BBC Watchdog starts Witch Hunt against Adrian Pengelly

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how the BBC had ruined Watchdog and had turned it from a hard hitting consumer affairs show into nothing more than a prime time version of Loose Women. I’ve just watched last week’s show on catch-up, and it’s no better I’m afraid… in fact it’s worse.

adrianglastoLast week, Matt Allwright went after a man named Adrian Pengelly who claims to be a natural healer. Adrian Pengelly says he can heal people and animals using his hands. This isn’t an unusual form of alternative medicine and has been around for many thousands for years. I believe someone named Jesus used to do it too.

Now, before I go on I should state I have no opinion of Adrian Pengelly one way or the other. I don’t know whether he can heal, or whether he’s a con man. I don’t know and I don’t care. What I do care about is the way the BBC decided that he was a charlatan and set about chasing him down in something resembling a witch hunt from the Middle Ages.

Firstly, no-one had complained about Adrian Pengelly. This I think is an important fact. He also charges £30 per session according to Watchdog, which they suggested allowed him to live his ‘lavish’ lifestyle. £30 per session seems very reasonable to me. You wouldn’t get a plumber for that, nor a solicitor nor even an SEO consultant!

When you consider that Adrian Pengelly heals with his hands, this is damn cheap.

They then set about trying to catch him out by sending him a horse that had been x-rayed to show it had soft tissue damage in its hoof, and wondered if Adrian Pengelly would spot this. Pengelly examined the horse and said that its knee suffered from tension.

This then prompted the ‘expert’ watching over the computer to proclaim that Pengelly was wrong. Why? Are the x-rays conclusive? Are doctors never wrong? Is this ‘healing hands’ quack obviously wrong because our medical science says so?

No, it’s the opinion of the vet over Pengelly’s. Whether you believe one or the other, you can’t declare one is 100% correct while the other is 100% wrong.

What they did next sickened me. They had a woman who used to suffer from cancer visit Pengelly for treatment, claiming to actually have cancer. Why would anyone in their right mind claim to have cancer, especially when they’ve had it before?

Adrian Pengelly told her that his treatments worked better for people who weren’t on chemotherapy, but insisted he would never advise anyone to stop it unless they were terminal and the chemo was just to prolong life.

This prompted Watchdog and Matt Allwright to miss-quote him and state that he’d advised people to stop chemotherapy, which he didn’t.

It goes further though. Adrian Pengelly is also into ghosts and communicating with the dead, so Watchdog set him up with a ‘ghost house’ filled with special effects to see if he tried to con the resident into believing there were ghosts present. Once, and only once, during this footage did they point out that Adrian Pengelly does NOT charge for this!

How is this Rogue Trader material? He doesn’t even charge!!!

Finally, Allwright was confronted with hoards of people who claimed to have been helped by Adrian Pengelly, and one woman who said she had been cured of cancer. Allwright dismissed their claims as ‘sick people looking for hope’ and summed up that Pengelly was dangerous offering hope to those who most needed it.

This was despite their McMillan Cancer expert stating that hope, such as that offered by Pengelly, helps survival rates and recent research by the University of British Columbia showing that cancer patients showing signs of depression were 25% more likely to die from their illness.

Hope is important in all forms of recovery.

So, the BBC has gone back to the Dark Ages and has started a witch hunt for a man offering alternative medicine because today’s doctors say it won’t work. Is the BBC going after all forms of alternative medicine now? Will they go after hypnotists and psychics next? Perhaps the BBC will go after psychiatrists too; that’s got to be nonsense as well!

Watchdog has become the thing it once fought. Sort it out BBC, it’s disgusting.

Darren Jamieson, aka MrDaz, is the Technical Director and co-founder of Engage Web and has been working online in a career spanning two decades. His first website was built in 1998 and is still live today.

