Below is a timeline for Sir Cyril Smith MBE which we hope will provide a quick and easy reference resource. It is by no means definitive and if anyone has information that can help make it better then please post it as a comment. Even if we don’t add them to the timeline, such comments will be useful to anyone researching Cyril Smith in the future.
Timelines like this can be useful but they can also have their drawbacks. As a positive this one clearly highlights no less than 12 occasions when the police became aware, to a greater or lesser degree, of Cyril Smith’s offending or his unhealthy and illegal interest in young boys, These 12 entries are in bold. In my view, this timeline also clearly demonstrates a cover-up and complicity by the authorities which allowed Cyril Smith to continue to offend.
As a negative, this timeline does not adequately illustrate the fact that Cyril Smith was continuously offending throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. As I understand it, Greater Manchester Police are still investigating Cyril Smith’s sexual offending against young boys and hopefully a report will be published in due course which will better illustrate the appalling scale of Cyril Smith’s offending. However, until such a report is published this is the best that can be done.
28th June 1928- Cyril Smith is born in Rochdale Lancashire, the illegitimate son of Eva Smith who worked in service to a local cotton mill-owning family. He has a sister, Eunice and a brother Norman. They never learn who their father is.
1945- Cyril Smith joins the Liberal Party
1951- Cyril Smith leaves the Liberal Party and joins Labour
1952- Cyril Smith was elected a Labour Party councillor for the Falinge ward of Rochdale. As a councillor, Cyril became governor of twenty-nine local schools and would often visit them.
1956- Cyril Smith buys St Mary’s Gate newsagent and tobacconist. (It was demolished in 1959 as part of a re-development scheme).
Late 1950s- Smith’s newsagent on St Mary’s Gate was put under police surveillance as there had been concerns that boys were entering from the rear of the property. (Source Mike Smith, CID).
Late 50s- Cyril Smith gets a criminal record and is bound over to keep the peace for twelve months after breaching public lottery laws and trying to sell a lottery ticket to the chief constable of Rochdale.
1960- Cyril Smith sets up and manages Rochdale’s first bingo hall with Fred Ratcliffe, the Rochdale football club chairman.
1961- The first victim of Smith that the police know of was groomed in December 1961 after a visit to a school carol service. The boy was fourteen years old and Cyril pays for singing lessons for him and soon sexually abuses him.
1962- Cyril Smith helps to set up Cambridge House, an independently run hostel for homeless boys funded by Rotary club and Rochdale council .
1964- Ronald Neal is physically attacked by Smith at Cambridge House, his head smashed against a wall and two teeth knocked out. He is taken to hospital for stitches and but when he explained what had happened to him was advised to say he had fallen over.
1965 – Lyndon Price, Head of Social Services, Rochdale (1965-1971) goes to the Chief Constable Patrick Ross concerning allegations of improper behaviour by Cyril Smith at Cambridge House. Nothing was done at this time but soon after Cambridge House closed.
1966- Cyril Smith was appointed the Mayor of Rochdale and visits every single school in Rochdale that year. He claimed that children love meeting him – ‘It’s like a fairy story for them’.
June 1966- Cyril Smith is appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) ‘For services to youth’ in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
1967- Cyril Smith MBE resigns the Labour whip and becomes an independent until 1970.
1969- Cyril Smith helps to found Knowl View Special School. He will be a governor of the school with his own access all areas pass key for the next 34 years.
1969-1970- Rochdale Borough Police Force begin new investigation under the leadership of Chief Inspector Derek Wheater into Cyril Smith regarding Cambridge House allegations, 8 former residents are witnesses. Finding his investigation being subtly obstructed, he asks Detective Constable Jack Tasker of the county CID to investigate. Tasker interviews Cyril Smith under caution. Smith denies the allegations but Tasker believes the 8 witnesses. However, before Jack Tasker can make his report 2 senior police officers demand all the evidence and order Tasker to cease his investigation. However, this was not a cover-up. The investigation was in fact taken over by Detective Superintendent Jack Watson who concluded that Smith “used his unique position to indulge in a sordid series of indecent episodes with young boys toward whom he had a special responsibility.”
