The Prodigal Witch X: Derry Mainwaring Knight

God’s 007

In the spring of 1983, an unassuming, middle-aged fellow by the lofty name of Derry Mainwaring Knight appeared in Newick, East Sussex, and began attending the local Anglican church, St. Mary’s. He became a regular at Bible studies and prayer meetings. He offered to hand out Christian tracts.
He told the late vicar, John Baker, that he had been born again in jail (he had just been released from Hull Prison after serving time for a rape conviction). His sincerity and eagerness to devote himself to his newfound faith must have touched Reverend Baker deeply, because he did everything in his power to help the ex-con. When Knight said he was homeless, Baker gave him a room in the rectory attic, rent-free. When Knight said he was desperately short of cash, Baker promptly raised over £6000 to put toward the newcomer’s debts.

St. Mary’s Church in Newick

That’s when Knight began to show symptoms of demonic possession, lapsing into strange trances and talking about the Devil.
During one such spell, he revealed to Baker that he was the grandson of a sorceress who groomed him from childhood to be a great Satanic leader. When he was just eight years old, Granny informed Derry he could enter into communion with the Devil himself if special platinum plates were surgically implanted in his skull. The plates were installed, and just as Granny promised, Derry was able to communicate directly with Satan. As an adult, he become a high-ranking member of a secretive but powerful cult.
When he came out of his altered state, Baker repeated all this to Knight and asked him if it was true. Yes, Knight admitted, it was. For years, he had been struggling to break free from a Satanic cabal that operated at the the highest levels of English society.

The son of a pastor, Knight had been raised in Germany. Lucifer manifested in his bedroom one night to claim him when he was nine, he told Baker.

Now, Derry claimed, he wanted to destroy his own devil-worshiping sect from within. He wanted to rid himself of demonic possession. He wanted to pay off his debts to cult members, so they could no longer hold sway over him. He wanted to bring other Satanists out of occult slavery. He wanted to destroy unholy Satanic regalia. To do all that, though, he would need funds. Major funds.
Over the next several months, members of St. Mary’s Church and other area residents donated a staggering sum (over £300,000) to Knight’s anti-Satanic crusade. The county high sheriff gave over £83,000 pounds. The wife of millionaire Tory MP Timothy Sainsbury ponied up nearly £120,000 pounds. Anthony David Brand, Lord Hampden contributed a Rolls-Royce with state-of-the-art communications equipment so that Knight could continue to pose as an affluent Satanist-about-town. The bishop of Lewes wrote a letter on Derry’s behalf, requesting donations for his “necessary work”. In November 1983, Reverend Baker secured a £25,000 loan from a Christian charity and handed it over to Knight.

Lady Susan Sainsbury, one of Knight’s prominent victims

Where did all this money go? Knight claimed to be buying up Satanic paraphernalia such as talismans and robes, expressly to destroy them in dramatic ceremonies. He explained that some of these items were being used to magically influence him, keeping him tied to Satan; the objects would send “signals” to the plates in his head. Oddly, no one suggested he simply get the plates removed.
On one memorable occasion, Knight flung a golden scepter into the Thames. Another time, he and the Reverend Baker carried a silver chalice into the church garden and crushed it.
At the time of his arrest in 1985, Baker was in the process of raising £20,000 so Knight could acquire a “Satanic throne” from a lavish temple in Pall Mall.
The members of St. Mary’s didn’t get to see a lot for their money, but they treasured the satisfaction of knowing they were literally buying a man’s way out hell. Like shareholders, they held regular meetings so they could be briefed on Knight’s progress.

No one in the Newick congregation was aware that Knight had just been sprung from prison after a rape conviction. Nor that he had prior convictions for fraud and robbery. Nor that he was an out-of-work housepainter in spite of his cult’s supposed affluence.
Clearly, he was still in Satan’s grip and needed all the help they could give him. Sometimes he would collapse to the ground in a deep trance, muttering Satanic incantations.

