Since Prime Minister David Cameron returned home from Brussels with the EU deal to be put to the British people in a referendum on the 23rd June, I’ve wanted to write about it here on The Needle. However, I felt that an unchallenged polemic on the subject of why I believe the UK should leave the EU would be inappropriate for the blog and so I decided that it would be far better if I was to invite a respected commentator to debate the issue with me. I’m very grateful to author, screenwriter, playwright, literary critic and blogger, Peter Jukes for agreeing to make the argument for the UK remaining within the EU.
Jon – Can we agree from the outset, that the overwhelming majority of those who’ll be voting in the EU referendum on 23rd June later this year will do so because they hold honestly held, sometimes strongly held, opinions, whether they vote for the UK to remain within the EU or to leave?
There is likely to be increasingly intemperate commentary in the country over the coming months and if, on the one hand, those wishing to remain within the EU characterise or caricature those who disagree with them as xenophobes or anti-European, or on the other hand, those who wish to leave the EU paint their opponents as unpatriotic or national self-flagellants who have no faith in Britain’s ability to govern itself, then the important issues that are needed to inform any decision the electorate have to make will be lost in a deluge personal insults.
Peter – Jon. It’s certainly true that political debate rapidly descends into personal attacks these days. Given the variety of different shades of opinion on both sides, it would be cheap and defamatory to call all those who plan to ‘remain’ unpatriotic adherents to a superstate, or those who plan to vote ‘leave’ narrow minded nationalists . That kind of name calling won’t get us anywhere. However, I still suspect that the idea of the nation state, the main determinant of recent history, is somehow at stake in the whole referendum. That doesn’t mean that nationalists are ‘bad’: Indeed, I happen to believe the nation state is still the most viable, accountable and effective form of political organisation we have. So let’s frame it in another way. What kind of internationalism do we want? I suspect that’s what we’re really arguing over: the internationalism of the marketplace versus the internationalism of governance. But do correct me if I’m wrong.
Jon – Governance or Sovereignty tend to be the kind of issues that politicians get frothed up about; most members of the public have a more instinctive understanding of the principles of democracy. The larger the political entity, the less control individuals have within it. Greater centralisation of power disenfranchises the ordinary citizen. Nation states have evolved and most people accept that the UK’s size offers a fair trade off between democratic accountability and security.
If I were to wish to change anything then I’d be looking to devolve power not centralise it. To answer the question that you posed; the kind of internationalism that I’d like to see is one of peace, security, trade and mutual respect. I feel certain that these can be achieved just as well if the UK were to leave the EU. I just wanted to check, when you talk of “internationalism of the marketplace versus the internationalism of governance”, are you suggesting that the two are in opposition, that we can have either one or the other ?
Peter – I completely agree with you – and critics from both left and right – that the problem of the EU is the ‘instinctive’ understanding that the institutions of Brussels feel remote and unaccountable.
The most powerful and persuasive argument for ‘leave’ is that, across Europe, we are being governed by elites who have little understanding of the travails of most people. Both left and right agree on this. Tony Judt said the same, and so does Daniel Hannan.
But look at the wider picture. Because of the global movement of capital, trade and foreign exchanges, most states have little control over vast swathes of their economies. A corporation like Apple has revenues bigger than the Polish government, and can arbitrage taxes and regulation internationally. At present, I don’t think our forms of governance have begun to catch up with our market places, and I would put the 2008 crash down to that failure of oversight by relatively puny regulatory authorities like the FSA and SEC.
Here’s a more current example. Those to the left of me cite the TTIP international trade agreements, negotiated secretly by the EU, US and others, as the prime reason to vote ‘leave’. But do either of us think that Britain alone will negotiate a better deal?
My key position is really a right wing free market argument. Who is going to create a properly regulated, fair and open market place, and negate that ‘special problem of monopoly’ that Adam Smith warned us of? We’ve seen global convergence provably lead to ‘too big to fail/too big to jail’ monopolies in finance, media and energy. Who is going to counter them given the free flow of capital across borders? Only cross border institutions.
So to answer your last question,I think the internationalism of governance and market is currently in opposition, and we need both to check each other to get the best of both worlds.
Jon – I’m not aware that any agreement on the TTIP international trade negotiations has been reached and so it is impossible to say whether an independent UK could negotiate a “better deal”. Broadly speaking trade negotiations are impacted by leverage, good will between the two negotiating parties, and compromise. The size of the EU certainly has the advantage of greater leverage but there is undoubtedly plenty of good will in the bilateral relationship between the UK and USA. As the EU is negotiating on behalf of 28 diverse states it can not be said to be negotiating in Britain’s national interests; in this way the EU position is a compromise and there is every indication that the status of public service like the NHS may be a compromise that the EU may decide to make in the interests of a greater Europe.
I understand the point that you make regarding global movement of capital, trade and foreign exchanges; however, your logic appears to be leading you toward advocating some kind of world government because, given modern communication, the free flow of capital across borders will continue as long as any territory remains independent.
You claim that your ‘key position is really a right wing free market argument’ and ask, “Who is going to create a properly regulated, fair and open market place…?” The answer is certainly not the EU as long as it continues to put the Eurozone political project above economic transparency . The problems within the Eurozone over the last seven years have not disappeared, the underlying weaknesses still remain, the Eurozone is still economically unstable. Market crashes are often referred to as ‘corrections’ but no correction has been made because such a correction would have inevitably led to Greece, Spain, and others leaving the Eurozone.
Regardless of what those who advocate remaining within the EU claim, the UK, the largest net contributor to the EU outside of the Eurozone, will continue to pay for it. In 2014 the UK was asked to pay an extra £1.7bn to the EU, while Germany and France received rebates. The UK had to pay more because it had remained outside of the Eurozone; Germany and France received rebates because their economies had suffered due to bailing out Eurozone countries. Despite all claims to the contrary, the UK ended up compensating the EU for the Eurozone crisis.
It gets worse because the deal that David Cameron brought back and has asked the country to ratify, legitimises the use of central EU funds for the purposes of bailing out Eurozone countries.
How can the UK possibly remain within the EU and not be pulled along into ‘ever closer political union’ ?
Peter – On the point of principle. There’s always something gained and something lost in treaty arrangements with other countries whether in defence or trade. Globalisation requires an increasing numbers of international protocols. This is just governance, not global government. But this does bring with it a problem of accountability beyond the single nation state. As an arrangement – with its council of ministers and elected parliament – the EU should, in principle, give more democratic control of supranational threats and arrangements.
In practice, largely because of the premature adoption of the Euro, it hasn’t always worked out this way. For the record, I always preferred John Major’s suggestion of a ‘hard ecu’ – a common currency but not a single common currency, which gave individuals and businesses the option to adopt over time. But Britain is not in the Eurozone – and gets the benefits of its own currency with access to the world’s biggest single market. What’s not to like? The £1.4 billion current subvention is pretty cheap at the price, compared to the subventions we make to other international funds like the IMF to smooth other market fluctuations.
Is the EU the source of economic crisis since 2008? I don’t think so.
My personal experience of regular visits to the former Soviet controlled ‘Warsaw pact’ countries over the last two decades (particularly Poland) shows another side. The powerful stabilising effect of the acqus and structural funds in countries which could well have gone down the route of the former Yugoslavia and Ukraine without the civic rights obligatory for EU membership and the rising living standards associated with membership.
Over a hundred people were shot by Yanukovitch’s secret police in Kiev’s Maidan. What were they protesting for? To become part of the economic and civic norms of the EU. As a ‘soft power’ EU enlargement has done more than NATO in the last 25 years to secure peace and prosperity.
Britain’s game was always to go for enlargement to dilute the Franco-German dominance of the EU – a wider rather than deeper project. Now width has been achieved, Cameron has forestalled the threat of depth by securing an agreement that the ‘ever closer union’ does not apply to the UK. If an ever closer union is a threat even if we aren’t a part of it, aren’t we better off remaining members to keep diluting the threat? If it’s not, why not have our cake and eat it, with the stability of collective support, access to the single market?
And here’s another twist. In the assertion of the primacy of Parliament and controlling our borders, we may well lose both. If the vote is for ‘leave’ in June, it’s a near certainty that the Scots would demand another independence referendum, and the nationalists would win. The threat of the break of the union is much bigger to me than the speculative (and now exempted) ‘ever closer union’ of the Maastricht treaty.
Jon –You make some interesting point which I’d like to tackle one at a time.
You write that you don’t think the EU is the source of the economic crisis since 2008, and the adoption of the Euro was premature. I think you’re half right. The Euro’s time was right for a number of northern European countries. However, because the Euro was always a political project rather than an economic project the EU turned a blind eye to the blatant economic misrepresentation which allowed southern European countries to join the Eurozone when they were not ready to. It is fair to say that the EU was not the cause of the 2008 financial crisis, nevertheless because of this the Eurozone was particularly susceptible and the global economic crisis was exacerbated by the Eurozone’s weakness.
I can see how the people of a country like Poland, that had previously been under totalitarian rule, would benefit from the obligatory human rights that come with membership of the EU but Britain is not Poland and this debate is about Britain’s membership of the EU not Poland’s. I can also see how the standard of living in Poland would have increased but that is hardly surprising given that Poland receives close to three times the money from the EU than it puts in – Britain, on the other hand, is a net contributor receiving close to half back what it puts in.
I don’t particularly want to dwell in too much on a possible future Scottish referendum if the UK votes to leave; however, you have raised it and so I’ll address it with a few points. The first is that I’ve already stated above that I believe in democracy and strengthening it through devolving power and so to my mind it is entirely up to the people of Scotland whether they wish to become independent. I would only point out that if the Scottish voted for independence then it would seem rather foolish to then immediately vote to give it up by joining the EU and that I’d imagine that the EU referendum results would be calculated by region and that if a majority of Scots voted to leave the EU then there would be no raison d’etre for another referendum on Scottish independence. For the record, I hope Scotland remains part of the UK.
I don’t want to belittle the benefits of EU enlargement eastwards; nevertheless, I’m not sure I’d be so bold as to state that it has had a greater impact on security and prosperity over the last 25 years than NATO. NATO and the EU have entirely different functions and I’m fairly certain that Putin is more wary of a Baltic state invoking Article 5 following any invasion or interference than he does EU sanctions. ‘Soft power’ has its limits and it can be argued that Angela Merkel’s ‘soft’ approach to dealing with Vladimir Putin over Ukraine and Syria gave him the confidence to act as he has done.
I don’t see ‘ever closer union’ as a threat to anyone other than the people within the EU. The EU isn’t a belligerent organisation; they are our allies on defence, policing and intelligence issues and I’m confident that that will continue if the UK votes to leave the EU and I’m sure an equitable trade agreement can be negotiated. Perhaps, Norway and the UK can negotiate with the EU and get a better deal for both countries.
Now that really would be the best of both worlds rather than the fudge that David Cameron is presenting to the British people.
Peter – Ah David Cameron’s fudge. I rather like fudge. When did we become so doctrinaire and ideological (so French!)? It reminds me of the probably apocryphal tale of a British EU proposal to which the French emissaries replie: “Ah it works fine in practice, but what about in theory?”
To your last point about the acquis or EU accords. I was careful to say their ‘soft power’ was more effective than NATO, over the last 25 years only. There could be a case for arguing that, once West Berlin had been protected by the air lift, the economic demonstration of much preferable route western consumer society was more important in undermining the Berlin Wall than deterrence. But that’s a stretch. What we can say for sure is that Germany unified and the EU spread eastwards with a unprecedented speed and success no one could have predicted in 1988.
This does affect Britain, in or out. We are not like Norway or Switzerland. We are an outgoing, seafaring nation with former colonial connections which root our ancestors and dependants in places as far flung as Hong Kong, South Africa, Northern Canada, Tasmania and the Falklands. To deny our outward looking internationalism would be deeply unpatriotic. I’m afraid the role models offered to us as ‘Brexiters’ really don’t cut the mustard and underestimate our importance to the European project.
The real cause of the 2008 crash was massive global derivatives market which had hedged on US subprime mortgages with under the counter deals which amounted to much more in the shadow banking system than the actual bonds themselves. This was a highly complex situation which it took (and still takes) thousands of people across the world to unravel. The market was way ahead of any regulation or Basel agreements, and its effect more devastating than anything since the last European war. The vulnerability of the banks to a Greek or Spanish default came entirely from this. Argentina and Russia defaulted in 1998 on a much bigger scale and it there were no liquidity problems. The 2008 crash is, to me, an example of malfunctioning markets and evidence of exactly those kind of cross border agreements and regulations embodied by the EU. Even in the case of Greece, Spain and Portugal, I still think the non-EU alternative would have been much worse in terms of economic collapse and an exchange rate war which would have led to tariffs and isolationism.
Which brings me back again to Scottish Independence. Yes, I do think more power should be devolved on many many issues. But on global problems like international banking, or perhaps carbon emissions, we need evolved decision making at the highest levels. Nations are like people in this way. They are never quite Islands, and they form alliances, societies, groups. They do this because collectively they are stronger, and can best serve the interests of the nations, by working together.
So to move the discussion on (if I may) can I ask the Groucho question? If you wouldn’t want to be member of a club, like the EU, which would have you as a member, what is our alternative destiny in terms of alignment? Do we form a Scandi plus club with Norway, Sweden or Iceland? Or a more transatlantic, English speaking alliance such as the ‘Five Eyes’ of security documents – UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand?
Jon – Well it is very interesting that you mention the ‘Five Eyes’ security alliance which highlights the importance of a future independent UK as a ally and active partner to the EU on security and policing and undermines the apocalyptic warnings made by the ‘Remain’ campaign.
That said, you are raising it so that you can present me with two choices when I haven’t even accepted the premise that the UK needs to be in a ‘club’ and so I’ll decline your invitation. I mentioned Norway, who incidentally also have an outgoing and seafaring tradition – just ask the people living on the North East coast of England – because as a country independent of the EU, Norway is already in a situation similar to the one the UK will find itself in following independence and it would make sense for the two countries to negotiate with the EU together to get the best deal for both of our nations.
