In Britain, controversy arose from claims reported in 2012, which some state to have been later discredited,
of sexual abuse
of children at parties held at the former Elm Guest House in Rocks Lane, near Barnes Common
in south-west London
, during the late 1970s and 1980s. Several prominent British men were alleged, in a list produced by convicted fraudster Chris Fay
and never verified or corroborated by any other source, to have attended the Guest House including former government ministers, senior MPs
, top police officers, judges, pop music stars, and people with links to the Royal Households
Since 2012, the allegations of an establishment paedophile ring have been part of a complex multi-agency investigation.
Elm Guest House was alleged to have been used by a Westminster paedophile ring. Prominent people who were claimed, without any proof, to have attended parties at Elm Guest House included the Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith, the Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, the Soviet spy Anthony Blunt, the former British diplomat Sir Peter Hayman, and the Foreign Office barrister Colin Peters, who was later jailed in 1989 for being part of a network which abused over a hundred boys. According to The Independent, other alleged visitors to the guesthouse include a Sinn Féin politician, a Labour MP and several Conservative politicians. During 2014 and 2015, allegations against several other leading politicians of the period, mostly now deceased, were made public in the British press.
An investigation, Operation Fairbank, led by the Metropolitan Police Service, started in late 2012. This was a “scoping exercise” aimed at a “preliminary assessment of the evidence rather than a formal inquiry”, and the existence of the “assessment” operation was confirmed only on 12 December 2012 after operating in secret for several weeks. As a result of allegations arising from Operation Fairbank, a full criminal investigation, Operation Fernbridge, was launched in February 2013. In November 2014, another operation—Operation Midland—was set up to examine claims of a possible homicide, later extended to cover allegations of three murders and activities at the Dolphin Square development in Pimlico and elsewhere; on 21 March 2016, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that Operation Midland had been closed without any charges being brought. In 2015, the Independent Police Complaints Commission began investigating claims that the Metropolitan Police had suppressed evidence of child sexual abuse and prevented the investigation of some allegations between 1970 and 2005, because of the alleged involvement of police officers and MPs.
In addition to eight guest rooms, facilities at the three-storey Elm Guest House included a sauna, solarium and video studio. The Edwardian house is now a private residence, and the current occupants are not connected to the allegations.
Claims by Tom Watson MP
Operation Fairbank was set up following claims by Labour MP Tom Watson in the House of Commons that the police should look afresh at claims of a “powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10”. Watson raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions on 24 October 2012. The information was passed to him by a journalist from the investigative news website Exaro. He suggested that such a network may have existed in the past at a high level, protected by connections to Parliament and involving a close aide to a former Prime Minister; neither the aide nor the former Prime Minister were named.
Watson referred to Peter Righton, a former consultant to the National Children’s Bureau, who was convicted of importing and possessing illegal pornographic material in 1992. Watson said that files on Righton contained “clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring…One of its members boasts of a link to a senior aide of a former Prime Minister, who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad.”
The police investigation known as Operation Fairbank was first set up under conditions of secrecy. The Independent on Sunday reported that it focused on claims of sexual abuse and the grooming of children, involving parties for men at the former Elm Guest House in Rocks Lane, close to Barnes Common in south-west London, during the late 1970s and 1980s.
The guest house was managed at the time by Carole Kasir, who died in 1990 at the age of 47; an inquest found that the cause of Kasir’s death was an overdose of insulin. Two employees from the National Association for Young People in Care told the coroner they believed that because Kasir seemingly had not had an insulin injection for three days, she had been murdered. Nevertheless, she was found to have committed suicide. A party was raided by the police in 1982, following which 12 boys gave evidence that they had been abused by men at the house. Kasir was convicted of the charge of running a disorderly house, but allegations of abuse against children, and a subsequent reported investigation in 2003, were apparently not pursued.
