In November 2014, Operation Midland was set up by the Metropolitan Police in London to examine allegations (which turned out to be false) of child sexual abuse and homicide, later extended to cover allegations (also turned out to be false) of three murders and activities at the Dolphin Square development in Pimlico and elsewhere; on 21 March 2016, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that Operation Midland had been closed without any charges being brought. An inquiry found that those investigated by police were victims of false allegations and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner subsequently apologised to them.
In November 2014 the Metropolitan Police announced that they were establishing Operation Midland, intended to examine claims made in November 2014 about a possible homicide more than 30 years previously. The police later stated that three alleged homicides were being investigated as part of the inquiry, and appealed for further information regarding activities at the Dolphin Square apartment block in Pimlico near the Houses of Parliament in the 1970s and 1980s. Events elsewhere in London and at military establishments were also under investigation.
Carl Beech ("Nick")
Operation Midland arose from claims (which turned out to be false) by Carl Beech (then given anonymity and instead referred to as "Nick"), a man aged in his 40s. Beech was contacted by Exaro, an investigative journalism website, and sold his story. Exaro then sold stories to newspapers about the alleged incidents, and a reporter from Exaro accompanied Beech ("Nick") to an early meeting with detectives, as an introductory measure, following a request by the Metropolitan Police agreed to by Beech.
Beech falsely claimed that his stepfather, a military figure, was the first to physically and sexually abuse him and that he was subsequently passed to other figures of authority during his childhood from 1975 to 1984. Beech made false claims specifically against twelve people, including the former Members of Parliament Harvey Proctor and Greville Janner, the former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, the former Prime Minister Edward Heath, the former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Bramall, the former Director of the Secret Intelligence Service Maurice Oldfield, and the former Director-General of MI5 Michael Hanley. Beech falsely claimed that he was abused at a number of places including Dolphin Square, the Carlton Club, and various other places in the Home Counties. Beech also falsely claimed that the group murdered three children: two for sexual pleasure, and a third to intimidate the others. Proctor's solicitors told him that Beech had alleged that he had seen Proctor repeatedly stab a 12-year-old boy before strangling him to death, and that he himself had been raped by Proctor.
The officer leading the investigation, Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, said in December 2014 that experienced officers had concluded that the allegations were "credible and true". McDonald was later criticised for the statement, and it was retracted. The very public nature of the investigation was modelled on the successful investigations of Operation Yewtree, but no further witnesses came forward.
Proctor detailed Beech's claims in public for the first time at a press conference, and also named his fellow accused. In September 2015 the Metropolitan Police said that they should never have asserted that "Nick"'s claims were true. Proctor and Bramall were subsequently interviewed under caution but were never arrested, and nothing was found in any police searches to support Beech's allegations. Bramall and Proctor both wanted Beech investigated for wasting police time. Brittan subsequently died during the inquiry without knowing that police had concluded, four months before his death, that there was no credible case against him. Nonetheless, police raided Brittan's home six weeks after his death and took computers, hard drives and papers without informing his widow of the reasons.
The Labour politician Tom Watson met Beech during the early stages of the investigation and subsequently claimed that Brittan was "close to evil". Watson later apologised to Brittan's widow for the comment. The Conservative politician Zac Goldsmith alleged in a parliamentary speech that Brittan was an abuser. The Guardian wrote in March 2016 that "Both politicians have been accused of abusing their positions to influence the police inquiries and cast aspersions upon alleged abusers".
An episode of the BBC investigation series Panorama, The VIP Paedophile Ring: What's the Truth? interviewed "David" and examined his claims. BBC journalists found that he had "told the Metropolitan Police he was worried that two well-known campaigners may have led him into making false claims." He said that the names were "a joke suggestion to start with but that suggestion became reality" and that he subsequently felt "guilty" for naming people he had never met. "David" told Panorama he believed that it was "time that the truth came out. I believe it's time that maybe the police could stop putting their efforts into things that probably aren't even true." In a statement issued before the broadcast of the programme the Metropolitan Police said that they were "worried that this programme and other recent reporting will deter victims and witnesses from coming forward in future. Seeing an individual make allegations and then be targeted by the media is not going to encourage others to speak out".
End of investigation
Metropolitan Police officers searched the homes of Field Marshal Lord Bramall in Yorkshire and London and the home of former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor on the estate of Belvoir Castle, in Leicestershire, as part of Operation Midland in March 2015. In interviews with the BBC, Proctor denied being part of any "rent-boy ring" or attending sex parties with prominent figures. Bramall also said that "categorically, never have I had a connection or anything to do with the matters being investigated. It is not in my character or my psyche."
In January 2016 the police confirmed that there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges against Bramall and that he would face no further action. Proctor was told he would face no further action in March 2016. Proctor later said that the investigations had "irreparably ruined my life" and that as a result of the allegations he had lost his house and his job. Proctor said: "I do believe it is profoundly un-British and unfair....I believe I have been pilloried and the Met Police service has enabled me to be wrongly depicted as a paedophile, child abuser, child murderer." These were, he added, the "worst things that can be said of a human being." Proctor called on Hogan-Howe to resign and stated that Operation Midland "has had a disastrous affect on genuine complaints of child sexual abuse, both present and historical. I think it has been incredibly counterproductive....And when they established the truth -- some time ago I think -- they were too afraid of each other and the media to pull the plug."
Apologies and compensation payments by the Metropolitan Police
An inquiry by the retired judge Sir Richard Henriques found in November 2016 that the Metropolitan Police made numerous errors, stating: "In short, these men are all victims of false allegations and yet they remain treated as men against whom there was insufficient evidence to prosecute them. The presumption of innocence appears to have been set aside." Northumbria Police later began investigating Beech ("Nick") for allegedly perverting the course of justice. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe personally apologised to Bramall and said that "Although police knew from very early on they had no case to answer they couldn't stop investigating because they didn't want to be accused of not investigating it properly." The investigation, he stated, had been an over-reaction to "apparent mistakes back in 2012 relating to revelations of very serious and serial child abuse, a mixture of public outrage and propaganda" which "put immense pressure through the Home Secretary, on the police". Bramall believed that a "witch-hunt culture [had arisen] in which child abuse, particularly historic child abuse, came to be dealt with entirely differently to other criminal offences". Hogan-Howe also apologised to Proctor and Lady Brittan, stating, "They have all suffered as a result of the investigation and our description of the allegations as ‘credible and true’. We should not have said this."
The Metropolitan Police agreed in September 2017 to pay compensation of around £100,000 to Lord Bramall and Lady Brittan, widow of Leon Brittan, in acknowledgement that their arrests and house raids had been wrongful and unjustified. Harvey Proctor was reported to be seeking compensation of over £500,000.
In July 2018 it was announced that Beech ("Nick") had been charged with twelve counts of perverting the cause of justice and one of fraud. After the lifting of reporting restrictions in December, Beech was publicly identified by name, as a 50-year-old former National Health Service manager from Newcastle. Beech is accused of obtaining £22,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority by submitting a false claim of abuse. In May 2019, Beech was placed on trial; he denied the charges against him. During the trial, it was revealed that Beech had previously been convicted of voyeurism and making and possessing indecent images of children, relating to offences committed while he was still making allegations to the police.
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