Kevin Chesham - The Autobiography - First Extract

A cursory glance at the ‘About Kev’ section of this blog  reveals that Kev has led quite an extraordinary life. He also deserves to serve as an inspiration for many young (and not young!) athletes today, showing that the seemingly impossible really can be achieved with enough energy, discipline and determination. For many years now I have been encouraging him to put his memoirs into print. And I am pleased to announce that his autobiography is now near to completion.

Kev’s dedication to his sporting career has seen him reach the top of his field, leading Britain to triumph on an international level. But this book is no dry summary of sporting successes. Kev invites the reader to share with him the many personal challenges and potential setbacks he has triumphed over. In doing so Kev offers up to the reader an unselfconscious portrait of not only his physical, but his spiritual development as he looks back over the trials and tribulations which made him who he is today.  We experience with Kev his feelings of devastation when injury forced temporary retirement, and his feelings of hope as he strove to rebuild his strength in order to represent his country once more – this time not in the military (Kev previously attained the rank of Sergeant in the British Army, with the highest level of official standard given) but as a sports professional. His Buddhist philosophy weaves through the text as a striking example of spiritual integrity in action. To err is human, but far from bragging about his achievements (although in my opinion he has every right to do so!) Kev is more concerned that the reader understands the importance of recognising and progressing beyond choices one regrets – and attaining a state of mindful living.  That such an approach is both valid and vital is evidenced by the great sportsman – and man – Kev is today.

In an industry vulnerable to corruption, Kev is a shining example of the inner benefits of self awareness – and how these can inspire a new generation of athletes to worldly greatness, balanced with sound value systems.  

Since beginning this blog, Kev has received many requests to publish excerpts from his forthcoming book. I have discussed this at length with him, and was surprised when he decided that he would like to preview one of the most perplexing situations that he felt should be put into print. It describes the formation and dissolution of a friendship of nearly 40 years, and how Kev came to the conclusion that his ultimate loyalty must needs be to his own conscience – despite the attempts of others to silence him. 

The story begins in 1973, when Kev was but 20 years old, and working as a lifeguard at Finchley Swimming Pool in north London. Kev writes:

I was blond haired then, believe it or not! I went darker in my 30s, but still with a shock of blond hair. Sean was a fellow lifeguard and we became friendly. The season at Finchley ended in September and the pool closed. Sean went back to his milk round, but he was sacked and reinvented himself as Lord Manchester, attempting to take candid photographs of passers by, and accosting them for money. He was pitched up on Holloway Road next to a newspaper stall run by a friend of his, known locally as the Eggmane. Sean was told by the police to cease this behaviour on pain of arrest; he then came to me (I was now working at Hornsey Road Public Baths) asking if I could get him a job as a lifeguard. The boss was my swimming club chairman and as I was his star swimmer he favoured me, and agreed to offer Sean a job.

Around this time Kev and Sean took to training together, often on Hampstead Heath and in Hadley Wood in north London, with Sean taking on something of a coaching role. They were often accompanied by ‘the Eggmanne’ and another acquaintance of Sean’s, John Russell Pope. Kev recalls:

He [Sean] was a great coach but a hard taskmaster. If I was not training hard enough he used to shout "Schnell, schnell ...dummkopfen English, eggs and bacon Englishman”, and when he really got angry..."You vill be shot at dawn"... At the time, I thought it was just his strange sense of humour, although I did find it somewhat disturbing, and it was certainly embarrassing as he often shouted this sort of thing in public (at that stage). Alarm bells continued to ring, although not as loudly as they should have done, when Sean was sacked yet again – this time from Finchley Swimming Pool in 1977 where we were both working as lifeguards. A front page story in the Sunday People headlined ‘We expose the phoney nazis’, accompanied by a picture of Sean dressed up in Gestapo uniform, and claiming to be ‘The Commander’ – the leader of an (imaginary) militant neo-nazi cell operating out of Borehamwood. This brought a swift end to his future employment at the pool.   He was told by the owner, Mr Hein, that his ‘services were no longer required’ and not to ‘set foot on the premises again.’ I was later to learn that in the late 1960s Sean had canvassed for the National Front although he did not disclose this to me at the time.