The Independent on Sunday reported in January 2013 that police were investigating claims that Cyril Smith, a former Liberal MP who died in 2010, sexually abused young boys at Elm Guest House, which the article claimed “was allegedly used by a powerful paedophile network whose members are said to have included former leading Conservative politicians.” Smith is reported to have been a regular visitor to Elm Guest House. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We can confirm Cyril Smith visited the premises.”
In February 2013, it was reported that police were investigating allegations that in the early 1980s a “paedophile ring of VIPs” abused boys from the Grafton Close Children’s Home in Richmond, south-west London. A claim was also made that Kasir had photographs or video of many establishment figures at Elm Guest House, one photograph allegedly showing a former cabinet minister in a sauna with a naked boy. One alleged victim of abuse at the guest house said that at the age of 13 he and his 12-year-old brother, both orphans, were sent there for parties when they were residents at Grafton Close Children’s home. He said boys were plied with alcohol before being abused by men at the guesthouse. In March 2013, The Independent on Sunday reported that at least three men named in documents as visitors to the Elm Guest House were later convicted of multiple sexual offences against children.
It was reported in December 2013 that a former Conservative cabinet minister was being investigated as part of Operation Fairbank, following the seizure of footage and photographs from a London party where children were abused in the 1980s. The film and images were seized at the home of a known paedophile in London. The unnamed politician was photographed entering the property where the party was held. One alleged victim has claimed that the ex-cabinet minister was one of those who raped him. Cyril Smith and Jimmy Savile were among other alleged visitors to the parties. Some of the parties were organised by Sidney Cooke, who was jailed in the 1980s for the rape and manslaughter of Jason Swift in east London. Cooke, described by The Guardian in 1999 as “Britain’s most notorious paedophile”, was part of a ring of paedophiles who picked up young boys in London, often taking them to Amsterdam to be abused. Allegations were reported in December 2013 that several Conservative MPs frequently attended sex parties in Amsterdam in order to have sex with young boys.
Criminal investigation – Operation Fernbridge
A full criminal investigation, Operation Fernbridge, was launched as a result of allegations that arose from Operation Fairbank. Two men, a Catholic priest from Norwich, and a man understood to be connected to the Grafton Close children’s home in Richmond, were arrested on suspicion of sexual offences and questioned by child investigation officers from Operation Fernbridge in February 2013. A third arrest, of a 69-year-old man, took place in July 2013. A trial against Tony McSweeney, the Catholic priest, started at Southwark Crown Court in February 2015. However, John Stingemore, the man who formerly worked for Richmond Council, was found dead at his home in January 2015 whilst still awaiting trial. The two men always denied the charges against them.
Operation Fernbridge was supported by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and Richmond Social Services. In June 2013 it was reported that seven police officers were working on the case and were following more than 300 leads. In July 2014, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that they had more than tripled the number of officers working on the case, announcing that 22 officers were working on the operation.
In March 2015, it was reported that Operation Fernbridge had closed, but that allegations that had been made to it were still being considered as part of other ongoing investigations.
Westminster paedophile dossier
In 1983, Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens compiled a dossier, telling his family it was “explosive” and would “blow the lid” on powerful and famous child abusers. The dossier was handed over to the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, who acknowledged receipt in a letter and suggested the police had been informed. The dossier was subsequently lost. The Observer revealed on 5 July 2014 that the Dickens dossier was just one of 114 potentially relevant files found to be missing by officials when they did their initial search. The chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz said that files had been lost “on an industrial scale”. In July 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron ordered an enquiry into the missing Dickens dossier, and a subsequent inquiry by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC failed to find the dossier or missing files.
Allegations of impropriety by police officers
The Independent on Sunday reported in 2014 that the police’s Professional Standards Directorate was examining potential criminal offences by undercover officers at the time of a police raid on Elm Guest House in June 1982. The raid took place while two officers were at the premises posing as guests. A former masseur, Lee Towsey, then aged 16 (that is, under the homosexual age of consent at the time), alleged he had sex with two undercover officers at the guest house.