I don’t disagree with you regarding national alliances and partnerships, and even friendships but I don’t agree with your pessimistic outlook. On the one hand you highlight the UK’s outgoing tradition, listing in various ways strong allies and partners of the UK around the world but then suggest that if the UK gains its independence it will suddenly find itself adrift, alone, and friendless. That just isn’t going to be the case; the UK will still have a close relationship with the EU, the UK will still be a member of NATO and the Five Eyes, we’ll still be a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the UK will still belong to the Commonwealth. It may well be that new alliances might evolve but it doesn’t mean that old ones built up over decades will disappear over night.
Given that the City of London is one of the largest financial centres in the world, the UK will have to be part of any broad international attempt at tackling problems in international banking and I’m sure you’ll agree that an independent UK is quite capable of positively engaging on other global issues like climate change.
You also highlight the importance of the UK to the European Project. I don’t underestimate it but I think that some, not all, of those negotiating the UK deal on behalf of the other 27 EU member states have done. It demonstrated the same kind of bureaucracy, pork barrel politics, and Eurovision voting practices that the people of the UK have watched with increasing dismay . It was the worst kind of advert for remaining within the EU and then to watch a desperate British Prime Minister try to put the best gloss on such an insignificant, reluctantly offered, take it or leave it, deal… It’s clear that it isn’t those in the UK that now wish to leave the EU who have underestimated the importance of the UK to the European Project, it is those that were too complacent around the negotiating table.
Peter – Don’t you find it odd that, while complaining about lack of democracy in the EU, people rarely think of the undemocratic arrangements in surveillance, security or indeed the control and maintenance of Trident (utterly reliant on a foreign power)? We accept these constraints on our autonomy without protest. So why the focus on mainly economic arrangements with the continent, which are less existential?
I should add that, though remote and imperfect, the European Parliament is at least some democratic check on the Brussels bureaucracy. Today, while Cameron was praising a new Saudi arms deal, the European Parliament voted to suspend all arms sell to the main source of Wahhabi extremism in the middle east and Africa. The EU Parliament is probably more in line with public opinion on this issue than our own government. On that basis, why not devolve more democracy down, and make sure the supranational structures have some democratic accountability?
I’m not of the apocalyptic persuasion of project fear when it comes to security, (though I do think the European arrest warrant is probably a plus). I’m actually much more concerned about the economic impact of, effectively, leaving the single market as an inside player.
The City has thrived since the 1980s mainly by importing first American, and then European ownership and personnel. I personally think financial services are too dominant in our economy, but there are very few in that sector who think ‘leave’ will improve London’s central role in equity, bond and forex markets. You just have to look at the decline of the pound to see that.
It’s this globalised role at the centre of the timezones which makes Britain completely different to Norway, with a population the fraction of ours and none of our reliance on foreign capital and migratory talent. After nearly half a century, our trading relationship with the EU has become much more dominant than the Commonwealth, which was historically defined by imperial capture anyway. After half a century, the world has moved on. Australia’s main trading partner, for obvious geographic reasons, is now China. Though we very good ties with other economies like India and Japan, they favour us as an entry point into the single market.
Many who would vote leave say there’s no reason we can’t achieve a new deal with the EU to give us untrammelled access to the single market. But that’s a hope, not a certainty. And even if we achieved what Norway did, the subventions to the EU would only increase as a consequence. (Polish infrastructure has been largely rebuilt from the ‘Norwegian Fund’.) Only this time we would have no control over how those funds were spent, unlike we do now through the council of ministers and Strasbourg.
In short, I really don’t fear complete disaster if we leave. But the idea that Britain would be richer and more productive, seems to me to be founded more on hope and a prayer than any cold cost benefit analysis. True, for a moment, we could relish our feeling of freedom. But as happened throughout my childhood, international forces – devaluation, balance of trade payments, etc – would soon remind us how contingent on others our freedom is.
Perhaps, for a moment, I could move on from the dismal science of economics, and talk about other things. I actually love the idea that I can travel with a British/EU passport through Schengen countries unchecked. I like the idea I can move to France, Germany or Croatia and work there without a green card, and use their health services at virtually no cost. I’m proud to British, but I’m also proud to be European too. I was married to an American, and have lived and worked there, but there are various historical and emotional reasons why I feel Brits have more in common with the inhabitants of Warsaw than Boston. You could well counter that the EU does not express that Europhilia, and rather undermines it. But what have I got left of that, in any civic sense, if we leave?
If we didn’t have the EU, wouldn’t we need to invent it? And if so, what would this ideal European arrangement look like?
Jon – Surveillance and Trident, far from being ‘undemocratic arrangements’, are under the control of the democratically elected government of the UK. Every five years now, the British people have the opportunity to elect a new government that can change these policies.
I’m in broad agreement with you about the European arrest warrant; however, the Assange case highlights the different interpretations of the term ‘Judicial Authority’ across the EU. In the UK this refers to a judge, in many other EU countries this can refer to a public prosecutor and as a consequence warrants can be issued with a lower evidential threshhold than in the UK. That isn’t to say that UK judges always get it right; the disturbing case of the European arrest warrant issued on the parents of Ashya King stands testament to that. On the whole though, these cases are exceptions rather than the rule and I would expect an independent UK to negotiate similar arrangements with the EU once we’ve voted to leave the EU.
I can see that like me you really enjoy European travel and love experiencing first hand the culture, history, and diversity of Europe; so I want to put your mind at rest – just like any citizen from any independent state from anywhere in the world, just like you can today, you’ll be able to travel freely throughout the Schengen Area once you’ve entered it using your British passport for as long as the Schengen Agreement holds. We need to accept that because of the unilateral decision of the German government to offer unrestricted migration from outside the EU that Schengen is coming under pressure but this is not the fault of the UK or indeed any of the other 26 EU member countries who have to deal with the consequences of of Germany’s generous offer.
I want to seize on your mention of the dominance of the UK financial sector – I agree with the sentiments you expressed, the UK economy is too reliant on it – to look at the thorny issue of EU immigration into the UK.
Over the last half century, the industrial and manufacturing sectors across the developed world have declined and the recent economic trend is toward increasing growth in the service sector. I hope you don’t think I’m deliberately oversimplifying the complexity of the service sector in the UK if I use high street takeaways as a vehicle to make my point but the proliferation of them in towns and cities across the UK means that it is an ideal example that readers can grasp. UK economic growth is increasingly dependent on the growth of the service sector, which means that using our example, it is in part reliant on more high street takeaways and more consumers of high street takeaways but there is a problem, the UK population is stable, increased life expectancy and a higher standards of living has led to lower birth rates to compensate so how can the UK find more consumers of takeaways so that the UK economy can keep on growing? The answer is simple, allow more consumers of takeaways to take up residence in the UK, this will invariably lead to even more takeaways on the high street and, hey presto! we have the illusion of perpetual economic growth.
When 200 UK business leaders write a letter and state that – “Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs” – what they really saying is that UK business needs increasing numbers of consumers for the UK service sector, more takeaways, and to boot they also want a surplus of labour which will drive down wages.
The dangers for the UK of relying on exponential immigration as a means of achieving the illusion of perpetual economic growth are twofold; firstly it is simply unsustainable and secondly there is a very real danger that UK citizens will become lazy economic Eloi relying on migrant Morlocks. With no economic incentive to improve education in the UK why should we be too surprised if future generations of Britons emerge without the desire to compete for low paid jobs filled by migrant workers?
The real tragedy is that a stable population number caused by increased longevity compensated by lower birth rates, coupled with the technological, information, and communication revolution, might be the first indication that the developed world is entering a new social epoch but if so UK citizens will not feel the benefit until their government cease to cling to the social and economic paradigms of the 20th century and that must include their obsession with economic growth.
Peter –Looks like we’re getting to the heart of the matter over democratic control (without using the word sovereignty). Our treaty obligations with the EU are just as democratically accountable as your example of Trident or Five Eyes security deals. We can elect a government to renegotiate or sever them. The additional thing about the EU is the democratic oversight of an elected parliament.
Your point about Schengen travel is well made, with this exception. We will no longer enjoy the rights of employment, welfare and residence in the rest of Europe that we currently do. We will just ‘travel’ to Europe as a tourist destination, sample their takeaways: we will no longer have the same rights there. It will be a huge loss to me, practically and emotionally, and not something I would happily give up. Those younger than me (for example my two kids who are in their 20s) take this freedom of movement for granted. They are even more resistant (as polls show) to losing their European Union civic identity
On immigration and reliance on services. I know you used takeaways merely as a metaphor for the service economy, but it’s a very loaded one implying crass consumption of perishable products. We have huge shortages in mainly highly skilled sectors of employment, especially in engineering and healthcare. Where will we get the additional workers? Back to Australian dentists and their famous lucrative ‘antipodean trenches’ of mercury fillings which financed their ranches back in Oz? The EU provides a nearby and highly trained pool of labour for all the bottlenecks in our economy.
It seems to me that many who adhere to Adam Smith principles of the free movement of capital forget the corollary – free movement of labour. I’m not accusing you of this, but many UKIP voters are utterly reliant on the labour and tax revenues of the immigrants they’d seek to prevent. They want the benefit of a care worker or cheap plumber from overseas on an individual basis, but fail to see the collective effect.
It might be worth exploring this for a moment, because it hadn’t really occurred to me that some who oppose the EU are actually opposing the current models of growth. The libertarians I generally talk to oppose regulation, and see Brussels as a brake on growth.
It’s a truth you’re clearly aware of – most economic growth is dependent on population growth. These days, in developed societies, immigration is a major factor.
I for one, don’t think Britain is at all ‘full’ – only 5% of the U.K. Land is urbanised. In my youth most the science fiction books I read were based on the dystopian vision of overpopulation. Meanwhile, inner London lost a million inhabitants, as we all pursued a suburban dream.
Now people are moving back into the once hollowed out inner cities, and over a million have returned to central London. Living densely is both ecologically and economically more sustainable and efficient, compared to the suburban idyll which actually concretes over much more land. Britain feels ‘full’ only because there hasn’t been enough investment in some areas to provide sufficient services. Much of our start up growth and innovation comes from the hybridisation of ideas and synthesis of different cultures in the metropolitan cities or university towns.
But perhaps, as you indicate in reference to H G Wells, you actually have a more profound problem with that paradigm which I would share – growing inequality. But this seems to be much wider than the EU. The Eloi/Morlock division is becoming as much problem in the US as the UK. Germany escapes it but Europe wide, Greece does not. Absenting us from the EU will not solve this global structural shift of engineering to the developed world, and rising inequality due to the drift of capital accumulation at 6% per annum. Indeed, I would argue it leaves us more vulnerable, without the collective ability to reconstruct as a community of nations, as the EU did so successfully in former communist countries.
Jon –I’m certain that there is nothing more likely to instil fear in the UK populace of the theoretical consequences of leaving the EU than conjuring the spectre of antipodean dentists poisoning their patients with mercury. You should write to No 10, they may be grateful and use the image on a billboard, “Vote to remain”, the accompanying text can say, “…or Tasmanian Jack will be back!”
You mention the democratic oversight of the elected EU parliament. That’s the one that meets half the year in Luxembourg and then moves en masse to Brussels for the other six months with all the inefficiency and waste that it entails? Let’s say that, for arguments sake, every elected UK MEP decided that such profligate waste could no longer be defended. Could those MEPs effect a change? No, of course they couldn’t and nor could a British Prime Minister within the European Council. Not that MEPs would unite and call for such a thing; most members of the public haven’t got a clue what their elected MEPs are up to, they are too distant and remote and as a consequence there is little accountability or public scrutiny.
You’ve quoted Adam Smith a couple of times now; you’ll recall that he also noted that “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” All of those MEPs from 28 nations milling around Brussels and Luxembourg – all dependent on the European Parliament for their status and lifestyle – far from home with little accountability and public scrutiny… Is it really any wonder that the European Parliament continued to vote for increases in budget expenditure following the 2008 financial crisis when every national parliament was forced to cut back? Is it really any wonder that they never tackle the appalling waste and profligacy or push for EU reform, reform which may impact on their comfortable existence?
I’m very grateful that you stated that you do not believe that Britain is ‘full’ because it gives me the opportunity to ask you the question that no proponent of continual immigration into the UK is prepared to answer, and that is, just what size of population is full or ideal?
You mentioned that only 5% of the U.K. Land is urbanised. I’m sure you can’t be suggesting that as the UK currently has a population of around 64 million, that a full UK would have a population of 1.28 billion. So, what is the ideal population size of the UK? 100 million? 150 million? 200 million? It would seem to be a question of uppermost importance, governments must plan ahead and yet nobody seems prepared to provide an answer to that question.
You mention the UK skills shortage in engineering and healthcare and you ask, “Where will we get the additional workers?” The answer is that we educate young British people and we ensure that they can earn a living wage instead of relying on importing cheap labour from abroad. When I see politicians almost boasting about the dependency of the NHS on immigrants, often coming from third world countries, I’m frustrated and ashamed. This is not a criticism of those individuals who come here and work in the NHS, it is just that it is indicative of failures in UK education and our economies over-reliance on cheap overseas labour. The problem is that it is only cheap in the short term, in the medium and long term greater and greater numbers of low paid workers will need to be introduced to sustain such a parasitic economic model.
Yes, I am concerned with inequality and exploitation but I’m more concerned about how it will effect us and what kind of society is likely to evolve as a consequence.
Peter – You noticed I played the Oz Mercury poisoning card! Dammit. I hope you’ll forgive me. At least I haven’t once mentioned an Australian born US citizen who owns a large chunk of our media explaining recently that he doesn’t like the EU because they don’t do what he says, while Number 10 does. This speaks a little to my point about the power of a collective of nations against global corporations who can game the rules.
