Met police agreed to say they believed VIP abuse claims, report finds

Scotland Yard officers agreed to publicly say they believed the key witness in a multi-million pound investigation into an alleged Westminster VIP paedophile ring, according to a damning report which lays bare a series of police failings.

The revelation was omitted three years ago when the Metropolitan police released a heavily redacted version of the high court judge’s report on its handling of the £2.5m Operation Midland, which ended without a single arrest.

What was Operation Midland?

Operation Midland was set up by the Metropolitan police in November 2014 to examine allegations of child sexual abuse and homicide. It was based on false claims by Carl Beech, known as “Nick”, that he was abused by public figures of authority from 1975 to 1984, and witnessed the abuse of others.

He made widely reported false allegations about being taken to parties at exclusive private members’ clubs, in Dolphin Square in London and other locations – including swimming pools – attended by among others the former prime minister Sir Edward Heath, the former home secretary Leon Brittan, the then chief of defence staff Lord Bramall, the ex-MI5 chief Sir Michael Hanley, as well as the former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.

Operation MIdland was closed in March 2016 with no charges brought. Beech was jailed for 18 years in July 2019 for making the claims. He is appealing against the conviction and the sentence

A 2016 report into the investigation said it was ‘riddled with errors’, identifying 43 individual errors made by officers, that the team misled a judge to get search warrants, and finding that five officers, including four detectives and a deputy assistant commissioner, would be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for failings.

It has now emerged, after the publication of a fuller version of Sir Richard Henriques’ report, that officers agreed to tell the media they believed the accuser, known as “Nick”, whose claims sparked the ill-fated inquiry.

It led to Det Sgt Kenny McDonald informing the media at the outset of the investigation in 2014 that officers believed the claims made by Carl Beech were “credible and true”. Beech was jailed for 18 years in July, having falsely alleged he was a victim of a VIP paedophile ring that had also killed three boys. All his claims were made up.

The report also sheds light on the extent of the role of Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, who met Beech and encouraged him to go to the police with his claims.

Beech, a former nurse, alleged he was among the victims of an “establishment group” – including politicians and military figures – who kidnapped, raped and murdered boys in the 1970s and 1980s. He accused the former prime minister Edward Heath, the ex-home secretary Leon Brittan, the former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, and the D-day veteran Field Marshal Lord Bramall of being abusers. The homes of Brittan, Bramall and Proctor were raided as part of the disastrous 16-month inquiry.

The report’s publication has prompted Proctor to call for the Met police commissioner, Cressida Dick, to “consider her position”. At the outset of Operation Midland, Dick still oversaw sexual abuse and murder investigations in her role as assistant commissioner of specialist operations.

Meanwhile, the home secretary, Priti Patel, responded to the findings of the report by ordering an investigation into the Met to maintain “public confidence” in Britain’s biggest force.

Henriques says in his report that Watson’s intervention over a 1967 rape allegation against Brittan left officers “in a state of panic”, and that he “grossly insulted” Brittan. He says the Met was wrong to subject Brittan to an interview over the rape claim, and ignored the view of one of its senior detectives that there was no case to answer.

The report says the investigation of Brittan over the rape claim could have ended 16 months earlier than it did, and should have been halted in June 2014. Brittan died in January 2015.

Watson wrote a letter to the head of the Crown Prosecution Service intervening in the case. The report says: “A possible inference is that the officers, then responsible, were in a state of panic induced by Mr Watson’s letter.”

The review says Watson described Brittan as being as “close to evil as any human being could be”, and that the Labour MP “grossly insulted” the former home secretary. Watson claims he was quoting the words of an alleged victim.

Henriques says the Met’s “prolonged extension of both [the Brittan] investigation and Operation Midland was unjustifiable and most unfair to the Brittan family. Both investigations should have been completed very much sooner.

“A distinguished former home secretary died facing an allegation that did not pass the full code test [for prosecutors] and had, unbeknown to him, failed to pass the full code test some 16 months earlier.

“Several officers and the CPS were satisfied that the case did not pass the full code test. Lord Brittan should have been informed that no further action would be taken against him during his lifetime.”

In a statement on Friday, Watson said: “It is unfortunate that this review, which contains multiple inaccuracies regarding myself, has been selectively leaked, seemingly to refocus criticism away from the Metropolitan police.

“The report doesn’t make clear the key point that Lord Brittan was interviewed by the police before they received my letter … ex-director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders publicly confirmed that my letter was not received by police until after the interview. It therefore cannot be argued that it was pressure from me that led to Lord Brittan being interviewed.

“I have always said that it wasn’t my place to judge whether sexual abuse allegations were true or false – that was for the police. The police asked me to encourage the hundreds of people that came to me with stories of child abuse to report their stories to the police. That is what I did.”

The original version of the report, published by the Metropolitan police on the same day as the US presidential election in November 2016 in an apparent bid to bury coverage, found 43 failings by investigators and said detectives fell for Beech’s story.

Patel has written to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) asking them to check on the Met’s progress in making sure such a catastrophe cannot happen again.

In her letter to the chief inspector of constabulary, Patel said she would use her statutory powers: “It is imperative that the public receive assurance that the MPS has learned from the mistakes identified in Sir Richard’s report and have made – and continue to make – necessary improvements.

“To this end I am writing to you to request … that HMICFRS undertake an inspection at the earliest practicable opportunity to follow up on Sir Richard’s review.

“I would also like this inspection to take account of the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s (IOPC) Operation Kentia investigation report and learning recommendations which will be published shortly.”

Beech was found guilty after a 10-week trial at Newcastle crown court of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud over a £22,000 criminal compensation payout. He is himself a convicted paedophile after pleading guilty to possessing child sexual abuse images in a separate trial earlier this year.


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