In March 2013, The Independent on Sunday reported that Colin Peters, a Foreign Office barrister, was a regular visitor to Elm Guest House, where he allegedly abused boys.In 1989, Peters was jailed for being part of a network of paedophiles who abused over a hundred children. Peters’ conviction followed an investigation known as Operation Hedgerow, which recorded 650 offences against 150 boys. The Independent on Sunday described Peters as being “a key figure behind one of the UK’s most extensive paedophile rings”. He was jailed in 1989 for eight years for sexual offences, conspiracy to commit a sexual offence and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The paedophile ring was reported as having lured young boys into prostitution. Reports at the time of Peters’ 1989 trial said the ring “was used by highly placed civil servants and well-known public figures”, but that the police did not have “the evidence or manpower to pursue them in court”. Also in 1989, The Glasgow Herald reported that the paedophile ring resembled the Mafia in its organisation and strength and included “well-placed and influential professional people linked to Westminster and Whitehall”.
Through this paedophile ring, Colin Peters allegedly abused boys at Elm Guest House, one of whom was Peter Hatton-Bornshim, a Grafton Close care-home resident; Hatton-Bornshin later killed himself. One alleged Elm Guest House victim said that he was also trafficked to an Amsterdam brothel where he was allegedly abused by a prominent politician.
A spin-off inquiry, Operation Cayacos, is an investigation into historical claims of child abuse by a paedophile ring linked to Peter Righton. The investigation is being conducted by the Metropolitan Police.
In April 2014, Simon Danczuk MP said he was convinced there had been a “network of paedophiles” operating in the House of Commons who helped to protect Liberal MP Cyril Smith. Claims were made that a 16-year-old boy had been abused by Smith at Elm Guest House. Allegations had earlier been reported in The Independent that Smith had used rent boys under the age of 16 and in local authority care at Elm Guest House. After it emerged that a dossier of claims made by former MP Geoffrey Dickens had apparently disappeared, Danczuk referred to the police investigation into events at the guest house when he called for former Home Secretary Leon Brittan to clarify what he knew about allegations made in the 1980s of paedophiles operating in Westminster. It was reported by The Guardian that events at the guest house were at “the heart” of the “long-simmering sex scandal”.
Retired child protection team manager Peter McKelvie, whose claims formed part of the Operation Fernbridge investigation, said in July 2014 that more than ten current and former politicians were on a list of alleged child abusers held by police investigating claims of a Westminster paedophile ring. Several, including Cyril Smith and Peter Morrison, were no longer alive, but other alleged abusers were reportedly still active in Parliament. McKelvie believes there are sufficient grounds to arrest at least one senior politician. McKelvie said that evidence of a powerful paedophile ring had been covered up in 1992. He told Labour MP Tom Watson that the police had discovered letters implicating powerful individuals in a paedophile network.
Also in July 2014, The Daily Telegraph reported that a senior Conservative politician being investigated as part of Operation Fernbridge had allegedly been stopped by a customs officer with child pornography in the 1980s. A border guard, who is now retired, told detectives that when he searched the MP’s car he found videotapes of children “clearly under the age of 12” taking part in sex acts. He passed the material on to his superiors, but the MP was never arrested or charged over the alleged child pornography seizure because it was reported that police were understood to have insufficient evidence to take any action against the senior Conservative politician who was also accused of abusing a young boy at Elm Guest House. A few days later, the same newspaper reported that a statement had been given by a child in 1982 alleging that he was abused at Elm Guest House by a senior political figure. It was reported that Operation Fernbridge detectives had closely examined the case of the eight-year-old alleged victim. Detectives also interviewed a retired police officer who had been involved in the original Elm Guest House investigation and who had interviewed the alleged victim at the time. The eight-year-old boy had reportedly been rescued from Elm Guest House after allegedly suffering what was described as a “horrific sexual assault” by the “leading political figure”.