I hear all your complaints about the European Parliament in practice. But many of those could equally be applied (and often are) to Westminster. The claim that politicians have their noses in the trough and (to mix metaphors) won’t vote to reduce their costs any more than a turkey would vote for Christmas, has a very long and understandable history. It applies to local councils, national assemblies and town halls too. But more democracy and organisation is the answer. Vote them out.
To which you could counter – why should I have to vote for anyone going to Brussels? Scottish nationalists might say the same about sending MPs to the House of Commons. We are, after all, already a multinational state with two different legal systems, and now with various levels of autonomy of democracy. We were for centuries an empire, and devolved power to former colonies. Brits of all people – who helped institute the United Nations and build the federal system of the post war reconstruction of Germany – understand that power is not absolutely gathered in one place. It comes from the people, but most of us have cascading levels of identity. Ethnically I’m a English-Welsh-Armenian mongrel. In terms of my culture I’m devotee of the English language (though only 6% of its speakers are actually English). In terms of my national allegiance I’m a Brit, but I’m also a European. I like political structures which reflect this complex identity. I know others don’t, but there we go.
On the wider aspect of population size I think we’re probably a generation off our peak amount. I don’t know what the numbers are, but I do know that things feel crowded when services are poor, and we’re fighting over jobs, access to transport, housing and education. But Malthus pointed out we were already too full by that measure 200 years ago, with a population barely over 10 million. It’s all about resources, integration, sustainable lives and a future full of potential. Remove all of those, and the most remote desert island becomes an overcrowded nightmare with just two people.
I don’t disagree with you on better training and skills for British citizens. But one of the greatest assets we have in terms of global trade and the creative exchange of scientific and cultural innovation is the population mix we have, with family or social connections all over the globe, and the dialogue of different cultures, insights and information. London is currently the most cosmopolitan city in the world, and its openness to strangers (just like Paris and New York before it) is the upside of migration. Of course, there are many downsides, particularly in the decay of industrial towns of the north. But let us remember that is a result of migration two or three generations ago, in itself a consequence of Britons’ imperial migration to Africa, North America and the Indian subcontinent. If we start getting nostalgic about our past, we should see how isolation has never been our destiny.
On your side, you can point to this and say a Brexit will not change our history or global connections. But on mine, I could point out that leaving the EU will have very little effect on those problems of integration that are often held up as the main reason we need to ‘control our borders’.
I feel like ending – if this is the close of our debate – on a version of an old joke about men and women’s attitude to marriage. Men get married hoping women won’t change, but they do. Women get married hoping men will change, but they don’t.
I feel leave campaigners hope Britain will stop changing if we leave the EU, but it won’t.
Best and thanks for such an informative civilised debate.
Jon – Many thanks Peter, it’s been a pleasure debating the issues with you.
As I had reblogged Tim Tate’s Six Questions for Exaro News – HEREIt is only proper that I also reblog Tim’s latest post which contains Exaro’s response to his questions. The original post can be found on TimTate.co.uk
Two weeks ago I asked Exaro News a series of six very serious questions about its stories relating to alleged historic sexual abuse at Elm Guest House and a VIP network based at Dolphin Square. Those questions – set out in my previous post (below) – quoted Exaro’s own statements, including its claims to have been responsible for initiating the multi-million pound Metropolitan Police investigation, Operation Midland.
On Wednesday evening the “Exaro team” e-mailed the following response. At its request, I am posting this in full.
Dear Tim Tate,
Please ensure that you publish our response in full.
Our reports on Exaro have already answered many of the questions that you pose.
Our long-standing policy is not to repeat answers on social media or to bloggers otherwise, as we are sure that you can appreciate, it would distract from the vitally important journalistic work that Exaro is doing in holding power to account.
So, first, you need to do some proper research. It is not for us to conduct your research for you.
In the meantime, you have referred at various points in blog posts to having been told a story by a “senior detective” on ‘Operation Fernbridge’ about how Customs had stopped Leon Brittan at Dover with “child pornography tapes”, while at the same time denying our report that Customs had seized a video alleged to show child sex abuse in the presence of a former Conservative cabinet minister.
Was the “senior detective” to whom you referred DCI Paul Settle?
All the best,
Apparently Exaro thinks it appropriate for a journalist to identify his sources (I don’t: and won’t). It is also apparently too busy (despite having several millions pounds of benefactor funding to draw on) to answer questions of very real public interest about its role in thetroubled and troublesome Operation Midland.
Exaro’s e-mail also makes clear that it believes it is much too important to be held to account. Anyone looking for humility will find it in the dictionary. Sandwiched between “hubris” and “hype”.
‘While the commission has been described as a policymaking body by some church officials – determining guidelines and best practices to avoid abuse – Saunders has long called for it to be far more aggressive, including addressing specific cases that have emerged all around the world. He has also questioned why the Vatican has not apparently made any progress on an abuse tribunal that was announced last year to hear cases of church officials who cover up abuse.
“A number of members of the commission expressed their concern that I don’t toe the line when it comes to keeping my mouth shut,” Saunders said hours after the news of his leave was announced.
“I made clear I would never be part of something that was a public relations exercise. There was a feeling around the table expressed in a vote that the commission could not work with me as things stood at the moment and unless I changed.”
“Our pope could do so much more to make things happen now. It’s incumbent on a commission appointed by him to impress on him the need to do things now, not years down the line … I don’t see movement, I don’t see action over an issue that they should be absolutely furious about.”
He also revealed that the commission had received a report that two priests from Italy recently discovered that a colleague was abusing children, but that when they alerted their bishop to the abuse, he “instructed they remain silent”.
“That itself rips my heart apart…and sadly this happens all over the world,” he said.
Many of Corker’s anecdotes dealt with the fabulous Wenlock Jakes. “…syndicated all over America. Gets a thousand dollars a week. When he turns up in a place you can bet your life that as long as he’s there it’ll be the news centre of the world.
…”Why, once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn’t know any different, got out, went straight to a hotel, and cabled off a thousand-word story about barricades in the streets, flaming churches, machine guns answering the rattle of his typewriter as he wrote, a dead child, like a broken doll, spreadeagled in the deserted roadway below his window – you know.””
“Well they were pretty surprised at his office, getting a story like that from the wrong country, but they trusted Jakes and splashed it in six national newspapers. That day every special in Europe got orders to rush to the new revolution. They arrived in shoals. Everything seemed quiet enough, but it was as much as their jobs were worth to say so, with Jakes filing a thousand words of blood and thunder a day. So they chimed in too. Government stocks dropped, financial panic, state of emergency declared, army mobilized, famine, mutiny –and in less than a week there was an honest to God revolution under way, just as Jakes had said. There’s the power of the press for you.”
“They gave Jakes the Nobel Peace Prize for his harrowing descriptions of carnage – but that was colour stuff.”
Full Text from the Sussex Police Report; ‘Inquiry into Suspicious Death of VISHAL MEHROTRA’, 1983:
Detective Superintendent G. H. Curd,
Detective Superintendent’s Office,
ENQUIRIES INTO THE SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF VISHAL MEHROTRA.
1. During the afternoon of Sunday, 21st February 1982 two brothers, XXXXX were pigeon shooting across ground owned by XXXXX on the south side of the A272 west of Rogate.
2. On reaching Allow Copse they entered and started to search through the area to raise pigeons when they came across what appeared to be a human skull and some bones. They left the skull in situ and reported their find by telephone to Midhurst Police Station.
3. Alder Cope at Rogate is a three and a half acre wooded area of marshy ground surrounded by pastureland, and as stated is on the south side of the A.272, The western boundary of Alder Copse is within fifty yards of the Hampshire/Sussex county boundary.
4. Following the report of the finding of the skull PC XXXXX immediately attended Alder Copse followed shortly afterwards by PS XXXXX and PC XXXXX
5. Subsequently Superintendent XXXXX (Deputy Divisional Commander) and Detective Chief Inspector XXXXX attended Alder Copse and viewed the remains and owing to the lateness of the hour it was decided to tape off the area, guard the scene and await daylight.
6 At 10.30 a.m. on Monday, 22nd February 1982 Detective Inspector XXXXX and Detective Constable XXXXX (SOGO) attended the scene with a CCTV unit. A video recording was made of the area and still photographs were taken by PC XXXXX A visual examination then took place within the area previously taped.
7. At 2 p.m. that day Detective Superintendent XXXXX and officer reporting arrived at the scene with the pathologist, Dr. XXXXX
Dr. XXXXX carried out a search and examined the skull and bones but before disturbing the skull all debris from the area was collected and placed on a body sheet for later examination.
8. Some thirty-five feet away from the skull and towards the north side of the copse a mass of dark hair was found. The visual examination of the area was continued and revealed a lower jaw and some loose teeth on the surface of the marsh some sixteen feet west from the location of the skull. All item, discovered at the scene were photographed in situ and then removed for further examination by Dr. XXXXX
9. An incident room was initially set up at Midhurst Police Station and following information on Tuesday, 23rd February from Dr. XXXXX that he considered that the skull was that of a child of some eight to twelve years of age, and possibly coloured,
a request was made through Missing Persons Index at New Scotland Yard for details of all persons within the eight to twelve-years age group who had been reported missing during the previous twelve months.
10. On Tuesday, 23rd February 1982 a full-scale search of the wooded and marshy area was mounted, involving officers from Worthing, Littlehampton, Chichester and Bognor Regis; with the use of garden rakes and forks the whole area was searched with the exception of the area of marshy ground which had been previously taped and contained within its boundaries the area in which the skull and other items had been found. The searching crew, working under extremely difficult conditions, due to the boggy nature of the ground, uncovered a variety of items from a leather belt to parts of old plough shears. But in particular certain bones were found, one of which appeared to be a vertebra.
11. Technical Support Unit from headquarters attended the scene and carried out a specific search for metal objects using metal detectors in the area where the skull, jaw and other items had been found. This search proved negative.
12. On the following day, 24th February 1982, the same comprehensive search of the remainder of the wood was concluded. No further items of interest were discovered.
13. During the activity of the search party Detective Inspector XXXXX and Detective Constable XXXXX had been con¬centrating on the area around the skull which was of an extremely boggy nature. Despite this a hand search by feel alone revealed some teeth and small bones which were later identified as finger bones.
14. An area of boggy soil approximately six feet long by four foot wide where the body might have boon lying, as indicated by the position of the skull was carefully dug over to a depth where matted roots intervened. The soil and debris were placed in plastic dustbins and later washed and sieved in order to ensure that no items escaped the search. A further five small bones and two finger nails were discovered within this debris.
15. From the mini incident room setup at Midhurst circulations were made nationally giving details of the findings at Rogate. Also enquiries were commenced in respect of a number of outstanding missing children of the requisite age.
16. Arrangements were also made for XXXXX Odontologist, together with Dr. XXXXX pathologist to make up a dental chart from the skull and lower jaw bone found at the scene.
17. As a direct result of those enquiries it was learnt late on Monday, 1st March 1982 that in all probability the bones were these of Vishal MEHROTRA, a boy missing from the Putney area of London since 29th July 1981, the day of the Royal Wedding.
18. In view of this possible identification the incident room was moved from Midhurst to Chichester and set up with a full staff. Later the same day the identification was confirmed, subject to skull-X-rays by Dr XXXXX and immediate liaison was made with Detective Superintendent XXXXX of the Metropolitan Police Putney, in order that a meeting could be arranged at Chichester the following day.
19. At the meeting at Chichester on 2nd March 1982 it was agreed that although two incident rooms would operate, i.e. one at Putney and one at Chichester, the enquiry itself would be carried out by the Sussex. Police as it was assumed at that stage that it could not be proved where the death of Vishal MEHROTRA had actually occurred.
20. Detective Superintendent XXXXX (Putney) -was able to supply to the meeting at Chichester a draft report compiled by officers at Putney relating to the enquiries made by them into the disappearance of Vishal MEHROTRA.
21. Paragraphs 1 to 19 of that report deal comprehensively with the family background and paragraphs 20 to 56 then continue with the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and the enquiries which then ensued.
Press and Media
22. On Wednesday, 3rd March 1982 a full press conference was held at Chichester Police Station where Detective Superintendent XXXXX gave details of the disappearance of Vishal MEHROTRA and the enquiries made to date by the Metropolitan Police. Also details were given to the press of the location of the find at Rogate with the request for full publicity on the matter in order to attract any witnesses who may have been in or near Alder Copse at the relevant time.
23. Subsequently signs were prepared and erected on the A272 both east and west of the layby opposite Alder Copse requesting any persons who had used that route during the relevant time to call at an incident caravan which was in situ in the layby.
24. During the following days posters were prepared by PRO and were distributed by officers from the Traffic Division to garages, public houses, cafes, restaurants and where small villages were concerned to the main stores, throughout the route of the A3 from Petersfield northwards to the Metropolitan boundary.
25. Later this was extended to cover the A272 from Petersfield to the A272 and northwards on the A24 to the Metropolitan boundary once again. A quantity of the posters was forwarded to the Metropolitan Police who completed the route from their southern boundary to Putney.
Family Background of Vishal MEHROTRA
26. As stated, the Metropolitan Police report deals in detail with the family of the missing boy. Therefore it is only necessary to say that Vishal lived with his father, Vishamber Khemchand MEHROTRA, his sister, Mamta MEHROTRA, and a nanny, Joannita CARVALHO, at 14 Holmbush Road, Putney.
27. Vishal’s mother, Aruna MEHROTRA, nee VASHISTH, had separated from the boy’s father and since 1976 had resided in India currently managing a jewellery business in Delhi. Mr. MEHROTRA is a qualified solicitor employed by Stocken & Lambert of 23-28 Fleet Street, WC1.
28. XXXXX describes the character and personality of Vishal MEHROTRA. A brief summary of this is that they discovered that Vishal was a highly intelligent boy having an open, friendly personality but failed to form any close friendships. The officer enquiring into the background of the family found that Vishal led a very regulated life and seldom strayed outside the close family environment. However, during the school term he travelled unaccompanied to and from school by train from East Putney station.
