The Horrible Truth About Actor Eric Cullen | True Crime

(Eric Cullen. Picture credit: historic-hamilton)

If you're a regular reader of my true crime blogs or a friend on social media you'll know that I was originally born and brought up in Scotland and like a lot of Scottish people, I was brought up on classic Scottish comedy, especially repeats of the popular show Rab C. Nesbitt. Rab C was about a working class man and his family who lived in Govan in Glasgow, it hilariously followed the everyday trials and tribulations of Rab, his wife Marydoll & their sons Gash and Wee Burney. 

The show is respected today as a classic and a lot of Scottish people hold it dear in their hearts as well as having a fondness for the actors who played the beloved roles. 

I was inspired to write this post and do my research into one of the most popular actors who took part in the show as I had been watching a few of the classic episodes recently. I knew briefly that there was some drama in the media around the actor but I didn't know the full details. 

Not to sound offensive but it seems that people have forgotten the story of Eric Cullen, the actor who played the role of the popular character, Wee Burney in the show. Either they've forgotten about it, tried to bury it because it's too uncomfortable to talk about or they simply don't know the truth. 

I know a lot of people are going to be sad, angry, confused, a whole mixture of emotions when they read this post (especially those who have fond memories of watching Eric in Rab C or seeing him on other shows) but the truth is the truth and this is a true crime story. 

I originally set out to write about this story expecting to write about an innocent man, a victim, but the more I did my research the more the horrible details were uncovered and what was left was a complicated horrific and disturbing case which was both very difficult for me to write and also heartbreaking. 

Jimmy Savile popped up a few times in my mind during researching this case for many reasons. A calculated and (we were later to find out after his death) prolific paedophile. Jimmy managed to fool quite a lot of people into thinking he was this nice, eccentric, funny DJ and showbiz personality for decades whilst secretly abusing children behind closed doors. Jimmy did a lot of charity work and raised millions, he was given a knighthood by the Queen of England and counted Princess Diana and The Beatles amongst his friends. The more I go into the Eric Cullen story, the more you will understand why I had Jimmy Savile in my mind at certain points. 

As much as I hate to say it, I'm going to be sharing some very difficult details in this case, it's going to be disturbing and unpleasant but I want to give you the truth and it's up to you what your thoughts are in regards to Eric Cullen. Please be aware that I will be talking about child abuse unfortunately in this post. 

So, Eric Robertson Cullen was born on the 12th of July 1965 in Hamilton in Scotland, even at the start his life was not without tragedy. He was born to a single mother who gave him up for adoption and a family took him in. At the age of seven the family noticed that Eric hadn't been growing properly for a while so they took him to the Doctor who diagnosed him with Achondroplasia, which is a form of dwarfism. 

Being raised by this new family should have been like a fresh start for Eric despite his diagnosis but more heartbreak was to follow in the years to come. Not one to let his condition get the better of him, Eric was a bit of a character and loved to be the center of attention and took part in school plays. He had his heart set on being an actor. 

When Eric got to the age of 13, things took a very dark turn in his young life. An uncle, from his foster family who he became very close with, promised to take Eric to church to teach him to play the organ. Eric had become obsessed with everything to do with acting and music so he was excited and couldn't wait to go. The 'Uncle' had other sinister and sickening ideas. It's not known if they even made it to the church but what is known is that this uncle parked his car somewhere in a quiet area and sexually molested Eric. 

From that point on, the uncle brought Eric to the attention of two other men (possibly more were involved but he only mentioned two others) who each took turns in molesting him. This continued regularly for years right up until Eric was in his early 20s. The sick reason that the abuse continued for so long was because of Eric's condition, even in his 20s he still had the look and stature of a child. 

It is a wonder how Eric was able to cope and carry on with this constant hell but he was very good at acting and putting a brave face on things. He was also said to have been terrified of these much older men who constantly threatened him and assaulted him, like a lot of abuse victims he was scared to speak out especially as one of the men was a well respected scout leader. 