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20 thoughts on “BBC Watchdog starts Witch Hunt against Adrian Pengelly”

  1. I’m surprised at you Darren.
    This man is nothing but a con artist, either deliberately or because he’s insane. Either way what he is doing has been proven not to work over and over again (yes beyond 100%) and what he is doing is giving people false hope. It’s not that “today’s doctors” say it doesn’t work, but the well controlled, double blind, clinical trials prove that it doesn’t work.
    People, that would otherwise be able to get real medicine that works, go to this charlatan and end up getting more ill are a result. This is terrible in itself, but when they eventually do go to a real doctor (if they aren’t dead) they end up costing the NHS millions because their illnesses are so far advanced.
    Like all the tricky, slimy, snake oil salesmen he is very careful about what he promotes, but nonetheless, he must be stopped!
    I’ll give you the points about stretching the evidence to fit an agenda. The BBC need to be more careful about how they approach these conmen so that it doesn’t look like they (the BBC) are in the wrong. What we do need is legislation to stop these conmen getting away with it.

  2. I blogged the programme myself and I completely agree with what you say about the haunted house nonsense. However, I see problems with what you say about the rest of the it.

    Firstly, it’s not at all clear why you are calling this a ‘witch hunt’ and this description sounds, if I may say so, overly dramatic. If Pengelly is charging something for nothing, then that would seem to make him as much of a ‘rogue trader’ as anyone else targeted by the programme. There is no good evidence that he has any actual healing power in his hands as he claims and, although he has many satisfied customers, he also has many who feel they wasted their money. You don’t say how you know that nobody complained about him and why you think this is an “important fact”. There are plenty of complaints about him all over the web and, given the serious nature of his claims, this would seem to make him an appropriate subject for investigation – together with anyone else who makes false claims about the efficacy of so-called alternative treatments and charges vulnerable people for them.

    Secondly, plumbers and solicitors are trained professionals who are subject to regulation. Such people are contracted to provide a specific service, which is measurable. Of course they charge more than somebody who contracts to nothing but claims he has some unproven power to heal. £30 would indeed be cheap if he did heal but where is the hard evidence that he does? Who’s to say that people recover because of Pengelly’s hands rather than the placebo effect, regression to mean or the orthodox treatment his customers have at the same time? (The supporter you mention who’d said he’d cured her cancer is a case in point – she was having chemo and conventional meds at the same time!)

    Thirdly, your question about whether doctors can ever be wrong is a red herring. Or course they can be wrong. But this has no bearing on the fact that x-rays show a damaged tendon in the foot and that Pengelly failed to detect this. He didn’t even look at the hoof, much less walk the horse around. The equine vet has, unlike Pengelly, many years of training and a great deal more experience of horses and their ailments. I am curious as to why you seem reluctant to acknowledge this and present it as if it were a contest between equals. There is no reason give Pengelly the benefit of the doubt in this instance.

    I think I can answer your question about why somebody would “pretend to have cancer especially if they’ve had it before.” I believe the Watchdog stooge did so because she was appalled at the allegation which, as it transpired, turned out to be true, that somebody is irresponsibly (and possibly illegally) promoting a treatment that is not evidence-based but from which he can make nice profit. Pengelly may have stopped short of advising the stooge not to have chemotherapy but it’s hard to imagine a more calculating and persuasive sales line than saying he’d advise members of his own family against it.

    You may not care whether he can heal or not but don’t you think those desperate people who he takes money from are entitled to know? I have my criticisms of the programme but I am at a loss as to understand why you object so strongly to the BBC taking on people like this. People who put their faith in cowboy plumbers don’t meet preventable premature deaths. People who put their faith in quacks, sometimes do.

  3. Except, Pengelly appeared to suggest to people that his magic fairy hands worked better if people stopped their chemotherapy.

    Did you actually watch the programme?

  4. plumbers, solicitors etc also pay tax on their income and do not threaten legal action when anybody disagrees with what they have to say

  5. @Flanders, I hope you’re not accusing anyone of Not paying tax???

    As for Solicitors not threatening legal action when you disagree with them; I have first hand experience that they do just that!

  6. @Phil

    I’m not disagreeing with you about the validity of the work Pengelly is doing. I haven’t looked into it so won’t comment, my issue is with Watchdog. They’ve turned a serious consumer affairs show into the worst kind of tripe imaginable. Their ‘investigation’ into Pengelly was documentary film making at its most corrupt. They started with a conclusion and tried to edit their footage to match that conclusion, even though it wasn’t working.

  7. @Simon

    Yes I watched the programme. Did you? Did you read what I wrote above? Let me remind you:

    “Adrian Pengelly told her that his treatments worked better for people who weren’t on chemotherapy, but insisted he would never advise anyone to stop it unless they were terminal and the chemo was just to prolong life.