Circumstances Surrounding the Disappearance of Vishal
29. On Royal Wedding Day, 29th July 1981, Vishal with his sister, father and nanny travelled to London by train and then went to Fleet Street in order that they should watch the Royal procession from the second floor window of the office where Mr. MEHROTRA is employed. They stayed there until 12.30 p.m. and then left to catch a train home. They boarded a train at Temple Station travelling to East Putney via Earls Court arriving et East Putney at 1.40 p.m. Mr. MEHROTRA then left the children with the nanny and returned home as he was feeling tired. Before he left he gave the children 20p each to buy sweets. The nanny, Miss CARVALHO, took the children into a newsagents in Upper Richmond Road where they remained for about twenty minutes. As the children had complained earlier of sore throats the nanny decided to walk to Putney High Street to buy some cough medicine for them. At this stage Vishal said that he did not want to go as he felt tired and wanted to go home.
The nanny agreed to let him go on his own and saw hlm safely across the main road at the pedestrian crossing outside the shop. She then went with Mamta to Putney High Street before returning home at about 3 p.m. On her arrival Mr. MEHROTRA was asleep on his bed but there was no trace of Vishal. Both the nanny and Mamta decided to have a nap and both slept until around 4.30 p.m. At that time the nanny heard the television in Mr. MEHROTRA’s bedroom being used and she went to see him, explaining what had happened earlier in relation to Vishal. It was then thought by both that he, Vishal, had arrived home and subsequently gone cut to play. Enquiries in the area were then made by the nanny and Mr. MEHROTRA and at 7 p.m, that evening the boy was reported missing to the police at Putney.
30. Paragraphs 22 to 56 of the Metropolitan Police report then detail the extensive investigation which followed the report of the missing boy. This includes full details of the assistance given by the media in this matter and as a result a number of persons reported possible sightings of Vishal. Each of the sightings were carefully investigated. XXXXX
Search of Alder Copse and Surrounding Area
31. Following a meeting with Water Board officials at Alder Copse it was decided it shovel the virtually liquid mud into bins and transport them across the adjacent field to a spot near the roadside where empty bins fitted with sieves would be situated. The mud would be placed into the sieves in small quantities and water washed through it until the slurry had disappeared and only
vegetation remained for close scrutiny. The water to be obtained from a bowser situated on the roadside and fitted with a lengthy hose. Plastic dustbins and watering cans were obtained from the Council and sieves were obtained locally.
32. On Wednesday, 3rd March 1982 the operation commenced on a limited scale at first as officers were initially employed on a search of the roadside verges and field perimeter. Two Water Board workers operating a small pump, were busily employed at the heart of the mud clearance together with Scenes of Crime officers and the laborious took began.
33. Thursday, 4th March 19P, was the first full day of XXXXX and the careful sieving yielded three rib hones, two small bones (possibly finger), and a fingernail. It became apparent that although effective, this form of searching was going to be a lengthy operation and the hire of plant machinery was considered to speed up the procedure. A plant machinery expert was called to the site and determined that the nature of the ground was such as to make that kind of excavation impracticable. Nevertheless the sieving method obviously had to be speeded up while weather conditions remained reasonably favourable. Heavy rain and cold would be extremely detrimental to the search.
34. A Dumper was hired for easier transportation of the loaded bins across the field and more bins and sieves were obtained and on Friday 5th March 1982 the number of sieves being worked was stepped up to five — with two men to each. Two other men were detached to the fringe of the copse to dig out animal holes.
The sieving on this day produced more fingernails, a small bone and a vertebra.
35. On Saturday, 6th March 1982 the number of operative sieves was increased to six and although the total yield was only one small bone and two teeth (possibly animal), spirits remained high despite the fact that the entire time the searchers were working in a fixed spot, running their hands through black slurry continuously washed by cold water.
36. Sunday, 7th March 1982 was a rest day, but on Monday, 8th March 1982 a further twelve operatives were back at the sieves in addition to the regulars in ‘The Bog’, i.e. the Water Board workers and the Scenes of Crime staff. By this time the area being lifted was moving away from the central point and towards the spot at which the lower jaw had been found – some 16’ 6″ west of the skull. It became apparent that as the dig went further out, the finds dwindled away. In fact nothing came to light on this day.
37. On Tuesday 9th March 1982 the dig went in the opposite direction towards the position of the scalp and hair but again the search proved fruitless. During the day officer reporting and Detective Inspector XXXXX together with the local gamekeeper looked at fox earths in the vicinity considering the possibility that bones had been carried thorn by the inhabitant. It was decided to launch an attack on a particularly large earth across a neighbouring field some half mile distant and on Wednesday, 10th March 1982 a team of twelve, supervised by a Scenes of Crime officer, carefully dug out the earth for some considerable way and raked and sifted the sandy
soil as it was removed. At the end of the day, however, the only achievement had been to render a few foxes homeless. No bones were uncovered save for a couple of small birds heads.
38. While the fox earths were under siege, the main team was completing its search of the defined area in the bog with no further success and this being the third successive blank day and with the weather gradually worsening, it was decided to terminate the search. On Thursday, 11th March 1982 only the Scenes of Crime officers and the Water Board workers returned to the area to clear up, return equipment and secure the site.
39. Excluding the Sunday rest day, the concentrated search of seven days had yielded only small remains of the upper parts of the body, nothing of the lower extremities at all.
40. During the sieving procedure the water bowser was refilled three times and approximately 8000 gallons of water found its way via a culvert back into the copse.
41. All the items found were forwarded to Dr XXXXX the pathologist.
Quest for Users of Alder Copse Area
42. Early in the enquiry it was decided to ascertain details of all persons who used the vicinity of Alder Copse and this included the users of the layby which is directly opposite the copse on the north side of the A272. To assist in this an Incident post in the form of a caravan was set up in the layby and was manned from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. All persons calling at the caravan were
questioned regarding any sightings of vehicles or persons in the area of Alder Copse, particularly over the period of the Royal Wedding, and all details were passed to the incident room at Chichester for the necessary actions to be made out. Many lines of enquiry were discovered by this means and these will be dealt in detail laterin this report under a heading of Sightings.
43. Normally, based on the layby was a tea caravan and this was used primarily by long-distance lorry drivers. The owner of this business XXXXX was contacted and made two statements which detailed persons who she recalled as using the layby.
44. The necessary actions were instigated and all persons described by XXXXX in her first statement were traced but were unable to assist. In the second statement XXXXX spoke of two persons who called at her tea caravan and who were members of a Pigeon Racing Club.
45. It was ascertained that the Alder Copse area is a popular location with pigeon racing enthusiasts for the release of birds on training flights. Having been made aware of these facts, it was, of course, essential to trace any such enthusiasts who may have visited the area during the relevant period, July/August 1981; and who may have been able to assist with any information regarding their visits to the scene in question.
46. Furthermore, a number of unattended vehicles had been seen in the Alder Copse area and it was felt that some of these could be eliminated from the enquiry as being the vehicles used by pigeon racing enthusiasts.
In an attempt to inform these persons of our enquiries a press advertisement appealing for assistance was placed in the two following magazines: ‘The Racing Pigeon’ 14th May 1982 edition, and the ‘British Racing World’ 9th July 1982 edition, these being the national magazines for the racing pigeon fraternity,
Unfortunately there was a very poor response to these appeals, therefore the area secretaries of both the London and South of England regions of the National Racing Pigeon Association were contacted and requested to supply details of every club and club secretary in their respective catchment areas, which incorporated the following counties Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex and the Greater London area.
48. These details were duly supplied to this incident room and a proforma was drawn up for use by the investigating team and officers of other Police forces requesting enquires to be made of the Pigeon Racing Club secretaries to supply the following details; Name, address and description of each member, the make/model and colour of the vehicle the member was using during July/August 1981 and whether or not that member had ever visited the Alder Copse area on the A272 road during that period in question to release birds.
49. As can be seen from the proforma, the details of two men who were known to have visited the area releasing birds frequently throughout July/August 1981 were given, in an attempt to identify them as it was felt that they could well be of particular assistance to the enquiry having made numerous visits to the scene during the relevant time.
50. In all, some 465 clubs were contacted incorporating in excess of 18000 members. Response to this line of enquiry has been very good and each member who visited the scene during July/August 1911 has been interviewed regarding his observations at that time. However, this line of enquiry is as yet incomplete but continuing and to date the two men described in the proforma have not been positively identified. Although there have been some possible eliminations of motor vehicles from this line of enquiry, no positive elimination has been possible.
AA & RAC
51. It was decided to contact the Automobile Association and the Royal Automobile Club to ascertain whether any of their patrols attended breakdowns between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. on the night of 29th/30th duly 1981 in an area on the A272/A3 roads in the Petersfield/Rogate areas.
52. The AA were contacted by DC XXXXX and photocopies of all breakdown calls were requested and, at that stage there appeared no problem: The RAC were also contacted by DC XXXXX and agreed to supply the information.
53. Mr. XXXXX the regional manager of the Road Services Department of the AA based at Famum House, 52 London Road, Twickenham, contacted the incident room later and stated that it was not possible to supply the information as previously requested but suggested that we contact the various patrolmen to see if they could assist. He supplied a list of names and addresses. Each of those officers have now been interviewed but none of them could supply any useful information.
54. The RAC supplied a complete list of all breakdowns which occurred during the relevant period but on checking none of them was of any use in this enquiry.
55. The reason these enquiries were initiated was to find out whether any vehicles fitting the description of the ones seen at or by Alder Copse during the relevant times could be traced and hopefully eliminated. Unfortunately this has taken us no further in identifying these vehicles.
House to House Enquiries
56. Teams of officers carried out house to house enquiries along the A272 from the junction of the A3 at Sheet eastwards to Rogate. All houses in that village were then visited and additionally the neighbouring village of Trotton. A total of 313 houses were visited but no useful information was obtained.
Local Farmers & Farm Workers
57. The house to house enquiries virtually included all farmers and farm workers but this was made a separate action to ensure that casual workers were also traced and interviewed. Contact was also made with local ‘shoots’ but it was found that the Alder Copse area had not been the subject of an organised shoot during the months from July 1981 to March 1982.
The Witness XXXXX
58. Mr. XXXXX who resides in Petersfield, Hampshire is employed as an artificial insemination technician XXXXX
Part of his duties necessitate him working in the Hampshire and West Sussex areas, visiting various farms. He frequently uses the A272 Petersfield to Midhurst road and has a considerable knowledge of the Rogate area including Alder Copse and the layby situated opposite.
59. At 1.30 p.m. on Monday, 15th March 1982 Mr. xxxxxxx called at the incident caravan which was parked in the layby opposite Alder Copse. He spoke to PC xxxxxx concerning the sighting of a vehicle in the layby on Sunday, 2nd August 1981 and the activities of two men in the fields opposite the layby on the morning of Monday, 3rd August 1981. This information was then passed to the incident room at Chlchester.
60. On 27th March 1982 Mr xxxxx was interviewed by xxxxx and a statement was subsequently obtained.
61. Mr. xxxxx made reference in his statement to the effect that during the morning of Sunday, 2nd August 1981 he saw a lime green Austin Maxi parked in the layby opposite Alder Copse. The occupant of the vehicle was a man of about 55 years of age who on the face of it appeared to be just relaxing in his car. There was nothing really suspicious about this vehicle.
62. He went on to say that the following day, Monday, 3rd August 1981, he was driving his motor vehicle along the A272 towards Petersfield and as he approached the same layby opposite Alder Copse he saw two male persons on the grass verge and near to the fence at the western end of the embankment which adjoins the two fields in which Alder Copse lies. The time would have been about 8.45 a.m.
63. He recalled at that time that one of the two men was holding the fence with one hand as if he was about to climb over the fence from the roadside verge into the field. As he drove past, this man stood and watched him.
64. Mr. XXXXX described this man as about 30 years of age, 6′ tall, medium build, dark skinned, possibly of Middle-Eastern origin. He had dark straight hair, closely cut to his head, bushy eyebrows and a Mexican-style droopy moustache that went down the sides of his mouth level with the bottom of his lower lip. He wore glasses with heavy thick black or brown frames, the arms of the glasses which go back the ears were unusually thick. He stated that the man was dressed, in a white shirt which had red lines running both vertically and horizontally across it forming inch squares. He was also wearing blue cord trousers or Jeans and that the man wore a gold chain with a medallion or ingot around his neck. He could also recall that the man was wearing a very heavy gold ring, possibly a sovereign-type ring.
65. He could not describe in much detail the second man who he states was crouched over with his back towards him. A comprehensive description of both men is attached to this statement.
66. As a result of this statement from Mr. XXXXX a photofit picture was obtained XXXXX.
67. Mr. XXXXX was not entirely happy with the photofit picture and subsequently drew his own artists impression of the Asian-type man standing at the fence near to Alder Copse.
68. In view of the most comprehensive statement made by Mr xxxxx and bearing in mind the intricate details he could give regarding one of these witnesses, enquiries were made with the managing director of the firm he works for in order that we could get some form of character reference to support one way or the other the validity of his statement. His employer informed us that he was an excellent worker, very articulate and a man who has a memory which cannot be touched by any other of his staff.
69. As a result of this information DC xxxxx interviewed Mr xxxxx again on 25th March 1982. Mr xxxxx then handed to the officer his own artists impression of the man standing by the field together with the man crouching down on the other side of the fence. This artists’ impression is attached to the same appendix. To explain more specifically the first two artists impressions made by Mr. XXXXX relate to (a) a full description of the man seen by the fence which he felt was a better likeness than the actual Police photofit assembly, and (b) his impression of the overall picture in respect of the man standing by the fence and the European man who was crouched beside this particular fence.
70. During this interview with Mr xxxxx stated to the officers that he had given this matter some considerable thought and had since recalled that when he passed Alder Copse and saw the two men by the field he also saw parked on the grass verge on the south side of the road opposite the layby and adjacent to the western entrance to the fields in which Alder Copse is situated a black Lancia HPE motor car. The vehicle was facing towards
Petersfield and he recalled seeing a male person standing a few feet in front of the vehicle. He described this person as about 50 years of age, 5′ 6” tall and in his opinion was of Asian origin.
