What dark secrets lie in the wreckage of a torched home in Auckland? And what did massage parlour owner and abusive father David McClue take to his grave? George Block reports.
Allegations of a paedophile ring, the bodies of two young women seen in a basement and abused family members treated as virtual slaves have emerged from the embers of an unsolved arson in Auckland.
Nearly two years after the ramshackle old house in Kingsland was torched by a mystery arsonist early in 2019, police used a cadaver dog and ground penetrating radar in a second fruitless search for the bodies of two young women reputedly seen by a child in the 1980s.
Stuff has unearthed a cold case police file, historic recordings of an interview by a detective and disturbing photos appearing to support allegations the home was linked to the exploitation of children.
Meanwhile, four people who lived at the home with David Robert McClue more than 30 years ago have spoken out for the first time.
They described an environment where children were routinely beaten and forced to work in a dark basement for hours on end assembling electronics.
Debbie Bruton’s mother Carolyn Bartlett married McClue in the mid 1970s.
Debbie says he sexually abused her for years and allowed several of his associates to do the same before she fled to live on the streets of Auckland at age 12.
Her brother, Pete Bartlett, said McClue regularly “pummelled” him with belts and brooms.
He was forced from the age of seven to assemble electrical transformers in a dark basement for McClue, who among other ventures used to be involved in arcade gaming machines, he said.
Like Debbie, he too fled the home at a young age, preferring to fend for himself on the streets rather than endure life at 583 New North Rd.
It has also been established McClue owned two “massage parlours” in central Auckland during the 1990s, when prostitution was illegal.
Their experiences only came to light when Stuff began looking into the circumstances of the unsolved arson.
Police have not charged anyone in relation to the suspicious fire on February 19, 2019.
The flames gutted the sleep-out where one of David’s biological children, Ian McClue, lived, and caused extensive damage to the rear of the more than 100-year-old main house.
Christine McClue, his wife at the time of his death, also lived at the house at the time of the fire, as did two boarders. She did not want to comment.
The blaze came two months and one day after the 73-year-old died, suddenly and from natural causes.
The property has passed into the hands of a local developer who has demolished the home and plans to build higher density housing on the large site.
A police case summary file, obtained via the Official Information Act, shows officers seized a CCTV system linked to a computer, examined the scene and took several statements.
Early in March 2019, the file was transferred to detectives at the Avondale CIB for further investigation.
Progress was slow as staff were deployed to handle the aftermath of the March 15 terrorist attacks in Christchurch.
It was not until August that a detective made enquiries with insurance companies.
She found no insurance was held on the address and no claims had been made.
As a result, the detective ruled out insurance fraud and noted in the file the only avenue of inquiry left was CCTV footage from the address.
The computer hooked up to the home’s surveillance system was sent to a Digital Forensics Unit, but a search eventually found nothing of interest.
A note on the police file in early December 2019 said no lines of enquiry remained.
It also said police had by then lost the physical file for the case.
Maria Le Roux, born Wendy McClue, is one of David’s biological children and was raised at the home.
She returned to Auckland from Christchurch after her father’s death. When police went to pick up the CCTV computer they noticed it had been unplugged, which she said was unusual as it ran constantly.
Le Roux is the source of the allegation regarding the bodies in the basement in the early to mid 1980s, when she was a young child.
She first reported the memory to police about 13 years ago.
A detective eventually interviewed her father about the allegation in 2011, but the investigation stalled for nine years and was only revisited after the fire.
Speaking to Stuff at her new home in west Auckland, Le Roux said she remembers venturing down to the basement when her father was constructing rooms there.
The basement became a rabbit warren of corridors and cramped rooms housing electronic components, along with a dark room for developing photographic film.
“I went downstairs, being nosy, like you do,” Le Roux said.
Reaching the basement, the young Le Roux saw a blonde girl lying face down, wearing a dress similar to one she owned at the time. The girl appeared to be dead, she said.
On a ramp in the basement near the entrance she said she saw a woman she said was in her late teens or early 20s, and also blonde.
“She was dead and she was cold.”
Le Roux does not remember exactly how old she was but believes she was between about six and eight years old. That puts her sighting of the bodies sometime between 1983 and 1985.
While cleaning the house out following the fire, Le Roux discovered police interview DVDs from 2011, which Stuff has viewed.
They show a hours-long interview by Detective Chris Anstey with McClue.
McClue, then 66-years-old, cuts an imposing figure and dominates the conversation.
He questions the statement made by Le Roux, given the amount of detail she provides for an event that happened 30 years ago.
McClue gives a detailed account of the basement’s construction, that he built between about 1979 and 1985. He tells Anstey he would welcome surveyors into the basement.
During the interview, Anstey tells McClue police currently have no plans to take the matter further than the interview.
He is not quizzed about allegations of sexual abuse or his involvement in massage parlours.
Anstey goes on to tell McClue police have not been able to link Le Roux’s statement to any missing persons reports from the region in that era.
The detective does not mention the name Kirsa Jensen, a 14-year-old girl who lived in Napier when she disappeared on 1 September 1983 while riding her horse.
She has never been found.
