Watts, Wedger and Brees vs Private Eye

Staying with the latest issue of Private Eye magazine (No. 1493), page 13 has news from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which for the past three weeks has been taking evidence relating to allegations about “VIP sex abusers” connected to Westminster. Part of the article is concerned with leaks from the inquiry:

In a surprise closing statement, lead counsel Brian Altman QC revealed that IICSA had investigated a leak inquiry after embargoed evidence was repeatedly leaked and then published ahead of its release date by a journalist… IICSA chair Alexis Jay had thus decided that in future core participants and their lawyers will not receive evidence in advance of hearings…

“There was no public interest in the journalist making this information public; simply gaining advantage in publishing the information as a scoop,” Altman said. “The information was due to be made public y the inquiry just a few days following publication.”

So who is the mystery hack? Step forward Mark Watts…

Watts has been in attendance the whole time, Tweeting and writing articles for his FOIA Centre website. The article has prompted him to write a letter to the magazine, which he has also posted as a screenshot on Twitter:

Private Eye was wrong in its last issue for the third time in its third article about me and my work to expose VIP paedophiles.

Your report of the final day of hearings for the Westminster investigation of the inquiry into child sexual abuse wrongly said that its chairwoman, Alexis Jay, had decided to stop giving evidence to core participants and their lawyers in advance of hearings because of my publishing “confidential” material on the FOIA Centre’s website. The hearing heard of no such decision – for this or any other reason.

Given your correspondent’s failure to understand a few minutes of that hearing, no wonder you totally missed the mountain of evidence over three weeks of hearings on how the authorities kept letting off VIP paedophiles and suspected VIP paedophiles.

I am well known for publishing articles in the public interest based on a wide variety of leaked reports and evidence that authorities want to suppress, including during my time as editor of Exaro and as co-ordinator of the FOIA Centre. So much for your “conspiracy theories”.

Private Eye’s continual attacks on survivors of sexual abuse, whistleblowers and journalists who shed light on VIP paedophiles show how much you miss the late Paul Foot, one of the first to try to expose this very issue. I remind you that news is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress. All the rest is advertising. Or, as in the case of your article, PR – for the establishment.

In his Tweet alongside the letter, Watts desribes the Eye as “PIE-eyed”, thus suggesting that the magazine shares the perspective of the long-dead and widely reviled Paedophile Information Exchange.

Watts’s best-known “work to expose VIP paedophiles” consists of articles he wrote for the Exaro News website in which he attributed a number of historic allegations to a certain man who attended the police with an Exaro colleague. Despite a lengthy police investigation following from this, no arrests were ever made, and indeed some of those who were named were afterwards offered compensation. The subject currently cannot be discussed in any detail for legal reasons, although hopefully these will be resolved in due course.

It’s perhaps telling that despite asserting that his articles are “in the public interest”, Watts does not attempt to explain why Altman’s direct contradiction of this claim is wrong. Instead, he focuses on the detail of access to documents. Here is what Altman said:

Now that the hearings in the Westminster investigation have been completed, you [i.e. Alexis Jay] have asked the solicitor to the inquiry to terminate the access of core participants in this investigation to the body of disclosed documents, and that will be done today. Going forward, core participants will be entitled to request access to documents on the provision of reasons, for example, in order to prepare for making further submissions in writing by April 12 or in order to respond to rule 13 warnings.

It seems that this “termination” was interpreted by Private Eye as being in direct response to the issue of the leak discussed by Altman just before. However, it is not in Watts’s interest to correct or clarify, rather than just complain, and so he keeps things vague in the hope that we will infer journalistic malpractice.

Meanwhile, Private Eye’s “continual attacks on survivors of sexual abuse, whistleblowers and journalists” appears to be primarily a reference to Michael Tarraga (1), whose new memoir Meat Rack Boy contains an account of an underage sexual encounter with Edward Heath in the summer of 1963. The Eye (1492, p. 38) very reasonably pointed out that the specifics of this story are difficult to reconcile with Heath’s schedule during that period, and that it was odd that Tarraga had not referred to Heath in a previous version of his memoir, called The Successful Failure (2).

Tarraga only mentioned Heath after coming into contact with a self-described “police whistleblower” named Jon Wedger, who now works full time promoting conspiracy theories about “VIP child sex abuse” and even Satanic Ritual Abuse; Wedger has long been keen to justify former Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale’s posthumous police investigation into Heath, which has been derided as a fiasco, and so this discovery of a new alleged victim was a bit of luck.