Cyril Smith asked the then Rochdale MP John ‘Jack’ McCann for help and he spoke to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Despite the evidence file running to 80 pages to case was swiftly dropped, the DPP commenting that “any charges of indecent assault found on these allegations, as well as being somewhat stale, would be in my view be completely without corroboration. Further, the character of some of these young men would be likely to render their evidence suspect.”
1970- Cyril Smith rejoins the Liberal Party and is controversially selected as the parliamentary candidate in the 1970 general election. He comes second.
1970- CPS records indicates file received on Smith, aged, 42, for allegation(s) relating to indecent obscene publications. (Source)
May 1972 – Smith is stripped of committee chairmanships when Labour regained control of council.
October 1972- Following the death of the Labour MP John ‘Jack’ McCann in July, Cyril Smith is elected in a by-election and becomes the member of Parliament for Rochdale.
1974- Smith is returned as Rochdale’s MP in both of the general elections of that year (Feb 28th and Oct 10th).
June 1975- Smith is appointed as the Liberal Party Chief Whip.
It is around this time that Detective Sergeant Tony Robinson of Lancashire Special Branch saw the Cyril Smith criminal file which had been locked in a safe at Lancashire Special Branch since the police investigations of 1969-1970.
Mid 1970s- Jimmy Savile appears with Cyril in a Liberal Party political broadcast giving his backing to the party.
1976- Following the election of David Steel as leader of the Liberal Party, Cyril Smith resigns as Chief Whip for ‘health reasons’.
1976- In an unconnected investigation , Detective Constable Paul Foulston, Thames Valley Police CID visits a youth at Ashford Young Offenders Centre to eliminate him from a murder inquiry. He and his sergeant are spoken to outside of the centre by two Metropolitan Police Special Branch officers who attempt to stop them interviewing the youth as it would “not be in the national interest” to do so. They ignored the warning and interviewed the 18 year old youth anyway. After the youth had been eliminated from the murder inquiry he proceeded to tell the two police officers that he had been in a relationship with Cyril Smith for many years and that he had been discarded for a younger boy who had in turn been discarded in favour of a boy even younger. Detective Constable Paul Foulston quotes the youth as saying ” that when they were young and tight, they excited him [Cyril Smith] when they became older he lost interest in them.”
March 1977- The parliamentary Liberal Party enter into a confidence and supply agreement with the Labour government (Lib/Lab Pact).
Soon after this Detective Sergeant Tony Robinson of Lancashire Special Branch was contacted by MI5 using the code term ‘Box 500’ demanding that the Cyril Smith file that was locked in their safe be sent by special courier that day to them in London.
Late 1970s- Martin Digan, a social worker, begins work at Knowl View School. He complained that Smith and his friend, the Conservative councillor, Harry Wild, chair of the board of govenors at Knowl View, would enter the school for no reason but to look at the boys. Digan put in several complaints but was threatened with disciplinary action by the headmaster and warned not to complain about Smith again or else he would face dismissal.
Late 1970s- Ron Foynes, a member of the Royal Military Police Company based in central London says that Smith was detained on a number of occasions in the late 1970s by the Royal Parks Constabulary after he was caught ‘in acts of gross indecency with young lads’ in the public toilets close to the junction of Marlborough Road and the Mall. On each occasion they had been told to discontinue their inquiries due to Smith’s status.
1978- Cyril Smith molests an 11-year-old boy at the National Liberal Club in London.
May 1979- Smith is returned as Rochdale’s MP in the general election of that year.
May 1979- The Rochdale Alternative Press (RAP) publish the Cambridge House allegations. The story is taken up by The New Statesman and Private Eye but none of the mass circulation newspapers take the story up. It is revealed following the death of Jeremy Thorpe that Thorpe’s defence barrister, George Carman QC, has put pressure on the press not to report the RAP allegations as it could prejudice his clients trial for Conspiracy to Murder.
In response to the RAP story about Smith a spokesman for the Liberal Party was quoted as saying, “All he seems to have done is spanked a few bare bottoms”
The Director of Public Prosecutions tells the Rochdale Alternative Press that they could not ‘confirm or deny’ receiving files of evidence incriminating Smith.
