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A Note on Chris Fay, the Media and Mark Williams-Thomas

From ex-police officer turned journalist Mark Williams-Thomas on Twitter:

Article : Labour were REAL villains of child sex abuse scandal. I have not spoken formally about this before but whilst in police we investigated Chris Fay’s many allegations in the early 2000’s and established their [sic] was no evidence to support his claims [Link to Daily Mail article by Dominic Lawson]

The Lawson article linked to by Williams-Thomas responds to recent findings by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that abuse and exploitation had been rife in children’s homes controlled by the notoriously left-wing Lambeth Council in the 1970s and 1980s. As Lawson notes:

The IICSA concluded that Lambeth council ‘treated children in their care as if they were worthless’ and showed ‘callous disregard’ by ‘putting vulnerable children in the path of sex offenders’ who infiltrated those institutions.

Lawson goes on to discuss similar failings in Islington, which had been covered by the Daily Mail in mid-2015 as part of the paper’s campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, the local MP and before that an Islington councillor. Both situations are then contrasted with the concocted allegations against prominent figures in the Conservative Party:

Yet one Labour MP did ‘weaponise’ the issue of child sex abuse: this was the then deputy leader of the party, Tom Watson. He was tireless in linking it to the Conservatives, at the highest level.

…what was the origin of the spurious claims against the blameless [Leon] Brittan? It turns out to have been a concoction of a former London Labour councillor called Chris Fay, who also invented the hoax that child abuse by leading Tories took place at the Elm Guest House in South-West London.

…Fay, who in 2011 was jailed for fraud after conning pensioners out of almost £300,000, admitted in 2015 that he had passed his allegations about Leon Brittan to Tom Watson. He also confessed he had been ‘a very Left-wing Labour councillor’ who enjoyed ‘on a political level’ the accusations of child abuse made against prominent Conservatives.

That would be the same hoax that the Daily Mail reported in early 2013 as “Timebomb at Elm Guest House: Pop stars, a bishop and a top politician appear on a list seized by police investigating child abuse at the London hotel in the 1980s”. Fay does not appear in that particular piece (by Stephen Wright and Richard Pendlebury), although a follow-up article two days later (curiously without any byline) refers to

former child protection worker Chris Fay, who says he was shown photos of children dressed up at ‘Kings and Queens parties’ at the guest house. One photograph is said to show a former Tory Cabinet minister in a sauna with a naked 14-year-old boy.

Nearly two years later, in late 2014, an article by the paper’s crime correspondent Rebecca Camber and headed “Officers claim covert investigations were shut down as they closed in on Establishment figures” included the detail that

child protection campaigner Chris Fay, of the now-defunct National Association of Young People in Care, said a Special Branch detective held a gun to his head, telling him to stop investigating an alleged paedophile ring at Elm Guest House in south-west London.

This was all despite the fact that Fay’s fraud conviction had been reported by BBC News in 2011; it seems it wasn’t realised at the time that this was the same person, although the identification was in the public domain by October 2013. During the same period, Fay was also appearing in other newspapers; in early 2014 James Fielding at the Daily Express ran an article about an accuser who “is being helped by anti-abuse campaigners Bill Maloney and Chris Fay” (in fact, video evidence shows that the the accuser was being aggressively coached by Maloney, with Fay present).

So why didn’t Mark Williams-Thomas speak out the time, if he was already aware that Chris Fay’s claims had been investigated and found to be lacking in substance? Williams-Thomas also posted two other Tweets directly following the one above, which for some reason he then deleted:

Which is why I was totally dismissive and told the Met police this around 12 years later (2012) when they so adamantly believed Carl Beech . I had heard nearly all the allegations before , investigated them and found them almost all entirely baseless [Previously here]

I had audio tapes in 2000 with almost all the same claims Fay was making in 2012 which the Met police took as correct when Carl Beech started repeating them – regarding Elm House , Lord Britain [sic] and murder of child and mass child abuse image ring [Previously here]

The tapes are mentioned in an article critical of Williams-Thomas that was published by the Mail on Sunday (which is editorially independent of the Daily Mail) in 2018 (and previously discussed by me here). The authors, David Rose and Rosie Waterhouse, explained that in 1990 Fay had introduced a source named “David” to a journalist named Gill Priestly:

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.

