Jonathan King and Mark Williams-Thomas: Some Media Notes

From the Daily Mail‘s Crime Correspondent Rebecca Camber, a couple of days ago:

Jonathan King has blasted ‘false allegations’ after he said sex assault charges against him had been dropped and vowed he would challenge the earlier convictions which sent him to prison.

It came after police were savaged yesterday for their disastrous handling of Jonathan King’s fourth trial on child abuse charges.

…In a withering ruling, Judge Deborah Taylor blasted police and prosecutors. She said Surrey Police pursued the case not in the interests of justice but to repair the damage to their reputation over failings in the Jimmy Savile case.

King was originally convicted of sex offences against teenage boys in 2001; Merseyside Police reviewed Surrey’s investigation in 2014, and according to Camber, in a somewhat awkwardly expressed sentence,

This revealed flaws, while also suggesting that some victims may not have achieved justice.

The result was a new investigation, which began in 2015 and led to charges in 2017 and a trial that imploded a few weeks ago due to disclosure “errors”. These “errors” related to evidence gathered before 2015, and as such the 2014 Merseyside review – described by the Mail as a “secret report” that was “covered up” – is directly relevant; as Camber explains:

The unpublished Merseyside report said officers did not tape full interviews and used short notes and answers to victim questionnaires for statements typed up days or weeks later.

The report warned this practice could undermine other prosecutions were it routine.

In 2014 Surrey Police also learnt that former detective Mark Williams-Thomas, who helped run the original inquiry and is now an investigative journalist, was allegedly offering to sell information on – and introductions to – King’s victims.

The judge said this meant King should never have been charged on evidence taken by Mr Williams-Thomas. Detectives also failed to log their contacts with victims and witnesses and misled a magistrates to get a search warrant.

They did not disclose key matters to the defence including medical evidence about a victim undermining his own testimony.

This allegation about Williams-Thomas – who achieved fame with his 2012 documentary about Jimmy Savile – is discussed further in a second Daily Mail report published the same day. For some reason, this piece is bylined not to Camber but to a generic “Crime Correspondent for the Daily Mail”:

A former police officer in the Jonathan King case who is now a TV documentary reporter offered to sell the names of the pop mogul’s victims, according to a judge.

…But yesterday his professional reputation was called into question after Judge Deborah Taylor delivered a withering assessment of his previous work for Surrey Police on the King case. before he left the force in October 2000 Mr Williams-Thomas was the detective who interviewed the first man to accuse King of sexual assault. He [i.e. Williams-Thomas] was subsequently accused – and acquitted – of blackmail in an unrelated case.

Yesterday the judge said: ‘During the investigation into that offence a document was found on his computer offering for sale names and introductions to victims of Mr King.’

…The judge added that it had been suggested ‘there was deliberate concealment of his previous prosecution and of the documents indicating attempts to gain financial advantage from selling details of Mr King’s case’.

The article also states that Williams-Thomas allegedly retained in his possession notebooks that were the property of Surrey Police.

Although not clear from the above, the blackmail allegation against Williams-Thomas was resolved in mid-2003. This means that the alleged document on his computer offering to sell names was first discovered by police long before the 2014 date provided in the Camber-bylined article [UPDATE: More on this here].

The second article adds that Williams-Thomas has “denied ever knowing the victims’ identities, or offering them for sale”, which leaves open the question of where such an idea may have come from. Perhaps some confusion has slipped in due to Williams-Thomas’s role as some sort of informal agent for “VIP abuse” complainants; for example, in 2014 Camber noted (as did other media) that the initial allegation against Cliff Richard “first emerged in October 2012 when the alleged victim contacted Mark Williams-Thomas, an investigative journalist and former detective”. In 2016, Williams-Thomas was announcing “new lines of inquiry” in relation to the singer, with a “file expected to go to CPS within next 8 weeks”. Journalists who have worked with Williams-Thomas over the years may be able to shed some light on the subject.