Not withstanding this, as the years progressed Kev still remained friendly with Sean, training together and indeed, being invited to Sean’s Bournemouth home, whence he had relocated in 1995 with his second wife Sarah. In fact, Sean had married Sarah in a registry office ceremony in Wiltshire in 1987, and Kev had been invited to be Sean’s best man. Unfortunately a traffic accident on the day made this impossible but he nevertheless attended the later nuptial celebrations. Kev’s visits to Bournemouth were to go on for several years, and he eventually agreed to become executor of Sean’s Will. Kev and his wife Bev were regular guests at functions including Sean’s birthday parties and Christmas dinner.  Kev continues:

By now Sean’s exhibitionist behaviour had taken a new twist, and he had fast tracked himself from layperson via priest to bishop of an obscure offshoot of the Old Catholic Church, which as I understand it is itself only a distant cousin of the authentic Catholic Church based in Rome.  In fact, Sean’s church only seemed to consist of himself, his wife, and no more than three or four friends (including myself, apparently, who he began referring to inexplicably as Br Kevin). There were no priests, no congregation, there was no church building, and I certainly have never heard Sean refer to having more than one property, having since learned that his only home is supposedly some form of retreat for survivors of Satanic abuse. It is just a suburban house like any other, although I must admit he does have a lot of statues. Again, as in the past, I put this down to eccentricity, and humoured the whole situation so as not to cause any direct offence. 

On one occasion Kev was asked to drive Sean to Glastonbury, in order to take photographs of him supposedly in situ as bishop of said diocese – which he was now proclaiming himself to be. In reality, Glastonbury ‘is not, and never has been, the seat of a bishopric’ (R.F.Aherne – The Glastonbury Legends). Kev writes:

I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, or if I was meant to be taking this seriously. But Sean was dressed in ecclesiastical robes and insisted on being photographed at various locations around the abbey ruins. It was a summer’s day, and I remember thinking he must be getting very hot. He was certainly irritable, and I remember him saying that he could not wait to get out of the place, as he despised Glastonbury, and considered it to be overrun with ‘quasi-religious fakes’. The irony was lost on me at the time – it is not now.  His only concern was to get the photos taken ‘for the record’, and get back to Bournemouth as soon as possible – in fact he ruined what could have been a pleasant day out.

Sean’s religious pretensions were not the only cause of a growing discomfort which Kev was beginning to feel in the presence of his old friend. Indeed, Sean’s behaviour seemed to become more and more irrational as the 1990s passed into the twentieth century. For he had long since  been in dispute with one David Farrant, President of the British Psychic and Occult Society, who had repeatedly challenged Sean’s claim to have staked a vampire back in 1973. Yes, you read that right, staked a vampire. Farrant claimed the whole story had been a hoax, and in so doing had incurred Sean’s wrath to the extent that he (Farrant) had become public enemy number 1 – according to Sean’s voluminous outpourings on the world wide web. Kev continues:

Sean’s enmity towards David had been known to me for some time – actually it was impossible not to be aware of it. When David’s name came up in conversation (which it frequently did – often encouraged by ‘Eggmanne’) he would thump the table with his fist, and shout that Farrant was a Satanist, an ex-felon, and various expletives not fit for publication. When he flew into these rages, everyone knew better than to challenge or interrupt him, including his wife Sarah, who was obviously mortified by these outbursts in front of guests and just seemed to want a quiet life.  As Sean had been my friend for so many years – over 3 decades by this point – I tended to take what he said at face value on this subject. After all I knew little about David save what had been told to me by Sean and Eggmanne. Sean was always very reluctant to discuss the Highgate Vampire case at group dinners et cetera, but I do remember that often, just when the conversation was being diverted away, he would find some reason to slip in one of his favourite Goebbels quotes; that is: "If you tell a big enough lie and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." I never had much interest in the vampire business by which Sean made his name, but I do recall that whenever he used this phrase, even in unrelated contexts, he and Eggmanne would smile and exchange knowing looks, which made the rest of the party feel rather left out and uncomfortable through their ignorance.