Police documents disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service and seen by this newspaper say Priestly played her tapes to Williams-Thomas while he was a serving police officer. The papers say that at the time police took no action and that in 2002, after Williams-Thomas left the police, she gave some of her tapes to him for ‘safe keeping’.

According to Rose and Waterhouse, “police records” say that Williams-Thomas played these tapes to Detective Superintendent David Gray at the ITV studies in 2013. However, DCI Paul Settle, the Metropolitan Police officer tasked with investigating Brittan under Gray’s direction, was unimpressed:

Mr Settle said: ‘We had already finished with [the accuser] 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.’

Settle later quit the force, alleging that he had been pressured into participating in a “witch hunt”. But why would Williams-Thomas have provided these tapes if he was of the view that the allegations were of no value? And how did it then happen – as reported by Rose and Waterhouse – that David afterwards became central to South Yorkshire Police’s disastrous investigation into Cliff Richard?

Covid Conspiracy Rally Embarrasses Anti-Restriction Activists

Last week’s Covid conspiracy rally at Trafalgar Square – where NHS workers were compared by Kate Shemirani to Nazi war criminals executed after World War 2 – is now apparently something of an embarrassment to some activists against anti-Covid restrictions.

First up, James Melville (who incidentally has just settled a libel claim after recklessly promoting a child sex abuse smear sourced from a fringe-right website), who posed with a group of friends at the rally for a photo that can be seen here. He has now repudiated his attendance, using Twitter:

I denounce those appalling comments at that rally. I thought it would have been an anti vaccine passports march and I soon realised that it wasn’t and went to the pub. I have no time for comments like that. [here]

I attended a rally (naively thinking it would be a march against vaccine passports) in London last weekend and I was appalled by some of the extremist views issued by the speakers. I condemn such repugnant messaging and as always, I have absolutely no time for extremism. [here]

The first Tweet above appeared several days after the rally; he explained that he was unable to say anything sooner because he had lost his phone and couldn’t remember his Twitter password. It is difficult to see how it was that Melville was caught unawares; advertising for the rally made it very clear who would be speaking, with David Icke second only to Vernon Coleman as top of the bill (see below). The only unadvertised speaker was Katie Hopkins, who became available at short notice due having been deported from Australia after boasting about her non-compliance with quarantine rules.

Two public figures who were not there but had Tweeted supportive comments have also quietly backed away. Laurence Fox did so by RTing the first tweet in a thread by someone named James Townsend arguing that the organisers “got it badly wrong in London”, with speakers who “are not going to engage the mainstream public”. Meanwhile, Maajid Nawaz, who had Tweeted in “solidarity” with the rally on 24 July, interviewed Sebastian Shemirani, the estranged son of Kate Shemirani, on his LBC radio show. As advertised by LBC:

Sebastian Shemirani’s mother Kate was videoed in Trafalgar Square spouting conspiracy theories and threats at an anti-vaccine passport rally. He tells Maajid Nawaz his mother is ‘too far gone to change her mind’ on the misinformation she believes.

This reads as if Kate Shemirani was some weird outlier, when in fact her rhetoric was representative of the event as a whole and received enthusiastically by the crowd.

Nawaz’s 24 July “solidarity” Tweet had included a video clip of the crowd singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, but despite this attempt to make the event appear innocuous he apparently didn’t notice or care that the camera panned across to show David Icke conducting from the stage – somewhat incongruous content given Nawaz’s “counter-extremism” credentials.

