Humiliation of the Yard: After 16-month probe into claims of VIP abuse, police concede there’s not a scrap of evidence
- Scotland Yard’s £2m VIP paedophile murder inquiry ended in humiliation
- However, the Metropolitan Police refused to apologise for the shambles
- They had no evidence to support claims a string of Establishment figures were responsible for killing three boys in the 1970s and 1980s
- Officers found no bodies and are still unsure if anyone was killed
- Harvey Proctor called Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and seniors to resign
Scotland Yard’s £2million VIP paedophile murder inquiry ended in utter humiliation for the force yesterday – but it refused to apologise for the shambles.
Sixteen months after Operation Midland was launched, the Metropolitan Police finally admitted they had found no evidence to support astonishing claims that a string of Establishment figures were responsible for killing three boys in the 1970s and 1980s.
Embarrassingly for the force, detectives discovered nothing to even justify asking prosecutors to consider bringing charges. Officers found no bodies and are still unsure if anyone was killed. Nobody was arrested.
In a carefully worded statement, the force tried desperately to justify the probe, saying it had been ‘handled well’. But it refused to say sorry to those whose lives had been ruined, or reputations shattered, by a suspected fantasist called ‘Nick’ whose claims triggered the investigation.
Controversially, there are no plans to prosecute Nick, despite calls for him and a news website which peddled his claims to be put on trial for allegedly perverting the course of justice. One of the most extraordinary claims was that former Prime Minister Ted Heath persuaded former MP Harvey Proctor not to castrate Nick with a penknife – which was then handed to him to keep as a souvenir.
The tone of the Met’s statement was in sharp contrast to its media appeal to ‘victims’ 15 months ago in which senior investigating officer Det Supt Kenny McDonald described Nick’s allegations as ‘credible and true’.
The decision to close Midland was announced minutes after Mr Proctor, 69, was told he would face no further action.
The former Tory MP was accused of being part of a murderous VIP paedophile gang which included Mr Heath, ex-Home Secretary Leon Brittan, two former spymasters and an ex-Army chief.
The Met statement made clear that officers had found no evidence against any of the men.
Operation Midland also investigated distinguished former Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Bramall, 92, over claims that he indecently assaulted Nick at a military base in the West Country. The D-Day veteran, not accused of murder, was cleared in January.
In other developments yesterday:
- Mr Proctor called for Met chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and three senior officers to resign;
- Sir Bernard, who has refused to apologise to Lord Bramall, is expected to step down later this year despite recently being awarded a 12-month contract extension;
- The NSPCC suggested genuine victims of abuse might have been ignored because of Operation Midland;
- The officer in charge of the shambolic investigation insisted it had been ‘handled well’;
- A former Director of Public Prosecutions said detectives had been ‘paralysed by fear’ and had ‘indulged’ in a ‘macabre version of Cluedo’.
Mr Proctor last night paid tribute to the ‘free, inquisitive and independent-minded media, who have all supported me over the last year’.
Operation Midland began to unravel last September, after the Daily Mail revealed detectives had ‘grave doubts’ about Nick’s testimony.Pictured is Field Marshall Lord Bramall and Lady Bramall at a party on October 31 at a party in London
At the interview, Mr Proctor was accused of attempting to castrate ‘Nick’ using a penknife. ‘It was suggested it was (former prime minister) Edward Heath who persuaded me not to castrate “Nick” with it,’ Mr Proctor said later, adding that he had never owned a penknife.
HOW DAILY MAIL LED THE WAY TO EXPOSE THE FLAWED INQUIRY
By Stephen Wright, Associate News Editor for The Daily Mail
For six months, the Daily Mail led the way in exposing the growing shambles of Operation Midland.
Our coverage held senior Scotland Yard officers to account and finally forced them yesterday to admit they had found no evidence to support lurid allegations of VIP murder and abuse.
Last September we revealed how officers had ‘grave doubts’ about the testimony of the alleged victim known only as ‘Nick’. At the time, Yard spin doctors tried to rubbish the story, telling journalists: ‘You don’t know what we have got’.
But within days, the Met had withdrawn its earlier description of Nick as a ‘credible and true’ witness. The officer who had uttered the phrase was later removed from the inquiry.
We also revealed how the home of former Army chief Lord Bramall was searched in front of his terminally ill wife. We told how Met Chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe faced a barrage of calls to apologise and put VIP child abuse ‘fantasists’ in the dock – and how D-Day veteran Lord Bramall was later cleared. The Mail exposed major discrepancies in Nick’s story, and concerns about his links to the controversial news website Exaro and Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.
Last month, we revealed how the Met was preparing to close Operation Midland and that ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor would face no charges. The Yard denied the story and hinted that charges could be looming, with sources again hinting that they had found evidence of wrongdoing.
