Operation Midland

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In November 2014, Operation Midland was set up by the Metropolitan Police in London to examine allegations of child sexual abuse and homicide,[1] later extended to cover allegations of three murders and activities at the Dolphin Square development in Pimlico and elsewhere;[2] on 21 March 2016, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that Operation Midland had been closed without any charges being brought.[3] An inquiry found that those investigated by police were victims of "false allegations" and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner subsequently apologised to them.[4]

Origins[edit]

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 over 30 years earlier.[1] 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.[2]

"Nick"[edit]

Operation Midland arose from claims by "Nick", a man aged in his 40s who was a child at the time of the alleged incidents.[5] Having written of his abuse, Nick was contacted by Exaro, an investigative journalism website. Exaro sold stories to newspapers about the alleged incidents, and a reporter from Exaro accompanied "Nick" to an early meeting with detectives, as an introductory measure, following a request by the Metropolitan Police agreed to by "Nick".[6]

Nick said 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. Nick specifically named 12 people in a group of powerful child abusers, including Harvey Proctor, the former home secretary Leon Brittan, the former prime minister Edward Heath, the former chief of defence staff Lord Bramall, the former director of the Secret Intelligence Service Maurice Oldfield, and Michael Hanley, the former Director-General of MI5.[6] Nick claimed that he was abused at a number of places including Dolphin Square, the Carlton Club, and various other places in the home counties. Nick also claimed that the group murdered three, two for sexual pleasure, and a third to intimidate the others. Proctor's solicitors told him that Nick had alleged that he had seen Proctor repeatedly stab a 12-year-old boy before strangling him to death; and that he had been raped by Proctor.[6]

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".[7] 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.[6]

Proctor detailed Nick'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 said that Nick's claims were true. Proctor and Bramall were subsequently interviewed under caution but never arrested, and nothing was found in any police searches to support Nick's allegations. Bramall and Proctor both wanted Nick investigated for wasting police time. Brittan subsequently died during the inquiry without knowing that police had concluded that there was no credible case against him four months before his death. Police had raided Brittan's home six weeks after his death and taken computers, hard drives and papers without telling his widow the reason.[6]

The Labour politician Tom Watson met Nick 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.[6] 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".[6]

"David"[edit]

An episode of the BBC investigation series Panorama, The VIP Paedophile Ring: What's the Truth? interviewed "David" and examined his claims, and 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 and that 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".[8][9]

End of investigation[edit]

In August 2015, it was reported by The Guardian that claims against former Prime Minister Edward Heath were being investigated as part of Operation Midland.[10]

In March 2015 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.[11] In interviews with the BBC, Proctor denied being part of any "rent-boy ring" or attending sex parties with prominent figures.[12] 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."[13]

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.[14] Proctor was told he would face no further action in March 2016.[15] Proctor subsequently 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" and that these were 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."[16]

Apologies and compensation payments by the Metropolitan Police[edit]

In November 2016, it was reported that an inquiry by Sir Richard Henriques found 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 subsequently began investigating "Nick" for allegedly perverting the course of justice.[4] The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe later 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" and that the situation surrounding the inquiry arouse out of "...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 [arose] in which child abuse, particularly historic child abuse, came to be dealt with entirely differently to other criminal offences".[17] 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."[4]

In September 2017, it was reported that the Metropolitan Police had agreed 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.[18]

In July 2018 it was announced that "Nick" had been charged with twelve counts of perverting the cause of justice and one of fraud.[19]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b "'Possible homicide' examined in historical abuse inquiry". BBC News. 14 November 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Child abuse inquiry: Police investigate three alleged murders". BBC News. 18 December 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  3. ^ Laville, Sandra; Syal, Rajeev (21 March 2016). "Operation Midland: inquiry into alleged VIP paedophile ring collapses". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Dodd, Kikram; Taylor, Matthew (8 November 2016). "Operation Midland police fell for 'false claims' of VIP abuse, report says". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  5. ^ Evans, Martin (15 November 2014). "Tory MP 'murdered' boy at orgy, abuse victim claims". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Syal, Rajeev; Laville, Sandra (21 March 2016). "Operation Midland: how the Met lost its way". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  7. ^ Evans, Martin (18 December 2014). "'I witnessed Tory MP strangle child', claims abuse victim". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  8. ^ Halliday, Josh (7 October 2015). "Panorama report: sex abuse claim against Leon Brittan 'began as joke'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  9. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06h7jbl BBC One Panorama - The VIP Paedophile Ring: What's the Truth?
  10. ^ "Edward Heath: Met has been investigating claims for several months". The Guardian. London. 4 August 2015.
  11. ^ Barrett, David (8 March 2015). "Police search home of Lord Bramall as part of paedophile sex abuse inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Ex-Conservative MP Harvey Proctor's home searched by police". BBC News. 5 March 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  13. ^ Symonds, Tom (9 March 2015). "Ex-army chief Lord Bramall 'mystified' by police search of house". BBC News. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  14. ^ Rawlinson, Kevin (15 January 2016). "Lord Bramall 'will face no further action' in Operation Midland investigation". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  15. ^ Evans, Martin (21 March 2016). "Operation Midland: Harvey Proctor told he faces no further action". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Operation Midland: Harvey Proctor criticises child abuse inquiry". BBC News. 29 March 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Lord Bramall 'receives Met Police apology' over abuse claims". BBC News. 15 January 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  18. ^ Evans, Martin (1 September 2017). "Met Police pays compensation to Lord Bramall and Lady Brittan over disastrous Operation Midland investigation". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Westminster 'paedophile ring' accuser charged". BBC News. 2 July 2018. Retrieved 2 July 2018.