A Note on Dominic Cummings and a 2011 Troll Account

From an editorial in the Observer in early 2013:

Today, this paper alleges that a Twitter feed emanating in part, or wholly, from within the Department of Education is using its anonymity – when not dispensing perfectly reasonable policy analysis – to defame, disparage and damage political opponents and journalists. Contributions to the Twitter feed included taunting opponents about “mental illness” and retweeting remarks suggesting that a journalist had had a breakdown.

According to the associated report:

…the account has likened one respected reporter, the Financial Times‘ education correspondent, Chris Cook, to Walter Mitty and suggested he was a “stalker”. It has also retweeted insinuations about his personal life.

…The Observer understands that two of [Education Secretary Michael] Gove’s special advisers, Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete, were approached in 2011 by Henry Macrory, then Tory party head of press, and were asked to tone down their input into the feed which Macrory thought was inappropriate.

The account was called @toryeducation, and this was several years before Cummings had become a household name. Recently, Cummings has begun using social media to give an account of his time when he was at the heart of the Brexit “Leave” campaign and later of Boris Johnson’s government. However, he hasn’t yet returned to the above incident, despite being asked about it on Twitter.

In addition to the articles in the Observer, his 2013 exchange with the paper’s editor John Mulholland ahead of publication was posted online by Paul Waugh on his blog The Waugh Room, which ran as part of PoliticsHome. The blog has since expired and is now consigned to the Internet Archive, which means it can’t be found by search engines. As such, I here take the liberty of pasting the material below.

The exchange is unedifying, but it provides insight into Cummings’s character. Cummings engages in mockery and evasion, and takes the stance that the matter is beneath his notice while going on at greater length than would be required for a simple denial or admission or proper explanation. He also seizes on Mulholland confusing the name of the account under discussion – @toryeducation went by the name “Tory Education News”, and Mulholland accidentally referred to @educationnews. Cummings affects to take this at face value, even though he knows damn well what Mulholland means.

It may be old news, but government advisors misusing their work time (and our money) to engage in social media trolling and composing deliberately uninformative emails in response to serious press enquiries is unfinished business. How widespread is the practice? And what does it say about Michael Gove, who may yet one day take over from Johnson as Prime Minister? The Observer editorial was headlined “Answers, Mr Gove”; we never actually got any.

From: CUMMINGS, Dominic
Sent: 01 February 2013 14:13
To: ‘Jade Amias’ [PA to John Mulholland]
Cc: PERMANENT, Secretary

Subject: RE: Urgent letter from John Mulholland

Dear Mr Mulholland

I’m not wasting time on the tantrums of Toby Helm and Chris Cook over anonymous Twitter accounts. Am I supposed to take seriously anonymous accusations about anonymous Twitter accounts ridiculing journalists with too much time on their hands?

I suggest that your advice to both of them is: take a Twitter detox because it’s melting your brains, focus on what’s important, stop behaving like 8 year olds, and Mr Helm ought to reflect on the bizarreness of twittering foul-mouthed abuse at people while complaining about being abused on Twitter. What would David Astor make of that?

Please feel free to publish this response in any forum you wish including if you intend to run any ‘story’. I will not waste another minute on such nonsense and neither should you.

Best wishes

Dominic

From: John Mulholland
Sent: 01 February 2013 14:33
To: CUMMINGS, Dominic

Subject:

Dear Dominic,

Many thanks for your speedy response. I note however that you are not denying contributing to @educationews. I would like to give you that opportunity now, again. On one other specific point, can you confirm, or deny, that a senior Conservative Party official – in late summer 2011 – voiced concerns directly to you about the tone of the contributions you were making to @educationews.