The force also faced criticism for a separate bungled rape inquiry into former home secretary Leon Brittan, including the revelation that his accuser was a mentally ill Labour activist who openly regarded the late Tory peer as her enemy.
Mr Proctor said: ‘I believe Operation Midland should now be the subject of a truly independent public inquiry.
‘I consider that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, (Assistant Commissioner) Patricia Gallan, (Deputy Assistant Commissioner) Steve Rodhouse and (Det Supt) Kenny McDonald should tender their resignations. I believe Nick… should be prosecuted for seeking to pervert the course of justice.’
Lord Bramall told the BBC: ‘If they’d taken any trouble to put their effort into questioning the so-called victim, I think they would have found that (his allegations) were very unlikely.’
Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
In a statement running to more than 1,000 words, the Met said it ‘will not apologise for carrying out its duty to investigate serious allegations of non-recent abuse’.
Addressing Mr Proctor’s calls for Nick to be prosecuted, the Met said: ‘In the course of the investigation, officers have not found evidence to prove that they were knowingly misled by a complainant.’ Later, the officer in charge of Operation Midland, Mr Rodhouse, stopped short of saying he was confident there was never a VIP paedophile ring, but stated that the evidence had not reached the right threshold for charges.
He refused to apologise to Mr Proctor, saying: ‘The Met can’t apologise for investigating serious allegations of crime. I do regret if anyone’s been distressed by this investigation, but it was right that the investigation took place.’ Mr Rodhouse rejected calls for him to resign.
Former DPP Lord Macdonald QC said: ‘Paralysed by the fear of appearing unsympathetic to the victims of crime, the police have indulged in a macabre version of Cluedo in which distinguished public servants, many long dead, have been reduced to the status of playing cards.’
An NSPCC spokesman said: ‘It has taken many years for the public to believe that child abuse is a prolific problem but with disproportionate attention given to some cases over others, there is a danger the progress that has been made will be tragically undermined. Amidst all of the inevitable blame and counter-blame as this operation ends we mustn’t forget the victims of sexual abuse who will have suffered life-damaging experiences and, in many instances, are still seeking justice.’
Child abuse campaigner Peter Saunders said: ‘The initial investigation and initial accusations obviously carried enough credibility and weight that the police felt justified in launching an investigation. Where they made an error was to refer to somebody’s testimony as “credible and true”. That was very, very unfortunate.’
Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor was cleared of abuse allegations
MPs who targeted me should hang their heads in shame, says Proctor
By Chris Greenwood, Crime Correspondent for The Daily Mail
MPs were last night told to say sorry for outspoken comments they made during the probe into Westminster paedophile rings.
Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, cleared of abuse allegations, accused politicians of whipping up a febrile atmosphere which led to innocent men being dragged into the investigation. As Scotland Yard’s probe collapsed yesterday, he asked for an apology from Labour’s Tom Watson and John Mann as well as Tory MP Zac Goldsmith – saying they should ‘hang their heads in shame’.
Labour deputy leader Mr Watson, dubbed the Witch Finder General by his critics, met ‘Nick’ – the only complainant in the case – after he had written of abuse by his stepfather and a group of men. Mr Watson’s spokesman last night said he would not comment.
Mr Goldsmith said that the idea of apologising to Mr Proctor ‘is absurd’ as he was still pursuing claims of abuse at a care home in his south-west London constituency. He had trumpeted his belief in a VIP conspiracy during a speech in Parliament last November.
He told MPs there had been a cover-up of abuse at Elm Guest House involving establishment figures including a former cabinet minister, later identified as Leon Brittan.
Mr Goldsmith also took part in a bizarre Australian TV news documentary, in which he declared ‘the genie is out of the bottle’. Mr Mann, a forceful campaigner for victims of historic sex abuse, branded the inquiry a ‘distraction’ and said he was pleased it is over.
The Labour MP said his focus has always been on other areas of investigation involving a care home in Lambeth and allegations in Leicestershire and Nottingham.
Saying the claims by Nick ‘seemed unlikely’, he said the failure of Operation Midland by the Met means the police can now concentrate on more ‘substantive information’. However, MP Simon Danczuk, who helped to expose Sir Cyril Smith as a child abuser in his Rochdale constituency, said a Westminster network should not be dismissed.
Mr Danczuk said that, despite operational errors, Operation Midland had been a worthwhile exercise. He claimed Nick was ‘not a reliable witness’ and decided not to pursue his case. ‘But there can be absolutely no doubt that abuse of children was taking place in and around Parliament and we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater,’ he added. ‘We know this because of the overwhelming evidence against Cyril Smith and the serious allegations made against both [Labour peer] Lord Janner and [Tory MP] Sir Peter Morrison.
‘We also know that these perpetrators often operate within networks.’
