Peter McKelvie Downplays Role in Spreading “VIP Abuse Ring” Allegation

Acknowledgement: some of the links below were brought to my attention by a reader.

From the Telegraph:

Tom Watson “mixed up” his facts and made exaggerated claims about a “powerful paedophile network” linked to Downing Street, the whistleblower who alerted him to child abuse has told The Telegraph.

[Peter McKelvie] initially contacted Mr Watson with details of files on Peter Righton, who was a senior figure in the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE). His whistleblowing led to the jailing of Charles Napier, a former treasurer of PIE, in December last year.

Mr McKelvie said:…“It [what Watson said at PMQs] wasn’t a true reflection of what I was trying to get across and I was surprised there was an urgency.

…”When I went to Tom Watson I had never heard of Elm House or Dolphin Square.

“I would never have wanted Tom Watson to do a PMQ [Prime Minister’s Question] as a tactic until he heard the whole story.

“The only thing I wanted to say about politicians is every institution has abusers in it… I never talked about rings.”

This would be the same Peter McKelvie who used to regularly put himself forward as

…the retired Child Protection Team Manager who approached MP, Tom Watson, in October 2012, as a result of which Mr. Watson also asked a PMQ, on 24th October 2012 which subsequently led to the setting up of Operation Fernbridge by the Metropolitan Police.

That was in a letter to his local MP, in which he also specifically mentioned “that the PMQ involved the allegation that an elite paedophile ring had a link with No.10.” Further, this would be the same McKelvie who spoke at a vigil outside Elm Guest House a year ago, at which he opined that “these networks go as deep as, allegedly, a former prime minister, former secretaries, foreign secretaries, judges”.

There are no caveats anywhere about how Watson had got details wrong or gone too far, and although McKelvie’s new claim in the Telegraph that he “never talked about rings” may be trivially true as regards October 2012, it is otherwise grossly misleading. In fact, McKelvie has promoted and endorsed the most extravagant allegations about Elm Guest House and Dolphin Square.

“Minister X”

So, what’s happened? First, it should be noted that Watson and McKelvie reportedly fell out in 2013 (see below); second, that Watson has in recent weeks come under intense criticism for his handling of “Westminster” allegations; and third – perhaps most significantly – that McKelvie was recently described by the Daily Mail (on 15 October) as having provided Watson with “false information”:

Peter McKelvie – the whistleblower who fed Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson false information about a ‘No.10 paedophile ring’ – wrote to Downing Street wrongly claiming the MP was linked to child molesters and objecting to his appointment as a minister, it was revealed.

…But his credibility has been thrown into doubt. The Mail can reveal Mr McKelvie was informed in writing in December 2012 by a Scotland Yard detective inspector that there was no basis for his allegation about the MP. Yet on May 19 this year, shortly after the general election, Mr McKelvie repeated it to Downing Street.

Watson’s PMQ in October 2012 was vague, although he went into more detail on his website:

Last week I was contacted by a former child protection specialist who for some years, had been concerned that a wider investigation regarding the activities of convicted paedophile, Peter Righton was not fully investigated.

…The central allegation was that a large body of material seized in the raid on Righton’s home had not been fully investigated. Though Righton was the subject of a BBC profile in 1994 [I think this is the date] “The Secret Life of a Paedophile”, little had been done to follow up the leads from the case. A specialist unit in Scotland Yard had the material which supplemented a wider investigation into organised paedophile rings in children’s homes.

This led to the conviction of Napier (who admits his crimes), but also to the investigation of the future minister who was subsequently cleared a few weeks later.

BBC Panorama journalist Alistair Jackson, writing in the Spectator, has the details:

I soon established whom McKelvie believed [the link to No. 10] to be: a man who is now today a government minister. I won’t name him because, as we have seen over the past few months, baseless accusations against innocent men can cause permanent reputational damage. Mr Watson did not, evidently, believe these claims to be baseless — indeed, when I made my inquiries, I was also told that two witnesses would be able to confirm Minister X’s involvement. But when I tracked down the supposed witnesses, both told me that he never been part of the abuse they had suffered.