Many thanks,

John Mulholland

From: CUMMINGS, Dominic
Sent: 01 February 2013 15:12
To: ‘John Mulholland’

Subject: RE:

Dear Mr Mulholland

Have you lost the plot? Now you’re accusing me of being something called @educationnews. Have you even looked at that twitter account? I did just now for a laugh. It has tweeted twice and has 5 followers. What next? What else are you going to invite me to ‘deny’? Am I secretly doing Rupert Murdoch’s twittering while working for Mossad on the side? I strongly advise you to take the advice I gave before or you will embarrass a famous institution even more. This really is my last word on this puerile rubbish.

D

From: John Mulholland
Sent: 01 February 2013 15:28
To: CUMMINGS, Dominic

Subject: Re:

Dominic,

Many apologies, and thanks again for your reply.

My previous email should have referred to @toryeducation – as it did in my first email. I suspect you know full well the feed we are referring to – it also has the line ‘Tory education news’ as part of its Twitter account. Shall we leave aside your references to Mossad and Rupert Murdoch for now and return to the matter at hand?

I noted how your first email did not deny contributing to @educationews. I would like to give you that opportunity again.

And on the other specific point, can you confirm, or deny, that a senior Conservative Party official – in late summer 2011 – voiced concerns directly to you about the tone of the contributions you were making to @educationews.

They seem to me relatively simple questions to answer. We note that the feed in question – hardly an ‘anonymous’ Twitter feed – is listed as one of just four Twitter members by the Conservative HQ Twitter account.

Many thanks

John Mulholland

From: CUMMINGS, Dominic
Sent: 01 February 2013 16.10
To: ‘John Mulholland’

Dear Mr Mulholland.

You write:

‘Shall we leave aside your references to Mossad and Rupert Murdoch for now and return to the matter at hand? I noted how your first email did not deny contributing to @educationews. I would like to give you that opportunity again.’

You really MUST look at that account, you’ve now repeated your bizarre accusation! Then confiscate Toby’s phone, send Chris Cook a ‘How to boost your self-­esteem’ book, and stop sending such emails.

Best wishes, and over and out

D

Ps. Once you’ve chillaxed, I would be happy to chat some time about education policy.

Trafalgar Square Packed for Conspiracy Rally Featuring David Icke and Katie Hopkins

From the Independent:

Thousands of anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protesters gathered in central London for a “Worldwide rally for freedom” – five days after restrictions were lifted in England.

Conspiracy theorists David Icke, Gillian McKeith and Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, were among the speakers at the demonstration in Trafalgar Square.

The event also attracted far-right commentator Katie Hopkins…

…Kate Shemirani, who was struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council last month for spreading Covid misinformation, said: “Get their names. Email them to me. With a group of lawyers, we are collecting all that. At the Nuremburg Trials the doctors and nurses stood trial and they hung. If you are a doctor or a nurse, now is the time to get off that bus… and stand with us the people.”

London major Sadiq Khan described her comments as “utterly appalling”. He tweeted: “I have raised it directly with the Met Police. Our NHS staff are the heroes of this pandemic and Londoners from across this city roundly reject this hate.”

Videos of the event were shared on Twitter; in particular, there was a useful thread by the BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh, who also noted the involvement of fringe political candidate David Kurten and the anti-5G campaigner Mark Steele. Steele also took part in last week’s protest, during which he chanted “paedo scum” at the Houses of Parliament in support of a contingent of Satanic Ritual Abuse protestors led by Jeanette Archer. Shemirani’s speech was captured by Marc Lister, and scenes of the crowd show that Trafalgar Square was packed to capacity.

The Independent article also refers to the event as being part of a “World Wide Rally for Freedom” taking place in several locations around the world; the fact-checking site Logically has delved into this here, reporting that the rallies “were entirely astroturfed and coordinated by a small group from Kassel in Germany” called Freie Bürger Kassel (Free Citizens of Kassel).

With these kind of events it is also worth noting who was not there. In particular, the vocal anti-lockdown activist Laurence Fox (who also scoffs at the vaccine, despite denying that he is anti-vax), who was present at last week’s protest, declined to be seen sharing a stage with the likes of David Icke and Katie Hopkins; perhaps it would have embarrassed his donor/patron Jeremy Hosking or undermined the continuing free publicity he gets from sympathetic media.