During this same period, in July 2014, there were also calls for the late Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, a former Solicitor General for Scotland, to be posthumously investigated after being linked to child abuse allegations at Elm Guest House. It was alleged that Fairbairn, who died in 1995 aged 61, was one of a number of politicians who visited the guest house in June 1982. Photographs were allegedly taken of Fairbairn—as well as Cyril Smith—at the guest house. Fairbairn was linked to alleged abuse of boys in a sauna at Elm Guest House. In 2000, the daughter of a prominent Scottish lawyer had already alleged that Fairbairn, a former legal adviser to Margaret Thatcher, was part of a paedophile ring. Pete Wishart, an SNP MP, who represents Fairbairn’s former constituency of Perth, called for the allegations to be fully examined. He said: “If there is any evidence that Sir Nicholas Fairbairn was involved in the abuse of children, it should be looked at and properly investigated.”
Barry Strevens, an ex-detective chief inspector for Cheshire police and former bodyguard to Margaret Thatcher, also claimed he warned her that another of her aides, Peter Morrison, allegedly held sex parties with under-age boys. Strevens said that, despite his passing on the allegations to Thatcher, she later promoted Morrison to the position of deputy chairman of the Conservative party. Morrison died in 1995 aged 51 and has since been linked to alleged sex abuse at children’s homes in north Wales and the alleged rape of a 14-year-old boy at Elm Guest House. Three years after Morrison died, it was first reported in 1998 that he had been arrested for molesting underage boys during his career. He received a mere police caution and was never charged with any crime during his lifetime. In 2002, former Conservative minister Edwina Currie described Morrison as a “notable pederast”.
Former cabinet minister Norman Tebbit said in July 2014 that there “may well have been” a political cover-up of child sex abuse in the 1980s. Tebbit, who served in various ministerial roles under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, said that the culture at the time was to protect “the establishment”. He said that it was seen as “more important to protect the system than to delve too far into claims”. Tebbit stated that he felt this view was “wrong”. Former Labour health minister Lord Warner said that powerful people in the 1980s targeted children’s homes that served as a “supply line” for paedophiles. He described the sexual abuse of children as a “power drive”. Warner said that insufficient action was taken to deal with child abuse in the 1980s because there was “disbelief in the public mind”.
In an interview with The Guardian in November 2014, Labour MP Tom Watson said: “There is no doubt in my mind that sexual abuse by powerful figures took place.” Watson said that he was aware of the name of the senior aide of a former Prime Minister who allegedly smuggled indecent images of children from abroad, but that it would be wrong for him to name the individual. Watson said: “In one particular case of one person, there have been multiple allegations from unrelated people, some more credible than others, about severe cases of abuse. And in my mind I’m pretty certain that the person has broken the law and abused kids.”
Two journalists—the former news editor of the Surrey Comet, Hilton Tims, and the former editor of the Bury Messenger, Don Hale—both stated in November 2014 that they had been served with D-notices, or warnings not to publish material that might damage national security, during the 1980s. Tims stated that the notice was issued directly after the newspaper began investigating rumours of activities at the guest house. Hale said that he was threatened with a D-notice after starting to investigate a file given to him by Barbara Castle, which contained details of a Home Office investigation into Geoffrey Dickens’ allegations of a paedophile ring. According to Hale, the threat of a D-notice was given by police who came into his office the day after he had received a visit from Cyril Smith, whom Hale described as “aggressive”.
The Scottish Sunday Express published a claim in November 2014 that in 1985 a Scottish solicitor and former vice-chairman of the Scottish National Party, Willie MacRae, had evidence about paedophiles in the Scottish and English establishments. On 5 April 1985, MacRae’s car crashed on a remote stretch of the A87 road in Inverness-shire; he was shot in the head with a revolver and left to die. The evidence was supposedly in a briefcase in McRae’s car at the time but disappeared. The gun was recovered some distance from the car, but there were no fingerprints. In 2006, a former policeman, Iain Fraser, who worked as a private investigator after leaving the police, said he was asked by a mystery client to spy on McRae three weeks before he died. Fraser added to calls for a public inquiry into the death. Repeated requests for an official inquiry into MacRae’s death have been turned down.