With this constant trauma he was having to endure in the background of his life, Eric threw himself more and more into acting and started getting TV roles. His moment of real fame finally came when he landed the role of Wee Burney in Rab C. Nesbitt, suddenly he was a household name. When he walked down the street, people ran over to him and wanted autographs, magazines wanted interviews with him and the money he was paid was not too bad either. 

(Eric Cullen starring as Wee Burney in Rab C. Nesbitt. Picture credit: imdb)

Even people from far beyond Scotland recognised him, he was a much loved actor and always seemed to come across really nice in interviews too. 

So when it came to his career at this point, things could not have been better, despite the bad start and the trauma he had to endure, he was on top with his career and he had tons of fans and able to afford things he couldn't before. The abusers on the other hand reportedly began to put pressure on Eric and this is where the story takes another dark turn. 

From the beginning of this we learn about Eric's upbringing, his mother giving him up for adoption, his condition and the horrific abuse he endured and that was heartbreaking enough but then we see him triumph and become a star and things look like they are taking a more positive turn. In an ideal world, that is where the story would have ended possibly with the abusers locked up and justice served but that isn't what happened.

(Eric Cullen. Picture credit: historic-hamilton)

In 1993, Eric had a knock on his front door out of the blue, it was the police. The cops had been given anonymous information that Eric had a stash of videos which featured child abuse. Eric was calm and collected and took the police upstairs and without a flinch, pointed at a big cardboard box and a suitcase. The box contained 100 video tapes and the suitcase was full of indecent pictures of young boys. Eric was arrested and the news shocked the whole of Scotland. 

Then Eric told the cops that the tapes and pictures were not his and that they belonged to one of his abusers, the scout leader: Francis Currens. He opened up and told investigators about the paedophile ring that had been abusing him for years. He claimed that Francis and the others had been threatening him and forced him to store the horrific material. 

A huge investigation was launched and each tape and photograph was looked through in an attempt to find out who the victims were. It was determined that Francis was the owner of the tapes that were in that cardboard box as he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for that and because he'd been accused of indecent behaviour with other young boys. 

(Notorious Paedophile, Francis Currens. Picture credit: dailyrecord)

The public were confused because this much loved actor (who'd been through hell in his past) was now revealing that for all those years he'd been a victim of a paedophile ring and now he had in his possession,  all of these sickening materials in his house? Eric had enough money and friends in high places at that point to have reported his abusers to the police long before the cops knocked on his door and he would have been protected. Why would he have all of these horrible items in his house and keep quiet whilst these people were continuing to hurt other children? It all made no sense? What did they have on Eric? Why was he protecting them up to that point? 

The confusion was even worse when he went to court and pleaded guilty to all four charges:

1) Being in possession of indecent videos and photographs of children.

2) Actively taking indecent pictures of children.

3) Indecent exposure of himself in front of children.

4) Making an indecent video of young boys. 

So one minute he's a victim of this horrible gang and the next these things are found in his house and he's pleading guilty to everything after the cops had investigated him. The court was able to determine that the videos in the box had belonged to Francis Currens and Eric's fingerprints were not found on them but there was confusion over the photographs and the other stuff. 

Eric claimed to have pleaded guilty because he wanted the whole thing to just go away but that doesn't make sense? There were people who supported him and believed he was a victim who'd been exploited by this gang so why didn't he fight it? Unless he knew there was evidence that would be brought to light which wouldn't paint him so well. 

He was sentenced to 9 months in prison and was placed on suicide watch. He was only in prison for two weeks when an appeal (which had a lot of support from some of the public and the likes of Childline creator Esther Rantzen - no shade but Esther was friends with Jimmy Savile and later admitted that she had heard rumours of his indecent behaviour for years but chose to stay quiet) to free him was successful and he was placed on 3 years probation. One wonders if this appeal was successful due to his fame, the support from well known names or sympathy because of his condition. 