71. He then went on to describe this person at length which can be seen in his statement.
72. He described the Lancia car as very clean and in good condition, it had been well polished and shone brightly in the early morning sun. He went on to say that he was absolutely certain that it was an ‘S’ registration car.
73. In view of this additional information from the witness, consideration was than given as to whether or not Mr xxxxx would remember more of the incident of Monday, 3rd August 1981 if subjected to hypnosis. This was approved and at 7.15 p.m. on Monday, 19th April 1982 Mr xxxxx attended Dr xxxxxxx surgery at xxxxxxxxxxx. During the course of hypnosis Mr xxxxxx recalled even further descriptions of both men standing by the fence at the north-east corner of the field near to Alder Copse and also elaborated on the description of the man and the vehicle (the black Lancia motor car) which was positioned at the north-east end of the field near to Alder Copse.
74. Two very interesting factors emerged whist XXXXX was subjected to hypnosis. They are as follows:
With reference to the two men seen standing by the fence at the north-west end of the field he then recalled that they were in possession of a hessian-type sack about four to five foot long which was apparently heavy. Both men were swinging the sack in
a pendulum-type fashion in order that they could swing it high enough and to drop it over the other side of the fence. Both men then jumped over the fence to the south side.
75. Mr xxxxxx then went on to describe to Dr xxxxxxx further details in respect of the Lancia car. Mr xxxxxx was adamant that it was black and was a Lancia 2000. He recalls that a windscreen wiper was affixed to the rear of the vehicle, which was shiny black and the silver was polished.
76. With regard to the registration number of the vehicle he felt that it was an ‘S’ suffix with numbers which included 5, 6 and 4. He could not see the complete index number as there was a plastic sack obstructing his view.
77. The other interesting factor that emerged from the hypnosis was that Mr xxxxxxxx not only recalled seeing the two men by the fence at the north, eastern part of the field, and the man standing by the Lancia car at the north-west end of the field, but also a fourth man walking across the field towards the copse having obviously walked from the direction of the black Lancia car. He could only describe this fourth man as coloured, possibly a Pakistani, with black hair which was combed back, broad build, about 6′ tall. He believes that this fourth man walking across
the field was wearing a pink shirt with the sleeves rolled up and appeared to be carrying a plastic bag in front of him. He believes that the plastic bag was about 3′ long and similar to the plastic bag which was obstructing the rear number plate of the black Lancia motor car.
78. As a result of this further information from Mr xxxxx under hypnosis, an additional statement was obtained from him by DC xxxxxxxx on 20th April 1982. When the officer spoke to Mr xxxxxx produced to DC xxxxxxx an artists’ impression of the man standing by the Lancia car and the fourth man walking across the field as he recalled it looking out of the rear of his vehicle when travelling past towards Petersfield. xxxxxxx xxxxxxx Mr. xxxxxxx stated that this picture was from memory not as a result of his interview under hypnosis.
79. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx another artists impression which Mr xxxxx drew when he revisited the scene after being subjected to hypnosis.
80. As a result of the additional information having been educed from Mr xxxxx under hypnosis, enquiries were then made with PNC Unit at Hendon to obtain the registered owners of all black Lancia cars with the view of establishing the identities of the four men seen in the fields adjacent to Alder Copse. The computer print-out amounted to 1872 black Lancia vehicles. A proforma and covering letter with regard to enquiries to be made in respect of the owners of these particular vehicles were obtained and distributed to many forces in the country. XXXX
81. It soon came to light that in many cases the very dark coloured Lancia motor cars, i.e. brown, dark blue, green and the like, could very easily be mistaken for black. Therefore details were obtained from the PNC Unit at Hendon in respect of all very dark Lancia motor cars and subsequently 9103 such vehicles were forwarded to the incident room and each was made subject of letter and proforma to various forces in the country.
82. On 25th August’ 1982 Mr xxxxx was interviewed again to see if he could recall any further details in respect of the four men and in particular to the black Lancia motor car. This statement does not really take us any further other than Mr xxxxx being adamant that it was a Lancia 2000 HPE, He distinctly remembers looking at the Lancia nameplate on the rear tailgate of the vehicle and seeing the slanted vent at the rear of the offside rear window. This, for our purposes, eliminates other types of Lancia vehicles. Mr. XXXXX went on to say that he was of the opinion that an Asian type woman of about 30 to 40 years of age was seated in the rear of the Lancia car and was probably donned in a pale green satin or silk headscarf or sari.
83. One cannot really place a lot of credence on this additional information in view of the time lapse and the number of statements already obtained from Mr xxxxx. However, this particular information in respect of the woman seated in the car may have some connection in respect of another witness, a Mr xxxxxx, which will be mentioned later on in this report.
84. All 9103 proformas have now been circulated within this country and to date we have received approximately 80% of the replies.
Sightings of Asian Boys.
85. Miss. XXXX is employed as a cashier at the XXXX ten miles north of Petersfield. Her main duties are the supervision of the self-service patrol pumps and to operate the consul in the pay office.
86. She recalls that on the Royal Wedding Day, Wednesday, 29th July 1981, she commenced duty at 4 p.m. and between 5 and 6 p.m. that evening saw a large dark coloured saloon motor car pull onto the the forecourt for petrol. She is not certain of the make of the vehicle but feels it was probably a Datsun or Mazda, possibly dark maroon in colour and in a good clean condition.
87. The driver of the vehicle was an Asian man, probably Indian or Pakistani, of about 40 years of age, 5’ 9″ tall, stocky build with a rather large stomach. He was wearing a bright pink shirt with short sleeves, the shirt being open to half way down his chest. He was wearing a gold chain around his neck with a large gold medallion attached to the chain.
88. Miss. XXX is quite satisfied that the front passenger was also of Indian or Pakistani origin, about 40 years of age, 5′ 9″ tall, stocky build and he too had a rather large stomach. One thing she did recall in respect of the front passenger was that the the white part of his eyes had a yellow tint to them. She was of the opinion that he was wearing a navy blue shirt with short sleeves and thought the shirt possibly had white trimming. During an interview Miss. XXXX said that one of these two men wore a very
large gold ring which was a round shape and stood out, very proud on his hand.
89. Sitting in the rear of this vehicle and immediately behind the driver was another Asian youth who, she states, was aged about 18 years. She described him as about 6′ tall and of very lean build. She seemed to recall that he was bare-chested and that he was probably wearing blue denim jeans.
90. Sitting next to this 18 year old youth was another Indian or Pakistani boy who Miss XXXXX describes as about 10 years of age and some 4′ tall. He, like the other three passengers, had very dark hair and she believed he was wearing a pale coloured T-shirt with short sleeves. She got the impression that the T-shirt was possibly striped horizontally and may have had a collar but she was not too sure of that fact.
91. The driver and front passenger got out of the vehicle and the passenger operated the pump to fill the car with petrol. The driver made his way to the kiosk and held a conversation with Miss XXXXX in respect of the Royal Wedding which Miss XXXXX was viewing on a portable television in the kiosk. She was of the opinion that the driver had probably lived in England all his life as he had no sign of a foreign accent.
92. Once the front passenger of the vehicle had filled the car’s tank with petrol, he went to the kiosk and asked Miss XXXXX the location of toilets. The 18 year old youth and the 10-year old boy then alighted from the car and made their way to the
93. According to Miss XXXX the 10-year old boy did not seem to be at all distressed and walked quite happily in front of the 18-year old youth to the toilets which were nearby. The front passenger went into the kiosk and purchased items of refreshment and the driver paid for the petrol. By this time the 18-year old youth and the 10-year old boy had returned to the car from the toilets.
94. The car was then driven away travelling south on the A3 towards Petersfield. Miss XXXX recalled that either the driver, or the front passenger, also wore a gold-coloured wristwatch with a square or oblong face.
95. The information from Miss XXXX was passed to the incident room at Chichester together with a statement from her. An interesting fact then emerged when one compared the statements made by Mr. XXXX on 22nd and 25th March 1982 and that of Miss XXXX on 30th March 1982.
96. Miss XXXX states that the vehicle which called at her garage on the day of the Royal Wedding was probably foreign, fairly new and very dark in colour. Mr XXXX states that the vehicle he saw at Alder Copse some five days later on Monday, 2nd August 1981 was a Lancia motor car and he was adamant that it was black or at least very dark in colour.
97. Another interesting fact was the description given by Miss XXXX of the driver or indeed the front passenger of the vehicle that called at her garage on 29th July 1981. She was of the opinion that the driver was about 40 years of age, 5’ 9″, stocky
build with a large stomach. She recalled that he was wearing a gold necklace with large gold medallion attached, and that either the driver or the passenger was wearing a gold wristwatch. When one compares this description and that of Mr XXXX’s description of the man standing by the fence it could very easily be assumed that both described men may well be one and the same person. The description of the other persons seen by both witnesses, Mr XXXX and Miss XXXX do not appear to marry up; however, it cannot be completely ruled out that both persons were describing the same vehicle and occupants.
98. It was felt by members of the murder squad team that additional information could well be educed from Miss XXXX if she would agree to be subjected to hypnosis. She was spoken to on these lines, agreed to be hypnotised, but unfortunately when she was taken to Dr XXXX’s consulting rooms she was unable to relax sufficiently to be placed into a state of hypnosis.
99. Although Miss XXXX expressed regret for not being able to be subjected to hypnosis she did state that she would be willing at some future date to try again, It was felt that this would not be a viable proposition due to the lapse of time and her unreliability.
100. Mr XXXX lived in the London area and stated that around 1.45 to 2.p.m. on the Royal Wedding Day he drove his car along the Upper Richmond Road towards East Putney District Line station. As he approached the station he noticed a large light-coloured car parked on the nearside of the road outside the Olivetti building facing towards Wandsworth.
101. He was not too sure of the description of the vehicle but thought it was possibly a Granada. As Mr XXXX drove towards this vehicle and about to overtake it he saw a man walk from the pavement on to the road at the rear of this vehicle. He had a young boy with him and the men appeared to be leading the child tight by the arms and Mr XXXX saw this man pushing the young boy towards the offside rear of the stationary car. Someone apparently opened the rear door from the inside and the child was pushed into the back of the car.
102. Mr XXXX describes the man as between 30 and 35 years of age, 5′ 10″ tall, slim build, he was smartly dressed in a dark suit and was of Asian appearance. He described this gentleman as of military type.
103. The boy, he recalls, was of about 12 years of age, again of Asian appearance with black hair medium length; slim build and, as far as he could recall, was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and dark coloured trousers.
104. Mr XXXX states that when the Asian gentlemen was bundling the young boy into the rear of the stationary car, he got the impression that the boy seemed to be very surprised at the actions of the man as though he was not quite sure of what was going on. Mr XXXX had to swerve to avoid colliding with this stationary vehicle, when the rear door had been opened and the boy bundled in. It was because of this that Mr XXXX can say that he is positive that there was some other person seated in the rear of the vehicle. He was not too sure of the identity of the person.
but was of the impression that it was probably a woman wearing a shawl or sari. He was also of the opinion that there was another person seated in the front passenger seat and that all occupants were of the Asian race.
105. Comparing Mr. XXXX’s statement with those of the witnesses, Mr. XXXX and Miss. XXXX it soon came to light that there were similarities in respect of the sightings and possibly vehicles witnessed by all three persons. Mr. XXXX and Mr.XXXX both make mention of the possibility that a woman was seated in the rear of the
car wearing a shawl or sari. Mr. XXXX and Miss. XXXX both make reference to the sighting of a large car containing four Asians during the afternoon of Wednesday, 29th July 1981, the day in question. Mr. XXXX speaks of this particular vehicle seen in Upper Richmond Road which is approximately half a mile from the A3 and of
course Miss. XXX makes reference to the sighting of the Asians in a large car at the garage at which she works which is on the A3.
106. Having discussed the three matters at length, it was decided that an approach should be made to Mr. XXXX to see if he would be to be subjected to hypnosis with a view to educing more information in respect of what he saw on the day in question. Mr. XXXX agreed and 3.23 p.m. on Monday, 23rd August 1982 he was hypnotised by Professor XXXX at the University XXXX. During the hypnosis Mr. XXXX recalled that the vehicle was not light in colour but a very dark blue which now seemed to fit in with the similar vehicle seen by
Miss. XXXX and probably similar to that seen by Mr. XXXX He stated that the young boy when being bundled into the car appeared startled and Mr. XXXX was of the impression that the child did not actually know the man. He was also positive that there was someone else in the car particularly in the rear of the vehicle and although he could not be certain he seemed to recollect that the person was in fact wearing a white shawl covering the head or shoulders. Other than these facts we were not taken much further forward with regards to identification of the vehicle or the occupants.
107. As a result of the additional information elicited from Mr. XXXX and especially the exact location (outside the Olivetti building which is opposite the flower stall outside the railway station) further enquiries were made by members of the murder
team at Putney, especially that of interviewing persons working at or who were in the vicinity of the Olivetti building. The result was negative.
108. Although there are many similarities in the statements made by Miss. XXXX & Mr. XXXX and Mr. XXXX every possible angle of enquiry has in fact been completed without success.
109. During the afternoon of Wednesday, 29th July 1981 (the Royal Wedding Day) Mr. XXXX was walking on the Southdowns Way and at 3.15 p.m. he had reached a point in the vicinity of Beacon Hill, Elsted. He there saw an Asian boy aged between 8 and 10 years, of thin build and dressed in a striped shirt,
accompanied by a white male, aged 30 to 40 years and approximately 6′ tall. Mr. XXXX continues his statement by saying that he again saw this couple at approximately 5.15 p.m. the same day when they were walking from Twyford towards the South Downs.
110. As a result a photofit was compiled from the descriptions supplied by Mr. XXXX the white male.
111. Following this report enquiries were made at private and local county schools throughout the area including Petersfield in an effort to establish whether this Asian youth attended any of those schools This was continued by enquiries at hotels, guest houses and similar types of accommodation to ascertain if an Asian family or at least an Asian boy had been a guest at any of those premises. Both these lines of enquiry proved negative.
