Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Alan Freeman
With a report from AP

p. A3.

Rocker Townshend arrested in porn case

Guitarist, 57, suspected of possessing, distributing 'indecent images of children'

LONDON — An international police investigation aimed at tracking down the consumers, producers and distributors of Internet child pornography has landed its highest-profile suspect with yesterday's arrest of Pete Townshend, guitarist with the legendary rock band, the Who.

Mr. Townshend, 57, was driven away from his mansion in the London suburb of Richmond by Scotland Yard officers and placed in custody at a police station.

A police spokesman said that the rock star had been arrested under the Protection of Children Act, "on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children, suspicion of making indecent images of children and on suspicion of incitement to distribute indecent images of children."

Mr. Townshend was released early today after questioning. "Shortly after midnight he was released on police bail pending further inquiries and will return to the station later in January," a police spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

Reporters spotted the musician leaving in a car, lying down on the back seat partly covered by what appeared to be a coat.

Mr. Townshend has not been charged with a crime. Under British law, suspects are not charged immediately upon arrest.

Mr. Townshend was arrested 48 hours after he had made a dramatic statement to reporters in which he denied being a pedophile but admitted that he had once used a credit card to enter a child-porn Web site "purely to see what was there" as research for an autobiography.

But from the list of allegations being investigated by police, particularly of suspected production and incitement to distribute indecent images, the investigation is much wider than a single visit to a Web site. Police spent four hours at Mr. Townshend's home yesterday afternoon and were seen leaving with computers, videos and other equipment and documents after obtaining a search warrant. They also raided a nearby business location.

In his statement Saturday, made after a newspaper reported that police were investigating a well-known rock star in connection with a U.S. pay-per-view child-porn ring, Mr. Townshend insisted that he finds pedophilia "appalling" and feels "anger and vengeance towards the mentally ill people" who gravitate toward pedophilic pornography.

"I have felt for a long time that it is part of my duty, knowing what I know, to act as a vigilante," he said.

Mr. Townshend, who is married and the father of three, said he has been working on his childhood autobiography for the past seven years and now believes that he was sexually abused by his maternal grandmother between the ages of 5 and 6½, explaining that she was mentally ill at the time.

"I cannot remember clearly what happened," he said, "but my creative work tends to throw up mostly shadows, particularly in Tommy," his rock opera about a disabled boy who is sexually abused.

A native of London, Mr. Townshend rose to fame in the 1960s as the Who's guitarist and lead songwriter.

Mr. Townshend's lawyer, John Cohen, said that police went to the artist's house yesterday "by mutual agreement" and Mr. Townshend was there waiting when they arrived.

The house has a beautiful view of the Thames and is adjacent to a mansion owned by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.

British police have arrested 1,300 suspects as part of Operation Ore, an offshoot of a U.S. investigation that has traced tens of thousands of suspected pedophiles around the world through the use of credit-card numbers they use to pay for the material.

A Texas man, Thomas Reedy, was sentenced to 1,335 years in 2001 for running an Internet child-porn portal that gave access to sites with names such as Cyber Lolita, I am 14 and Child Rape.

Among those arrested in Britain have been a judge, a deputy school headmaster, doctors, dentists and 50 police officers, eight of whom have been charged.

Mr. Townshend said some of the things he has seen on the Internet would help him in writing his book and "will make clear that if I have any compulsions in this area, they are to face what is happening to young children in the world today."

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Created: January 21, 2003
Last modified: January 21, 2003
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