He was out of prison and began telling people that he was going to start working with children's charities, campaigning against child pornography and wanted to be a therapist working with abuse victims. 

Some time later he did an interview and claimed that he wasn't sure if he would return to acting because he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and depression. Eric had seen two of his abusers (Francis Currens - who is now deceased and his 'uncle' Jack Williams) placed behind bars for offences against young boys. An unidentified man who Eric claimed was the leader of the group has never been brought to justice, it's unclear if this person is still alive as no details are available. 

Despite not returning to acting, Eric continued to work with children's charities and was on the Children's Panel (now called Children's Hearings). The Children's Panel at that time in the early 90s took on volunteers who worked with children and families supporting them, helping make decisions on the care of infants etc. It was an important role working with vulnerable children. Eric claimed to be too depressed to do acting but was able to continue on with these roles. 

Some time past and the dust settled and because Eric was not in prison, he was regularly seen doing charity roles and having had this big support campaign behind him, some members of the public took that to mean that he was an innocent man done wrong. A lot of people felt that Eric was just a victim who'd been terrorized all of his life by this gang and that he was just innocent and there was nothing more to it.

On the 16th of August 1996, the shock news came that Eric Cullen had passed away at the age of 31 in hospital due to complications after bowel surgery. Two of Scotland's leading newspapers paid a respectful tribute to him and a lot of people were sad to hear the news. Apparently the writers of Rab C had been trying to get in touch with Eric just days before his death to offer him the chance to return to the show. 

Going over the news articles of that time it's interesting to see the reaction to his death, these were the days before the internet, twitter etc so you didn't get a real full view of what the public's opinions were but there seemed to be a huge amount of sympathy for him. The story of Eric's past had a profound effect on people as it would do (it's just the stuff that came afterwards which diminishes sympathy in my personal opinion). 

So Eric was laid to rest an innocent man or so the public believed at the time. The positive memories of seeing him on re-runs of Rab C. Nesbitt restored until...

A female former investigator by the name of Betty Maxwell Carter (who now works as a Crisis Intervention Counsellor) came forward and spoke out about what happened with Eric. Betty originally had been a supporter of Eric's thinking him to be innocent and feeling genuinely sorry for his past and all that he had been through. 

Betty (who is a mother of two children) worked hard on Eric's case and was determined to prove to everyone once and for all that Eric was 100% innocent. The trouble was, the further she investigated into him the more devastating things she found which included a video tape from the Children's Panel that Eric had taken home with him and copied. He was taking files and video tapes from the panel which featured child abuse cases and according to Francis Currens (speaking from his prison cell), Eric was heavily involved in the gang, he participated and would often do this independently but was able to manipulate everyone into feeling sorry for him and seeing him as this helpless victim. 

Betty saw a harrowing video in which Eric was abusing a 12 year old boy. As the child was in terrible pain she said she would never forget that child's face as long as she lived. There was nobody else in the video, just Eric and the child and Betty was sickened and felt disgusted that she had actually believed that Eric had been innocent when he'd managed to fool everyone for so long. 

Eric found out that Betty knew about the video and hysterically begged her not to say anything, he said that the video would be the end of him and he'd go to prison for years. Betty was in a difficult position but she she didn't know what to do because she no longer had the tape and she couldn't prove it and so many people were campaigning for Eric, she knew the truth would hurt a lot of people.

It turned out that Eric did expose himself to children, he would pay the boys money before carrying out his sickening acts. He also bragged about his victims to the members of the paedophile ring, the same gang that he was supposed to have been afraid of. He'd tell the gang how many boys he had and what he'd done, even showing them a video of when he was on holiday in America and there was two children involved. 

Apparently a lot of this stuff about Eric wasn't revealed at his trial because it was felt that it would reflect badly on the Children's Panel if it was to be revealed that they had a paedophile in the organisation so in other words, they covered it all up. 

A police source confirmed that Eric had taken materials from the Children's Panel which detailed victims of child abuse and copied them to keep in his house and share with the gang for their own sick amusement. 