112. In view of the popularity of the Southdowns Way as a walk for ramblers
and youth organisations, arrangements were made to obtain lists of all persons staying at the youth hostels in the area and also of all rambling clubs to find out if any of the members of those clubs were walking in the vicinity of Beacon Hill during the relevant time. This amounted to several hundred actions but in due course all proved negative.
113. Amongst the statements received from the Metropolitan Police in relation to the enquires prior to the the discovery at Rogate was one from a Mrs. XXXX which also states that on Sunday, 2nd August 1981 at about 6 p.m. she was at Beachlands Fair on the seafront at Hayling Island, Hampshire, with her granddaughter.
Near one of the amusement arcades she saw an Indian boy aged about 8 years. Mrs. XXXX felt there was a considerable similarity between the photograph in the newspaper of the missing Vishal MEHROTRA and the boy she had seen at the fair.
114. As a result of this statement a team was sent to Hayling Island where they obtained details of all known holiday camps, caravan sites, camping sites, holiday chalets, hotels and boarding houses. All these premises were then visited and records checked to see if any Asians had stayed on the island during the relevant period. Members of the staff at these establishments were also spoken to but none of them could recall any Asian families who were guests at those establishments during the latter part of July or early August 1981.
115. Mr. XXXX was in Petersfield on Saturday, 1st August 1981 when at approximately 11 a.m. he saw a young Indian or Pakistani boy near John Menzies newsagents shop. He describes the boy as being some 10 years of age and approximately 4′ in height. Accompanying this boy was a white female of some 18 to 25 years, 5′ 6″ tall, slim build with short blonde hair. Enquiries in the area discovered a XXXXX the news manager of XXXXX shop, who will state that on a Sunday morning somewhere close to the date of the Royal Wedding a young Indian or Pakistani boy was in the shop between 9 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. He describes the boy as 9 to 12 years old, 4′ tall and very slim.
116. In view of those sightings in Petersfield enquiries were made of all hotels and guest houses in the town and this was coupled into the enquiry in relation to the sighting of the boy near Beacon Hill. Subsequently a boy was traced to the Petersfield area who had been adopted by a white family and he was found to be the boy who called at the John Menzies shop. We can therefore eliminate the Petersfield sightings from the enquiry as this boy was not the one subject of the other local sighting.
117. On a Saturday in August 1981 a Mr. XXXX of XXXX was driving his car along the country road between Durford and Nursted. At one point where there is a sharp bend in this road he had to stop to permit a Land Rover to pass in the opposite direction; there he saw an Indian or Pakistani boy aged about 11 years, slim build with black hair walking along the grass verge, followed closely by a 30 to 35-year old white man whose description he supplies.
118. The reason he recalls this particular incident in that he noticed that the boy was distinctly unhappy and that there were tears streaming down his face.
119. Following the report of this particular sighting enquiries were made at all houses in the Durford and Nursted area with particular reference to the Land Rover seen by Mr. XXXX. Despite every person in the area being interviewed no trace was found of the boy described by Mr. XXXX nor was it found that any such lad was lodging at any place in the area during the relevant time.
Goodwood Race Meetings
120. The A272 from Petersfield eastwards is a route used by numerous people to attend race meetings at Goodwood Racecourse. Such a race meeting was being held during the last week of July 1981 at Goodwood and it was therefore thought that persons who attended that race meeting on the Royal Wedding Day may well have passed Alder Copse en route to the racecourse.
121. Initially an audio tape and subsequently a video tape requesting assistance in the Rogate enquiry was made and put into use during the subsequent race meetings in 1982. During the period of these meetings a caravan was situated at the racecourse and a second vehicle at an incident post in the layby opposite Alder Copse. In respect of the latter vehicle signs were once again erected on each side of the A272 approaching the layby requesting persons who had attended the race
meeting at Goodwood during the July 1981 meeting to call at the caravan if they had seen anything which might assist in this enquiry. This particular line of publicity had little or no response from the public with the exception of a statement from a Mr. XXXX which is dealt with in the following paragraphs.
Cortina Estate Car Enquiry
122. Following the further publicity on the anniversary of the Royal Wedding Day, a Mr. XXXX a driver for XXXX contacted the incident post at the layby opposite Alder Copse. Mr. XXXX was uncertain of dates but described to police officers that it was his regular habit of stopping in the layby between 10.50 a.m. and 11.10 a.m. on Saturday mornings. He would then remain for some three quarters of an hour.
123. On either Saturday, 1st or 8th August 1981 whilst Mr. XXXX was in his lorry in the layby he saw a maroon Mk III Cortina Estate car with an ‘L’ registration pull in behind his vehicle. Mr. XXXX will say that he is certain of the type of vehicle because he own a similar model with the same suffix. He noticed that the driver of the Cortina was of Asian appearance and describes him as some 5′ tall, well built with a pot belly. He considers that this man of Asian appearance was in his late forties. Mr. XXXX watched this man for a short while and then saw him drive his car past the lorry and out onto the A272, turning left towards Rogate. As the vehicle passed, Mr. XXXX noticed that there was a grey blanket covering the whole of the rear compartment. He could see that this was covering some item but had no idea what that item was.
124. At this point a Dutch registered motor car drove in to the layby and Mr. XXXX had a conversation with the occupants regarding the route to Dover. Several minutes later he saw the Ford Cortina driven by the Asian person return to the layby from its west end and park just inside the entrance. Mr. XXXX had no clear recollection of the incidents following this but believes that on looking back to the Cortina that the driver was no longer inthe vehicle. Shortly after this Mr. XXXX left the layby and continued on his journey.
125. Following further interviews Mr. XXXX was able to fix the date on which he stopped in the layby and saw the Asian person as being that of Saturday, 8th August 1981. This he was able to do because of the particular article he was reading in a magazine at that time.
126. A check was made with PNC and it was found that there were only 163 maroon Cortina Estate cars with the suffix ‘L’. In view of this small number a proforma was designed and sent to police forces for the necessary enquiries to be made of the registered keepers of those Cortinas. XXXXX. At the date of reporting 15 replies leave yet to be received.
Other Missing Boys
127. On the suggestion of the Assistant Chief Constable, Mr. XXXX a request was made to New Scotland Yard for details of boys aged under 15 years who had been reported missing between 1st January 1981 and 31st July 1981 from the Metropolitan Police District and southern England. A total of 377 such children was supplied by R14 Branch of New Scotland Yard and a proforma was then devised requesting that the record of each such missing person be checked to ascertain if he had been the subject of abduction, molestation or had been subjected to any act of indecency whilst ‘missing’.
128. To date all but 34 of these enquiries have been completed but no useful information has been adduced.
Check on Indecency Offenders
129. Prior to the discovery of the bones at Rogate and during the course of the Metropolitan Police enquiry into the disappearance of Vishal MEHROTRA, a number of persons living in the Putney area who had previous convictions for indecency offences were interviewed in order to eliminate them from the enquiry.
130. Following the discovery of the remains at Rogate in March 1982 the Metropolitan Police continued in the same vein interviewing some fifteen more persons located in or about Putney. In order to augment this enquiry application was made to New Scotland Yard for the records of all indecency offenders in the south of England. These were carefully vetted to eliminate those who for some reason considered not to be possible suspects, leaving some 192 persons to be traced and interviewed.
131. Teams from Sussex with the assistance of Metropolitan officers and officers from other forces throughout the south of England traced a large number of those persons who were then interviewed in order to ensure that they had a sufficiently strong alibi to eliminate them from the enquiry.
132. To date there are still a number of these persons e to be traced. XXXXX
133. With the assistance of the police in Putney full details were obtained of the clothing worn by Vishal MEHROTRA on the day of his disappearance. These details were found to be as follows:
(i) Navy short-sleeved blue T-shirt with thin white horizontal stripes. ‘St Michael’ make;
(ii) Black corduroy trousers – two rear and two front pockets with possible ticket pocket at front. KIKKU make. Legs of trousers taken up 3″;
(iii) ‘Wizfid’ make blue training shoes size 13 child, or size 1 adult, with green coloured toe and heel with four vertical white bars down each side and white laces. The make of the shoe is attached to the tongue and on the side of the heel of both shoes. The shoes were also made in the Philippines;
(iv) Navy blue or could be black and white socks, mid calf or knee length (details vague)
(v) Pair white St. Michael make underpants or pair of white or colour nylon pants with possible figure of Superman thereon. St. Michael’s tab on inside;
(v.i.) Possible white nylon sleeveless vest, made In India with a tab marked ‘Go Gay with Baba/65/BabaS Gentel/Egyptian’.
134. Comment will be made later in this report under the heading of Pathologist’s Report concerning the question of only the upper remains, i.e. bones, of Vishal being found in Alder Copse. From the list of clothing shown above it can be clearly seen that’ numerous items would not rot away completely despite the adverse conditions in Alder Copse.
135. In view of this following the thorough search of the copse itself, the fields nearby, the road verges to the east and west of the copse, nearby woodland and the fox earths were also searched an attempt to locate any item of clothing which could be identified as that of Vishal.
136. The importance of tracing this clothing in obvious in that it would help to assist with the movements of the child and also as to whether he was placed naked in the copse. Certain items were found in or about the copse such as plimsolls and socks and these were later shown to the father, Mr. MEHROTRA, but found not
to be those worn by Vishal on the day of his disappearance.
137. All forces in the United Kingdom were telexed giving a full description of the clothing and this was also passed to the media who by their various channels circulated the description to the public.
138. To date no item of clothing worn by Vishal on the 29th July 1981 has been recovered.
139. As stated earlier, Dr. XXXXX attended Alder Copse and examined the remains in situ. He then took away the recovered bones for further examination, other items found being later conveyed to his laboratory.
140. Dental charts were obtained of Vishal MEHROTRA by the Putney team and following examination of the jaw bones and recovered teeth together with the super-imposed photograph of the skull, Dr XXXXX was satisfied that the bones found in Alder Copse were those of Vishal MEHROTRA.
141. The pathologist makes it clear in his statement that:
(a) None of the lower bones of the body were amongst the bones recovered from Alder Copse.
(b) He found nothing to suggest that the body had been dismembered deliberately after death;
(c) He was unable to determine the cause of death and could find no evidence of any disease in the remains to account for death.
(a) Vishal MEHROTRA was last seen in Upper Richmond Road, Putney by his sister and nanny at approximately 1.40 p.m. on Wednesday, 29th July 1981.
(b) The bones subsequently identified as the remains of Vishal were found in Alder Copse, Nr. Rogate, West Sussex on 21st February 1982;
(c) Only bones from the upper part of the body were recovered from Alder Copse;
(d) The pathologist could find no indication that the body had been dismembered deliberately after death;
(e) The pathologist could find no sign of natural disease in the recovered bones which would have accounted for the death
(f) Vermin could well have been responsible for the removal of many of the lower. bones from the copse;
(g) No clothing belonging to Vishal was found at or near Alder Copse;
(h) The only “connection” between Upper Richmond Road and Alder Copse is the close vicinity of the A3 trunk road;
Therefore, despite extensive enquiries we are unable to say when, how, where or why Vishal died.
Liaison with Other Forces
143. In addition to constant liaison with the Metropolitan Police (Putney), discussions and contact were made as set out below;
(i) Detective Superintendent XXXXX Devon & Cornwall Constabulary re Genette TATE missing since August 1978;
(ii) Detective Chief Inspector XXXXX of Northumberland Constabulary re murder of Susan MAXWELL in August 1982;
(iii) Detective Inspector XXXXX Staffordshire Constabulary re body of Susan MAXWELL found in Uttoxeter;
(iv) Detective Superintendent XXXXX of North Yorkshire Constabulary re murder of David MILNER on 14th August 1982;
(v) Detective Superintendent XXXXX Leicestershire Constabulary re man CORRIGAN in custody awaiting :trial fox the murder of a young boy;
(vi) Detective Inspector XXXXX Hampshire Constabulary re the murder of two women in a park in Aldershot in August 1982,
Liaison with the Father of Vishal
144. Throughout the inquiry the Putney officers have updated Mr. MEHROTRA with aspects of the enquiry and on one occasion he visited the incident room at Chichester.
H. M. Coroner
145. A file will now be submitted to H. M. Coroner for West Sussex in order that an inquest can be held in the near future, which will then permit the release of the remains to Vishal’s relatives.
146. A number of enquiries are still outstanding and on their completion a supplementary report will be submitted.
147. I ask that copies of this report be forwarded to the Assistant Chief Constable, Operations, Sussex Police, and Detective Chief Superintendent XXXXX Metropolitan Police (two copies).
From Vikram Dodd’s latest story in The GuardianHERE
In one instance Nick correctly described the interior of a military premises in southern England, where he claimed abuse had taken place. The details he provided were not publicly available, and the premises itself is not open to the public, making it likely he had been there at some stage, police concluded.
On the 28th July 2014 Nick wrote on his blog (now removed) about visiting the place the year before (Easter or late Summer 2013)
Some places however still hold such terror for me and for those places I have not been back since I was a child / teenager. I have even taken detours to avoid them. Last year however, I found myself having to go back to one particular place because of work. I could not refuse to go and my counsellor and I arranged a trip back so she would be there to support me. I decided that I had to drive, really just to give me something to do rather than just sit in the passenger seat. As the name of the town began to appear on the road signs, my anxiety started to increase and became stronger the nearer we got. It was my first time back since leaving as a child. As we got nearer, I was fighting back the tears and went quiet (something that is a survival tactic for me in times of high anxiety).
As soon as we entered the town, there was my old school and it didn’t seem to have changed much. I saw the place they used to park when picking me up and even after all these years, I could still retrace my walk home, and could still find our old houses. We went to look at another location nearby and after a while and with my counsellors help, the anxiety started to reduce and I was able to talk about the significance of everything.
