Bonum Certa Men Certa

Chris Rutter, Winchester College, Clare College choir, Arm Ltd, underage workers & Debian accidental deaths

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Feb 25, 2024

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock.

Later this [sic] year, Softbank hopes to spin off Arm Ltd in an IPO worth up to $70 billion. We've previously looked at two Debian-related deaths having connections to Arm (Frans Pop's experience with an Arm Netbook and then Lucy Wayland) and now it is time to look at a third, Chris Rutter, who was hit by a car in 2001, age 19.

There are significant connections between Arm Ltd & Debian. The former Debian leader Steve McIntyre was an Arm Ltd employee for many years. There is an annual MiniDebConf organized in Arm's offices in Cambridge. Various other Arm-affiliated volunteers hold senior positions in the Debian hierarchy.

The Cambridge News published a report about the accident. The key details are in the second last line of the news report: the police had no reason to investigate the driver who collided with Rutter:

A police spokeswoman said inquiries into the death were continuing but it was unlikely any charges would result.

In other words, if there was any fault or mistake, it was not on the part of the driver. Rutter was crossing the road at 11:20pm when the accident occurred.

According to research, people who work at night are three hundred percent more likely to have a car accident.

Looking through Arm & Debian mailing list archives in the month of February 2001, I found that Rutter was typically doing his work for Arm & Debian between midnight and 3am. The last example is at 2am on the morning of 27 February, days before he died.

Shortly after Rutter's death, Wookey sent an email asking for other people to take over Rutter's responsibilities. Wookey's email therefore gives us a good overview of the burden on Rutter at the time of his death. One key point to note is that Rutter had paid for his own hardware and was hosting it in his former high school, Winchester College, founded in the year 1382.

To: Debian ARM <debian-arm@lists.debian.org>
Subject: ARM port rearrangements
From: Wookey <wookey@aleph1.co.uk>
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 13:52:37 +0000 (GMT)
Message-id: <Marcel-1.50-0312135237-f7fh+Ty@chewy.aleph1.co.uk>

Hello people,
Due to the untimely demise of Chris Rutter we are now short of an ARM port leader, and need to do things about the ARM infrastrucutre in the reasonably short term.
Fortunately the distributed nature of Debian is resistant to this sort of disaster so things are basically still working fine. As, in practice, Phil Blundell has been doing a great deal of the work recently then I suggest that unless he disagrees violently, or someone else is keen to get the title, that he becomes de facto leader. (This makes no practical difference except that I update the ARM port page to this effect shortly and we all have to buy him beer if we meet in the flesh.)
Sorting out the build machines is slightly more complicated. Currently the machines medusa (a RiscPC, owned by chris) and inkvine (an x86 box, owned by the school) do most of the work. These boxes are both located at Winchester college (chris's old school) and got bandwidth for free. Ths arrangement was becoming increasingly tenuous anyway but now clearly ceases to be pratical. It's not in immediate danger of closure, but at some point we need to run this stuff on machines we have some control over.
So, we are now casting about for resources to keep things going smoothly. Anyone want to offer bandwidth/co-location space, hardware etc? Essentially transferring the existing setup to new hosts is the path of least resistance. If we find out what's available we can work out how best to proceed. I suspect hardware isn't a problem - we need bandwidth and a keen webmaster/maintainer would be handy too.
Wookey -- Aleph One Ltd, Bottisham, CAMBRIDGE, CB5 9BA, UK Tel (00 44) 1223 811679 work: http://www.aleph1.co.uk/ play: http://www.chaos.org.uk/~wookey/

The Winchester College connection reveals that Rutter had started doing this unpaid work to substantial benefit of Arm Ltd when he was still at high school. He was 19 years old when he died in 2001. Therefore, it appears he was 16 when people started asking for unpaid support with his Arm work in April 1998.

1998 was the same year that debian-private (which has subsequently been leaked on IPFS) had discussions about the underage US Navy intern Shaya Potter. Therefore, the older developers who had jobs with companies like Arm were clearly aware that they had unpaid 16 year-olds in their midst. Did they deliberately exploit these people or was it simply indifference?

Subject: Re: Revision K strongarms ...
To: None <chris@fluff.org>
From: Kim G. S. OEyhus <kim@iq.pvv.ntnu.no>
List: port-arm32
Date: 04/30/1998 15:00:30

Lets see if I understand this bug: There is a LDM^ instruction which is fetching data. Suddenly it reaches unavailable memory, and a page fault is generated. Interrupt routines are called. After a while the page gets loaded from harddisk, and the interrupted program is restarted on the next instruction, instead of completing the LDM^ remaing memory loads.
Have I gotten this straight?
Then the real problem is that the instruction can't be restarted, because information about the number of loaded registers are lost?
If there is any way if regaining that information, the missing part of the LDM^ instruction can be emulated in software as a part of the StrongARM virtual memory system. Right?
Is there any chance this can be done?
If there is not, then perhaps some heuristics is in order. I am thinking of a statistical guessing method, based on what is in the registers and memory. As long as what is loaded from memory is different from what was in the registers, it should be possible to guess where the fault happened, by seeing which of the registers equal the memory to be loaded.
If the LDM^ is mostly used as part of return calls, then higher probability of guessing right can be done by guessing which value on the stack are the return address.
Kim0

In another example from October 1999, we have an extensive document for Arm users written by Rutter.

