The Daily Mail Interviews Operation Midland’s “Witness A”

From BBC News, 2019:

The Metropolitan Police ignored a recommendation to investigate two other accusers for apparently lying to the force alongside Carl Beech during Operation Midland, it has emerged.

The two complainants – referred to as “A” and “B” – had “both deliberately lied”, according to retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques in his report into the much-derided Scotland Yard investigation.

…The two men were first interviewed in September 2015, with the high profile inquiry not closing until the following March.

“Witness A” has now given an interview the Daily Mail, which has so far formed the basis for two articles in the paper by Stephen Wright and Richard Pendlebury – here and here (1). He has not, though, waived his right to anonymity: a long-lens photo by Bradley Page that appears in both articles pixelates his face, and the second article as an additional precaution has changed the colour of his jacket and removed some other identifying features. One can understand the caution: during the period when Beech was known only as “Nick”, the paper pixelated his image so poorly that they ended up being fined.

According to the two journalists, they traced down “Witness A” after receiving a leaked copy of an internal police report (“Document 1794”). This document outlines how both witnesses have histories of dishonesty (as has been reported previously, although the Mail downplays this). Given this, the headline in the second article – “questions over why officers believed their claims” – seems a bit unfair, as the document shows that apparently the officers didn’t believe their claims.

In contrast, the journalists believe that “at least one” of Witness A’s statements “had the ring of authenticity”:

‘The police wanted me to join up the dots in the Harvey Proctor case,’ said Witness A, who has never spoken publicly before.

‘They realised their investigation [into him] wasn’t going anywhere. ‘So . . .they wanted me to say Harvey Proctor did this and that, and that I saw him [do it]. They wanted me to implicate him.’

And implicate Proctor — and others — Witness A obligingly did, in interviews with detectives from Operation Midland, the disastrous Metropolitan Police investigation into an alleged VIP paedophile ring.

The timeline, however, is a bit unclear. Compare these statements:

Document 1794 also reveals that he was given a caution by a provincial police force in November 2015, for having made a false claim of a death threat against him. This was only days before he began actively assisting Operation Midland….

Witness A came forward in September 2015…

Witness A was interviewed twice in January 2016 by Midland detectives…

in an earlier interview with the provincial force, Witness A had said that in 1980 ‘Harvey Proctor took him out to a meal to Claridge’s (the five-star Mayfair hotel) and during the evening, Proctor broke down in tears and described how he had strangled ‘this kid’ believed referring to Martin Allen’.

How does this all fit together?

The timeline makes more sense if read alongside the first article based on the interview, which focuses on allegations made against Jonathan Aitken:

Witness A said he was a school-age ‘rent boy’ when, in 1979 or 1980, he went to a ‘gay party’ in Hampstead that was hosted by a ‘well-known musician’ and attended by politicians.

He said he met Aitken there, and that he and another rent boy went back to Aitken’s home ‘and done the deed’ [had sex].

He claimed it was the habit of rent boys to steal property from clients ‘in order to blackmail [them] at a later date…

‘Eventually, I decided to give them up. The age of homosexual consent had come down. Society had moved on. I had moved on from what I did before.

‘In the summer of 2005, I arranged to meet [Aitken] in Parliament Square to hand over what I had stolen.’

Witness A then told the Mail that, before being able to hand the stolen items back to Aitken, he was detained by police in London for using abusive language after being caught cycling on the pavement.

…Witness A added that, in 2015, officers from a provincial force who were monitoring him as a sex offender told him that Operation Midland wanted to interview him about the Aitken items.

The Midland officers asked him what other evidence he had. He showed them Mr Aitken’s father’s passport.

If this is accurate, then, “Witness A” did not so much “come forward” but was approached. But did the police really ask him to implicate Proctor?

On the one hand, September 2015 began just a week after Harvey Proctor had given his sensational press conference in London, in which he revealed the extent of Beech’s allegations against him and the absurdity of some of the questions that had been put to him by police. It was also the period during which Panorama was preparing an episode about the investigation, which the force had attempted to pressurise the BBC into dropping. The wheels were very obviously falling off, and so the sudden appearance of two supporting witnesses was quite fortuitous. As noted in the Henriques Report, “The intervention of A and B unquestionably prolonged this investigation”.

On the other hand, though, Witness A’s statement had the full ensemble of “VIP abuse” tropes – Leon Brittan, Dolphin Square and Edward Heath’s boat all feature – and as such it is also reasonable to surmise that his allegations were inspired by material he had found online rather than based on anything fed to him by the Metropolitan Police. Aitken was added to the story opportunistically, as he was in possession of Aitken’s stolen property. One detail mentioned in passing is that he continues to maintain his allegation against Heath, who was the subject of intense tabloid media interest following the announcement of Wiltshire Police’s “Operation Conifer” investigation in August 2015.

As regards the specifics of the Aitken claim, the journalists write that the “well-known musician” did not move into the area until a later date, and Aitken believes the items were probably stolen during a burglary in 1992. Further:

He said he could not recall the police returning any of these items in 2005, when they were found on Witness A.

Nor was he approached by Operation Midland officers after Witness A handed over his father’s passport in 2015.

‘I cannot explain why they didn’t do that,’ said Aitken.

Given Aitken’s reputation as a “ladies’ man”, involvement with rent boys seems particularly unlikely.

The second Mail article raises the issue of why the two witnesses are not being prosecuted for perverting the course of justice:

A decision not to launch a criminal investigation into their testimonies was made behind closed doors by the Met — the same force that entertained them as witnesses. But it has never publicly explained why.

Could it be that the Metropolitan Police, ashamed of its own mistakes, has been operating a two-tier justice system?

In fact, there may be a systemic problem when it is suggested to police forces that complainants may have committed perversion of justice offences.


1. The Daily Mail has run many stories criticising the Metropolitan Police in the wake of Operation Midland, for the most part written by Wright. Some of the coverage has been self-serving – a number of articles pointedly criticise the the BBC and Labour’s Tom Watson while glossing over the paper’s own credulous reports in 2014 – but the various pieces have succeeded in building a campaign around police failings.

In September, the paper brought together what it called “a landmark panel of victims of police corruption, incompetence and malpractice” that included Doreen Lawrence, surviving relatives of Leon Brittan and Edwin Bramall, Edward Heath’s biographer, Harvey Proctor, Paul Gambaccini and Alistair Morgan; and Wright has now also recently sought out Cliff Richard, who expressed support for the group.