'Thorn from Jesus's crucifixion crown' goes on display at British Museum

It was plundered in the Fourth Crusade, sold to French royalty and has spent the past 200 years in safekeeping at a British public school.

Now a relic claimed to be a thorn from Jesus's crown is to go on display at the British Museum.

And while no one can doubt the item's rich history, there is less evidence to support the claims of its provenance.

The Crown of Thorns is said to have been seized from Constantinople, the imperial capital of the Roman Empire, in the Fourth Crusade - around AD 1200 - and was later sold to King Louis IX of France while he was in Venice.

King Louis kept the religious relic in the specially-built Saint Chapel and thorns were broken off from the crown and given to people who married into the family as gifts.

The thorn at Stonyhurst College - a 400-year-old Jesuit boarding school - was said to have been given to Mary Queen of Scots who married into the French royal family and she took it with her to Holyrood in Edinburgh.

And following her execution in 1587, it was passed from her loyal servant, Thomas Percy, to his daughter, Elizabeth Woodruff, who then gave it to her confessor - a Jesuit priest - in 1600.

The Jesuits brought it with them to the college and it has been kept at the Ribble Valley college ever since.

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The Satanists of Ash Tree Close: 'Evil' paedophile found guilty of running sex cult from cul-de-sac in seaside village

The leader of a Satanic sex cult is facing a lengthy jail sentence after being found guilty of multiple counts of rape and child abuse.

Colin Batley, 48, exercised absolute control over his sect in a seaside cul-de-sac – abusing and exploiting helpless children as ‘sex toys’ for more than a decade.

He was found guilty yesterday of 35 sex offences against children and young adults. Yet social services were alerted to Batley’s child abuse in 2002 – and took no action.

As a consequence, the former Tesco security guard was allowed to continue ‘preying on the young and vulnerable’ for a further eight years – with the full support of wife Elaine.

At their semi in Kidwelly, South Wales, he would dress in hooded robes, chant before an altar and then orchestrate or participate in group sex with his female followers, including Jacqueline Marling and Shelly Millar.

One helpless girl was ‘initiated’ when she was just 11 and threatened with death by ‘cult assassins’ if she did not comply. At least two of his young victims gave birth as a result of the ‘systematic and prolonged abuse’.

Yesterday at Swansea Crown Court, Marling, 42, and Elaine Batley, 47, were found guilty of five counts including sexual activity and indecency towards children. Millar, 35, was found guilty of two similar charges. Another woman, Sandra Iveson, was found not guilty of gross indecency.

Those found guilty will be sentenced tomorrow and face ‘substantial’ jail terms.

Colin Batley’s home was a typical semi in a typical cul-de-sac. But to the stream of visitors who trooped through the front door – especially on Sunday nights – it was the Temple.

In the lounge, a white cloth would be draped over a table to form an altar with candles and burning incense; nearby were tanks full of snakes and Satanic symbols. Those present would put on hooded robes and wear upside-down crucifixes.

There would be chanting, which would always end in group sex.

Children, boys and girls as young as 11, were also ‘initiated’ – repeatedly sexually abused in other words – during ‘Black Masses’ at Batley’s home. There were at least five victims that we know of, but police believe there could have been many more.

Yet these vile activities did not disturb the neighbours. Why? Because they were involved too. They lived in houses next to or opposite each other on the outskirts of Kidwelly (population 3,000) near Carmarthen.

For more than a decade Clos Yr Onnen, Welsh for Ash Tree Close, was possibly the most depraved street in Britain. The proof was there, in black and white, on the charge sheet at Swansea Crown Court where Batley, his bisexual wife Elaine and their accomplices stood trial for a sickening catalogue of crimes. All of them perpetrated by culprits living in the same road; perhaps the single most shocking fact of all.

This disturbing story begins not in Wales, however, but more than 200 miles away in East London. Batley, from Shoreditch, had a string of jobs including work as a Tesco security guard and on a fruit-and-vegetable stall. He also bred rottweiler dogs and Siamese cats. His outwardly mundane existence, we now know, masked a sinister private life.

