Carl Beech, the paedophile called “Nick” by the police, may have gone to jail for 18 years after making up lies about a VIP ring that raped, tortured and even murdered children, but he is by no means the only guilty figure in this appalling national scandal.
The Home Office should now establish an independent inquiry into the handling of Operation Midland by the Metropolitan Police and of Operation Conifer by Wiltshire Police and into the pain and loss of reputation their bodged investigations caused to a number of innocent public figures. It should also seek an explanation as to why the Independent Office for Police Complaints failed to find anyone to blame.
The Met fanned the flames of publicity by saying that Beech’s claims were “credible and true.” They then accused a former Prime Minister, a former Home Secretary, a former Chief of the Defence Staff and the heads of MI5 and MI6, among others, of taking part in these vicious orgies without providing any corroborative evidence to support such fantastic stories.
“Nick” gave no dates or places where these atrocities were supposed to have taken place (the police said he couldn’t be expected to remember since he was so young at the time), so there was no way of confirming them and the accused were denied the chance to prove them false. All these public men had secretaries who controlled their diaries, but none of them were even interviewed.
The wild and extravagant nature of Beech’s allegations – that his dog had been kidnapped and his horse shot by the VIP ring, that the heads of MI5 and MI6 had thrown darts at him, that he had been tortured with snakes and wasps and made to eat his own vomit, not to mention the killing of a child he couldn’t name – should surely have given the detectives pause. One might have expected some doubt or even common sense to kick in.
Instead, they searched the suspects’ homes in a series of mob-handed raids, taking away treasured family papers and photographs and even digging up Lord Brittan’s garden, presumably in the hope of finding a child’s dead body. Lord Bramall’s house was raided with his nonagenarian wife dying upstairs and having to be moved from room to room during the search.
As the former head of the Army and D-day veteran said, it was “preposterous.” He was interviewed by a detective constable who didn’t even appear to know who he was and asked him to provide a c.v.
Eventually, of course, Operation Midland was called off after costing £2.5m (Operation Conifer cost another £1.2m) and no charges were brought in either case. The Chief Constable of Wiltshire, Mike Veale, who had arranged for the BBC to broadcast an interview to launch his inquiry outside Sir Edward Heath’s former home in Salisbury, later resigned (and has also resigned from his next job at Cleveland after female officers complained about inappropriate conduct).
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, however, who presided over the Met’s biggest disgrace since the shooting on the London Underground in 2005 of an innocent man, Jean Charles Menendez, has retired early on full pension and been translated, amazingly, to the House of Lords.
The IOPC cleared the officers involved in Operation Midland of misconduct, without even interviewing them, and some were allowed to retire. As far as the Met was concerned, that was the end of the matter. This was despite a report ordered by Hogan-Howe from a retired judge, Sir Richard Henriques, who had identified 42 blunders in the Met investigation.
Now Sir Richard has dropped a bombshell, claiming that the warrants to search the houses of Bramall, Brittan and the former MP Harvey Proctor, were obtained illegally. He says the judge who approved the search warrants was not told that Beech’s evidence, the only source for the police investigation, was riddled with inconsistencies and that the judge would not have granted the requests if he had been told the truth.
Sir Richard also claims that the Met withheld vital information from him about the investigation.
These claims have led to calls for a criminal inquiry into the police conduct, especially over allegedly fraudulent applications for the search warrants.
Other questions are being raised: why did the Met take nine months to correct the prejudicial phrase “credible and true” about Beech’s claims, made at a press conference by Det.Supt Kenny McDonald; how much was the Deputy Commissioner, Steve Rodhouse, involved in the warrant applications and how much did Hogan-Howe know about the raids; why was Henriques not supplied with “all relevant documentation” during his inquiry, and why were parts of his report redacted, and what did they say?
Serious questions also need to be answered by the IOPC, and the new Home Secretary, Priti Patel, seems likely to ask them: why did they clear Rodhouse and McDonald of misconduct so quickly – and without seeing them – a process described as “cursory” by Lord Macdonald, a former Director of Public Prosecutions; and why has it taken three years to investigate three officers accused of misleading the judge over the search warrants?
It appears that the police were pandering to public hysteria after their failure to apprehend Jimmy Savile. If that is so, and if officers committed criminal acts in the course of this witch-hunt, they should be brought to justice.
The Met’s reputation will remain indelibly stained unless this happens.
I never thought I would have any sympathy for Carl Beech, who has brought such hurt to so many innocent people, but he is plainly a sick and damaged man, himself a victim of child sex abuse, and more note might have been taken by the court of his mental health.
Furthermore, the size of the sentence he received – the longest ever given for perverting the course of justice - was calculated in large part by the media publicity generated by the police’s naivety in believing him, and by the gullibility of Tom Watson, now deputy leader of the Labour Party, in giving his fantasies public credibility.
It will be a blot on British justice – and massively unfair to the victims and their families - if the serious questions raised by this whole sordid episode continue to be ignored.