I realise that there was nothing to be scared about now, yes bad things had happened there as a child, but it was many years ago and I was not that scared boy any longer. As a man, it held no fear for me now. Because this had gone reasonably well. I decided to go back to another location that is normally closed to the public. I did not feel the same level of anxiety driving to this location as I had done previously, whether that was because I had learnt there was nothing to be scared of, or whether it was the circumstances in which I was taken to this particular location, I don’t suppose I will ever know for sure.
However, this changed when I arrived and saw the buildings once again, my anxiety shot through the roof instantly and it took all my strength to continue. I was approached by a volunteer who wanted to make sure I was ok, and then asked me if I wanted to know about the area and have a tour. Without knowing it this broke some of my anxiety and I wanted to tell them that I knew the area very well unfortunately and perhaps I should give them a tour. They left me to roam myself and I went into a few buildings that as a child had been the site of torture, terror and pain. In one building there were still the hooks on the wall where I had been tied and all I could do is stand and stare at them and let the tears flow. I had to move outside to get some air and gather my thoughts and this in itself was such a surreal experience. It was a lovely warm day, and there were people, couples and families all enjoying a day out. Some people had brought picnics and the children were playing. Sounds of talking, laughter and excited screams from the children playing their games. All I remember was the darkness and the silence. The only screams that were heard were mine as they pierced the night and they were not screams of pleasure.
Here I was looking at all these people enjoying themselves with absolutely no comprehension of what had taken place there many years ago. And why should they, it was in the past, my past and they are much better off not knowing what their fellow man was capable of.
In a story in The Guardian written by Vikram Dodd (Let’s give him all the recognition he deserves) we learn that Operation Midland is set to announce that Harvey Proctor will not face any charges related to allegations made by their only witness Nick.
The article which can be found HERE is probably one of the most desperate examples of spin that you are ever likely to read.
The police have a legal obligation to inform the complainant of any important developments in the investigation within 5 working days. Nick would have been informed about the raid on Mr Proctor’s home, and his questioning under caution by the police. Similarly he will have needed to be told that the police are not going to charge Harvey Proctor. As on the other occasions this means that Nick will inform Exaro News.
But there is a problem. Who is going to seriously believe this crap if it is published on Exaro ?
Obviously nobody with even an ounce of common sense. So what they’ve done is feed the story to a friendly Guardian journalist. Vikram Dodd gets the scoop about Harvey Proctor and Exaro get to pre-empt the announcement with a final chance to try and persuade everyone to their deluded way of thinking because the next person to be officially told will be Harvey Proctor and he’s going to be in a rage when he’s told and he’s going to shout from the rooftops.
Taking one look at the shit sandwich which are the bullet points in the article and it should be clear that this is what has happened because I can tell you confidently that the Met would never brief any newspaper in a way that makes them look like imbecilic morons as this does.
Lets deconstruct the shit sandwich. Separate the bare facts in the bullet points from the Exaro spin.
First the bare facts:
No specific dates of alleged attacks have been established, nor has any direct evidence of murder been uncovered, or specific links to homicide victims.
The Crown Prosecution Service is unlikely to be asked to consider any charges by police
And now the unadulterated Exaro horseshit that the bullet points have been bulked out with, almost certainly included as a condition on publishing the Harvey Proctor scoop.
In one instance Nick correctly described the interior of a military premises in southern England, where he claimed abuse had taken place. The details he provided were not publicly available, and the premises itself is not open to the public, making it likely he had been there at some stage, police concluded.
Detectives have not been able to disprove Nick’s credibility, nor establish that his central claims could not have happened.
An informal review, conducted six months into the investigation by a senior officer with no previous connection to the team, concluded there was sufficient substance to continue the homicide and sexual abuse inquiries.
Most of the detectives drawn from the Met’s sexual abuse and homicide divisions believe Nick is credible.
The investigation has so far not uncovered enough evidence against a living person to reach the standard of reasonable suspicion necessary to make an arrest.
One final point if I may, technically police investigations never really close unless there is a conviction. There will be no arrests, no charges, and no convictions with regards Nick’s allegations but technically this investigation just like any other unresolved case will not close. So, don’t get too hung up on the terminology.
Several months ago I heard a very interesting rumour. It was that Nick had been taken around London by Operation Midland and had identified a house that had once been occupied by Leon Brittan for only a very short period; the rumour went on to suggest that the police felt that this was not easy information to find and that it was one of the reasons why Operation Midland were taking Nick’s allegations so seriously.
We were naturally very curious about this and set about investigating ourselves. Nick had blogged about this on 28th July 2014, just a couple of weeks after the first stories about him on Exaro News
” When I got to the meeting, I was asked if I would be prepared to look at several possible addresses of where I might have been taken as a child to be hurt. I agreed, and I was not told the actual address, we just went for a walk. As we turned into one street, I saw the name of the road and found it quite ironic because it bore the same name as the town where the abuse first started. Apart from that the name meant nothing to me, but as we walked into the street, my anxiety hit so unexpectedly, I had been here before and such vivid pictures started coming into my head, the flashbacks were starting again. My breathing increased dramatically, and I found myself gripping my hands so hard it was starting to take the skin off. I was fighting the flashbacks, but not to stop them from happening, but to work with them and try to remember my feelings and reactions. The tears were starting, but I had someone with me so was trying desperately to hold them back. We stopped the walk and headed to a coffee shop and gradually my anxiety reduced. After a break we headed for the second address”
If we strip away all the narrative there is one interesting clue and that is that the road had “the same name as the town where the abuse first started.”
We’ve made no secret of the fact that we’ve known Nick’s real identity for quite some time. Nobody leaked it to us we were able to discover it ourselves. Once we had Nick’s name we were able to unearth other information, this included the fact that Nick’s step father lived in the town of Wilton, near Salisbury, Wiltshire at the time his mother married him, which is also around the time that Nick first claims he was abused, and so it was extremely likely that Nick was referring to this address.
There are quite a few Wiltons in London, Wilton Street, Wilton Road, Wilton Close; we began trying to match one of these with Leon Brittan but without success. Perhaps we’d been wrong, perhaps Nick did possess knowledge that was difficult to easily explain away…
Then last Friday, Martin Walkerdine posted something on twitter that gave The Needle team a bit of a start;
Was the rumour inaccurate ? Certainly, if we strip away the rumour that set us investigating and look only at the facts, the fact of Nick’s own account, the fact of his step father living in Wilton, and the fact that Edward Heath lived in Wilton Street, Belgravia, it looks likes it.
Unlike the rumour suggested, it looks extremely likely that the property that Nick identified to police, on or around the 28th July 2014, belonged to Edward Heath and not Leon Brittan; unlike the rumour, suggested Edward Heath had lived there for a decade, and unlike the rumour suggested, far from being difficult to search for online it was very easy to find.
As Martin went on to explain to me, Edward Heath’s residence at 25 Wilton Street was book-ended by two quite newsworthy events. In 1974 the IRA attacked his home, and in 1984 there was a burglary there.
Now, I have no way of verifying this, as far as I understand it, Operation Midland has been a very tight ship and the only journalists they’ve talked to I’m aware of are from Exaro News, and perhaps some at the BBC. You can imagine also that supporters of Nick aren’t exactly climbing over themselves to pass information to me.
So, I’m honour bound to be straight with you; this is what I think to be true and not what I know to be true. Nevertheless, I thought I’d share this with you so that you can make your own judgement.
Correction: I’m going to leave the original text up but it has been pointed out to me that Edward Heath lived at 17 Wilton Street and not number 25.
When Exaro News first published a story regarding the Operation Midland witness Nick [12 July 2014], the reaction of The Needle team was one of shock but not, like most readers, because the allegations were so disturbing but because we could see straight away that Exaro had used someone we knew to have already told false stories to the press which had been published. This was not the only aspect of this story that made us extremely wary but it did leave us asking ourselves why it would be necessary, if Nick’s allegations were true, to use a false witness to bolster them ?
On the Panorama programme, broadcast 6th October 2015, this witness was referred to as ‘David’. We had become aware of David in the Spring of 2013 when stories published in the print media had quoted him as a witness for Elm Guest House stories. Later that Summer, he made contact with Chris Fay and during July, September and October of 2013 we were aware that he was being interviewed by Operation Fernbridge, by which time we had already formed the opinion that he was extremely unreliable.
Exaro’s first stories that used him as the primary source are dated to around December 2013. The stories fall into two broad categories – information that David claimed to have gleaned from the detectives during his 50 hours of interviews, and those in which David claimed to have been a direct witness to events. The first category included claims that Dutch police were investigating his claims, a security service agent had sat in on one of his police interviews, and that the police had a video of David and a former cabinet minister (Leon Brittan) attending a VIP sex party; the second category included claims that he had been sadistically abused by Sidney Cooke.
Exaro News were not the only media outlet to be running stories with David as the primary source. The Express, with the help of Bill Maloney, were doing so also. The story about the female former Conservative MP and another about a BBC Executive are examples of stories that appeared in The Express where David was the source.
At this point I’d just like to note that in the Panorama Chris Fay is the only individual who faces criticism, I think that it is deserved. However, the programme did not mention the role that Bill Maloney played and that of former East 17 front man Brian Harvey. All should stand together in the dock of public opinion for the way that they exploited David, and not Chris Fay alone.
All of the stories that I’ve mentioned above, all of them, in The Express and on Exaro News are untrue.
So you can imagine our astonishment when we saw that David was once again being wheeled out, this time to act as a corroborative witness for Nick.
Yesterday I spoke to David for the first time. As I did so the words of Daniel Foggo from the Panorama were ringing in my ears:
“David admits he finds it a struggle to recall details, and I’d certainly found it difficult to get a clear and consistent picture from him. In the past he’s been willing to tell people what they want to hear, and it’s possible that he may be doing that to us too.”
Foggo’s words had echoed the views I’d held myself for some time but the open acceptance by the programme makers that, because of David’s vulnerability, they couldn’t vouchsafe the accuracy of their own on camera interview with David seemed to highlight an implicit paradox regarding any value I might gain from talking to him myself. If I had not already been unequivocally certain that David was the source used by Exaro to corroborate Nick’s Dolphin Square claims then I would not have talked to him, much less referred to our conversation here and I’d ask readers to hold in the forefront of their minds Daniel Foggo’s caveat.
David appeared unaware that he was the corroborative ‘witness’ for Nick’s allegations in the early Exaro stories. He recalled talking to an Exaro journalist about Dolphin Square. He volunteered on more than one occasion during our conversation and without prompting that he had never been to Dolphin Square.
It is necessary during such difficult conversations to listen rather than talk for fear of leading a source. David was very upset by the way he had been used by Chris Fay, Bill Maloney, and Brian Harvey.
David is not a monster, he isn’t calculating or malicious. He went to a special needs school when he was a boy, he’s very easily manipulated, easy to take advantage of. He probably doesn’t like confrontation and so he tries to please those he communicates with, he tells people what he thinks they want to hear. He wants others to like him. I’m sure most readers can understand what that is like and will readily forgive him.
If David’s story had not touched on the Operation Midland fiasco, I wouldn’t have troubled him myself. I hope he can put what has happened over the last few years behind him and move forward with his life.
We know from Exaro’s Operation Midland stories that followed that the Metropolitan Police having seen these early stories asked to talk to Nick. Did they not also ask to talk to the other witness who at the time was unnamed? They must have. Exaro made it clear in the story of 1st November 2014 that the second witness would not talk to the police despite the Met’s request. Were the police aware that the second witness was David who they had already interviewed for 50 hours over numerous, diverse, and unrelated claims of child abuse a year previously? It’s not implausible that Exaro withheld David’s name from the police to protect a vulnerable anonymous source but under the circumstances, given the impression that the police must have been left with that there was potentially a credible corroborative witness for Nick’s claims, was that the right thing to do?
Most disturbing of all, is it possible that the now infamous ‘credible and true’ police press conference was an attempt at trying to get David to come forward and speak to them by publicly reassuring him that he would be believed?
It would be incredible if this were true. A handful of the Operation Midland detectives had previously worked on Operation Fernbridge they would have been fully aware of the kind of unreliable witness testimony David would provide.
I’m going to conclude by briefly looking at another claim I’ve heard, the suggestion of another second witness. This is from a single source, one who’s reliability I’ve not been able to test. However, we’re on the subject of second sources and readers can apply their own good sense in judging whether to hold much store in it. I’m on the fence.
I had been told that Nick has claimed that there is another corroborative witness who lives in Europe. According to the source, this witness only communicates with Nick and is too frightened to talk to the police. Naturally, this is worthless as far as the police investigation goes but it does have echoes of the kind of unverifiable evidence that we see elsewhere. For example, the fact that the establishment paedophiles Nick claims to have been sadistically abused by had their own medical doctor who patched him up, which means that there are likely no medical records of the injuries he claims he sustained; or the fact that Nick claims that he was taken to Paris to be abused by members of the Saudi royal family by private jet from an, as yet unidentified, airfield in southern England, which obviates the need for a passport or any record that may have existed that he’d travelled abroad.
All in all, a troubling picture that raises disturbing questions. Whether we get the answers, or whether there are too many vested interests who are guardians of the embarrassing truth, remains to be seen.
The Metropolitan Police Service has announced a formal review of the way its officers handled allegations of historic child sexual abuse. Former judge Sir Richard Henriques will examine the conduct of Operations Midland, Fernbridge, Fairbank and Hedgerow (and possibly others).
Those operations have cost well in excess of £2 million.
The Met Police statement was short on the detail of what exactly Henriques will examine. It is therefore unclear whether his remit will extend to the role played by Exaro News. If it does not, then his investigation will be a waste of the Met’s resources. Here’s why.
According to its own published statements Exaro has variously been at the heart of, or – in the case of Operation Midland – the cause of, the Met Operations which Henriques will review. For more than three years the website has promoted a series of allegations so assiduously that Scotland Yard has been led to spend millions of pounds investigating them.
At most this has led to one successful prosecution: not one of the most sensational – and expensive to investigate – claims Exaro promoted has led to a single charge.