    This prompted Watchdog and Matt Allwright to miss-quote him and state that he’d advised people to stop chemotherapy, which he didn’t.”

    Perhaps you should re-watch it before casting aspersions on me?

  8. @Skepticat

    The problem I have is that Watchdog didn’t present any evidence as to why they claimed Pengelly couldn’t heal, only that the whole notion of healing hands was tripe. Whether you or I believe it to be tripe is irrelevant; as a consumer affairs show they need to prove that he is conning people, or don’t run the story.

    The issue with the horse isn’t as simple as it seems. Yes the x-ray showed soft tissue damage in the hoof, but even if the x-ray is accurate (and I have had some innacurate ones myself this year with regards to my spine) what caused that damage? Pengelly believes it was the knee; Watchdog merely mocked him without going into detail. It’s a case of ‘our science is better than your belief’ – and no, I’m not religious before you ask.

    As for healers not being subject to regulation, a lot of professionals aren’t. Would you class hypnotists, clairvoyants, window cleaners etc in the same bracket? We can’t have a regulatory body for everyone, and electricians, plumbers and gas fitters are because if their work is shoddy people will die. If a healer’s work is shoddy who would know? If someone dies from it you’ve already said they’re charlatans, so a regulatory body would be sort of redundant.

    I can see your points but, as I said to Phil, my objection is with the way Watchdog conducted this report. This wouldn’t have happened under Nicky Campbell.

  9. The point of the show was to expose this man under the Cancer Act 1939. I admit the Haunted House part, as funny as it was, was distracting and belonged on some comedy sketch show rather than a consumer affairs programme. The Horse part was interesting but could have been perhaps conducted in a more scientific way, but got its point across. The Cancer point was the poignant part.

    Could it have been delivered better generally? Yeah, it probably could have, But if the purpose of this show, at its roots, is to make the public aware of someone who is potentially a con-artist, then it did this. It would certainly perhaps make people reserach this man prior to seeing him and ask questions, which can only be a good thing. There are many articles that were published about this man if anyone is interested.

  10. And the actual words used by Pengelly were

    “The success rate I suppose for treating cancer would be roundabout 60, 65 per cent”

    “Some cancers 9 out of 10 people have treatment and get better. Only with my treatment they wont need anything else”

    “My success rate is higher with people who don’t have chemotherapy and it’s lower than with people who do”

    “I would never say don’t have it, obviously I can’t say that, but it makes me less sensitive”

    “If they say chemo wont stop it, all we can do is give you more time, then I would say if you were a member of my family, don’t bother let me do it”

    “It creates the possibility my work wont work. At least there I feel there is a chance I can get rid of it, so better to go with me than not with me.”

    So there is a definite implication there that if you do not give up chemo, or have chemo it could affect my “healing hands”.

  11. Like Phil, I’m quite surprised with this post.

    You’re defending a man who puts people’s lives at risk and charges for it, while a year ago you led a one-man crusade against a whole company because one of their employees left a toy you ordered in a puddle.

    Are you getting soft in your old age?? 😛

  12. You’re quite right Rik, I did pick up the banner when HDNL dropped the ball (or rather the toy) into a puddle, but it’s not so much what has happened, but how it has been investigated.

    Watchdog’s video report was shoddy, full of holes and formed its conclusion before it began yet couldn’t even prove them. I think the problem is that they’re no longer interested in investigative journalism. Perhaps there should be a change, perhaps they need someone who knows how to get under the skin of people and drive normal, respectable people to the brink of violence.

    Perhaps Matt Allwright should stand aside?

  13. Mr Daz has made some interesting comments about how the programme was made and his issue is with Watchdog. I cannot disagree with him and knowing a lot of the background before the programme was aired I can confirm that the producers were out to get a result, however unbalanced or unfair that was. Very unprofessional to say the least. However, as someone who knows Adrian Pengelly well and also being party to many of the events surrounding him long before the programme was made, I can assure your posters that there is a group of people out to ‘get’ Adrian and destroy him. This includes a female stalker who has harrassed him for 3 years or more and a group of people involved in psychic matters who live in his area. Most of the websites, blogs and comments posted all over the web – seem to come from a small group of people who use a series of aliases, so you cannot trust any of these types of post as they are clearly biased and come from people who have a different agenda. Yes, Adrian is slightly eccentric (an endearing quality) but he is also gentle, kind and honest. He has treated many people successfully – and others have not necessarily benefitted. I have known him to cure animals and pinpoint problems with dogs and horses which have been completely missed by vets. So don’t listen to the bigots and those who have nothing better to do than to campaign against him. The world needs people like Adrian. Thank goodness he is there.