At some point, Rutter's contact details, including phone number and home address, were placed in a public directory for Arm support. It is still visible online today.

Chris Rutter, Duxford

Fast forward to 2011 and Clive Jones has invited people to join a commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Rutter's death. The invitation notes:

The plan is to convene at 6pm outside the chapel in Clare College (where he was a choral scholar) for evensong at 6:15pm.

One reason Rutter was remembered a decade later is because of the huge amount of work he contributed.

Cambridge fees for undergraduate students are quite steep. Living in one of the colleges or renting an apartment in Cambridge is extraordinarily expensive. Rutter's education depended heavily on both his ability and willingness to sing: a choir scholarship, as noted in the email from Jones.

Choir practice is a rather inflexible activity. If you are in the middle of diagnosing a bug in Debian, you have to put your mind on hold and make a context switch to join your choir colleagues at the specified time. You may sometimes have to miss outside social opportunities in order to attend ceremonies involving the choir.

For some people, the terms of choir participation are much better than the terms of outside employment. For Chris Rutter, the time commitments of choir have to be appended to the time commitments of pre-existing obligations, the unpaid work for Arm & Debian.

It is an interesting moment to contrast Rutter's choir experience with that of the boys in Cardinal Pell's choir. For many of them, their parents simply didn't have the financial means to pay for the school fees. From an early age, the children were aware that failure to perform would mean missing out on the opportunity of a premium education and an alumni network of influential friendships.

Putting that in numbers, the boys in Cardinal Pell's choir were automatically awarded a scholarship to St Kevin's college, where the sum of their tuition fees runs into six digits. It is an odd coincidence that I used to row past the school most mornings.

The boy who died developed a drug addiction at age 14. We were encouraged to think this may have been the result of abuse but the recourse to hard drugs may have simply been a result of the pressure from the choir scholarship, the oglibation to sing for an education.

Yet there is one similarity between Rutter and members of the Pell choir that is not obvious to the naked eye. It was well known at the time that Chris Rutter's father was a previous director of the Clare College Choir. In fact, John Rutter is described by some as the world's leading composer of choral music. This would be a mixed blessing for Chris Rutter: on the one hand, the pressure to perform to the same high standards set by his father and on the other hand, the perception that he may have entered the choir due to favoritism or any other advantage. There is no claim that this was the case, I am only raising the issue of perception.

It is not unheard of for musical talent to run in the family: Miley Cyrus, for example, is even more successful than her father.

Cardinal Pell's prosecution commenced in parallel with the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse. The criminal proceedings and media circus examined Pell from every angle through two trials at the county court, an appeal to the Supreme Court and his final appeal and acquittal at the High Court. When Pell appeared before the Royal Commission, which was independent of the criminal trial, he denied knowing anything about fellow clergy. The Royal Commission finally concluded that Pell did know, despite his denials. Yet what the experts have failed to notice is that one of the masterminds of the cover-up was related to a member of said choir in the Pell era. This rogue cleric appears to know all the dirty secrets and was linked to a plot to obstruct justice in the United States. When somebody like this is trusted to do their employer's dirty work, this gives them opportunities to call in favors from people throughout the organization.

News reports tell us that talent scouts selected the boys on merit. Yet if this was a lottery and outsiders could see the relationships between the winners and various other parties, they may not trust the results.

If any clergy did have the ability to influence choir selections, they may simply be doing favors for family members or they may be using the choir, with the expensive scholarship, as a way of settling disputes with victims or witnesses to past offences.

In the context of the boy who died, I already speculated that he may have been a prior victim of abuse and not a victim of Pell himself. The fact that one of the church's fixers had this proximity to this particular choir only adds to suspicions that prior victims may have been known to the church, or even worse, they may have deliberately put some victims on scholarships as a form of indoctrination. If they knew that prior abuse victims had entered the choir by chance, this was bad. If they deliberately put victims onto any form of scholarship for the purpose of indoctrination, that would be far worse.

To understand the mindset around indoctrination, it is necessary to refer to crimin sollicitationis. One of the implications of this document is that when a crime occurs, the child is not a victim, rather, they are a partner in the crime. There is a similar concept in the middle east, where a woman who is raped is considered guilty of the crime of adultery. In this context, asking past victims to sing is like asking them to do penance or compelling women to marry their rapist. By dressing it up in a mainstream religion, they hide the psychological horror.

