THE actor Eric Cullen stood condemned yesterday at Hamilton Sheriff

Court, the helpless abuse victim who had himself become tainted by


A strong sense of injustice will persist around the case particularly

after the tacit admission by various authorities that the charges might

not have been taken but for the celebrity of the accused.

The rise and fall of Eric Cullen contains many complex elements,

including that of genuine tragedy. That aspect, the horrifying sexual

history of the actor, did not appear to weigh heavily with the court.

One thing was also clear in court: Eric Cullen was not portrayed by

the Crown as a paedophile or as a sexual abuser of boys as the months of

rumour would have him.

It is also clear that Cullen opted to plead guilty to get the matter

out of his life so that he can begin a new chapter, but that is hardly

what justice should be about.

Equally, the vicious rumours that Cullen's sudden illness immediately

before his scheduled court appearance was nothing more than a dodge to

escape his just desserts is totally unfounded. The Herald has had access

to the medical reports on Cullen, compiled by a psychiatrist with a

national reputation, and they clearly indicate a man suffering acute

clinical depression who finally cracked under a load which had become


One couple in particular, the broadcaster Bill McFarlan and his wife,

Caroline, have been steadfast in their defence of Cullen.

McFarlan points out that the police fingerprinted all of the video

tapes in the house and found no fingerprint of Cullen's on any of the

offensive material. He simply had not used them.

Friends say he is totally shattered. He has lost more than #150,000,

possibly #200,000, in earnings in the last 18 months but he has lost

much more. There is a very public loss of innocence.

Yet it was Cullen's unthreatening persona, the ill-starred, 4ft 4in

comedy figure which made him loved.

He has been a hero to thousands of children, appearing at charity

events, opening fund raisers, producing and directing shows for schools.

His television show for children, Wemyss Bay 902101 was a hit and his

Wee Burney was one of the reasons Ian Pattison's show was required

viewing to English and Scots alike.

Underneath the clownish figure from Rab C Nesbitt lurked an entirely

different Burney; just how sinister depends on whose version of events

you accept.

The Crown clearly takes a simplistic view: that Cullen had

reprehensible tendencies, which, taken with the other pornographic

material in his possession meant there could be no convincing

alternative explanation for the photographic collection in his

possession. But they were unable to find among the vast haul of evidence

at his home any indication that he had ever physically abused boys.

Bill McFarlan maintains that none of the photographs actually belonged

to Cullen but that they were the property of his abuser, Frank Currens,

42. He was by contrast a classic paedophile. He is now serving a 14-year

jail sentence.

Cullen and his friends argue that he, Cullen, was a victim, first

sexually assaulted and abused by a relative in his adoptive family at

the age of 13 and then passed on to Currens who continued the abuse

until Cullen was 21.

That experience would not be unusual in a circle of child abusers -- a

safe victim being passed from one pervert to another for gratification.

On that first occasion, Cullen told The Herald, the relative had taken

him to the church where he was organist because the young Eric had

already shown his musical aptitude at the piano. Cullen loved music and

he trusted the man.

His innocent trust was rewarded in a lay-by near Hamilton by a crude

and brutal introduction to sex. He was a child who had never grown; he

dared not tell anyone. Like many abused youngsters he was thereafter

consumed by guilt, knowing that something terribly wrong had taken place

but thinking that he was part of the wrong.

By that time it had been long apparent that Cullen was not going to

grow; technically, he had been born achondroplasiac, a dwarf. He was

also born, he says, out of wedlock in Stranraer. Cullen was stigmatised

not once but twice.

Police insist they asked extensive questions of others and could find

no corroboration of Cullen's allegations that he was abused and then

blackmailed into keeping quiet.

The official line is that no other inquiry can take place until Cullen

himself makes a complaint against specific individuals. He and his

lawyer are considering that option.

Cullen assisted the police in identifying some of the young boys who

appeared in the photographs found in his home, but these were only

youngsters pictured by him in a totally innocent context. He could not

and did not identify any children in the pornographic pictures taken by


It emerged that most of these youngsters came from Strathclyde and the

majority from the east side of Glasgow. In all, between 80 and 90 boys

were identified and the families visited.

By noting similarities in the videos, police realised that much of it

had been filmed locally in Strathclyde. The officers gradually built up

a picture of the man who kept reappearing.

At Curren's appearance, the High Court was to be told that the

material found in another house in the West of Scotland, which was not

disclosed at the time but which now emerges as Cullen's home, in which

Currens was seen performing sexual acts with youngsters, led to his

arrest. Eric Cullen's friends insist that Cullen had told the police

from the beginning that Currens was the man they really wanted.

One of the detectives told The Herald: ''These videos were horrendous,

the worst any of us had ever seen.''

He added: ''These were children who did not know about sexuality, what

was good or bad. This was their introduction to sexuality. It was a

constant parade of sexual practices with boys, no male-female sex.''

The side effects on the police themselves were disturbing. One officer

found himself going home and shoving his child away when he climbed on

his knee.

None of the videos filmed by Currens had been made at Cullen's home.

However, his involvement was becoming deeper, eventually reaching the

point where Currens used his house as a convenient dump for his

collection of pornography and could do so knowing that Cullen could

never object. It was a subtle form of blackmail, but blackmail none the

less. The Crown recognise this side of the case by the way in which they

have framed charges against Cullen.

But a question mark will always remain over Eric Cullen. How much did

he really know about the activities of Francis Currens involving

children and, if he knew anything, why did he remain silent?