Exaro News Archive

‘Operation Fernbridge’ loses chief as pressure mounts on Met

DCI Paul Settle out as officer in charge of police investigation into paedophile politicians

By Mark Watts, Tim Wood, Mark Conrad and David Hencke | 7 October 2014

‘Operation Fernbridge’ loses chief as pressure mounts on Met
Undercover: DCI Paul Settle, in suit (face obscured), making an arrest in ‘Operation Cayacos’ last year

‘Operation Fernbridge’ loses chief as pressure mounts on MetScotland Yard’s senior detective who was heading its wide-ranging investigations into paedophile politicians has been forced to quit, Exaro can reveal.

Detective chief inspector Paul Settle, head of the Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit, has stepped aside after months of pressure over the direction of the investigations. According to one Met source, the DCI is formally off on sick leave.

The Met has also more than tripled the number of officers on the investigations, from seven to 22. The increased effort comes as its handling of the allegations faces close scrutiny from the overarching inquiry into child sex abuse (CSA), which was announced in July.

One witness who has told Exaro of how MPs and other VIPs sexually abused him when he was a boy, as well as other children, said: “I believe that Settle has been moved off the investigations into child sex abuse. I was told not to try to contact him any more.”

“Since the inquiry has been launched, the attitude at the Met has changed.”

A detective sergeant in the paedophile unit, which is based in the Empress State Building in Earl’s Court, west London, has taken over the Met’s investigations into historical allegations against MPs and other VIPs. These include ‘Operation Fernbridge’, which was sparked by Exaro and began nearly two years ago – amid strict secrecy – with an investigation into activities at Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London.

The investigations also cover ‘Operation Cayacos’, which is looking into claims of a paedophile ring linked to politicians after Tom Watson, Labour MP, raised the issue in Parliament.

Both operations are full criminal investigations, which in each case have so far resulted in charges against two people.

In addition, the Met’s paedophile unit is running ‘Operation Fairbank’, which is scoping allegations against a range of politicians and other high-profile figures in order to decide whether any should become full criminal investigations alongside Fernbridge and Cayacos.

These investigations are separate from ‘Operation Yewtree’, which was sparked by the exposure of the late Jimmy Savile, the BBC star, as a paedophile. This operation is focussed on the celebrity world.

Exaro revealed in May how ‘Operation Fernbridge’ had failed to follow police guidelines while investigating a rape claim.

In a strongly-worded attack on the police, Watson asked Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, to intervene.

Exaro then disclosed how a large volume of e-mail traffic over the case was exchanged between the DPP’s office and the Met. Saunders forced the Met to follow police guidelines in the case.

As the Met felt the heat over its operations on historical allegations against politicians of the sexual abuse of children, it complained privately about Exaro’s “overly intrusive” investigation.

But Operation Fernbridge was hit by a further hitch when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) wrongly dropped some key charges, and was forced to reinstate them as a result of disclosures by Exaro.

Problems with the police investigation was one factor behind the call on Theresa May, home secretary, by a cross-party group of seven MPs to order an overarching CSA inquiry.

The Met declined to comment on Settle’s position.

Settle liked to operate out of the spotlight even though he has been running potentially the most politically-explosive investigations in the history of the Met.

Associates say that he was feeling the pressure of the investigations.

But it was not the first sensitive case in Settle’s career. He was an investigating officer in ‘Operation Abelard II’, on the case of the axe murder in 1987 of Daniel Morgan, a private investigator, in south London.

Settle was also staff officer to John Yates, who oversaw the operation and was then assistant commissioner at the Met.

One possible motive for Morgan’s murder was that he was preparing to blow the whistle on links between private investigators, corrupt police officers and journalists at the News of the World, which later closed in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

Last week, Exaro revealed how another Met operation discovered that a Catholic priest sexually abused school pupils while masquerading as a child psychotherapist.

Related Stories : Child sex abuse, ‘Fernbridge’ and ‘Fairbank’: Exaro story thread

By Exaro News

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