I was, however, more than a little unsettled, when Sean’s aggression towards David took on a more disturbing aspect. Despite my military career, I am in essence a pacifist, and do not condone violence, which I consider to be the hallmark of an uncivilised society, unless absolutely necessary. So I was naturally concerned when Sean began emailing me, giving me David’s private address, and emphasising that he ‘lives alone’. For good measure, he even gave me David’s telephone number. Sean knew that I was a First Dan in karate, and during his ravings about David would regularly stress the importance of ‘loyalty to the cause’ , and that ‘something must be done about him’. I felt extremely uncomfortable about what unequivocally equated to a tacit suggestion that I cause David actual, if not grievous bodily harm. Or worse. And I was certainly not the only person who was directly encouraged to take this course of action. It also became clear to me that Sean was happy to play the role of instigator – as long as there was no actual involvement or come back for him.  

Relations between us became subtly more and more strained, as Sean’s paranoia – coupled with my own reticence to involve myself in his insular world of persecution and make believe – was slowly but surely leading to a natural schism in the dynamic of our friendship. Indeed, what friendship we had enjoyed in the past was becoming obliterated by Sean’s inability to see past his obsession with causing harm to his perceived enemies. 

I remember one occasion when Sean laughingly waved a piece of paper at me, which he kept beside the computer in the front room. He boasted about the list of aliases inscribed upon it, and how he used them regularly in a form of cyber warfare, in that, as he described it, he would search the internet for any forum which mentioned himself, David Farrant, or the Highgate Vampire. His modus operandi as he described it was to create an argument, then argue against it under up to 4 or 5  aliases until the conversation got so heated that the forum was closed down. He bragged that he had had ‘many successes’, especially when he used the ‘incitement to religious hatred card’ as he laughingly referred to it. Sean’s justification for complaining to all internet forums where David Farrant’s opinions about the supposed ‘Highgate Vampire’ were freely admitted, was framed in the words of Adolf Hitler: ‘As soon as by one's own propaganda even a glimpse of right on the other side is admitted, the cause for doubting one's own right is laid.’  I remember this was another favourite quote of his. I found all this astonishing, especially as I am someone who lives an outdoors, physically active life, and could not imagine the extremity of mental disturbance that would lead him to behave in such a way. My perplexity and concern that all was not well was exacerbated when my wife told me, on our way home one day, that Sarah had confided in her that Sean spent so many hours stalking people on the internet that he had ceased taking his meals with her some years ago, preferring to take them alone at the computer.

I think in retrospect, the climax came in 2007, when Bev and I were again visiting Sean for Christmas dinner. It was on this occasion that I gleaned something of the exact nature of ‘the cause’ with which Sean so frequently peppered his rhetoric. 
Many photographs were taken of everyone present around the dinner table downstairs. But I was rather surprised when Sean later invited Bev and myself, accompanied by Sarah, to visit a locked room upstairs. I had heard mention of this ‘secret room’ in the past, but this was the first time I was to see it in person. What I saw – or rather what I had the chance to quickly take in – was a massed amount of nazi paraphernalia; framed photographs of goose-stepping Nazis and German Officers giving the Hitler salute, swastikas on the walls, and most strikingly a photograph of Adolf Hitler in pride of place. As soon as we were inside, Sean  instructed Sarah to start taking photographs of him and myself together, with his nazi paraphernalia in the background.  I was caught off guard and played along, but I caught Bev’s eye – and my wife is no dupe, although I am afraid that even then it was only just dawning on me that that is exactly how my friend of several decades clearly saw me. Bev immediately took out her own camera and started snapping away. The glances between Sean and Sarah at this point really said it all – the whole situation had been staged by them, so that should I ever ‘break ranks’, they would have some kind of bogus insurance policy with which to smear my name.