He and his wife had been dabbling with the occult ever since they were married 30 years ago and were obsessed with Aleister Crowley, the most notorious Satanist of the 20th century, the self-styled ‘Great Beast’. One of Crowley’s publications, the Book of the Law, includes the passage: ‘Let all chaste women be despised. Sex with anyone is not just permissible but to be encouraged.’ And this: ‘Some of the most passionate and permanent attachments have begun with rape. Rome was founded thereon.’

Apart from anything else, the Book of the Law provided justification for the couple’s own ‘open marriage’.

Batley had sent a photo of his wife to the Readers’ Wives section of a pornographic magazine and this had led to them meeting ‘others for group activities’, the jury was told. They included former dental nurse Jacqueline Marling and prostitute Shelly Millar, who both joined Batley’s occult ‘circle’.

They were given matching tattoos of the Eye of Horus, the Egyptian falcon god depicted pecking out the eyes of Christ in Crowley’s works, and addressed Batley as ‘My lord’ (police found him listed under this name on Millar’s mobile phone).

Such was Batley’s control over his wretched ‘coven’ that they had to pay him 25 per cent of their income.

Every time Millar entertained a client, she would send Batley a text message to tell him how much she had been paid. She had sex with more than 3,000 clients over a two-year period, making about £2,000 a month, a quarter of which went to him. It explained how Batley, officially unemployed, could afford a £45,000 caravan and frequent holidays abroad.

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Batley would later claim that he moved to Wales for health reasons – to escape the smog. A claim rather undermined by the fact that his coven also relocated to the principality. Police believe there was another reason for the exodus; they suspect that other members of the cult – who have not been identified – were based in Wales.

The first East Londoner to arrive in Kidwelly was twice-married mother of four Sandra Iveson in 1995. The following year, the Batleys moved in. Two years later, Marling became their next-door neighbour and Millar, 35, an unmarried mother of two who was brought up a Catholic, completed the set.

Did other residents have any inkling of the kind of people that were now living among them? Well, with hindsight, there were a few small clues.

John Wheatland and his wife Marion, both in their seventies, couldn’t help but notice how Colin Batley was ‘over at Shelly’s all the time’.

On another occasion, the Wheatlands encountered Millar and another woman kissing and touching each other in the supermarket. Yet they could not have imagined the extent of what was really going on behind the closed curtains of the so-called Temple. During occult gatherings it became the set of a horror movie.

Batley, in a hooded robe, would read out extracts from the Book of the Law, which had been typed out and laminated by his wife. Hanging above him on the wall was a gold ceremonial dagger and sitting menacingly nearby were his two rottweilers, Tutankhamun and Sekhet.

One young victim told how Batley introduced her to the cult by raping her when she was 11, telling her that having sex with him was a ‘test’ and if she did not pass she would go to ‘the Abyss’. The victim, now in her twenties, told the court: ‘I did not want him to do what he was doing, but I did not have a choice because what Colin said happened. What Colin said went.’

The abuse continued for years. As a teenager she became pregnant by Batley, who prevented her from having an abortion saying that babies belonged to the cult and not to their mothers.

Another victim, now in her thirties, said she was forced to have sex with Batley when she was 15. She was also ordered to perform sex acts on his wife and other men and women. ‘I was told I’d be killed if I didn’t become part of the cult,’ she said. ‘Colin Batley had a gun and brought it to meetings. I was so scared I just did what I was told. I was in the living room at his home and he told me there would be an initiation. I was called upstairs. Elaine was there. He would just snap his fingers and say, “Strip”.’

She said that on one occasion when she was 16, she was made to have sex with a boy of 15 – as Marling filmed them.

The girl was told she would be murdered by ‘cult assassins’ if she did not give in to Batley’s demands. Through a video link, she sobbed as she told how she was taken to other addresses by Batley where she had sex with other men. ‘I did it because I was told to by Colin.’ Another woman victim said she was recruited into the cult and became pregnant after becoming a ‘sexual plaything’ for the group. Batley ordered her not to abort her ‘occult child’.