The first person to hear serious alarm bells in his head was the Bishop of Chichester, the late Eric Kemp. The septuagenarian bishop caught wind in the summer of 1985 that congregants in Newick were throwing fat sums of money at a Satanic double agent, and didn’t think it sounded quite right. The double-agent thing was sensible enough, he thought, but the donations seemed excessive.
The alarm bells turned to sirens when Derry himself told Kemp he had been initiated into Satanism by a defrocked Catholic cardinal. As Bishop Kemp knew, no English cardinals had been defrocked in the ’50s.
Kemp believed the Charismatic movement, which was popular among certain Anglicans at that time, rendered Christians vulnerable to this sort of deception. They focused on the ubiquity of evil until they convinced themselves that things like mind-control scepters and telepathic head-plates could really exist. They also convinced themselves that God was speaking directly to them, exhorting them to help scammers like Knight in His name.

A church investigation, conducted by a retired bishop, uncovered Knight’s police record, and Newick authorities were notified. Inspector Terrance Fallon concluded he was dealing with your typical con man – Derry was just luckier than the usual crook, having stumbled onto a community of kind-hearted and extraordinarily gullible people with scads of money. The donations had gone straight into Knight’s own pocketbook, usually manifesting as gifts for “lady friends”, high-end car rentals for himself, and posh parties. On one occasion, he chartered a champagne steamboat cruise along the Thames for one hundred guests. The Anglicans were not invited.

Knight, under Inspector Fallon’s questioning, played the innocent. Sure, he had asked the vicar for some cash to pay down a debt, and chatted with him about black magic and Satanism because Baker was “interested in that sort of thing”. But he never asked for another handout, he insisted. The Anglicans were so keen to squash Satanic evildoing in their area that they plied him with fistfuls of money every time he showed up for a prayer meeting, begging him to do something about the occult menace. (1)

As it turned out, Knight had a colourful history of scamming Christians out of their money. He had been dishonorably discharged from the Coldstream Guards for defrauding a fellow out of thousands of marks.

When the Anglicans of Newick learned about Knight’s real past, and his Larry Flynt present, most of them wisely faced the fact they had been scammed. Many of them testified against Derry at his 1986 trial. So did local jewelers who had been hired by Derry to craft peculiar-looking scepters and medallions out of gold and silver.
Church member Randle Mainwaring (no relation) testified that Knight once proposed sexually blackmailing a local bank manager to raise funds for his anti-Satanism campaign.

But others stubbornly maintained that Derry had been doing God’s work, and should never have been arrested. Michael Warren, who lost £36,000 pounds to this “work”, vociferously defended Derry from the witness stand and warned the court that Satanism was “very much a potent source of evil in this country”. (2)
Reverend Baker, too, remained certain that Knight’s life was imperiled by devil-worshipers. On the witness stand, he refused to name the items he and Derry had destroyed, for fear he and others would be “shot or disposed of in some way” by cult leaders for revealing details of their ritual implements. (2)

Though Knight admitted to Inspector Fallon that he wasn’t a Satanist, just the recipient of something like compulsive philanthropy, his trial defence strategy was to declare himself a member of a cult called “The Sons of Lucifer” and bring out shocking testimony that would blow the lid off Satanic doings at the highest levels of English society. He “outed” two Tory politicians (William Whitelaw, Enoch Powell) and one Labour MP (Leopold Abse) as cult members.
He declared he would have no need to bilk money out of churchgoers, because he was a successful pimp.
Derry Mainwaring Knight was convicted of nineteen counts of obtaining money by deception and sentenced to seven years in prison by Judge Neil Denison. He also received a £75,000 fine.
After his conviction, his own mother claimed he had conned her out of a large sum of cash.

Knight’s Legacy

Reachout Trust, a UK organization dedicated to fighting the occult, listed Derry Mainwaring Knight’s story as evidence that ritual abuse was really occurring in England in the ’80s, and with Reverend Kevin Logan produced a tape titled Set Free in Christ. In the video, a woman identified as Peggy Knight claimed she was Derry’s mother and a born again Christian. She said the cult Derry betrayed still posed a serious threat to the entire family.
Logan also included the Knight story in his 1988 book Paganism and the Occult, though he obscured the names and details. In this book, Logan stated that every city and major town in the UK contains a “small exclusive coven made up mostly of people in the professions.” (3)
Logan was heavily involved in UK Satanic panic; one of his most tragic Satanic ritual abuse misadventures is described in my post on Doreen Irvine. We’ll see Logan and Reachout Trust again in the next part of this series, dealing with “former Satanist” Audrey Harper.

