Met secretly re-opens case of ex-senior politicians’ alleged links to ‘paedophile ring’
By David Hencke, David Pallister and Fiona O’Cleirigh | 14 December 2012
Exaro can today reveal that the Metropolitan Police Service has spent several weeks secretly examining claims of a paedophile ring centred on an address in Barnes, south-west London, that operated then as Elm Guest House.
The case is at the heart of ‘Operation Fairbank’, which is looking into a wide variety of claims against several senior political figures that they sexually abused children. The Met describes its enquiries as a “scoping exercise” ahead of a formal investigation.
At the start of the operation, Exaro worked with a key source to pass to the police documents detailing allegations that boys were supplied from a care home run by the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames to several VIPs at the guest house. The information was supplied by a former official who worked for the council. The house has since been converted into flats, and the current owners or occupants had nothing to do with its seedy past.
The “scoping exercise” is being run by the Met’s paedophile unit from the 16th floor of Empress State Building in Earl’s Court, west London. It is separate from ‘Operation Yewtree’, which centres on claims of sexual abuse of children by Jimmy Savile, the BBC television and radio presenter who died last year aged 84.
Operation Yewtree, which was launched in October, has three sets of allegations: against Savile; against “Savile and others”; and against other celebrities.
The Met says that Operation Yewtree has 30 officers examining claims made by 589 alleged victims, and has so far arrested six people.
It has gathered 450 separate allegations against Savile, mainly of sexual abuse against girls. These include 31 claims of rape.
Allegations of sexual abuse of children – mainly boys living in care homes – by powerful and prominent people at Elm Guest House during the early 1980’s were first passed to the Met in 2003.
But Scotland Yard is accused of failing to investigate them.
Back in 1982, the police even raided the guest house. But that Met investigation was also curtailed.
Five officers are working on the current “scoping exercise”, which is led by Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle, who is head of the Met’s paedophile unit.
Settle’s team re-opened the case just over a month ago in strict secrecy, even keeping fellow officers in the dark.
The unit would not even record any information gathered on police computers to prevent access from other officers, well-placed sources told Exaro.
And the unit decided against telling the Met’s press office about the operation. In response to one reporter following up a rumour for a Sunday tabloid, the unit denied to the force’s press officers that there was any investigation, on the basis that it was only a “scoping exercise”.
Settle and a colleague asked an Exaro reporter and the former council official, together with Tom Watson, Labour MP, for a meeting at the House of Commons at the start of the “scoping exercise”.
Watson had told the House of Commons in October that police should re-investigate historical claims of a “powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and Number 10,” including a “senior aide of a former prime minister”.
The police meeting focussed on the alleged paedophile ring at Elm Guest House. Police have had at least one further meeting with Watson, who passed to the Met some 250 claims of child abuse from alleged victims and others, after obtaining permission from the complainants.
As a result, the “scoping exercise” covers allegations of sexual abuse of children against many prominent people in an overlapping network in different parts of the UK.
Watson said: “Since raising my concerns with the prime minister, a number of people have contacted me raising further serious allegations. These have been passed to the police, and it is absolutely right that they are being comprehensively investigated.”
Additional reporting by Mark Conrad, Alison Winward and Frederika Whitehead.