‘OPERATION MIDLAND HAS NOW CLOSED’: SCOTLAND YARD’S 1,000-WORD STATEMENT IN FULL AS £2MILLION INVESTIGATION COMES TO AN END
A man in his 60s who was previously interviewed under caution has today, Monday 21 March, been advised by officers working on Operation Midland that he will face no further action.
Operation Midland has now closed.
In October 2014, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) received allegations of a serious nature involving murder and sexual assault made by a single individual. The allegations concerned non-recent matters over a 10 year period (1975-1984) at a number of locations.
The credibility of the allegations was assessed after a process involving extended questioning of the complainant by specialist child protection detectives.
Following the assessment, an investigation was launched.
In November 2014, in response to media inquiries, it was publicly confirmed an investigation had been launched. In December 2014 a public appeal for information and witnesses was made, as is normal in serious investigations of this kind.
The allegations included the potential homicide of three boys. The complainant identified one of these as resembling a boy called Martin Allen who disappeared in November 1979.
The initial allegations were received from a single complainant. Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidelines are clear that this should not preclude possible prosecution in a case involving an allegation of sexual assault, but the quality of evidence must be assessed. Many rape allegations are initially uncorroborated.
In the course of seeking evidence which could corroborate or indeed disprove the initial allegations, more individuals came forward to provide additional information to Operation Midland. They were interviewed in September 2015. The allegations included further information relating to the disappearance of Martin Allen. This generated new lines of inquiry which have had to be thoroughly investigated.
This evidence has also been assessed, but does not provide the corroboration that would lead to the MPS seeking to charge a suspect.
The CPS has been involved for the past 12 months and is aware of the nature of the inquiries considered by the investigation team. The decision on whether to refer the case to the CPS for a decision on whether to charge is one for the police. In this case, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse, the senior officer in charge of Operation Midland, has concluded that the threshold has not been met for the case to be referred for any charging decisions. Whilst investigations could not be completed into individuals who are no longer alive, sufficient evidence has not been found that would have led the MPS to refer the matter to the CPS if they were alive.
The disappearance of Martin Allen remains an outstanding concern for the MPS and for his family, who do not know what happened to their son. Specialist investigators from the Homicide and Major Crime Command will continue a missing person inquiry into Martin’s disappearance.
The team of 31 officers working on Operation Midland will be released to work on other investigations. The most recent cost of the investigation – from November 2015 – was £1.7 million, but the final cost will be published in due course.
It is not uncommon for investigations to result in no action against individuals and it is a central part of our judicial system that everyone is innocent unless proven guilty in a court. This is why the MPS does not name individuals arrested, or interviewed under caution, – except in exceptional circumstances – and did not do so in this case.
In the course of the investigation, officers have not found evidence to prove that they were knowingly misled by a complainant. The MPS does not investigate complainants simply on the basis that their allegations have not been corroborated.
In September 2015 the MPS acknowledged that the use of the phrase ‘credible and true’ at a media appeal could have given the wrong impression that the outcome of the investigation was being pre-empted. However, an open mind was retained throughout.
As with any case, the MPS has released sufficient details to facilitate an appeal for information. The MPS has not offered more detail unless there was a clear policing purpose in doing so.
This position will not change now that Operation Midland has concluded. The MPS will not publicly disclose further information about the investigation that might breach the confidentiality of the complainants or those who have been investigated. The MPS will, of course, support the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse if it chooses to examine this investigation.
The MPS will not apologise for carrying out its duty to investigate serious allegations of non-recent abuse. The MPS recognise however, how unpleasant it is for an individual to be investigated and to have their innocence publicly called into question. The MPS sympathises with those affected, including the families of those no longer alive, and regrets the distress they have felt. But it is in the interests of justice for police to investigate thoroughly.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse, the senior officer in charge of Operation Midland said:
‘It is absolutely right that we assessed carefully the allegations made to us in October 2014 and did not dismiss them prematurely. Our initial inquiries supported the need for a thorough investigation to seek any evidence that might corroborate or disprove the allegations.
‘Investigations of non-recent allegations are extremely challenging and complex for all of those involved.
‘Victims of non-recent abuse should have the confidence to come forward and know that we will listen to them, take seriously their allegations and investigate without fear or favour.
‘It is just as important for those under investigation to know that they will be treated fairly. Everyone is innocent unless proven guilty in the courts.’
The Commissioner has previously announced that Sir Richard Henriques has been asked to carry out an independent review of this and other investigations.
He will make recommendations about whether there are ways to improve the process for all of those involved in it in the future.
The key findings of the review and the recommendations will be published later this year, but the full review will contain confidential and sensitive information and will be a private report for the Commissioner.
Detectives from the Directorate of Professional Standards of the MPS continue to carry out inquiries into a number of allegations from former officers that concerns about sexual abuse involving political figures were not properly investigated in previous decades. At present, the Independent Police Complaints Commission is managing 32 such investigations.