Police were asked whether investigators looked into any link between Le Roux’s report and the Jensen case.
A spokesman said claims of a body or bodies in the basement of the home were unsubstantiated.
“Police are therefore unwilling to speculate on links between that address and any missing persons cases.”
Stuff requested the police file for the body allegation using the case number provided on the DVD under the Official Information Act.
A civilian staffer said the document either did not exist or despite reasonable efforts, could not be found.
Le Roux found the DVD interviews in a filing cabinet. Hidden under cabinet dividers were several old photos stuck to the cardboard. They appeared to have been removed from a photo album.
In the same filing cabinet she found the DVDs, tucked under dividers, Le Roux also found several old photos affixed to an A4 piece of card.
On one side are separate photos of two young girls, who appear uncomfortable, sitting on the lap of a middle-aged man holding a cigarette. Other photos show them at what appears to be a petting zoo.
On the other side is a photo of what appears to be a child bending over in their underwear with the phrase “cheeky” emblazoned over the top of the picture.
No one who has been shown the photos can recognise either the girls or the man.
In the wreckage of the home Le Roux also found a bra and belt she said would not have fit her mother, as well as stained children’s clothes and small pieces of jewellery she does not recognise.
She is reluctant to say the stains show blood as she believes the marks are too red. She thinks they could just as easily have been used as rags in the basement workshop.
The paedophile ring
Le Roux told Stuff she and her brother Ian were not sexually abused. She believes they were spared because they were his biological children.
That view is supported by one of Carolyn’s children, Debbie Bruton.
Bruton lived at the home during her early years with Ian, Wendy (Le Roux), Pete, and David as stepfather.
She and Le Roux do not get along and say they are no longer in regular contact.
Bruton, who lives in Christchurch, alleged she was subject to horrific sexual and physical abuse by David.
“While we were in that house we were tortured, beaten to an inch of our lives,” she said.
“I was chubby, so I just bounced off the walls.”
Every Monday her mother would go to her camera club, and David would force her to stand over him and urinate, she said.
“I’d try and get it over and done with and then go to my room.”
At the age of about seven, she said she was raped by an associate of her father’s who lived close by, after which David began raping her, she alleged.
From the age of five, she was subject to escalating abuse from about nine different men. The men would pay David after the abuse, she said.
She was forced to be photographed naked, touched, and eventually raped.
She fled home at the age of 12 and spent a year on Queen St before police picked her up, and she passed into the care of the state.
By 15 she was flatting and working three jobs, she said.
Bruton said she spent 18 years in the workforce before a cancer diagnosis, leading to years of ill-health and dozens of surgeries.
She went to the police in Christchurch at the same time as Le Roux about 13 years ago but her allegations did not result in charges against David.
Like other family members, she can not say for certain who the girls or the man in the photographs found by Le Roux are.
The people she was abused by were largely David’s friends from his days in the Navy, she believes.
Now 48, she links the ill-health to childhood abuse and malnutrition and does not expect to reach retirement age.
“I just never had a chance.”
Bruton said she rang David a few years ago to forgive him.
He did not say much in reply, aside from that she was “one of the hardest workers out of all the kids”.
That comment squares with what he repeatedly told Detective Anstey in 2011 about Bruton, in the recording seen by Stuff.
The work in the basement
Bruton, like other children and stepchildren of David, and his ex-wife, speak with a wince about the work he forced them to do in the basement.
More than three decades on they speak with intimate knowledge about the process of assembling the small electrical transformers David used in the arcade “Space Invaders” machines he built and maintained.
“We had to make those every day, we’d have cut hands, bleeding.
“Mum would wind the copper and then dip them in wax.”
Bruton herself remembers with grim precision the process of adding layer after layer of lamination to the iron cores.
Pete Bartlett, the other stepchild who lived at New North Rd with David, Carolyn, Wendy (Le Roux) and Debbie at the time, is not in regular contact with the others and it took weeks for Stuff to eventually track him down.
He works as a construction manager, and divides his time between Auckland and Taumarunui.
Bartlett, who went by Paul McClue when he lived at the house as a child, was happy to share his experiences when Stuff reached him on his cellphone.
The 50-year-old shares Bruton’s unhappy memories of endless hours spent in the basement working on transformers from a very young age.
He said he was not sexually abused by David, but physical abuse was common.
“We used to get pummelled a lot,” he said.
“Belt, broom, whatever was handy.”
He cannot corroborate Bruton’s allegations of sexual abuse but believes there is likely “quite a bit of truth” in what she says.
Bartlett said David broke his arm with a broomstick at age seven or 8. In 1983, aged about 13, he fled for a life on the streets, he said.
David’s ex-wife Carolyn Bartlett supports her children’ version of events related to being forced to work in the basement.
“I had to sit downstairs wiring coils. Not very nice, but we had to make a living,” she said.
She described David as a “money grubbing” man who completely controlled her finances.
“I didn’t spend one cent that he didn’t see.”
Carolyn said she saw no evidence of the sexual abuse in the home before she left David about 28 years ago. However, she said he was “into watching porn” and used to have business interests in brothels.
The son and the business partner
The only one of David’s children or step-children to say anything positive about their father was Ian McClue, his biological son, who was living at the property at 583 at the time of the fire.
