The Marked Man, London Review of Books, 21 September 2000

James Millar was born by the sea in 1965. His father ran his own building business and his mother taught children with learning disabilities. His sister Sarah was six years older and always had her head in a book. Three times a year they would go on holiday, once to another part of England, and twice abroad. The Millars liked their English lives. They were well enough off to spoil their son, who has strong memories of being taken sailing when he was three, of having a Chopper bicycle at the height of their fashion, and of loving Gary Glitter at the height of his. James’s favourite toy was the Six Million Dollar Man, which had a bionic right arm that could lift things. When you peered through the back of the doll’s head you suddenly had bionic eyes, too, eyes that could take in a magnified, wide-angle version of the world outside. James is a child again when he talks about the doll, its bright red jumpsuit, the way the bionic eye made things look different.

James is a paedophile who has abused a number of boys, including one aged six and one aged eight, and another who James says was 14 but had a mental age of six. It’s impossible to be certain how many children he has abused because he tells lies, but he has admitted to seven. He has served three prison sentences since he was 18. He was released on licence in July 1998; he says he has not abused any children since then.

What’s the Story? London Review of Books, 27 May 1999

Ferteze Nimari had lost two of her brothers and her husband was forced to bury all the dead in one grave. Later, packed into a stifling bus with sixty fellow Kosovars, the couple held onto each other as he clutched a strap suspended from the ceiling. The bus stopped in the Stankovac I refugee camp in Macedonia and they told their story. ‘The tank came to our village of Sllovi. The Serb neighbours said not to worry – it was just there to observe us. But by lunchtime the next day a teenage girl lay dead in the street. Then another 15 people were killed. They told us to run into the woods and they started shooting us.’
I asked them so many questions about what they had seen. ‘What happened when your brothers were shot?’ ‘How many people did you bury?’ ‘How do you feel now?’ When they said the Serbs had forced an old woman into a tent and burned her alive I looked at them doubtfully and asked how they knew she had been alive. Someone from her family had seen it happen, they said.

The Nimaris had arrived at what they thought was a safe haven, but I pursued them, and I did so unsparingly. I got on the bus when the driver opened the doors for air. They had stood for hours on that malodorous bus. I felt sorry for them: but not so sorry that I stopped the questions. They had yet to step down to the misery of the camp the British press has taken to calling ‘Brazda’. All they had was a bottle of water passed to them through an open window – and my questions. Ferteze, eight months pregnant, caught me glancing at the watch on her wrist when Remzi, her husband, said all the women in the village had been robbed of their jewellery.

Diary, London Review of Books, 22 January 1998

I went to see Mohammad Sarwar one March morning in 1996, a good 14 months before he became Britain’s first Muslim MP. I drove to the office of his cash and carry firm that day, quite sure he was every bit the coming man. I had no sense just how coming – or indeed how going – and little notion of what my own part would be in this Clydeside drama of a man on the make. But I knew I had to see him and seeing me changed everything for him.

I had just returned from Pakistan, where I had been investigating the case of two Glaswegian Asian girls who had been abducted, with their mother Fatima and sister Somera, by their father, Abdul Haq, when they flew to the Punjab for a holiday. Rifat Haq, who was 20, and her 13-year-old sister Nazia were apparently forced into marriage two weeks after they left Scotland. Their mother and sister were virtual prisoners in the Haq family compound in a village called Jahania. I had heard about the case through a contact who had no connection with politics: a man who told me that the girls had allegedly been beaten, drugged, forced into marriage, that their passports had been confiscated and that they were prisoners in a country they did not know as their own. Letters had been smuggled out. In one, Rifat said of her sister: ‘the last time I saw her was on 4 September, she had put on weight and looked beautiful, but said: “Rifat, please get me out.” Those words don’t get out of my head. I’m going mental here, I need to help her, but how?’

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