…And I can now reveal that the Met drew the same conclusion years ago. Within two months of Watson’s incendiary allegations, the police detective on the trail of Minister X found nothing incriminating within the newly recovered evidence. I have seen an email he sent, confirming that there was ‘no evidence of offending linked to [Minister X] within the files’. He went on: ‘…there is not any further material within the file to support the inference to any level of criminal complicity on behalf of [Minister X]’.

Presumably Jackson is quoting from the message that the Daily Mail says was sent to McKelvie in December 2012. It’s not clear from Jackson’s account who told him about the “two witnesses”, although Watson is implied. Either way, it appears that McKelvie decided to press on with lobbying against “Minister X” despite having good reason to believe he had been mistakenly accused.

According to an earlier Telegraph article, Watson fell out with McKelvie in 2013 “over Mr Watson’s insistence that a friend who worked as his adviser on child abuse be appointed to the national inquiry team examining historical abuse”. However, it appears that they maintained some email contact, with McKelvie writing to Watson (or perhaps cc-ing him in) in May 2015. According to Channel 4 News:

In May of this year, Mr McKelvie wrote to Downing Street repeating the claim and saying the minister should not have been appointed.

In an email he sent to Mr Watson on 19 May, he said: “I met with Justice Lowell Goddard last week and made a formal complaint regarding the appointment of (Minister X).

“This appointment represents utter contempt for the survivors of child sexual abuse. I have today written to the prime minister giving my reasons for contacting Tom (Watson) , which led to the PMQ (parliamentary question) of the 24th of October 2012.”

No details are given about how Watson responded to this email, but there is no reason to think that he expressed disapproval or attempted to dissuade McKelvie from continuing his campaign against “Minister X”.

[UPDATE, March 2017: The 15 October Daily Mail article stated that McKelvie “tried to wreck a Tory minister’s career with baseless paedophile smears”. McKelvie apparently objected to this purported motivation, and the paper has now issued a short statement in its “Clarifications and Corrections” section, stating that “Mr McKelvie has asked us to clarify, and we are happy to do so, that he acted as he did because he believed that the issues he raised should be drawn to Downing Street’s attention.” This clarification is now being bandied about on social media with the false assertion that it means the Daily Mail has withdrawn its claim that the paedophile claims were “baseless”.]  

McKelvie and “Nick”*

“Nick” is the most lurid of the “Dolphin Square” accusers, and he was brought to Watson’s attention after the PMQ. As the Daily Mail reported last month:

…One of the people who supplied Watson with intelligence and information was a former child protection officer called Peter McKelvie. In the aftermath of Mr Watson’s barnstorming performance in the House, Mr McKelvie spotted a tweet from a possible victim which read: ‘I was abused by the gang.’

“Nick” alleges not only VIP paedophilia at Westminster, but also the murder of children. McKelvie went on to make various supportive statements about “Nick”, and there is no reason to think he has had second thoughts. “Nick’s” allegations are so melodramatic and gothic – three murders, a paedophilic orgy where for Prime Minister Ted Heath persuaded Harvey Proctor not to castrate a boy, torture involving Remembrance Day poppies –  one cannot imagine what it could possibly be that McKelvie now regards as “exaggerated”. [1]

It is not known if Watson already knew about the old Dolphin Square rumours (in the public domain since the 1990s), but the the Mail article suggests that McKelvie actually provided Watson with the most dramatic testimony (on the Elm Guest House, Watson was meanwhile approached by David Hencke).

(*Details amended thanks to comment by Gojam)

UPDATE 2019: “Nick” has now been revealed to be a man named Carl Beech. His allegations have been comprehensively exposed as lies, and he has been found guilty of perverting the course of justice and fraud. He was also found to be in possession of a collection of child-abuse images, and to have used a hidden camera to film the teenage friend of his son using a toilet. For more, see here.

