort of slots together. It’s not even like a mental memory, it’s a physical memory.’
On one occasion she had experienced what she described as a ‘massive breakdown. For three days I was vomiting and had diarrhoea and I felt like there was a knife in my stomach. After that, more of my memories opened up. Like, it had to happen physically. I talked to Anne about it and you try to piece it all together.’
Was she not concerned that Craig had no training or qualifications to deal with the sort of issues we’d been discussing?
Laura had never seen a trained therapist. ‘But I don’t know how much they could have taught me to open myself up, which is what Anne has taught me. She has this talent to help people understand their traumas.’
Craig, she said, was ‘a friend I dearly cherish’, someone ‘who’s very wise and can help me’.
We finished our drinks, and walked to the empty shop space where the art show was taking place. I had seen photographs of Laura’s paintings, but the work she had in the show was a conceptual piece. It was a rubber glove, suspended upside down in a
‘What makes it such agony, apart from the agony of missing Victoria, is that there is no reason for any of it’
metal frame, with water trickling from a pipe into the hand of the glove, and then dropping through pinpricks in the fingers into a bucket on the floor. We stood and watched it. Drip, drip, drip. It was about her mother, Laura said. But it occurred to me that it was actually about Craig.
When I met Craig for the second time it was in the lounge of a London hotel. I ordered a coffee. She asked for a glass of water. She wanted to talk more about her background, she said, to help me better understand her work.
She was brought up in a household of eight women – seven girls and her mother. She was the fifth daughter. Her mother’s family had been comfortably off; her uncle owned a large farm, where Craig’s father worked as a labourer. He was an alcoholic, she said, ‘very controlling’, but her mother had always had dreams – she started her own catering company – and Craig painted a picture of herself as a dreamer, too.
She worked in nursing, but it didn’t suit her, she said. And after going into the airline industry, she moved into the field of personal development. It was at that point, she said, that she underwent counselling herself – ‘for my own development’ – and the issue of childhood trauma ‘started coming up’.
‘I knew there was something that had happened to me as a child, because I had no relationship with my father at all. You have a feeling inside, but you don’t know where it’s coming from. But it wasn’t until I was on the counselling course, going into therapy, self-exploring, that I thought, well obviously I need to open up something here, and as you open it up it makes sense.’
The counsellor advised her to go to Ireland to confront her parents. They cut off all connection with her from that moment on.
But the shape of her life was cast. ‘Everything I’ve done,’ she told me, ‘I’ve known is for a bigger purpose.’
And what, I asked, is that purpose?
‘The reason is very much to open up the violent abuse of women.’ She took a sip of water. ‘That,’ she said, ‘is really what my journey is all about.’
It was 1991. She returned to England and worked counselling the unemployed. It was then she had what she described as an emotional breakdown. ‘I didn’t realise that all the stress had accumulated and how it was affecting me.’ Her doctor referred her to a man named Russell Jenkins, a ‘healer’ who practised homeopathy and reiki. ‘And that really was the start of something incredible opening up on a different level altogether.’
He would become her mentor, her guide, for 15 years. Through her association with him, it became her belief that ‘any emotional trauma we have in our mind has to manifest itself in our body. And if we can look at that and not be scared of any organs we’re holding it in, it will reveal itself, whether it’s through dreams or so many different things.’ If you ‘bring light’ into something, she said, ‘it will heal’. She herself had not been to a doctor in 20 years. ‘With everything that has happened in my body I use my own healing inner resources and find out what it is.’
In 1999, she moved from Hampshire to London, but she and Jenkins would continue to talk regularly on the phone.
‘I was still getting panic attacks, but I would call him and he would always be there to help me, and calm me down.’ She spoke of him with a respect bordering on reverence.
Jenkins died in 2007, at the age of 52, after injuring his foot treading on an electric plug in his home. The wound turned septic, and Jenkins, a diabetic, sought advice from a homeopath who suggested he treat it with Manuka honey. He died from gangrene caused by the bacterial infection. An inquest was told he had refused to have conventional medical treatment after his ‘inner being’ had told him not to.
After coming to London, Craig told me, she had spent seven years ‘taking myself apart – emotionally, physically, mentally’. She saw very few people. She was doing ‘a tremendous amount of work’ on herself, ‘opening up my dreams more and looking into the past’.