One male victim said that, as a teenager, he was tricked into having sex with Batley’s wife.

The witness recalled how Batley promised to set him up with a girl and directed him to a dark bedroom. Once inside, he got into bed and then realised that the other person lying beside him was Elaine Batley.

One of the charges against Shelly Millar was that she seduced a boy of 15. Millar claimed he was 16, and that she was teaching him how to have sex as he had a new girlfriend ‘he wanted to impress’. She had sex with him twice in Batley’s caravan in Tenby. Batley, it emerged during the trial, had been reported to Carmarthenshire Social Services in 2002 by a concerned relative. She said Batley had been abused by his own father and that ‘history was about to repeat itself’.

The warning went unheeded, allowing Batley and his cult to prey on youngsters week after week, month after month for another eight years.

The Batleys had four children, one of whom, Damian, died of strangulation three years ago when a bizarre sex game went wrong. He was found hanging from his bedroom door at the family home and had been filming himself.

Finally, last year, one of Batley’s victims went to the police. It was one of the girls he had impregnated as a teenager. She said she feared he might target her own child.

Batley was tipped off about the police inquiry and, by the time he was arrested, had destroyed potential evidence. But officers found home-made films of two of his victims on his camcorder. Interviewed 11 times by detectives, he steadfastly maintained his innocence.

The jury did not believe him. They saw him for what he was – ‘an evil and manipulative sexual predator’ who had used the cult and ‘black magic’ as a cover for his own perverted ends.

Back in Kidwelly, there was relief at the verdicts. ‘I’m just glad they’ve all finally gone,’ said John Wheatland.

He spoke for everyone in Ash Tree Close.

Sex cult was inspired by 'the Great Beast'

The cult’s inspiration, Aleister ‘the Great Beast’ Crowley, believed himself to be a prophet of a new age of personal liberty, controlled by the ancient Egyptian god Horus.

He was a bisexual heroin addict whose doctrine for life was ‘Do What Thou Wilt’, advocating sexual promiscuity and prostitution.

Crowley was a frequenter of orgies and brothels, and contracted gonorrhea from a prostitute.

Born into a wealthy family in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, he gained such notoriety during his lifetime that he was denounced in the press as ‘the wickedest man in the world’.

Crowley’s work has been cited as an influence by famous figures including Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who bought Crowley’s former home and set up an occult bookshop and publishing house which published some of his work.

Page once said: ‘I feel Aleister Crowley is a misunderstood genius of the 20th century because his whole thing was liberation of the person.’


A handful of housing association homes in an overlooked cul-de-sac in sleepy Kidwelly is an unlikely location for a sex cult.

With its medieval castle, industrial museum and historic canal, the pretty seaside town tries hard to attract the tourist pound.

The first anyone heard of a satanic paedophile ring was when Colin Batley hit the national headlines last month.

Despite having lived in the community for years, the cult's inevitably low-key operation had gone completely unnoticed.

News of what had been going on under their noses for so long was greeted by many residents with disbelief, shock and unease.

Even today, few in the deeply conservative community were willing to do much more than express shock at revelations from the trial.

One man spoke of the anger at the way a group of 'outsiders' from London had stained the town's character.

'Nobody understands how so many of them could come down and all end up living in one place in the town,' he said.

'They must have planned it somehow. I don't think Kidwelly is to blame for what has gone on. They kept a very low profile.'
He said he preferred not to give his name because he felt the cult would still be operating in the area.

But Geraint Thomas, Kidwelly Town Council clerk, predicted that the community would quickly rise above its problems.

'The first we knew about this matter was when it was publicised in the newspapers. It is fair to say that on reading about it we were shocked and dismayed.

'This unfortunate matter has put Kidwelly on the map for wrong reasons as we are continuously endeavouring to promote the town of Kidwelly and its environment in a positive way.

'We view this matter as a one-off. Kidwelly is a safe and respectable place to live and visit for all ages.'

Daily Mail Reporter - Original Version
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