Subsequent commentary 

The Mail has also published other articles about the case outcome, all with polemical overtones. A further item credited to Camber accuses King of having “taunted” his accusers by claiming to have been “cleared”, while a profile by Alison Boshoff refers to his “DJ swagger” and to a “string of convictions”, which is an odd way to describe one trial, even though there were several complainants. (1)

More substantial, however, is an op-ed by Nazir Afzal, who is celebrated for his past work as a Chief Prosecutor with the Crown Prosecution Service. Afzal writes:

When new accusations were made against him, detectives assumed he was guilty and didn’t try to reach the necessary benchmarks of proof. (There is also a concern now that King might use this shambles to try to have his previous conviction quashed.)

Their failures were shocking. Full interviews with alleged victims were not carried out, notes were not typed up until weeks later and, worst of all, evidence was hidden.

Afzal’s analysis here is confused about the timeline: he has actually listed old failings that were revealed by the Merseyside review in 2014, before the new investigation even started. The issue is how old material was misrepresented in 2018, as is made clear from Matthew Scott’s account of the judgment on his blog:

Complainant A’s evidence – seemingly the very first witness ever to make a statement about King [in 2000] – did not in the end form part of the original trials, and a count relating to it was “left on the file,” where it remained until 2018. At that point the prosecution applied to resurrect it, in order to join it to the new case. They told the court that they had made full disclosure, and on that basis the judge allowed counts based on A’s case to be joined to the new trial.

This is why “deliberate concealment of [Williams-Thomas’s] previous prosecution and of the documents indicating attempts to gain financial advantage” was an issue, and why “King should never have been charged [in 2017] on evidence taken by Mr Williams-Thomas [in 2000]”.

The implications, as Matthew explains, could be grave:

Of course there may be some innocent explanation for all this. Cock-ups tend to be rather more common than conspiracies. Mr Wiliams-Thomas was not prosecuted for any offence relating to corruption or misconduct in public office, so we should not assume that he was guilty of any wrongdoing. One would like to think not, because a police officer, or an ex-police officer, making money by selling the contact details of complainants, or even thinking about doing so, is the sort of thing which utterly corrupts not just one case but potentially every case in which he is, or has ever been, involved. (2)

Excursus: Jonathan King and Anna Raccoon

Regarding the merits of King’s original prosecution in 2001, Matthew Scott refers to Bob Woffinden’s analysis of the case:

In his final 2016 book, The Nicholas Cases, Woffinden… made a compelling case that the original trial had been unfair and produced evidence that suggested King had a strong alibi for one of the offences – he was in America at the time, as attested by several witnesses and documents discovered after the trial. Another of Woffinden’s revelations was that the main complainant in the case against King had, reportedly, after the trial, admitted lying against King for money: he had also apparently sold his story for £45,000 to one newspaper and £5,000 to another.

I had a brief email exchange with King in 2015, after he wrote a private message thanking me for a post I had written about an event involving Paul Gambaccini and Chris Jefferies. Before he contacted me, I received an message of introduction from the late Susanne Nundy (or Susanne Cameron-Blackie), better known as Anna Raccoon, in which she said that “I’m not given to writing references for too many people – but for Jonathan – I am happy to vouch for him”. She went into further details, although the rest of her message, sent by Twitter DM, has been lost.

The news in 2017 that King was to stand trial once again came as a shock to Anna, who at that time was entering the last stage of her illness. She lost confidence in her original judgement that King had been a victim of a miscarriage of justice, and she began to post prejudicial Tweets about the case. She also repudiated all of her writings that critically scrutinised high-profile abuse allegations (including a forensic dissection of the Savile “Duncroft” claims, drawing on her own background as a former resident of the institution); she issued apologies to extravagant “VIP” accusers and their vicious associates, and turned on old friends and allies. It was a sad end; I was put in mind of crude evangelical tracts that imagine Voltaire recanting on his deathbed, or an elderly Charles Darwin repudiating the theory of evolution.


1. The offences were said to have occurred between 1983 and 1989, but the trial was in 2001. Someone skimming the background might misread the earlier dates as referring to earlier convictions, thus providing the “string of convictions”.

2. This measured assessment is in contrast with Williams-Thomas’s own rhetoric about Matthew. In 2015, Williams-Thomas said on Twitter that he had blocked him due to his “views about child abusers & his small group of pro paedophile followers”. He did not explain what these “views” were, although he inferred something disreputable from Matthew’s criticism of the decision to make Greville Janner attend court despite a medical diagnosis of advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Further details here.