After the conviction of Cardinal Pell, the media went wild with stories of a political rival in the Vatican wiring a large sum of money to pay off a witness or accuser. Yet if any large institution was in the business of making such pay offs, why would they risk leaving a trail in the bank account? Whatever the objective, it would be far more logical to give people scholarships and other career opportunities where the payment is not visible to the naked eye. I already examined how similar phenomena may have been at work in the Debian Outreachy internships as they paid off a female whistleblower.

Cambridge, Clare College and one of the UK's worst abusers

It is an odd coincidence that Clare College was home to one of the worst abusers in the UK and his blackmail tactics are remarkably similar to those we see in Debian today. Dr Matthew Falder arrived at Clare College in 2007, six years after the tragic death of Chris Rutter and there is no suggestion of any connection between these people and events. In fact, Falder's offending was so well concealed from his peers that even the spies at GCHQ had to help track him down.

Falder used various tactics to obtain compromising photos and videos of his victims. He would use these images to blackmail them, demanding even more images and imposing upon his victims to engage in humiliating acts of self-deprecation. The victims were terrified of public exposure and complied with each new demand.

The Debian Account Managers (DAMs) have used similar tactics with secret punishments. The victims are removed from the Debian keyring and the DAMs tell the victim that the expulsion is a shared secret. Quoting the words that Enrico Zini sent to Dr Norbert Preining:

We are sending this email privately, leaving its disclosure as your decision (although traces in public databases are unavoidable).

Anybody who receives a message like that would recall the horrific public shaming of Dr Jacob Appelbaum. My own analysis showed that Dr Appelbaum was falsely accused. Nonetheless, everybody remembers Dr Appelbaum's name being dragged through the mud. While Dr Preining, Martin Krafft and I all spoke up about these tactics, I can't help contemplating the fact that other victims may be so afraid of public humiliation or loss of their job that they become enslaved to Zini.

Dr Falder admitted blackmailing his victims to eat dog poo, among other things. We can see that Dr Preining was blackmailed to write a self-deprecating forced confession, thanking the DAMs for blackmailing him:

Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2019 19:14:19 +0900
From: Norbert Preining <norbert@preining.info>
To: debian-project@lists.debian.org
Cc: da-manager@debian.org
Subject: Apology and DAM decisions
Message-ID: <20190322101419.GH11269@burischnitzel.preining.info>

Hi all,
Let me start with an apology for having overlooked parts of Laura's and Rhonda's email in the heat of the discussion back then. Thanks to some fellow DDs who reminded me of these items, I have soon after updated the blog post about Sharp to use the current name (in addition to the previously corrected pronoun). I understand that the criticism of my original blog text was valid, and I will take great care that something similar will not happen again. But I believe that the issue at hand has been conflated with issues about inclusiveness. I didn't aim to harm inclusiveness. I categorically reject any claims that I am anti-inclusiveness, while I allow myself a personal opinion on *persons* (independent of their self-identification).
I also apologize for that fact that my communication style in the past has made others feel uncomfortable and was perceived as aggressive. I think that even during the heat of the systemd and coc discussions this was not appropriate, and I will do my best to use the same communication style I usually use on Debian TeX, that is friendly, open, and constructive.
I also will take care to listen carefully to advice and corrections, and I want to stress that I do think that Debian should be an environment where everyone matters and is respected, and that there is no place for lowering others based on gender, race, beliefs etc.
In cooperation with DAM - and the invaluable help of some fellow DDs - we have reached the agreement about my further status. DAM will write about this in a separate email outlining the agreement and consequences.
All the best
Norbert
-- PREINING Norbert http://www.preining.info GPG: 0x860CDC13 fp: F7D8 A928 26E3 16A1 9FA0 ACF0 6CAC A448 860C DC13

In this context, listen really means obey.

Have another look at the blackmail message that Enrico Zini sent to Dr Preining and other victims:

All packages in which you are currently listed as maintainer or uploader will be added to your Debian Maintainer whitelist as soon as possible.

Here is a more verbose message Zini sent to me:

We are revoking your status as a Debian Developer with immediate effect. Since there is no issue with your technical skill, your key will be added to the Debian Maintainers keyring. All packages in which you are currently listed as maintainer or uploader will be added to your Debian Maintainer whitelist as soon as possible.

You are welcome to continue to contribute to Debian, ...

Zini expects victims to continue doing work for Debian, just as the church was asking victims to continue to sing.

In an expulsion, you would not ask the person to continue contributing work. You would not leave their key on the keyring. These were not expulsions, these were blackmail experiments.

All these environments have a similar stress: the participants know that if they fail to meet expectations, they could lose their status and lose their relationships with their peers.

Read more about the history and evolution of the Debian Harassment & Abuse culture

Clare College Chapel, Cambridge

Read more about the history and evolution of the Debian Harassment & Abuse culture

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