So, with everything I have just written about it seems the real reason that Eric never bothered to expose his abusers before was because they had something on him. He was a victim of sexual abuse, nobody is denying his traumatic past but he soon became like them. Eric chose to abuse children and then tried to paint himself off as a victim campaigning for other victims whilst secretly abusing children. 

One of his victims was going to tell his story in court but because Eric pleaded guilty he didn't get the chance to. The main reason Eric pleaded guilty to the charges put to him was because he was guilty of half of that stuff (and that was bad enough) and he knew (maybe his lawyer told him) that if he pleaded not guilty then all of this other evidence would be uncovered and it would look even worse for him. 

In some of the pictures I have seen of him he has this pathetic look on his face in order to gain sympathy. I do think that he used his condition also to gain sympathy. He was very manipulative and calculating and it worked, he managed to get away with it to some extent. There are people out there (believe it or not) who still think he's 100% innocent. 

I'm not telling my readers what to think, I'm just giving you the information as it is. Eric Cullen has been dead now for a very long time but some of his victims may still be alive and they've had to go on suffering in silence. 

Not all people who have been sexually abused go on to become sexual abusers. I know there are people who will say ''The gang must have forced him to do these things'' and I would say, in the beginning Eric was a victim but he became part of that gang and later did things on his own. He made a tape of himself abusing a boy on his own, videoed other boys, took pictures and paid children to watch him expose himself and covered up for this gang for years until the police came knocking on his door. 

It's a horrible story and I know a lot of people will be utterly shocked and saddened at all of this but like I always say, we owe it to the real victims to tell the truth about the perpetrators of such horrendous crimes. 

I know this was a difficult post to get through and I thank you for joining me in this case. I hope it doesn't deter you from watching Rab C in the future, the other actors involved with the show were just as shocked at the goings-on with Eric Cullen and probably don't even know the full truth to this day. 

Further Reading & Sources:

Eric Cullen | Wikipedia

Francis Currens: Article | Daily Record

Eric Cullen: Article | AP News

Eric Cullen | IMDb

Eric Cullen: Article | The Herald

Eric Cullen: Article | The Herald

Wee Burney...The Vile Truth | Sunday Mail

Rab C. Nesbitt | Wikipedia

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  1. When the abused become the abusers...
    This was intense and seriously shocking. It's heartbreaking from the start when you look at what happened to him at such an early age but to turn around and see what he was doing as he got older is disgusting.
    So many times we see these people rise from the darkness of anguish and pain to be heralded as a Phoenix rising only to become the Demons they escaped from. What makes it even more heartbreaking is the fact that he was a riveting personality that everyone loved and wanted to believe was innocent in the whole thing. Only to have the cold hard facts that came to light making his legacy and life a devastating and disgusting disaster.
    I find it odd that a Scottish Scout Master was the leading path to his downfall and was the one that started the abuse. It's been a commonly known problem here in the states that a lot of Boy Scout Masters are notorious for this kind of behavior. It's disgusting and abhorrent and to think that usually these disgusting sub-human scumbags get away with just a slap on the wrist is what makes it even more heartbreaking and sick.
    My opinion is if the laws were changed to either castrate pedophiles or to put a death sentence on pedophiles you would see a huge decline on such actions and behavior. I know my opinion wouldn't go over well with many but I'm a firm believer in protecting children from such atrocities.
    This was an absolutely riveting and incredible story that was brilliantly and thoughtfully written!

    1. I mistakenly commented that the scoutmaster was the start of the abuse when it was the uncle. For which I apologize the scoutmaster just for some reason stuck in my head as the start of the abuse he endured.

  2. I have never heard any of the later part of this post before and can find nothing to corroborate it apart from information from The Scotsman, a paper of record, describing Betty Maxwell-Carter as a "walter mitty" who conned people into supporting her charity having faked her academic qualifications and fabricated a story about a brother's suicide which never occured?