In December 2014, an alleged “survivor of VIP abuse parties” said that he and other children were taken for weekend trips to Pimlico in the early 1980s. He said that he was abused growing up in care in north Wales and was taken to central London aged 11 or 12, where he was raped. He has been interviewed by police officers investigating the claims. The alleged victim said that children were plied with alcohol, taken into bedrooms and forced into sexual acts with various older men including MPs and government ministers. He said that other survivors have since died or in some cases have taken their own lives. The survivor of the alleged abuse said that he did not have faith in the Home Office or the Government to protect the victims.
Labour MP John Mann gave Scotland Yard detectives evidence in December 2014 relating to 22 political figures suspected of involvement in Westminster paedophile rings, including three serving MPs and three members of the House of Lords. The list of those alleged to have been involved in child sex abuse included fourteen Conservative politicians, five Labour politicians and three from other parties. Thirteen former ministers were among the list, of whom at least two were alleged to have assaulted young boys at “abuse parties” held at the Dolphin Square apartment block in central London. Mann said that some of his sources were highly placed officials within institutions, and that he believed the complexity of child abuse networks at the heart of government in the 1970s and 1980s had been seriously underestimated.
In January 2015, an academic researcher found in The National Archives a reference to a file regarding allegations of “unnatural” sexual behaviour taking place at Westminster that probably went to the Prime Minister in the early 1980s. The file was entitled “Allegations against former public [missing word] of unnatural sexual proclivities; security aspects 1980 Oct 27 – 1981 Mar 20.” The file remains classified as it contained information from the security services and Law Officers. The Cabinet Office stated that any pertinent files would be made available to the forthcoming Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
After the former Home Secretary Leon Brittan died in January 2015, he was accused of “multiple child rape”. Labour MP Tom Watson said he had spoken to two people who claimed they were abused by Brittan, including a man who alleged he had been attacked more than a dozen times as a boy. The alleged victim also said he had seen Brittan assault others. Watson said that he—along with others, including media organisations—had known of the accusations but had decided not to speak out of fear of prejudicing any jury trial that Brittan might have one day faced. Watson said he believed the alleged victims he had spoken to were “sincere”.
The Independent on Sunday reported allegations that Leon Brittan had abused a pre-pubescent boy at Elm Guest House in 1982. The boy had been taken to a safe venue by police after being abused by several people, one of whom was allegedly Brittan. In 1990, Chris Fay, a campaigner for the National Association of Young People in Care, claimed on oath that Brittan had been involved in abuse and that in March 1990 he had seen a photograph of Brittan in a French maid’s uniform, with a young boy. The picture had been shown to him by Carole Kasir, co-owner of the Elm Guest House, who died weeks later.
Allegations were reported that Brittan had been photographed attending a male prostitution orgy in 1986. It was alleged that young boys were picked up at Kings Cross, London and dropped off at a north London building to be repeatedly raped, but the day before the planned arrests of Brittan and other high-profile figures including the Liberal MP Cyril Smith the 1986 investigation was disbanded without explanation.
Meanwhile, in March 2015, BBC’s Newsnight reported that a 1981 undercover police operation which gathered evidence of child abuse by Cyril Smith and other public figures was scrapped shortly after Smith was arrested. A former police officer, who is familiar with the original investigation and its closure, told Newsnight that Smith was arrested during an investigation into alleged sex parties with teenage boys in south London. During the three-month inquiry in 1981, officers reportedly gathered a substantial amount of evidence of men abusing boys. The order to scrap the inquiry came from a senior officer after Smith and others had been arrested. Police officers were then ordered to hand over all their evidence—including notebooks and video footage—and were warned to keep quiet about the investigation or face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. Labour MP Simon Danczuk said: “It is my view that Smith was being protected by some fairly powerful people. They ensured that he was never put before the courts.”