1980s- Smiths car was pulled over on the motorway and a box of indecent images of children found in the boot. He was put in a cell but police received a phone call from London and he was released without charge. Senior officers had threatened the officers involved with dismissal if Smith was not released immediately.
1981- Police operation started in 1981. It targeted south London addresses including a flat in Coronation Buildings, Lambeth – a tenement block less than a mile from Parliament and found substantial evidence of men abusing boys aged about 14. A hidden camera was installed in the flat with the help of a caretaker. Cyril Smith and a senior member of Britain’s intelligence services were among the suspects filmed. The investigation also had evidence on two senior police officers.
Cyril Smith was later arrested after reportedly taking part in a sex party with teenage boys but he was released that night and a sergeant who wanted to keep him in custody was reprimanded.
June 1982- Following the police raid on the Elm Guest House, Barnes, South West London, allegations are made against Cyril Smith regarding the sexual abuse of a young boy. Much later in Sept 2013 Cyril Smith’s attendance at the guest house is confirmed by police.
1983/1984- CPS records indicate file received on Smith, aged 55, for allegation(s) in relation to Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889 [Bribery] (Source)
June 1983- Smith is returned as Rochdale’s MP in the general election of that year.
Summer 1984- According to Don Hale, then editor of the Bury Messenger, he received a dossier concerning the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) and supporters within Parliament from Barbara Castle who was then a member of the European Parliament. Cyril Smith, who was not named in the documents visited him at his office and tried to persuade him that the allegations were “poppycock” and that he should not publish them. Later, Special Branch seized the documents. (Source)
June 1987- Smith is returned as Rochdale’s MP in the general election of that year.
1987-1989- Cyril Smith is investigated as part of Operation Hedgerow, an investigation which would expose two paedophile rings. Smith’s involvement is never followed up.
1988 – A former police officer has told how he called at a house in Stockport in 1988 after a complaint that the occupier had been committing a lewd act in his window in front of a newspaper boy. When he arrived he said Cyril Smith was there, together with a police officer in civilian clothes and two teenage boys, aged about 14 to 15 yrs old, both drunk – one a runaway from a children’s home.
Cyril Smith and the police officer left the house and the other man, a known offender, was cautioned. The retired police officer further alleges he was summoned to a meeting with a senior officer and mentoring officer and told ‘in no uncertain terms’ to say nothing about the incident (source).
3 March 1988- The Liberal Party merge with the SDP to form the Liberal Democrats
June 1988- After being nominated by David Steel, the leader of the Liberal Party faction, Cyril Smith MBE is knighted in the Birthday Honours list and becomes Sir Cyril Smith MBE.
July 1988- Paddy Ashdown is elected as the leader of the newly created Liberal Democrats.
1990s – Police investigate Smith regarding abuse Knowl View
April 1992- Sir Cyril Smith steps down as Rochdale’s MP.
1994- A boy under the age of eleven at Knowl View came to Martin Digan one night after having been sexually assaulted by a man fitting the description of Harry Wild. The police were called. Digan knew that Smith and Wilde both had keys to the school, but they did not have the alarm code and he could not understand how they were gaining access at night. He eventually noticed that the headmaster’s office door was being left ajar at night. In this office, he also discovered a report by the local health authority that had been presented to the council’s direction of education, Diana Cavanagh. Cavanagh had instructed the author of the report ‘not to undertake any independent action’ or circulate the report any further.
It stated that boys aged eight to sixteen at Knowl View were at risk of AIDS and had been subjected to severe sexual abuse and violence by men from as far away from Sheffield who had travelled to Rochdale for this purpose. The boys were being sold to paedophile gangs.’ Digan copied the papers, returned the originals, and made the report public although he omitted Smith and Wild’s names. The publicity resulted in the closure of the school but Digan lost nearly everything and had to move home. He also received phone calls from paedophiles threatening to target his children.
3 September 2010- Sir Cyril Smith MBE dies of cancer in a Rochdale nursing home.
November 2012, Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said there was “overwhelming evidence” that young boys were sexually and physically abused by Sir Cyril Smith MBE.
April 2014- It was reported that there had been 144 complaints against Sir Cyril Smith MBE from victims as young as eight.