Watson’s Twitter message

The same earlier Telegraph article also refers to an intended direct message that Watson sent on Twitter in November 2014, which he accidentally published. Watson wrote:

He may be a survivor but [Ian] macfayden [sic] appears to be a narcissitic bully. And Peter [McKelvie] is allowing his media appearances to bring the whole show down

On Ian McFayden, the Telegraph explains that he had complained about politicians “taking control of the supposedly independent inquiry into institutionalised sex abuse”. McFayden (who appeared as a commentator in the recent Panorama documentary) is also in a bitter dispute with Graham Wilmer, who has links with at least one “Dolphin Square” accuser and whose “Unstructured Therapeutic Disclosure” counselling method has recently come under fire.

McKelvie Resigns

Shortly after McKelvie’s correspondence about the minister came to light, it was announced that he had resigned from his role as a member of the Victims and Survivors’ Consultative Panel of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (aka the Goddard Inquiry). Apparently, it was suddenly realised that he might be called as a witness.

UPDATE: McKelvie disputes the Telegraph

On Twitter, Ian Pace has conveyed a message from McKelvie:

Want to let people know that Peter McKelvie was bitterly unhappy with the misrepresentation of his views in yesterday’s Telegraph piece [1] @tom_watson and Peter McKelvie have spoken very amicably since yesterday – neither will say more as McKelvie will make statement to inquiry [2] Peter McKelvie also wants to make clear that without @tom_watson ‘s interventions, we wouldn’t have a #CSAinquiry now [3]

This is slightly curious.

First, if McKelvie and Watson are on amicable terms, why did McKelvie not complain about the earlier (17 October) Telegraph article, which has the story of them falling out? Second, if the Telegraph has misrepresented something that he wanted to put on the record, why delay explaining what what the paper should have reported? Why does he have wait to “make statement to inquiry” about it?

[Further update: Ian Pace has responded to these points in the Comments below. He writes:

First of all, it is true that McKelvie and Watson fell out over another matter, a little under a year ago. That is water under the bridge now, though, and they have been in amicable contact (and not just since the Telegraph article). Peter is horrified by the media onslaught on Tom and in no sense supports it – he was very concerned about how his words were distorted and misappropriated by the Telegraph to make it look like he was joining in the attack. Tom was already clear that this never Peter’s intention.

Neither party wants to make a big statement now and simply pour oil on the fire, but Peter intends to clarify a lot of things to the inquiry, and now thinks that is a better place to do so rather than to a hostile press.]

Excursus on Tom Watson

My view – which is perhaps not shared by others who have cast a critical eye over this subject – is that too much blame is being focused on Watson, particularly by the Telegraph and the Mail. However, the two papers have different strategies: while the Mail has undermined McKelvie’s credibility in the belief that this will damage Watson by association, the Telegraph has decided to salvage McKelvie’s reputation so that he can be deployed willingly against Watson.

For the record, I don’t think Watson has ever raised an allegation he didn’t believe, and a claim that he is only interested in allegations against Tories is simply untrue. Further, it has not been established beyond reasonable doubt that his letter to the DPP regarding the “Jane” allegation against Leon Brittan led to the re-opening of the police investigation, and if letters from Watson have ever prompted the CPS or police to undertake improper or ill-considered courses of action, then it is the CPS and police who ought to bear the blame.

However, it is clear that Watson has made errors of judgement: he has promoted testimony which has sine been found to be extremely problematic when scrutinised; his letter about “Jane” was aggressive and unfair to DCI Paul Settle; by acting as “hub” for alleged victims he risked bringing into doubt the independence of testimonies; and he never felt the need to clarify the police view of “Minister X” in December 2012 or dissuade McKelvie from continuing to lobby against him.


[1] A few months ago, McKelvie also drew attention to a passage in an old book by Tim Tate that referenced allegations of Satanic ritual abuse against politicians in the 1980s. The chain of events that followed led to a series of bizarre media stories accusing the late Enoch Powell, Willie Whitelaw, and Leo Abse of paeophilic Satanism.