From the Daily Star:
E-mails sent to Kate and Gerry McCann by paedophile Clement Freud to be handed to inquiry
Correspondence between the late Liberal MP and the parents of missing Madeleine will be submitted to an inquiry looking into historic abuse allegations.
…The former BBC broadcaster, who died in 2009, invited Kate and Gerry McCanns to his £1million Portuguese holiday home after Maddie was taken.
The above story follows an Express article headlined “Paedophile Clement Freud knew what happened to Madeleine McCann, says rape victim”, which is the immediately qualified with the somewhat less decisive opener that “the rape victim of disgraced MP Sir Clement Freud has said she ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if he was linked to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann”.
However, the story is not just an example of tabloid sensationalism: Freud’s posthumous downfall started with a story in the Telegraph headlined “Sir Clement Freud exposed as a paedophile as police urged to probe Madeleine McCann links”, which it then followed up with “Police were told two years ago about Clement Freud’s Madeleine but ‘did nothing’ victim says.”
What exactly the police were meant to do remains mysterious, and the decision to hand over emails to the Goddard Inquiry seems to me to be a futile gesture that will only whip up conspiracy theorists.
The allegations against Freud have been widely reported, and his widow has indicated that she believes her late husband’s accusers. According to the most serious claims against him, he “groomed and abused” one girl “from the age of 10 in the 1950s”; “made advances to” a second girl “when she was 11 in 1971 and brutally raped her when she was 18”; and raped a third girl aged 17 “in the mid 60s”.
Grim if true, but what does this have to do with the McCann case? According to Matthew Freud, his father (who turned 80 in 2004) was not in Portugal when Madeleine McCann went missing; further, no-one has accused Clement Freud of molesting any child as young as Madeleine was (just under 4 years old in 2007), let alone implied anything approaching child kidnap and/or murder.
Perhaps the inference is that Freud was involved with other abusers, and befriended the McCanns so that he could keep an eye on the investigation; but again, there’s zero evidence that he was ever part of a group involved with organized abuse, and the idea is implausible and fanciful.
All we have is a wild speculation by one accuser, who says that
…it was “odd” that Freud had sought out the McCanns, because he was a “private person” who did not enjoy the media spotlight when he was not performing.
This person knew Freud in the 1960s, so it’s unclear how she knows anything about how he regarded “the media spotlight” decades later. And in any case, the link to the McCanns did not put him in “the media spotlight”. It wasn’t generally known until Kate McCann mentioned it in her book in 2011, four years after the disappearance (a bit of Googling shows that conspiracy theorists have been exercised about it since that time).
The first Telegraph article was published ahead of a documentary that was broadcast as part of ITV’s Exposure strand. The largest part of the programme concerned Slyvia Woosley, who had been informally fostered with the Freuds as a child. Woosley claims that Freud abused her from the age of 11 until she was old enough to leave home, and the programme included some corroboration: a lodger in her property later told her son that she knew that Freud was going into Woosley’s room late at night, and Woolsey says that she had a confrontational phone call with Freud’s wife about her accusations shortly after she left the Freud home (a detail Jill Freud is not denying).
The documentary also included punditry from Nazir Afzal, formerly of the Crown Prosecution Service. As noted in the Radio Times:
…According to Nazir Afzal, former national lead on the sexual abuse of children for the Crown Prosecution Service, the details of the abuse would have led to a prosecution if Sir Clement were alive today.
He tells the programme: “If I was still chief prosecutor I would have no doubt in my mind that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Sir Clement Freud, and it would definitely be in the public interest to prosecute him.”
In the programme, Afzal explained that Woosley demonstrates the “traits” of someone who has been sexually abused as a child, and that he found her “compelling”. This seemed to me be worryingly subjective – Woosley did present herself well, but Afzal is not a psychologist and to see him opining about the “traits” of victims was a bit odd.
It should also be remembered that the CPS does not make charging decisions about deceased suspects, as it recently clarified. Afzal was only speaking in a personal capacity, but such a statement risks continuing to confuse the issue.
Afzal was on the programme basically to give a verdict on the evidence – despite the fact that there has been no police investigation, and despite the fact that we can never know what kind of defence Freud might have offered. As such, his pronouncement tends towards the idea that if the CPS says it has sufficient evidence to proceed, then the accused person is probably guilty. I was reminded of Sussex Police pointlessly announcing last year that they would have arrested Bishop George Bell if he were alive today (he died 58 years ago).
Despite the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”, we all understand the idea of someone being reasonably described as a suspect. We can also reasonably conclude that someone did something they have been accused of, despite the lack of any trial (or, indeed, despite an acquittal – O.J. Simpson being the obvious example). Further, official judgments about the guilt of someone who has died may be appropriate in relation to inquests and civil actions, and there may be reasons why someone who has died is of continuing interest to the police.
However, we seem to me moving ever closer to the idea that the legal system can determine posthumous guilt based on testimony about events that occurred decades ago. This is a disturbing trend. A new article by Joshua Rozenberg on the proposed inquiry into the late Greville Janner raises related concerns.
UPDATE: On 25 June, the Daily Mail ran an article headlined “Revealed: Police launch probe into what Clement Freud knew about Maddie as we uncover new details about ex-MP’s disturbing relationship with the McCanns”. The report explained that police had travelled to Somerset and had “spent 90 minutes interviewing Vicky Haynes”, the woman who made link. According to the paper’s hack, David Jones:
…her son, Mason, told me he first emailed the Operation Grange team, to alert them to this disturbing suspicion, some three years ago
…‘My theory is that if you live somewhere for 25 years [the length of time Freud owned his Algarve villa] as a paedophile, you become part of the paedophile ring that exists in that area. You share information and stories; that’s how it works.
‘I think the abduction was carried out by that ring, and Freud knew something about what happened to the child. Either he invited Madeleine’s parents to his house to get some sick turn-on out of their visit, or he was trying to get information about where the police had got to with the investigation.
We are told that “Mason is nobody’s fool nor a conspiracy theorist”, and that he “is one of the world’s most respected close-protection guards”.
The intrepid hack has also undertaken his own investigation, noting that Freud’s weekly Times column contained many details about his life in Portugal but included “little about the company he kept”. Now, why would that be? Jones formulates the sinister import as a question: “Was this perhaps because Freud didn’t want anyone to know about the dark company he kept?”
Perhaps not coincidentally, he was a friend of the paedophile entertainer Rolf Harris, too, having given the Australian his entrée into the London club scene when he managed a West End nightspot. And after being elected as the maverick Liberal MP for the Isle of Ely, in 1973, he shared a Commons office with another serial child abuser, Cyril Smith.
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