  14. Herefordshire Council have instigated legal proceedings under the Cancer Act against Mr Pengelly. This is only in the public domain now since the charges have been officially laid in Hereford Magistrates Court. The first court date is 12th March 2010

  15. I completely agree with you Mr Daz. Persecution of those who only wish to help others is a sad and depressing part of our supposedly civilised society. My Pengally is only one of numerous Healers, energy, spirit or otherwise how are constantly attacked for doing what they feel is all they can to help others. Despite worldwide recogntion and study from medical professionals, individuals such as Mr Pengelly, Ray Brown, Stephen Turroff, Gary Mannion, Quintin Smith, Nina Knowland and others across the world are penalised for trying to help others. Yes Fraud occurs in all parts of society but why are we so insistant that what these genuine individuals believe, practice and love is wrong. Just because we dont truely understand the processes, does not make it wrong. Remember, the world was flat at one time!!!

  16. I hear what you’re saying Dannielle.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not sure I believe in it or not, but I’m enlightened enough to know that just because something can’t be proven or explained, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

    Science has come as far as it has by people realising that they don’t know all of the answers, and then attempting to find them out. Simply saying something is fraud just because it can’t be explained flies in the face of science – and as you say, the world would still be flat if we all did that.

  17. What i feel that is really sad and upsetting, is that these individuals who are working with Spirit, Energy or whatever, are often attacked by sceptics. In fact, i know that there are one or two individuals out there who make it their aim to send threats etc to these workers.
    What gives them the right to attack these people in such a vicious way?
    If they had a treatment and felt that it was fraudlent or whatever than i could understand that vitriol which occurs, but to throw insults and accusations at others when they have no experience of the work, is in my mind, ingnorant and stupid.
    Well done Mr Daz for being open minded.

  18. I was treated by adrian for psoriasis, it is the only time in 20yrs that i went into remission. Sadly it did eventually return after 6 months. However i must say that in the time i went i met numerous people who improved greatly. One example was a man who turned up to his 1st appointment in a wheelchair due to severe prolonged arthritis. He was an elderly man and i myself was shocked at the pain he was in. I saw the same man walk into his healing session unaided a month later. Other sucesses were evident, id say about 50-60%, for others it didnt work. Placeo! Who knows! But he has made his living through word of mouth, something very hard to do if u get repeat failures. Many of the people i met on their repeat visits travelled great distances (he is in a remote area), again something they or i wouldnt have done without encouraging changes taking place. I often stayed locally due to the long train traveling times. It was here how i heard that infact adrian was being severely harassed and even stalked as the above poster mentioned. Is adrian blameless? Well i think a healer has to tread a fine line in the modern world. I dont think his mild eccentricity has helped him there. He has witnessed people getting better repeatedly, placebo or not, whilst seeing him and he wants to talk about it. And its those claims that have allowed those with motives to go after him. Personally i found him a nice guy who could perhaps haue done with a little more advice in what to/what not to say. Witchunt? Hmm i would probably agree with that. Why? Because its not your right or anyone else’s to tell me how to treat my illnesses. Serious diseases have serious medications that can and do kill people. If i choose someone to supplement my treatments its my business. I dont require any quackbuster to defend my honour. As the original poster said, hands on healing is centuries old and is even the cornerstone of major religions. Adrian i believe has said some, or at the very least been associated with, unwise statements irregardless of whether he could prove them. but i can recognise a small town vendetta when i see one.

  19. As a former cop and freelance journalist – two of the most cynical professions in the world – I can only express my own experiences with Adrian. I went to him in desperation when the high faluting medical fraternity couldn’t cure an apparent lung collapse and somehow, he cured me with his hands. Believe in him or not, he delivered in my case. David Lemon

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