Exaro News Archive

Met turns ‘Operation Fairbank’ into full criminal investigation

Police investigating top politicians over paedophile ring prepare to announce move

By David Hencke and David Pallister | 17 January 2013

Met turns ‘Operation Fairbank’ into full criminal investigationScotland Yard has upgraded ‘Operation Fairbank’ to a full criminal investigation of an alleged paedophile ring including MPs and other prominent people.

The Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit is preparing to make a formal announcement of the move after Exaro revealed on Tuesday that detectives carried out a raid to seize documents as part of the operation.

Activities in the early 1980’s at Elm Guest House, which operated at the time in Barnes, south-west London, are at the centre of Operation Fairbank, which began as a “scoping exercise” into a wide variety of claims against several senior political figures of sexual abuse of children.

Police are preparing to start making arrests within weeks, although this is not expected to include any political figures.

A spokeswoman for the Met was unable to say when it would make a statement on Operation Fairbank, saying: “We would not say necessarily that a statement is due until such time as it has come out.”

The Met is expected to make a statement tonight.

Exaro understands that Grafton Close, a nearby children’s home, is at the centre of the criminal investigation, which may be given a new operational name.

Papers relating to the guest house identify some 16 boys “recruited” from Grafton Close and other children’s homes for sexual exploitation.

The documents also identify two former Conservative cabinet ministers, as well as seven other MPs from different political parties and an array of other prominent people, as having attended the guest house.

Those papers, in combination with archived files obtained by the police from the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, are understood to be key to the criminal investigation.

The council ran Grafton Close at the time, and is under scrutiny over how it handled allegations of child abuse that were made then.

Exaro’s report of the raid, which was carried out last week, prompted the Met to decide to make a formal announcement imminently of a full criminal investigation.

Up to nine police officers, armed with a search warrant, raided the home of a potentially key witness who advised abused children at the time.

The raid was mounted on the home of Mary Moss, formerly London development officer for the defunct National Association for Young People in Care, after she refused to co-operate with police.

The Met’s paedophile unit is keen to hear from people who were abused as children at the guest house or Grafton Close in particular.

It has been weighing up how best to appeal for them to come forward while avoiding an unmanageable number of allegations of child abuse.

It has also decided to extend the scale of its “scoping exercise” under Operation Fairbank to cover other allegations, not all directly connected with the guest house.

This includes links between the guest house and the creation and distribution of child pornography.

In addition, the police are including new allegations passed to them by Tom Watson, Labour MP, as part of the extended scoping exercise.

Operation Fairbank is separate from ‘Operation Yewtree’, which is overseen by Peter Spindler, Met commander. Yewtree centres on claims of sexual abuse of children by Jimmy Savile, the BBC television and radio presenter who died in 2011 aged 84, and other celebrities.

Update 6.30pm: The Met released the following statement at 6.22pm this evening, some hours after Exaro broke the story. It said: “The Metropolitan Police Service has today launched an investigation, ‘Operation Fernbridge’, into historical allegations of child abuse in the early 1980’s at Elm Guest House, Rocks Lane, Barnes, London.

“The investigation will be led by the Child Abuse Investigation Command.

“Anyone with information is asked to contact officers on 020 7161 0500.

“The allegations under Operation Fernbridge were initially assessed under Operation Fairbank, which was information passed to police by MP Tom Watson. Operation Fernbridge reached the threshold for a criminal investigation.

“We shall not be providing a running commentary on this inquiry.”

Watson said tonight: “This new criminal investigation is welcome news. I am confident that the Metropolitan police team is committed to a thorough investigation that leaves no stone unturned.

“As they get nearer the truth, it is vital that they are given the time and space to conduct the investigation without interference.

“I urge any witnesses or victims to come forward if they think that they can help with the inquiry. No matter what has happened in the past, now is the time for your voice to be heard.”

Additional reporting by Mark Conrad.

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Exaro News investigates matters of public interest and seeks to uncover the truth.