Tarraga’s memoir was then reshaped by Wedger’s associate Anna Brees, a former mainstream journalist who now works as a media trainer – the new version of the memoir is published by “Brees Media”, although little effort seems to gone into formatting or copyediting the typescript. Brees, like Wedger, is firmly embedded in the conspiracy milieu – she has also Tweeted references to the Illuminati and to the American “Pizzagate” and “Qanon” conspiracy theories.

Watts and Wedger met socially during the IICSA Westminster hearings, and Watts and Brees have expressed mutual admiration for each other on Twitter.

Watt’s letter is just one prong of a more wide-ranging attack against Private Eye: he is also calling on his supporters not to buy the magazine, while Wedger has announced that “the target now has to be corrupt mainstream media journalists working hard on trying to cover up the VIP paedophile rings.” As I detailed in my previous post, Brees has also ratcheted things up after a second Private Eye article (1493, p. 13) referred to further contradictions in Tarraga’s story – this led to a hostile Twitter exchange with the journalist Rosie Waterhouse, in which Waterhouse referred to an old “email” by Tarraga which was in fact a forum post. Seizing on this imprecision, Brees pedantically denounced this as Waterhouse’s “first lie”. Brees also arranged a new interview with Tarraga, who spoke of his “great distress” and repeatedly abused Waterhouse as “Rosie Fucking Waterhouse” while Brees smirked.

Wedger, meanwhile, drew attention to a notice on Mark Williams-Thomas’s website, published in response to a Mail on Sunday article about him headlined “How a self-promoting TV detective, obsessed with celebrity sex abusers, helped police ruin the lives of Sir Cliff and a string of other famous faces… who all turned out to be TOTALLY INNOCENT” (I discussed Williams-Thomas here). The article had been written by Waterhouse and David Rose, and Wedger concluded that “Think these two are mates. One after @BreesAnna the other went after Lenny Harper who investigates Haut de la Garenne. It’s time to shine a light on these journalists”. Brees concurred, stating that “they seem to have an interest in shaping public opinion on how we see child sexual abuse… We must look into this further it’s a new media revolution”. This then led into a spin-off argument about the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey that drew in David Rose, Stuart Syvret and Leah McGrath Goodman.

Currently, Wedger is asking his Twitter followers “When are we going to stop the corrupt journalists?” and complaining that “Private eye journalists are watching every single thing myself and my team do. And I mean EVERYTHING including broadcasts to tiny YouTube stations. What I don’t understand is how they knew I’d be on it? Victims are being targeted”.

Private Eye has its faults, but covering up VIP abuse for the benefit of “the establishment” is not one of them. The current editor, Ian Hislop, famously fought a libel case in 1994 after the magazine accused North Wales Chief Constable Gordon Anglesea of child sex abuse; the case was lost, but Anglesea’s conviction just before his death in 2016 was written up as a vindication of the magazine and of Anglesea’s accusers (I wrote critically about this here).

The magazine does, though, have a history of raising concerns about false allegations and how their originators: this has included covering links between therapists and Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations, and similar scandals such as the sad story of Carol Felstead (whose case was early raised by Matthew Scott as a cautionary tale when Watts first produced his VIP abuse informant).


(1) As well as Tarraga, Watts may also have in mind Anthony Daly, who joined in the Twitter conversation to complain about Private Eye’s coverage of his memoir Playland. The book described Daly’s purported experiences while he was under the control of a vice ring in central London whose activities included child exploitation (Tarraga’s title Meat Rack Boy refers to the same milieu) – the experiences included encounters with various VIPs.

In May 2018, the Eye (1469, p. 35) ran a review under the heading “Fantasy Fiction”; the piece did not attempt to debunk his story, but implied in a sceptical tone that Mirror Books (associated with the newspaper group) had published an unlikely and unsubstantiated story. Daly – who says he was inspired to speak out after reading Anthony Gilberthorpe’s claims (discussed here) – Tweeted that he had offered to show evidence to Eye editor Ian Hislop but had been ignored.

(2) Another difficulty is that Tarraga told Wedger that all he knew about Heath at the time was that he was “a prominent sailor”, when Heath did not take up sailing until 1966.