Also in March 2015, it was reported by The Sunday Times that police were looking into new allegations of child abuse committed by the former Speaker of the House of Commons George Thomas and Labour MP Leo Abse. The new allegations have been passed to officers leading an investigation into an alleged “network of politicians”. Earlier in 2014, South Wales Police confirmed that officers were investigating allegations that Thomas abused a boy aged 9.
During this same month The Independent also published a report saying Enoch Powell was one of the MPs whose activities had been investigated as part of Operation Fernbridge. Powell’s name had been passed to police by Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, after allegations of Powell’s involvement in abuse were made by one individual in the 1980s to the then Bishop of Monmouth, Dominic Walker. Powell’s biographer, Simon Heffer, criticised the Church of England‘s actions in “putting this smear into the public domain”, while the church stated that it had simply responded to an inquiry from the press and confirmed that allegations about Powell, which related to an alleged satanic cult rather than any criminal activity, had been passed to the police. David Aaronovitch of The Times wrote in April 2015 that the 1980s claims about Powell originated from fabricated claims invented by a conman, Derry Mainwaring Knight, whose false assertions had become known to the clergy, but had been unwittingly conveyed to the police in good faith. The police found no evidence to support the allegation against Powell.
Later, in an edition of Panorama broadcast on 6 October, a former Elm Guest House prostitute was interviewed who claimed that he was unaware of any MPs visiting the brothel. Journalist John Oakes told them he had investigated Chris Fay’s claims, but had never been able to find any “solid” information nor trace of photos Fay said he had seen. Fay told Panorama that 17 or 18 children from Grafton Close had told him they had been trafficked to Elm Guest House; one of them, Mark, stated that he had been an abuse victim at Grafton Close but had never been to Elm Guest House nor spoken to Fay.
Operation Midland and homicide allegations
In November 2014 the Metropolitan Police announced that they were establishing a related investigation, Operation Midland, intended to examine claims made in November 2014 about a possible homicide over 30 years earlier. The police later stated that three alleged homicides were being investigated as part of the inquiry, and appealed for further information regarding activities at the Dolphin Square apartment block in Pimlico near the Houses of Parliament in the 1970s and 1980s. Events elsewhere in London and at military establishments were also under investigation.
Operation Midland arose from claims by “Nick”, a man aged in his 40s who was a child at the time of the alleged incidents. Having written of his abuse, Nick was contacted by Exaro, an investigative journalism website. Exaro sold stories to newspapers about the alleged incidents, and a reporter from Exaro accompanied “Nick” to meetings with police.
Nick said his stepfather, a military figure, was the first to physically and sexually abuse him and that he was subsequently passed to other figures of authority during his childhood from 1975 to 1984. Nick specifically named 12 people in a group of powerful child abusers, including Harvey Proctor, the former home secretary Leon Brittan, the former prime minister Edward Heath, the former chief of defence staff Lord Bramall, the former director of the Secret Intelligence Service Maurice Oldfield, and Michael Hanley, the former Director-General of MI5. Nick claimed that he was abused at a number of places including Dolphin Square, the Carlton Club, and various other places in the home counties. Nick also claimed that the group murdered three, two for sexual pleasure, and a third to intimidate the others. Proctor’s solicitors told him that Nick had alleged that he had seen Proctor repeatedly stab a 12 year old boy before strangling him to death; and that he had been raped by Proctor.
The officer leading the investigation, Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, said in December 2014 that experienced officers had concluded that the allegations were “credible and true”. McDonald was later criticised for the statement, and it was retracted. The very public nature of the investigation was modelled on the successful investigations of Operation Yewtree, but no further witnesses came forward.
Proctor detailed Nick’s claims in public for the first time at a press conference, and also named his fellow accused. In September 2015 the Metropolitan Police said that they should never have said that Nick’s claims were true. Proctor and Bramall were subsequently interviewed under caution but never arrested, and nothing was found in any police searches to support Nick’s allegations. Bramall and Proctor both wanted Nick investigated for wasting police time. Brittan subsequently died during the inquiry without knowing that police had concluded that there was no credible case against him four months before his death. Police had raided Brittan’s home six weeks after his death and taken computers, hard drives and papers without telling his widow the reason.