She began to advertise her services, offering ‘a holistic approach using healing energies’ in ‘a safe, secure and private environment’, taking on mostly female clients. When the group of young women, starting with those from the Charles H Cecil Studios, first started coming to her, she went on, it was ‘as if it was the next stage of my journey I was ready for’.
She quickly began to recognise ‘a thread’, she said. What kept coming up, she went on, was the extent of abnormal relations between siblings. ‘With every single one.’
Every single one? It struck me, I said, as inconceivable that in a random sampling of six or seven young women all would make exactly the same claim. ‘No, it’s not. What it really is, is the group they’re in. It’s nothing to do with people randomly.’
So was she suggesting this was because the girls were all from comfortable, middle-class backgrounds? ‘Yes.’
It had taken time and patience, she suggested, for this information to emerge. But the ‘bulk of the work’ she had been doing up until her arrest had been concerned with this single question, she said, ‘Where is the root? There’s something going on here that I’m not quite getting.’
When, in April 2015, Craig resumed seeing
Victoria and Laura, unpaid, the relationships had long since ceased to be professional. ‘It’s about friendship,’ Craig told me, and completing ‘the job I set out to do’.
But hadn’t she simply created a dependency in the girls? It was clear from talking with Victoria, I said, that she was highly dependent on Craig.
‘In a sense at the moment she is, but gradually she won’t be, and she will become more reliant on herself.’
Craig returned to her allegations against the the girls’ families. The reason they had pursued her, she said, was to silence the girls, and to silence her, ‘because of what I know’. Her tone became more urgent, more conspiratorial.
‘Tori would say one thing to me, and a couple of days later Huey [Laura] would say something else, and I was thinking, why are they both talking about very similar things, and about memories, and about this? So I had to have two people, who weren’t linked, and who would kind of divulge the same information to me at different times to get me to start believing this really happened. Otherwise I wouldn’t have believed it.’
Given the fact that it was her ‘journey’ to root out abuse wherever she could find it, did she not think she was consciously looking for it in the young women who came to her?
‘Absolutely not. But these young girls were telling me things, and I would come out of the room reeling.’ There were, she went on, ‘much deeper things going on’. Elements within the police were working with the perpetrators of these crimes to prevent the truth from coming out. ‘Every time somebody tries to open it up, it gets closed down. I’m doing it in a different way. If you like, you can say I’m guided. I know what I’m doing.’
I was reminded of something she had said at our first meeting, when I asked why girls who had come to her for help had ended up cutting themselves off from their families. ‘But what’s so wrong with that?’ she said. ‘There are loads of people in life who decide they’re not going to see their family any more.’ The real question was about the ‘massive secrets’ their parents were
‘I had got to a point where I didn’t trust what was in my mind… But Anne helped me relax and trust myself,’ Victoria told me
trying to conceal. ‘She would never have spoken out had she not received that letter from the Caledons’ lawyer all those years ago. ‘And the harassment…’ She sighed. ‘It goes on and on and on.’
She started to cry. ‘If you asked me to describe myself in two words,’ she said, ‘I would say I’m kind and I’m brave.’
In July 2015, Craig filed a series of complaints against the Metropolitan Police, claiming unlawful arrest, neglect and a failure in duty to investigate the leaflet that had been posted through her and her neighbours’ letter boxes. The police, she claimed, had not undertaken ‘an impartial investigation’; instead showing deference to ‘highprofile’ family members of the alleged victims and imposing bail conditions that had prevented her, Craig, from conducting her work. In February 2016, she was informed that in each particular there was ‘no case to answer’, and that her claim had therefore not been upheld.
The ruling, she told me, was further proof of ‘the conspiracy’.
Charles Cayzer, Amanda Caledon, Timothy Hue-williams and Sarah Strutt have all described any allegations of abuse of any kind made by their daughters as ‘absurd’, ‘unthinkable’. All believe that Craig is responsible for turning their daughters against them. All say they will not rest until their daughters have come home.
What most frustrates Strutt, she told me, is that the law offers no protection or remedy in a case such as this.
‘There is nothing to prevent this happening to other families in the future, or for families such as us to take any kind of legal action. You are watching your child who one moment is the most loving, adoring child who says there is nothing more important than family, pulling away to the extent that they become a stranger. And you’re helpless to do anything about it.’