However, Fox took to Twitter to convey a general impression of support without committing himself to specific claims: he RTed a Tweet from a third party expressing “solidarity” with the protestors, and then shared a video via Paul Joseph Watson of a protestor being arrested, which he described as “tyranny” despite the lack of any context, and the man’s ludicrous theatrics of shouting “I’m going to die” as he was pinned to the ground and then screaming as he was handcuffed. He also denounced Dan Hodges for referring to “incitement to murder” – this was an obvious reference to Shemirani’s “Nuremburg Trials” comment, but Fox claimed that it was an unfair mischaracterisation of lockdown sceptics and opponents of “medical apartheid”.

Anti-Vax Protest in London Includes “VIP Paedophile” Conspiracy Rhetoric

From the London Evening Standard:

Police have made a string of arrests as anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protesters caused mayhem outside the Houses of Parliament on Monday.

…Anti-vaccination protesters chanted “shame on police” and “arrest Boris Johnson” as the demonstration moved from Parliament Square to spread onto the road and up to the gates of the Palace of Westminster.

…Nigel Farage was forced to cut short a segment on the protests during his first flagship show on GB News.

A woman shouted “Nazi paedo protector w****rs” at the camera as reporter Tom Harwood was trying to describe the violent scenes to Mr Farage back in the studio.

The clip can be viewed here; the woman also called him a “Nazi cunt”, and there was also some similar abuse from a man off camera who can be seen here. Watching the segment, I was put in mind both of a June 2019 London protest, where James Goddard denounced “Satanic paedophiles” in No. 10 at a “Free Tommy Rally”, and an incident opposite Downing Street in June 2015 where an activist named Bill Maloney told a crowd that “your Prime Minister is protecting 76 MPs that are being investigated”. The abuse aimed at Harwood in part reflects the importation of American Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracy rhetoric, although it has also been fostered by the lasting impact of a slew of credulous newspaper articles accusing British public figures that only ran dry when Carl Beech was exposed as a hoaxer.

In fact, there was an entire “Satanic Ritual Abuse” contingent at the protest – this was same group that had also protested last month, led by Jeanette Archer. Hoaxtead has the details; they met at the London Eye south of the river before progressing over Westminster Bridge to Parliament Square, where they were greeted by the anti-5G activists Mark Steele and Graham Steele (both men shown acting aggressively towards police in a video clip here). Archer’s banner has been amended; when it was debuted last month it proclaimed opposition to “Satnic Ritual Abuse”. According to Sardarizadeh, Archer claimed that there are “160 MPs on the padeophile sex offenders register” who drink children’s blood, which is an advance on Maloney’s 76.

The main crowd was addressed by various speakers – on Twitter, the BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh noted “retired police officer Mark Sexton”, who advised the mob that “if all Covid restrictions are not lifted and vaccinations are not ceased, citizens have a right to arrest ministers and MPs by force and set up common law courts”, as well as “former nurse and anti-vaccine activist Kate Shemirani”, who claimed “Covid vaccines are ‘bioweapons’ and ‘surveilance systems’ with an ‘electrical charge’ that can transmit and receive signals from 5G towers. She adds people who have been vaccinated will likely die ‘within two years’.” The Times notes the presence of Piers Corbyn and of “actor turned aspiring politician and anti-lockdown campaigner” Laurence Fox.

Meanwhile, some lesser-known figures have been logged on Twitter by Mark Lister: he observed “Tommy Robinson Flying Monkey’s Gavin Malone, Mark and Tyrant Finder”, and “Ginger Toni with TR security Mark”, which he says “shows the definite Tommy Robinson influence on this movement”. Disgraced former town councillor William Coleshill was apparently among those arrested. Lister also draws attention to the presence of a white pendragon flag at the protest (perhaps generic or maybe indicating a group of that name), as well as at least one protestor wearing a yellow star in appropriation of Holocaust iconography. Two yellow stars were also included on a large banner that appears on a video taken by journalists with JOE.