Today, professional conspiranoid David Icke still considers Derry Mainwaring Knight a valuable Satanic whistleblower: “Willie Whitelaw, a chairman of the Conservative Part, was named as a leading Satanist by self-confessed Satanist, Derry Mainwaring Knight, at Maidstone Crown Court in 1986. As usual, nothing was done about it. Mainwaring-Knight lived near East Grinstead, one of the centres of Satanism in England.” (4)

Is it possible that Derry Mainwaring Knight really did practice Satanism with high-level politicians, when he wasn’t scamming churchgoers? No. The fact that he had to manufacture Satanic paraphernalia in order to destroy it indicates he didn’t have access to any real stuff. At one point he claimed to be a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, an occult organization, but this wasn’t verified. That’s probably why he chose not to mention the OTO at his trial. There is no known Satanic group called Sons of Lucifer, and no grand Satanic temple exists in Pall Mall. “Nothing was done” about his courtroom accusations against Whitelaw simply because no one, barring a country vicar and a few Charismatic believers, found his tales remotely credible.

Due to the prominence of Knight’s victims and the sheer wackiness of his scam, the outcome of his trial was covered by all the major English daily newspapers. The affair should have staunched the spread of Satanic panic in the UK, but sadly it did not. Stories of former Satanists and ritual abuse survivors, which were every bit as spurious as Knight’s Sons of Lucifer nonsense, continued to flow through the media like a diseased river, polluting minds and sweeping innocent people into whirlpools of persecution.


1. The Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism by Gareth J. Medway(New York University Press, 2001)
2.A British Con Man Says the Devil Made Him Do It” by Dianna Waggoner. People magazine. Vol. 25. No. 24 (July 16, 1986)
3. Paganism and the Occult by Kevin Logan (Kingsway Publications, 1988)
4. The Biggest Secret by David Icke  (2nd edition; David Icke Books, 1990)

22 thoughts on “The Prodigal Witch X: Derry Mainwaring Knight

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  1. How could something like this have happened? If you tried to pitch this exact story as an idea for a TV show you'd be told that it's way too unrealistic, no one would ever believe anything this ridiculous!Truth really is stranger than fiction I guess…

  2. I know that Enoch Powell was a Christian, and so was Wiilie Whitelaw. Powell in fact wrote a number of Christian books from a conservative Anglican perspective. So to claim he was a Satanist is on the same level as the morons who claim that C.S. Lewis was a witch.I despair about the gullibility of far too many of my fellow-Christians. The Bible says we are to "test all things", and that includes stories about devil-worship. But no, there are even those who have so-called 'discernment ministries' who have 0 discernment where claims of occultism are concerned.

  3. I have the feeling this could never happen in today's economic climate. "Oh, you need thousands of pounds to buy a Satanic thingamajig? Well, maybe there's some gardening you can do around my house…" ;DThe notion that Christians like Whitelaw secretly worship Satan is flat-out idiotic. Show me a single Satanist who hides his/her beliefs for the sake of appearances, and maybe I'll believe it. But I know that just like members of other despised religious movements (Scientology, Mormonism, etc.), Satanists refuse to deny their affiliation even at the cost of prestige, career advancement, political success, etc. They will not pose as Christians to make their lives easier. It simply doesn't happen.

  4. I have to disagree with your claim that members of "despised religious movements" would refuse to deny their affiliation for the sake of various advantages – Scientologists in particular believe very strongly that the end justifies the means and if one believed that "the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics" came from telling someone a "shore story" about their affiliation ("shore story" is Scientology slang for a lie one tells about one's true intentions to get better PR or deflect suspicion) I have no doubt they would assert quite vehemently in the moment that they were not Scientologists. (You might look up "Gottfried Helnwein" for an example of a Scientologist engaging in just such active false denial.)