In 2014 Geraint Davies, the Labour Co-operative MP for Swansea West, tabled a private members’ bill to bring psychotherapists and counsellors under the same regulation as clinical professionals such as doctors and psychiatrists. That bill failed to get a reading, but Davies is in the throes of preparing a revised version to present to Parliament, which, he says, would also cover all manner of spurious ‘therapeutic’ treatments that could be proved to cause harm.
‘If somebody had gone along in good faith for guidance and had been given illegitimate treatment that subsequently estranged them from their parents, then clearly there would be a case for them [the practitioner] to be struck off.’
While such a bill would not necessarily prevent someone setting themselves up as a ‘personal development coach’ as Craig did, Davies believes it would encourage people to ensure they were seeing a registered psychotherapist ‘and fewer people would then get into the hands of people who abuse them’.
Nor, at present, is there any legal remedy to guard against the sort of influence or psychological coercion that Craig has been accused of. The Serious Crime Act legislates against controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship, so would be extremely hard to apply in cases such as this, especially when the ‘victims’ would be unlikely to testify against the accused.
In 2014, Sir Edward Garnier, the former Tory MP and Solicitor General, attempted to draft a more stringent bill on coercion and exploitation, modelled on French law, which would criminalise behaviour characterised by persistent or repeated pressure on a person. France’s so-called About-picard law makes it an offence to fraudulently abuse the ignorance or state of weakness of a minor or vulnerable person, or to abuse a person in a state of physical or psychological dependency resulting from serious or repeated pressure or from techniques used to affect their judgement, in order to induce that person to act, or abstain from acting, in any way seriously harmful to him or her. It is punishable by three years in prison. At the time, Garnier’s proposal, he says, ‘ran out of sand’ in a particularly turbulent political period. But he believes it could form the basis for future legislation, ‘if Parliament was so minded, and there was sufficient public pressure’.
In March 2016, Sarah Strutt wrote to Craig – ‘mother to mother’ – pleading with her to tell Laura that she had done incredibly well and ‘finished her journey’, and it was time to come home to her family. ‘Please imagine,’ Strutt wrote, ‘how sad you would be without Tara in your life.’
‘I thought it would help Anne save face,’ Strutt told me. Craig did not reply.
When I asked her why not, she repeated the allegations that Laura had made against her mother.
Did she not feel, I asked, that it would be beneficial for the young women to try to rebuild some sort of relationship with their families?
‘They have to make that decision themselves,’ she said. ‘I cannot make that decision.’
But it was she that the families held responsible for their daughters cutting themselves off.
Craig was silent for a moment. ‘I had a dream, Mick, a while ago,’ she said at last. ‘And in the dream it said you were taking their side.’
I replied that I wasn’t taking sides; I just wanted to get to the truth.
When I met Craig for a third time, she had left London and moved to the country. It was now seven years since she had first started seeing Victoria and Laura for ‘personal development’. She was still seeing them, ‘probably once every three or four weeks’, she told me, but talking ‘on a daily basis’. They were still living in the squatters’ camp near Heathrow. ‘For the moment…’
Things in her own life were changing, she said. She had decided that it was time to follow a new path. She would not be taking on any more clients. ‘There was a purpose in all of it and it was to open something up. And I have achieved that. If I look at how my dreams are developing, I will know what the future is. I want to be that voice that comes to people and says, “You can heal.”’ This, she said, was ‘my journey’.
It was shortly after this that I learnt from Craig that Victoria had left the squatters’ camp, and – so Craig told me – gone abroad. Laura too was believed to have left the country. I emailed them both. They replied that they had no wish to be in contact with me. Craig too had cut off contact with me. No one knows where either of the girls are, not a single member of their families nor any of their old friends.
My mind went back to what had been virtually Craig’s last words in our final conversation. Her work, she said, was done.
Postscript: Further to the allegations made by Victoria against her family, police forces in Arg yll and Bute and Thames Valley subsequently discontinued their investigations, saying no action would be taken in regard to the allegations.
In a response to further questions from the Telegraph, Anne Craig emphasised that all her clients had been over the age of 21 at the time she was consulting with them. She denied she had ever suggested or encouraged her clients to reduce, or cease, communications with their families or friends, and stated that the ‘personal development’ she taught ‘comprised a number of well-recognised methodologies’.