The Labour politician Tom Watson met Nick during the early stages of the investigation and subsequently claimed that Brittan was “close to evil”. Watson later apologised to Brittan’s widow for the comment. The Conservative politician Zac Goldsmith alleged in a parliamentary speech that Brittan was an abuser. The Guardian wrote in March 2016 that “Both politicans have been accused of abusing their positions to influence the police inquiries and cast aspersions upon alleged abusers”.
In December 2014, the brother of a 15-year-old who went missing in the late 1970s claimed that the teenager was among the victims abused by members of the alleged historic Westminster paedophile ring. Kevin Allen told ITV News he was “convinced” there had been “a massive cover-up” in relation to the disappearance of his brother Martin Allen from London in 1979.
An episode of the BBC investigation series Panorama, The VIP Paedophile Ring: What’s the Truth? interviewed “David” and examined his claims, and found that he had “told the Metropolitan Police he was worried that two well-known campaigners may have led him into making false claims”. He said that the names were “a joke suggestion to start with but that suggestion became reality” and that he subsequently felt “guilty” for naming people he had never met and that he believed that it was “…time that the truth came out. I believe it’s time that maybe the police could stop putting their efforts into things that probably aren’t even true.” In a statement issued before the broadcast of the programme the Metropolitan Police said that they were “…worried that this programme and other recent reporting will deter victims and witnesses from coming forward in future. Seeing an individual make allegations and then be targeted by the media is not going to encourage others to speak out”.
Disappearance and murder of Vishal Mehrotra
Vishambar Mehrotra, the father of eight-year-old Vishal Mehrotra who disappeared in July 1981 said in November 2014 that he believed his son may have died at the hands of a paedophile ring involving high-profile individuals, and that he feared that the Metropolitan Police covered up links between his son’s death and activities at Elm Guest House. Mehrotra went missing in Putney, close to the Elm Guest House in Barnes. The upper half of his torso was subsequently found seven months later, buried in woodland in West Sussex. In May 1983 the inquiry into Mehrotra’s death was wound up by the police. Mehrotra’s murder was linked at the time by detectives to the activities of Sidney Cooke. Police investigated the paedophile ring involving Cooke in a major inquiry known as Operation Orchid, after they received intelligence that the ring could have abducted and killed up to 20 children. Mehrotra said he was contacted by a man a few months after his son’s disappearance who suggested the boy’s abduction might be connected to the activities of a group of “powerful, high-profile” paedophiles who frequented Elm Guest House. He said that he taped the phone call and passed it onto detectives investigating his son’s abduction, but the information was never followed up. Mehrotra said that “It is clear to me that there has been a huge cover up. There is no doubt in my mind.”
Police also investigated a possible link between former Conservative MP Peter Morrison and Mehrotra’s death after a 46-year-old man alleged that Morrison raped him in Elm Guest House when he was aged 14, and claimed that the police covered it up. The man said he was walking in the village of Harting in 1982 when Morrison gave him some money and later lured him to London. Mehrotra’s remains had been found a few months earlier less than two miles away from Harting. In March 2015, it was reported that the Independent Police Complaints Commission would investigate allegations of negligence and corruption in relation to Mehrotra’s murder. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg subsequently said that allegations that the police helped “cover up” the death of Vishal Mehrotra at the hands of a paedophile ring were “grotesque” and called for an investigation to be launched into the claims, saying that “We are in the early stages of a reckoning with our past of things happening on a scale and of a gravity which just a few months ago would have seemed unimaginable and almost too horrific to contemplate. The task is to peel back the layers of deception that appear to have happened in the past.” The chief executive of the child-abuse charity NAPAC, Peter Saunders, said that a full-scale investigation needed to be launched into the allegations. Saunders said: “It seems beyond doubt that dreadful things, including murder have been perpetrated and that much has been covered up.”
