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Man Who Accused Cliff Richard Was Already Known as a Fantasist Following Leon Brittan Investigation

An article from David Rose and Rosie Waterhouse in today’s Mail on Sunday reveals new information about the disastrous police investigation into Cliff Richard:

This newspaper has established that one of Sir Cliff’s accusers, a man known as ‘David’, had already been exhaustively investigated by [DCI Paul] Settle and his team, and found to be a suggestible, vulnerable fantasist. David, who had learning difficulties and had been in care, told them he was raped as a boy by both Sir Cliff and Elton John at a sex party, at which media baron Rupert Murdoch and former Labour deputy leader Lord Prescott were also guests.

‘Needless to say, this didn’t happen,’ Mr Settle said.

Yet the South Yorkshire investigation into Sir Cliff took David seriously. Legal sources have confirmed that although the Met had already decided he was not a reliable witness, South Yorkshire detectives – who took over the Cliff Richard investigation from Yewtree – treated him as a ‘victim’.

Settle was formerly in charge of Operation Fairbank, an “umbrella” investigation set up by the Metropolitan Police the wake of “VIP abuse” allegations raised in Parliament by Tom Watson MP in 2012. In 2016 he addressed the Home Affairs Select Committee on the subject of how the police had handled a rape allegation made against the former Home Secretary Leon Brittan by a woman referred to as “Jane”. Settle told the committee that Brittan had “no case to answer”, and said that a subsequent interview under caution (conducted at Brittan’s home, during his terminal illness) had been unlawful. He also described the investigation as a “baseless witch-hunt”, and shortly afterwards he gave an interview to the Daily Mail in a personal capacity, in which he claimed that he had been “frozen out and isolated by senior officers” after Watson had criticised his decision as regards “Jane”.

“David” had also accused Leon Brittan, which was why Settle had been in contact with him; in 1990, David had been introduced by “former social worker and convicted fraudster called Chris Fay” to

a journalist called Gill Priestly, now deceased. In a series of taped interviews with her, David made astonishing claims: that he had been sexually assaulted by Lord Brittan, and ‘trafficked’ to Amsterdam, where he was forced to watch as children were raped and murdered to make ‘snuff’ porn movies.

The story appeared in the Sunday Times that year, in an article bylined to Maurice Chittenden (although the name “David” was not used). Fay – who is close to the conspiracy promoter Bill Maloney – maintained a relationship with “David” that led to further outlandish claims appearing in the media in 2014. This is not discussed in the article (aside from a reference to Exaro), perhaps to avoid too much digression, but also perhaps due to “David’s” selective recourse to the anonymity to which sex-crime complainants are legally entitled.

So why did Yewtree take “David” seriously after Settle’s investigation?

In October 2013, the police records say, [Mark] Williams-Thomas produced the tapes of Gill Priestly’s interviews with David. He approached Mr Settle’s boss, Detective Superintendent David Gray, and played them to him and a detective constable at the ITV studios. The full contents of the tapes have not been disclosed.

Mr Settle said: ‘We had already finished with David, but here was Williams-Thomas apparently trying to reincarnate him as a witness. It was quite apparent the tapes were the musings of a fantasist.’

According to the report, Priestly had played the tapes to Williams-Thomas while the latter was a police officer with Surrey Police, and then for some reason given them to him for “safe keeping” after he left the force in 2000. In 2013, Williams-Thomas made a media name for himself by presenting the Exposure documentary on Jimmy Savile, and he is now established as an expect commentator on crime matters.

“David” retracted his claims in a 2015 Panorama documentary (which I discussed here), and it seems that Williams-Thomas offered him some advice about this ahead of broadcast:

David was to be one of [Panorama‘s] star witnesses, admitting he had made false allegations because he was suggestible and felt under pressure.

Williams-Thomas had promised to consider giving Panorama the Priestly tapes, but failed to do so, say BBC sources. Then, after David had been filmed, Williams-Thomas sent him an email, urging him either to insist on concealing his identity or not to appear at all, drafting messages that he suggested David should copy and send to the BBC.

‘DON’T tell the BBC we have spoken,’ he wrote, ‘just say you have spoken to a friend who has given you advice.’

Williams-Thomas appears to have a remarkable private archive: in August, in the wake of the Jonathan King mistrial, it was revealed that he had retained notebooks from his time at Surrey Police.

The Rose and Waterhouse article notes that Williams-Thomas has “has openly boasted that he was the source of up to 20 suspects’ names being submitted to Operation Yewtree”, and Settle is quoted as describing him as “reckless in the extreme” in disclosing information to the media. The article notes his use of Twitter to break news of arrests and developments in the cases of Freddie Starr and Jim Davidson (both eventually shown to be innocent), and his gratuitous use of “#savile” and “#jimmysavile” hashtags in relation to these – as well as his late criticisms of South Yorkshire Police when it was evident that the Cliff Richard investigation had foundered.