He said he was at Probation Services at the time the fire erupted. Ian was at the time serving a home detention sentence.
The sentence followed convictions for making an intimate visual recording and several of possessing objectionable material.
Ian said he grew closer to his father during his time at the home serving his sentence.
“He was definitely, generally, a good man.”
Ian said he remembered helping his father set up a massage parlour in the early 1990s.
He acknowledges the parlours were “basically brothels”. This was the era before the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 but Ian said his father was doing nothing illegal.
“They weren’t offering prostitution, they were offering room hire. All services were offered by the women themselves.”
Multiple sources, including Ian, said David’s partner in the massage parlour enterprises was Graham Ronald Barrett.
The men are listed on the Companies Register as co-directors of Barmac Services Ltd, incorporated in 1993.
Barrett used to live just down the road from McClue, in Morningside, but now lives in a retirement village in Three Kings.
When contacted by Stuff and asked about Barmac Services, Barrett said the company was in the “DIY” business.
He refused to comment when repeatedly questioned about the whether it was involved in the massage parlours.
“Not going into that,” he said.
However, he was aware of allegations David was making pornography in his basement, and along with others said David was involved in a murky legal case regarding allegations of stealing electricity, he said.
After the home was finally sold late in 2020 Le Roux again contacted police, via Auckland Detective Senior Sergeant Geoff Baber, of Auckland City CIB, to tell him what she had found.
Le Roux said she likes and trusts Baber, who was closely involved in her original complaint, and who has had a prominent role in the Dilworth sex abuse investigation.
An email from Baber to Le Roux shows he took the opportunity of the house being demolished to try and answer the question as to whether there were any bodies on the property.
On Friday, December 18, police took a cadaver dog and ground penetrating radar to the building site. They found nothing conclusive.
“In short we conducted an examination of the basement area of the house using the ground penetrating radar which gave no indications of areas of interest,” Baber wrote.
“This result was not conclusive nor particularly unexpected, so we used the demolition crew to remove the concrete slab throughout the basement area and then had the cadaver dog go over the site. The dog made no indication throughout this process.”
The demolition crew and the developer were aware of the circumstances of the matter and will remain vigilant, Baber said.
“Should the demolition team or developer locate anything of interest they will come back to us with any findings they may have.”
“When I return to work I will review what I have done this last week in conjunction with the original file and conclude matters at that point.”
The detective thanked Le Roux for her time, patience and help. He said it was a case he had not forgotten about, and he was not happy with how it was left all those years ago.
“However at this time I am confident that we have done what we can to this point.”
Did you know David Robert McClue? Email [email protected] or call 021 304 1775
Where to get help for sexual violence
- Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00, click link for local helplines.
- Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline 0800 842 846, text 4334, webchat safetotalk.nz or email [email protected]
- The Harbour Online support and information for people affected by sexual abuse.
- Women’s Refuge 0800 733 843 (females only)
- Male Survivors Aotearoa Helplines across NZ, click to find out more (males only)
- If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 111.
Need help? If you or someone you know is in a dangerous situation, click the Shielded icon at the bottom of this website to contact Women’s Refuge in a safe and anonymous way without it being traced in your browser history. If you’re in our app, visit the mobile website here to access Shielded.
- EXCLUSIVE: Rotherham Victim Reveals Horrors of Child Abuse Cover-Up in Britain
- Council advice on child abuser made public
- Hollyoaks’ Darren Osbourne to be exposed as a child abuser by scheming Juliet Quinn
- Abuse was the only way I felt love after being abandoned by my family as a child
- Adoptive parents of boy so badly abused he lost his legs demand law change
- Mother arrested for child found at school
- Rocker Ryan Adams ‘offered girls stardom in exchange for sex’ and ‘bullied and belittled hopefuls’ in bombshell #MeToo allegations
- Adoptive mum of battered lad calls for longer jail terms for evil abusers
- HEARTBREAKING: Dead body of two-year-old Julen found in Totalan well
- Abuse survivor hits out at Stormont 'stalling tactics' as payouts delayed again
- Take a look inside this quirky Howth home inspired by the 'Somali Village' people
- Benidorm woman, 19, ‘drugged and raped by “Wolf Pack” gang who filmed horror attack in basement on New Year’s Eve’
- Mother tells ITV News she warned authorities days before arson attack on Deptford home killed her son Joel Urhie
- California ‘House of Horrors’ where parents ‘tortured and starved’ their 13 chained-up kids goes on sale
- Man 'strangled wife before setting body on fire' after taking out life insurance
- ‘Girl in the closet’ raped and tortured by evil parents is arrested for sexually abusing schoolgirl,14
- California 'house of horrors' has $350,000 price tag
- Man strangled wife to death before setting body on fire in £300k insurance scam
- Pope removes scandal-hit cardinals from inner circle
- Chris Watts looks on in horror as he realises neighbour’s CCTV caught him loading his murdered family’s bodies into truck
House of horrors: Allegations of child abuse, bodies-in-basement at arson-hit home have 3289 words, post on www.stuff.co.nz at December 26, 2020. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.