End of investigation; apologies to Bramall and Proctor’s comments
In August 2015, it was reported by The Guardian that claims against former Prime Minister Edward Heath were being investigated as part of Operation Midland.
In March 2015 Metropolitan Police officers searched the homes of Field Marshal Lord Bramall in Yorkshire and London and the home of former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor on the estate of Belvoir Castle, in Leicestershire, as part of Operation Midland. In interviews with the BBC, Proctor denied being part of any “rent-boy ring” or attending sex parties with prominent figures. Bramall also said that “categorically, never have I had a connection or anything to do with the matters being investigated. It is not in my character or my psyche.”
In January 2016 the police confirmed that there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges against Bramall and that he would face no further action. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe later personally apologised to Bramall and said that “Although police knew from very early on they had no case to answer they couldn’t stop investigating because they didn’t want to be accused of not investigating it properly” and that the situation surrounding the inquiry arouse out of “…apparent mistakes back in 2012 relating to revelations of very serious and serial child abuse, a mixture of public outrage and propaganda” which “put immense pressure through the home secretary, on the police”. Bramall believed that a “witch-hunt culture [arose] in which child abuse, particularly historic child abuse, came to be dealt with entirely differently to other criminal offences”.
Proctor was told he would face no further action in March 2016. Proctor subsequently said that the investigations had “irreparably ruined my life” and that as a result of the allegations he had lost his house and his job. Proctor said “I do believe it is profoundly un-British and unfair. …I believe I have been pilloried and the Met Police service has enabled me to be wrongly depicted as a paedophile, child abuser, child murderer” and that these were the “worst things that can be said of a human being”. Proctor called on Hogan-Howe to resign and stated that Operation Midland “…has had a disastrous affect on genuine complaints of child sexual abuse, both present and historical. I think it has been incredibly counterproductive. …And when they established the truth – some time ago I think – they were too afraid of each other and the media to pull the plug.”
Independent investigation into Metropolitan Police
It was announced on 16 March 2015 that the Independent Police Complaints Commission was investigating claims that the Metropolitan Police had suppressed evidence of child sexual abuse and prevented the investigation of some allegations between 1970 and 2005, because of the alleged involvement of police officers and MPs. The police referred themselves to the IPCC, which described the claims as being of “high-level corruption of the most serious nature”. The allegations included claims that an investigation into activities at the Dolphin Square flats had been halted; that no action had been taken in relation to a document from the Houses of Parliament that had linked prominent individuals to a paedophile ring; and that allegations of serious child sex abuse by a prominent politician had been covered up. The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that the allegations had emerged when officers were working on Operation Fairbank, and that they had “voluntarily referred the 16 separate allegations to the IPCC.” The investigations headed by the IPCC have drawn in units from the MPS under the umbrella of Operation Winter Keys in order to support the ongoing and extensive IPCC led investigations. Evidential statements have been taken from complainants with others to follow.
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- Jump up^ Panorama – The VIP Paedophile Ring: What’s the Truth? (6 October 2015) – 14:49 to 20:38; iPlayer link
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<ref> tag; name “Laville1” defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
- Jump up^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06h7jbl BBC One Panorama – The VIP Paedophile Ring: What’s the Truth?
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- Jump up^ “Edward Heath: Met has been investigating claims for several months”. The Guardian. London. 4 August 2015.
- Jump up^ Barrett, David (8 March 2015). “Police search home of Lord Bramall as part of paedophile sex abuse inquiry”. The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Jump up^ “Ex-Conservative MP Harvey Proctor’s home searched by police”. BBC News. 5 March 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
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- Jump up^ “Lord Bramall ‘receives Met Police apology’ over abuse claims”. BBC News. 15 January 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
- Jump up^ Evans, Martin (21 March 2016). “Operation Midland: Harvey Proctor told he faces no further action”. The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
- Jump up^ “Operation Midland: Harvey Proctor criticises child abuse inquiry”. BBC News. 29 March 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2016.