Further to, and as a consequence of this incident, Kev entered a period of introspection, and decided that he would never accept any ‘dinner’ invitations from Sean again. He had seen enough on this occasion – enough to make Bev and himself think very carefully about any future meetings, and indeed, what positive role Sean could ever play in their lives again. As Kev remembers –

I always knew Sean held right wing views. I had attended St George’s Day celebrations at his home, and was aware of his nationalist leanings. However I never realised exactly how extreme these were, and how infused they had become with his own distorted views of reality. My introduction to his Third Reich shrine was really the last straw. I could see nothing of the spirit of Christian love for fellow man in the passion with which I realised he idolised the murderers and torturers of millions of people. This was hardcore. This was real life, and the time for making excuses was over. I rapidly found myself entering the painful process of  internally acknowledging that I had – probably consciously – turned a blind eye to Sean’s vision of an Aryan utopia. A utopia, of course, which negates the sanctity of life of anyone who does not fit into his personal agenda, be they black, Jewish, homosexual, Romany, critical of his homespun brand of Christianity, the list goes on.  The sheer hypocrisy of his lifestyle and attacks on others became intolerable to me. As far as I am concerned, if one is prepared to venerate the views of anti-Semitic mass murdering scum, one has to admit that one would be prepared to be the person who turned on the gas taps in the chambers at Auschwitz. But that is something which I doubt that Sean would ever have the courage to publicly admit to - even if he had the courage to actually do his own dirty work for once. But a picture as they say speaks a thousand words, and I hope that I have given enough context here to rebut his inevitable claims that it is merely the collection of a detached observer.  I regret, indeed, I am ashamed that I did not extricate myself sooner from my friendship with Sean. I am embarrassed that I did not realise that what I perceived to be an eccentric cult of personality (albeit an extremely small cult) was actually a vehicle for aggressive and vitriolic persecution of a large number of people. And not even persecution carried out openly – but via the cowardly and smirking use of aliases. When Sean bragged to me about obtaining the addresses and employers’ details of David’s friends, I humoured him. When Sean bragged to me about handing over personal details of David’s friends (who had no racial or political activities to their names at all) to the neo-nazi activist group Combat 18, I turned yet another blind eye, despite knowing that his desire was to utilise this group to intimidate them, or even possibly firebomb their homes. To these people I can only apologise and say – I learned the hard way. Just because someone has been there for you, does not mean they really care for you, or that they are a good person and all their actions are justified. And I am sorry that I was cowed by Sean’s overbearing demands for loyalty to his ‘cause’ – having now realised – and not too late - that his only cause is himself. I have to live with the results of my inaction – but whatever I can do to make amends – I will. On that you have my word. My only realistic hope in publishing this sad aspect of my memoirs is that anyone who has been similarly duped by Sean's attempts to disguise his own manifesto of hate behind the facade of Christianity will open their eyes - and see him for what he is truly is. 
As recounted faithfully by a former friend who has known Sean  for two thirds of his misspent life.


Well there you have it, folks. A few personal extracts from Kev's autobiography, which I know were very painful for him to write.  I hope I have not given too much away here, but, he did extend to me full permission to publish extracts from his manuscript at my discretion. Raw they may be. Uncomfortable reading, certainly. But I really have to second Kev, when he writes - "The truth sometimes hurts, but better to go through temporal pain than live a life of blissful ignorance." And that is what his book is really all about.

Kev has worked extremely hard to get to where he is today. Not only is he greatly respected within the industry, he is now in a position where he is in demand in some of the most affluent countries in the world. Financial gain has never been a motivator for Kev, and so he has decided, and I back him wholeheartedly in this, to release his book as a free E-Book. He feels that this will ensure the broadest distribution possible. Kev also hopes however that some readers may choose to make a donation to a charity of his choice, Unite Against Fascism or Sport Relief. More details to follow as soon as Kev’s book is ready for publication.