Met’s paedophile unit probes ex-Conservative cabinet minister’s Amsterdam connection
By David Hencke and Mark Conrad | 11 October 2013
Detectives have opened two new lines of enquiry in their investigation of a former Conservative cabinet minister over historical allegations of child sex abuse.
Exaro has established that police are examining claims that the ex-minister is one of six former Conservative MPs – five still alive, one dead – who frequented gay brothels in Amsterdam three decades ago to have sex with boys.
The Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit is also investigating a claim that, around 30 years ago, a boy in care in London was driven out of town to a property where he was sexually abused by the same ex-minister.
The developments come as the Met’s wide-ranging investigation suffered a setback when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) privately advised detectives to drop allegations that the ex-minister raped a young woman.
Exaro revealed in February how Met commanders received a secret briefing by the head of the paedophile unit on its plans to arrest the ex-minister over allegations of child sex abuse. The detective chief inspector made clear that he was not planning to take the step imminently, but this is where he expected the investigation to lead.
Scotland Yard’s paedophile unit is running two operations – ‘Fairbank’ and ‘Fernbridge’ – to investigate a wide array of allegations against senior political figures and other prominent people.
Sources close to the two investigations say that the police are especially interested in the ex-minister’s Amsterdam connection. Exaro knows the ex-minister’s identity, but has decided against publishing it to avoid jeopardising police operations.
Some sources are worried that the investigations, which have the potential to be politically explosive, will be closed down – in a repeat of the past.
One senior detective on the case has told colleagues that he is determined not to be accused in the future of being part of a “cover-up”.
Detectives are investigating claims that boys were supplied from children’s homes or residential schools in the UK to be abused at gay brothels in Holland’s capital.
Exaro can reveal that one place in the UK under police scrutiny is Thorn Garth Residential School, close to Bradford. It has since closed, but it was a school for children in council care.
Detectives regard one former resident of Thorn Garth as key to the case. He was able to give a detailed account of how he was trafficked to Amsterdam and provide a highly-personal description of the ex-minister, who, he claims, sexually abused him.
One source close to the Met investigation told Exaro: “I am glad that Operation Fernbridge is widening the scope of the investigation, particularly towards the trafficking of boys to and from Europe, and looking at the individuals concerned with that.”
Police have also taken very seriously an allegation from a woman who came forward to claim that the ex-minister raped her in the 1960’s.
According to her account, she was a young woman at the time, and looked even younger than her age. She also told police that she had gone willingly to the ex-minister’s home, where she was attacked.
She has provided police with a detailed description of the home.
However, one source close to the investigation said that the CPS, in a controversial view, has told detectives that it cannot prosecute on the basis of her claims because guidelines at the time of the alleged attack – unlike now – would not have convicted in a case where the woman had not made explicit that she was refusing consent.
So far, two people have been charged – and a third arrested – under Operation Fernbridge.
Last month, Exaro exposed a series of documents that revealed a shocking catalogue of child abuse over many years at a special school where Sir Cyril Smith, the late former Liberal MP, was a governor.