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Police commander overseeing ‘Operation Yewtree’ quits Met

Police commander overseeing ‘Operation Yewtree’ quits MetPeter Spindler was also responsible for Fairbank and Fernbridge ‘VIP paedophile’ cases

By Mark Conrad, Alex Varley-Winter and David Hencke | 6 April 2013

Scotland Yard’s top police officer overseeing investigations into allegations of child sex abuse by Jimmy Savile and other prominent figures has left, Exaro can reveal.

Peter Spindler has already exited his post as a commander at the Metropolitan Police Service, where he was head of “specialist crime investigations”.

In that role, he was overseeing three high-profile operations by the Met’s paedophile unit into allegations of sexual abuse of children by celebrities, including Savile, as well as politicians and other VIPs.

But after five years as a Met commander, he started a new job on Tuesday with HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), an official police watchdog.

Exaro can reveal the shock development ahead of an announcement planned for next week.

Spindler’s decision to leave the Met is bound to surprise many with an interest in child protection, and raises questions over the direction of those three operations.

He had overall responsibility for ‘Operation Yewtree’, which investigated allegations against Savile, the late BBC presenter. It is still investigating a host of other people from the celebrity world.

Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell is Spindler’s temporary replacement.

In January, the Met published a report recording more than 200 criminal offences, including 34 rapes, committed by Savile across the country over more than 50 years.

Spindler was the public face of the Met’s investigation into Savile, and frequently appeared on television to talk about progress in the operation. After the publication of the Met’s report, he famously said that Savile had “groomed the nation.”

But he faced criticism over the Met paedophile unit’s strategy of arresting people – including celebrity figures – under Yewtree when there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

It is unclear whether his quiet exit from the Met last month is linked to that criticism. He was unavailable to comment to Exaro by the time of publication.

So far, 12 men have been arrested under Yewtree, and the first charges were brought last week.

The Crown Prosecution Service announced on Wednesday that David Smith, a man in his 60’s from London, had been charged with five counts of sexual offences against boys in 1984. He was said to have been employed as a driver at the time of the allegations.

Spindler also had responsibility for ‘Operation Fernbridge’, which is investigating allegations that boys in the care of the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames were sexually abused at Elm Guest House by prominent people – including MPs – and others.

And he oversaw ‘Operation Fairbank’, under which the Met is “scoping” other allegations of child sex abuse against senior political figures.

While Spindler held strategic oversight of the three operations, the investigations were led on a day-to-day basis by senior officers under his command.

Exaro can also reveal that the Met is intending to level the first charges under Fernbridge this month.

Spindler’s new role as assistant inspector of constabulary at HMIC is a surprising sideways move for the senior officer. It is equivalent in rank to a deputy assistant commissioner at the Met, which is one step up from a commander.

As a Met commander, Spindler’s salary would have been between £80,000 and £100,000 a year. Sources said that the annual pay for his new job, which was advertised in November as a two-year secondment, is between £85,000 and £95,000.

Asked whether Spindler had joined HMIC from the Met, a spokeswoman for the watchdog simply told Exaro: “Yes.”

Pressed for further details on the move, she would only add: “There will be more information out shortly.”

The HMIC has condemned past police failures to tackle Savile’s prolific abuse, although it has not been critical of Spindler’s Yewtree investigation.

An HMIC report into police handling of information and intelligence on Savile between 1965 and 2012 said in March that “mistakes were made by the police”. It added: “We raise serious concerns over why so many victims felt unable to come forward and report what had happened to the authorities.”

A Met spokeswoman said this afternoon: “He has just decided to take up this new post,” adding, “That was his desire.”

Meanwhile, Exaro disclosed yesterday how senior police officers want to make widespread use of civil-protection orders – similar to Asbos – to combat the activities of suspected child-grooming rings and paedophiles.

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