A ramshackle cottage down a remote Devon lane became the focus of the world’s press 45 years ago when it was revealed as the centre of the notorious Manacled Mormon sex scandal.
On the edge of Dartmoor, three miles from the market town of Okehampton, the ancient stone-built farmhouse with no close neighbours made the perfect hideaway for former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney to act out her devious plan to win back her lover.
It was inside this modest rental property at Lower Halstock that she was alleged to have held 21-year-old Mormon missionary Kirk Anderson prisoner for three days in September 1977, handcuffed to the bed and repeatedly forced to have sex with her. She has always maintained the two were in love and that it was consensual.
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After fleeing the clutches of his captor and her architect accomplice, Keith May, the 6ft 4in Anderson ran to the police and accused McKinney of kidnapping him and raping him. At the time there was no provision in law for male rape, so after McKinney and May were lured out of hiding and stopped at a roadblock, they were charged with false imprisonment and possessing an imitation firearm.
The pair appeared at Epsom Magistrates Court where McKinney said she was in love with Anderson and that she had chained him to the bed with mink-lined handcuffs because it was the only way he could enjoy having sex. She also claimed she would “ski down Mount Everest in the nude with a carnation up my nose” for him.
Anderson, however, told the court he had not wanted any of it to happen and that he was left seriously upset and depressed. She had torn off his pyjamas and “forced him to have sex”. McKinney and May were remanded in custody to await trial.
Over the months that followed, details of the bizarre “kinky sex slave” plot emerged, dominating the tabloid headlines and fascinating the public, not least the inhabitants of the quiet area of West Devon at the heart of the action. It certainly wasn’t the kind of thing that usually happened on their doorstep.
Depending on whose version you believe, the story began when McKinney moved from North Carolina to study drama in Utah, after converting to the Mormon Church. It was said that she was obsessed with sibling pop group The Osmonds and had tried and failed to form a relationship with one of the brothers.
After that she set her sights on Kirk Anderson, who at 19 was six years younger than her. The pair dated briefly and slept together, allegedly both losing their virginity. McKinney told Anderson she had become pregnant but suffered a miscarriage, leaving him riddled with guilt.
When he confessed his “sin” to the church elders, their response was to get him out of town fast, packing him off to do missionary work out of the reach of a heartbroken, but determined, McKinney. When she heard Anderson had been sent to England, she hired a private detective who found him working door-to-door in the Surrey area.
Along the way, McKinney recruited Keith May and together they flew to London to track him down so she could convince him to rekindle their relationship. Ambushing Anderson outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Epsom, May was said to have held him at gunpoint and bundled him into the car in which McKinney was waiting.
They sedated him with chloroform and hid him under a blanket for the 200-mile drive to Okehampton and the secluded cottage they had rented where no one would know what they were up to. McKinney later told the Daily Mirror she had packed the fridge with Anderson’s favourite food and studied The Joy Of Sex manual in preparation for what was to come.
McKinney spent three months in Holloway Prison on remand. Granted bail because of her failing mental health, she was photographed out and about in high-profile London clubs before she and May fled the country just weeks before their trial was due to start. In April 1978 the pair flew to Canada on fake passports, disguised with wigs and glasses, and claiming to be deaf mutes.
Then an old boyfriend of McKinney’s came out of the woodwork with a raft of nude photos and claims that she was really a sex hostess. Revelling in the notoriety, she shared her versions of the saga with different UK tabloids and posed topless for US magazines before the FBI finally caught up with her and May in 1979. They received suspended sentences for making false statements to obtain passports.
She and May were never extradited to the UK so didn’t stand trial and that’s where the Manacled Mormon story almost ended. Five years later, McKinney was arrested for stalking Anderson, now married with a family, near where he worked at Salt Lake City Airport; she had a set of handcuffs in her car.
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