Given Exaro’s central role in the alleged VIP paedophile abuse saga, I have asked it six serious questions.
You have claimed credit for assisting the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into Elm Guest House.
“Under Operation Fairbank, the Met launched an investigation into Elm Guest House with Exaro’s help.”
What independent efforts you made to establish a factual basis for allegations made by complainants to you ?
You have claimed credit for the Metropolitan Police launching “Operation Midland”.
Under its wide-ranging ‘Operation Fairbank’, the Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit is investigating activities at Dolphin Square, the complex near Parliament where many MPs have their London flats. The Met’s move was sparked by a report on Exaro in July of two separate witnesses’ accounts of child sex abuse at Dolphin Square more than three decades ago.
You have stated that an Exaro reporter provided to the Metropolitan Police Service a signed statement identifying a property in Pimlico as the key to “the dark secrets of a group of VIP paedophiles”.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service’s “Operation Midland” are investigating whether the Pimlico property – identified to them by Exaro – will help unlock the dark secrets of a group of VIP paedophiles. … Just over a week ago our reporter signed a formal statement for police in connection with the property.
Whether this “identification” came from a claim from one complainant or more than one complainant ?
Whether you recorded this “identification” on audio or video ?
In the event that more than one complainant “identified” the property, what steps you took to ensure there was no cross-contamination between these claims ?
You have reported that a senior Metropolitan Police Service detective is under investigation for “leaking” (in subsequent reports “suspected of leaking”) the identities of child a=sexual abuse complainants to BBC’s Panorama programme.
Police are investigating a senior detective who is a confidential source for BBC1’s Panorama over the leaking of secret identities in abuse cases …The Met this evening issued a statement in response to the Exaro story confirming that it was investigating a complaint received last month about “improper disclosure”
Scotland Yard has passed to Britain’s police watchdog its investigation into a detective suspected of leaking identities of complainants in abuse cases to BBC1’s Panorama. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will itself carry out the investigation into the senior detective …
Whether Exaro News has unequivocal proof of the abuse and murder allegations it reported ?
Whether Mr Watts and Exaro News believe even unproven allegations amount to “undoubtedly the biggest political scandal in post-war Britain” ?
In the past Exaro has chosen not to respond to questions about its reporting, preferring instead to attack those who dare to pose them as (variously) “Police/M15 agents” or “an embarrassment to journalism”.
Should Exaro choose to respond to these latest questions I will post their answers on this blog.
Looking at yesterday’s flurry of news stories, the announcement by Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe that complainants in child sex abuse cases will not automatically be believed, his view that suspects should not be named until charged without a court order and Parliament’s vote last night to end the automatic naming of MPs on arrest for any offence, it is not hard to see why some will ask how it is that a situation has emerged in which such regressive measures have found a fertile environment to germinate and grow. It is in human nature to note consequences and attribute them to design. Cause and effect, Cui Bono?
Since the moment it became apparent that Exaro were relying on obviously false witnesses making exaggerated and sensationalist allegations of VIP abuse, attention turned to the organisation itself and those involved in an attempt at trying to determine some motive for the flagrant disregard for journalistic codes and practices. The logic is that we can all see the cause, we can plainly see the negative effect, and so there must be a nefarious motive.
Ironically, those that leap to such a conclusion are making a similar mistake to Exaro News themselves; by looking for an extraordinary conspiracy based explanation, they miss the very simple truth and that is that Exaro News and their manic online supporters actually believe the incredible version of recent history that they are defending. They live in a looking-glass world in which every fact is grotesquely distorted. For those of us that have not allowed ourselves to be indoctrinated into this cult-like world view, this seems incomprehensible.
For Exaro News journalists this has become a binary issue. Either a) they have uncovered one of the greatest scandals in history involving a secret cabal of sadistic paedophiles at the highest echelons of the UK establishment, or b) they are responsible for the greatest scandal in the history of UK journalism, one that has far reaching negative effects on the very people they claim to be supporting, the victims of child sexual abuse.
The stakes are high, the difference between the consequences of the only two outcomes is extreme. At the one end David Hencke, and Mark Conrad can take their places next to former Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who uncovered Watergate, and Mark Watts next to Ben Bradlee. They will be lauded for their courage and determination, they will receive awards, they will be held up by future generations of journalists as exemplars of the profession; alternatively they face humiliation, career-ending ridicule and future generations of journalists will regard their tale as an abject lesson in shoddy investigative journalism.
There is no middle ground now. These are the binary realities. Reputations permanently gilded, or tarnished forever.
It is because the consequences of having got it so it wrong are so unthinkable that Exaro News continue to strike outward. They will tell themselves that they are in possession of information that other commentators like myself do not have and that the very fact that respected journalists from a diverse number of media organisations are skeptical, to say the very least, and are increasingly prepared to publish that skepticism, is not an indication that they should objectively re-evaluate the situation but that everyone else, The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Daily Mail – and yes, even this little blog – are part of a giant establishment conspiracy to cover-up the truth, as they see it, about sadistic establishment paedophilia. Disagreement becomes confirmation, the greater the disagreement the greater the confirmation. We’re all part of an establishment PR campaign, they’ll claim. We all must be because the alternative… the alternative… the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
This is what always happens with conspiracy theories – as uncomfortable truths are unearthed, as evidence mounts that it is flawed, as the overwhelming majority of objective observers conclude that it is without foundation – the conspiracy by necessity must expand to accommodate these developments and the cult-like believers become more entrenched.
This is the Watergate Complex, a consequence of the binary outcomes of career death or glory.
The sadness is that the reality of child sexual abuse over the last five decades is scandalous enough. Abuse can be found to have occurred on an horrific scale in care homes, schools, scouting groups, churches and almost every institution where children congregate and predatory paedophiles could gain access to children. VIPs, celebrities and politicians were involved in abusing children and there have been cover-ups. The Goddard Inquiry is welcome and necessary.
The last three years, since Savile’s exposure, have presented to campaigners an unprecedented opportunity to raise awareness of a previously taboo subject, to sweep away ignorance and ensure that practical measures can be put in place like mandatory reporting to help ensure that future generations are not exposed to the same dangers that adult survivors endured.
However, the positive environment has been contaminated, the golden opportunity is being squandered. Instead of positive changes to the law, regressive changes are being mooted.
It is not just a binary issue for Exaro and their supporters, it is sadly also a binary issue for survivors.
By announcing this broader inquiry into VIP abuse investigations, Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe cleverly heads off calls for a specific Operation Midland inquiry once it closes, which would be extremely embarrassing, and at the same time the findings, when they are eventually published, will be diluted.
Nobody ever said BHH was stupid. He knew it was coming and he’s set the agenda on his terms.
A picture paints a thousands words…
The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has asked a former High Court judge to examine the way non-recent sexual allegations against public figures are investigated.
Sir Richard Henriques has agreed to conduct the independent review of a number of investigations and make recommendations about whether there are ways to improve the process for all of those involved in it in the future.
The key findings of the review and the recommendations will be published later this year, but the full review will contain confidential and sensitive information and will be a private report for the Commissioner.
The Commissioner said: “We are not afraid to learn how we can do these things better, and that’s why I’ve announced today’s review in to how we have conducted investigations in to non-recent sexual allegations involving public figures.
“I am pleased that Sir Richard brings an independent legal mind to advise us whether we can provide a better balance between our duty to investigate and the interests of suspects, complainants and victims.”
Sir Richard will agree in advance with the MPS which investigations will be part of his review.
The Commissioner is clear that the MPS wants the benefit of Sir Richard’s expertise and advice on handling investigations into non-recent allegations where the suspects are publicly identified – including those that have recently been in the public eye. This will include Operation Midland.
The Hon. Lowell Goddard, who is chairing the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, has been notified of the review.
The Commissioner added: “The review will focus on police procedures and will not reach judgments on the evidence. That is for the Public Inquiry to do, should they wish to examine any of the investigations covered by Sir Richard. A full copy of the review will be given to the Public Inquiry.”
Sir Richard Henriques conducted the independent review relating to the Lord Janner case.
Sometimes you just take for granted that everyone already knows something when in reality that is not the case; I realised that I’d made that error when I read the article in The Times [below] which referenced the ‘Dolphin Square’ stories in Scallywag Magazine from the 1990s.
These stories have been kicking around for the last 20 years and repeated online. I doubt that Nick has lifted extracts directly from Scallywag but stories about Dolphin Square probably influenced him in exactly the same way as online stories about Ted Heath, Leon Brittan, Jimmy Savile, Sir Peter Hayman, Harvey Proctor, and Greville Janner – were also an influence.
I should point out that I have heard credible accounts of ‘rent boys’ being taken to Dolphin Square. Just because one account is fictitious doesn’t mean that all are – in exactly the same way that just because Nick’s accounts of abuse against Savile, Hayman, and Janner are untrue it doesn’t follow that those three individuals weren’t child abusers.
Key elements of the main witness’s account of the alleged Westminster paedophile ring first appeared 20 years ago in a magazine whose editor later stood trial accused of spreading malicious lies.
Claims of child abuse “parties” attended by MPs, made to Scotland Yard by a man identified only as Nick, bear striking similarities to articles published in Scallywag in the mid-1990s.
Detectives investigating the informant’s allegations under Operation Midland admitted that they had not read the stories or even heard ofScallywag before they declared his story to be credible and true.
There are, however, common factors between accounts by Nick, as published by the website Exaro News, and articles that appeared inScallywag and are still available to read online:
• Dolphin Square in Pimlico, central London, is identified as the main location for “parties” at which children were abused.
• Children were said to have been driven to London from different parts of the country to be abused.
• The abusers are said to have been extremely aggressive, with Scallywag talking of “savage violence” and Nick telling Exaro about “brutal” assaults.
• Both sets of accounts focus on allegations that the abusers were senior figures in the Conservative party.
• In a Scallywag article from 1994, a “source” is quoted as saying: “We often have underage boys wandering the corridors, totally lost, asking for the flat of a particular MP”. An Exaro article from 2014 reports Nick describing how he was “escorted up several flights of stairs, down a ‘dimly lit and musty’ corridor, then he was taken into an apartment”.
We do not have the full report only Appendix A, which includes an edited version of the Key observations and Conclusions, which can be found HERE
The report concludes that the investigation into the allegations were justified. However, I’m unaware that anyone has suggested otherwise. A very serious allegation had been made and it was absolutely correct that it should be investigated and it was.
The report states that the first statement taken by South Yorkshire Police was of “poor standard” and that the second statement taken by the Metropolitan Police “lacked sufficient probing”. There is no reference made of any third statement to correct these shortcomings.
The report describes the conclusion of DCI Paul Settle (SIO) that the offence had not been made out due to issues of consent as “erroneous”.
No mention is made in the “Key Observations and Conclusions” of the reviewer’s opinion of the CPS’s independent assessment at the time which concurred with DCI Settle’s conclusion or the subsequent opinion expressed by the DPP Alison Saunders who told the Home Affairs Select Committee on the 21/10/2015:
“From the complainants account herself, we [CPS] didn’t think there was enough on that alone for it to go ahead and there would not be sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect [for conviction]”
As the reviewer has not referred to this we have no way of knowing whether he believes that the CPS and DPP took an ‘erroneous’ view.
All we can say is that following his independent review, he came, all be it grudgingly, to exactly the same conclusion as DCI Settle, the CPS and the DPP Alison Saunders.
Internal police politics – Who’d want to swim in that sewer?
Before continuing I need to make a quick correction. I’ve written before that there were around 60 detectives working on Operation Midland. In a story today the Daily Mail gives the number at 27. I’m happy to accept that I was wrong, and correct that mistake now.
Last Thursday BBC Radio 4 broadcast an episode of The Report entitled Lord Bramall: a failure to investigate. It can be listened to on BBC iplayerHERE but we’ve also saved a recording on Youtube which I’ve embedded at the foot of this post. The programme contained the first interview with Lord Bramall, it also highlighted some extraordinary shortcomings of the Operation Midland investigation, not least the failure of the 27 detectives to interview Nick’s ex-wife.
This post is an attempt at trying to explain why this omission is so difficult to understand.
In one of Nick’s own blog posts published 4th May 2014, which have since all been removed, he gives us a timeline of disclosure.
“I first disclosed that I had been abused 6 years after it had finished, and this was just to acknowledge that I had been hurt. 15 years or so after it ended, I was able to say that I had been raped but on both occasions I kept everything else to myself. 30 years after the abuse stopped, I finally disclosed everything.”
We know from elsewhere in his blogs that he claims his abuse ended when he was 16 years old, circa 1984, and so we can deduce that Nick disclosed physical abuse circa 1990, sexual abuse circa 1999, and the entire allegations that were investigated by Operation Midland, including rape, sadistic torture, and murder by VIPs circa 2014.
In his blog publishedAugust 10, 2014, Nick goes into significant detail about the circumstances in which he first claimed to have been sexually abused. This was during a one to one session with a marriage counselor and if Nick is consistent we can therefore date this to around 1999. The second person that he disclosed to was his then wife:
“Eventually it affected our relationship and she demanded we go to marriage guidance. I could not bear the thought of being alone, so agreed to go. But of course the counsellor wanted to know what was at the route cause of my intimacy issues. Eventually in a one to one session, I told her that I had been abused, and she had already suspected that it was the case. The counsellor encouraged me to tell my wife the reason so she could understand and help me work through things. So I did and that was the end of our relationship.”
It isn’t strictly true that that was the end of their relationship, the marriage didn’t break up for several years and in the intervening period they had a child together. I’m not going to quote more extensively from that post as I believe it would be unfair and hurtful to Nick’s ex-wife. Once a marriage breaks up there is always bitterness, blame, and recrimination and it is impossible to get a clear picture from just one of the parties involved.
What should be clear is that Nick’s ex wife would be able to shed a great deal of light on the circumstances in which Nick first claimed to have been sexually abused as a child. It must have been a desperate time for Nick – “I could not bear the thought of being alone”, he writes.
So, why didn’t Operation Midland interview Nick’s ex wife ?