Met investigates why officers closed down case on alleged child abuse twice before
By David Hencke, David Pallister and Fiona O’Cleirigh | 14 December 2012
The Metropolitan Police Service is investigating the claims against its own officers as part of a “scoping exercise” that is examining claims of a paedophile ring of a range of prominent people that centred on a property in Barnes, south-west London, operating as a guest house.
The house, in a leafy residential road of Edwardian terraced properties, has since been converted into flats, and the current owners or occupants had nothing to do with its seedy past.
In the early 1980’s… the police were watching people coming and going from the house
Neighbour to former guest house
Case files obtained by Exaro show how the police were told in 2003 that children were “procured from care homes” to work at the guest house that operated as a “brothel” and was frequented by “ex-ministers”.
Among those alleged to have sexually abused children at the guest house in the early 1980’s are several former senior Conservative figures, as well as a Labour MP and a Liberal MP, both of whom have since died, and a further former Labour MP.
Boys from a care home run by the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames were allegedly supplied to several VIPs at the guest house. An official who worked for Richmond council prompted the complaint to the police in 2003, and is assisting with the current operation.
The official, who wishes not to be identified, complained in 2004 to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) about the Met’s handling of the case. But the IPCC dismissed the complaint after two years.
Back in 1982, the police even raided the guest house, and established that it was being used at the time as a brothel.
The raid was triggered by local residents, who were worried about how the property was being used after seeing very young people there and a continuous flow of luxury cars.
Exaro has established that the authorities were carrying out surveillance at the property prior to the raid in 1982.
One neighbour told Exaro yesterday: “In the early 1980’s, a police van used to be parked outside a nearby house. It was an old derelict-looking van, but actually it was a police operation. The police were watching people coming and going from the house.”
Two police officers were in the guest house at the time of the raid. The Met is currently trying to establish whether they were there legitimately as part of the raid.
However, the police investigation into former senior Conservative figures and other prominent people who allegedly frequented the guest house at that time was also curtailed.
The Met’s paedophile unit, which is part of the specialist crime directorate, is carrying out the current “scoping exercise”. It is separate from ‘Operation Yewtree’, which is investigating claims of sexual abuse of children by the late Jimmy Savile, one of the BBC’s biggest stars, and other celebrities.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle, head of the Met’s paedophile unit, is leading the “scoping exercise”.
One of its aims is to determine why officers twice closed the case. Police sources have told Exaro that Settle and his team have already concluded that the 1982 investigation was not closed for proper reasons.
The unit is also investigating the IPCC’s role in the affair.
It has asked Richmond council to hand over files relating to children who lived in its care homes in the early 1980’s, to help track down possible victims.
The Met last month made a formal request to Exaro to delay reporting on the new operation.
Settle and his team were anxious to keep the exercise secret, partly because of the concerns about a police cover-up on the case in the past. They wanted to be sure that no one would order the case to be closed prematurely. They were also worried about being overwhelmed by claims of child abuse.
Exaro accepted that the police investigation would be hampered by early disclosure, and agreed to delay reporting on it.
On Wednesday, however, Scotland Yard publicly confirmed that ‘Operation Fairbank’ was investigating Watson’s allegations of a paedophile ring linked to senior political figures.
Additional reporting by Frederika Whitehead.