  5. There have been secret religious groups in history, of various sorts and various degrees of secrecy – I think at once of the Muggletonians, a 17th century sect who were forbidden to discuss their beliefs with anyone who did not ask them first. As a result the family of the last Muggletonian were very surprised to discover on his death that he had been the last Muggletonian! But these people do not typically pretend to be members of another group, certainly not in this day and age when, in secular Europe, most people are non-churchgoing. Certainly they do not do what Enoch Powell did – he lost his faith in his youth and later recovered it. Powell wrote a number of Christian books, somewhat in the vein of C.S. Lewis' religious books. The man concealing his own beliefs may hide behind a profession of something else – he does not, as a rule, venture into print in defence of that profession. The closet satanist might conceivably be an apparent churchman, it is inconceivable that he would be an apologist.In fact, of course, in this day and age there are very few groups that do not speak openly about their existence – the Church of Scientology has large and impressive buildings in Central London and in Manchester proudly emblazoned with the name of the organisation. Where dissembling is in what the group may believe or do – the Mormon at your door will not begin by quoting Lorenzo Snow's couplet that "As man now is, so God once was, as God is now, so man may become," no matter how much he may believe it to be true (and they do, see Ludlow, "Principles and Practices of the Restored Gospel" [Salt Lake City, 1992] P. 242, a publication from the Mormon Church). The affiliation itself will rarely if ever be denied.

  6. Of course, the ultimate test of the fellow's story would have been to have his head x-rayed! No plates, no story!I recall that I have been remiss in not naming the volume by Powell I referenced, it is "No Easy Answers" (London, 1973). The last book Powell ever wrote was an essay arguing for the priority of Matthew's Gospel. As I said, impostors do not as a rule become apologists. Except in the world of the conspiracy theorist who claims C.S. Lewis was a witch. So perhaps for such the idea of Enoch Powell as a satanist is not so far-fetched. For the rest of us, it is on a level with Muhammad having been a Jesuit. Impossible on a variety of levels.

  7. Also, given that Powell was an atheist from his early 20s until "middle age" by his own testimony ('No Easy Answers' Pp. 2-3), the claim he was a Satanist becomes still more absurd. Powell was a re-convert to Christianity who wrote in its defence. Only in the most sensational of fiction are apologists secret Satanists.

  8. AF and HH, you both have good points. People can be extremely secretive about their religious affiliation, or belong to a religious group that operates more or less like a secret society. But it's extremely rare to find a guy like Helnwein, who will openly declare his affiliation with Scientology one moment and then angrily deny it the next (obviously, he's very conflicted about it). And rarer still is the person who outwardly devotes himself to one religion while secretly practicing a competely different one. This is what Obama is accused of all the time – being a "closet Muslim" or a secret Nation of Islam member, posing as a Christian. I can see no evidence for that. The closest parallel to the notion I can think of would be cult leaders who use religious trappings to lure in believers (Jim Jones masking his Communist mind-control nuttery with Christianity, or pedophile Louis Lamonica using his father's church as a front for strange and abusive practices). Other than that, I can't think of anyone who lived a religious double life on the order of what the "former Satanists" have described.

  9. I know Derry Mainwaring Knight personally, in fact I am married to the daughter of the late Revd John Baker.

    This account is an interesting read, I know some of the details, as I have heard the family talk about it, but I obviously wasn’t on the scene when it all happened, back in the 80’s, so I can’t really comment on the accuracy if the above account

  10. This is one big cooked-up story. Nobody – other than those who have provided their names as part of the cooking-up – in Newick or indeed anywhere has ever heard of this character. It was never reported in 1986; and the ideas that are put forward are simply implausible. I like the way it cites the thought processes of the Bishop of Chichester but doesn’t supply any references for such. The author is taking the reader to be even more of a sucker than the alleged fraud victims.

    1. Anonymous, it’s slightly ironic that you suggest this story is a complete fabrication innuounpost just yesterday

      Derry Mainwaring Knight, I have just been informed actually passed away in the last 24 hours

    2. This was a true event as I lived in the village at the time and my parents were approached to give money as she had a business locally – she refused politely.
      The Revd never recovered from the whole scandal and passed away not long afterwards I recall.

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