Ahead of the protest, Archer promised that “we’re going to fight back in a way that will be different than we’ve ever done before” and that the day “will go down in history, what we’re gonna do”, although despite the hype it seems to have been more of the same as last month. Archer (like Maloney, who has disappeared from view since 2015) has been heavily promoted by self-described “police whistleblower” Jon Wedger, who  given his ubiquity was conspicuous by his absence.

Satanic Ritual Abuse Accuser Leads Group at London Protests

From BBC News, yesterday:

Thousands of demonstrators are marching through London in a day of protests.

Anti-lockdown and climate change demonstrations are under way across Westminster, Lambeth and Southwark alongside some smaller protests.

…Whether it was austerity or Palestine, lockdown or the NHS, campaigners of all ages and backgrounds wanted to make their voices heard today.

…It didn’t matter your cause, all groups mixed and chanted alongside each other.

…The protest was prompted by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which proposes to give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those that are deemed too noisy or a nuisance.

Although not mentioned by the BBC, the protestors included a contingent of Satanic Ritual Abuse activists, led by Jeanette Archer and a large banner declaring “Exposing Satnic [sic] Ritual Abuse”, which was carried along the Mall down towards Buckingham Palace. A video upload shows Archer addressing a cheering crowd of a hundred or so in Hyde Park as she read off a litany of generic horrors that she claimed to have experienced during childhood, including witnessing the murder of children, women being forcibly impregnated and having the resulting babies cut out of them (even though that would mean the death of the supposed “breeders”), cannibalism and so on. The banner was then carried to places that Archer had previously said need “exposing”, such as the Supreme Court in Westminster.

More specifically, Archer also claimed to have been abused by Edward Heath, Greville Janner and Jimmy Savile, and that uniformed police officers would rape her and transport her to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. I discussed some of Archer’s story previously here.

Archer also paid tribute to Wilfred Wong, a Satanic Ritual Abuse activist who is due to stand trial on charges of child abduction during the week ahead, and one of her assistants read out a letter from him; out of an abundance of caution I won’t go into details while the matter is sub judice.

A leaflet produced by Archer ahead of the protest can be seen here; James Hind, who observed the event, has an account here. In his assessment:

Despite the march feeling bizarre and incompetent, I felt Archer had achieved a result today by coming out of the event with more followers and a stronger voice amongst the QAnon community. I was doubtful that Archer had made any impact on the decision-makers in the media or politics, having painted them as child-murdering Satanists; but, making change at the top was never the goal of Archer, it was winning over the QAnon market, and she achieved that. What was strange and sinister was the reluctance of the police to intervene or challenge Archer and her marchers, who had free reign to go, say and do what they liked in their march in London today.

For further commentary see also Spin vs Truth here.

The subliterate “Satnic” banner was also notable for its logo branding of a half-sun giving off rays above the letters “SOS” (Save Our Children). The same logo was used on the same day at protests in Australia and New Zealand. Archer made a video with her Australasian allies a few days before the march; the discussion included the need for child “rescues”.

A Note on the Peter Jukes Libellers

A post from Peter Jukes on the Crowd Justice website:

Life-Changing Libel About Me, Spread by Right Wing Activists
by Peter Jukes

About me: I’m an author and dramatist who, in the last ten years, has dedicated myself to helping to fund accurate, accountable journalism first through the Byline.com crowdfunding site and the Byline Festival, and now the successful investigative newspaper and news site Byline Times

Summary On the weekend of 19 June this year I was hideously libeled by former UKIP leadership campaign manager Jay Beecher on the site Politicalite, edited by Jordan James (Jordan Kendall).

Both had previously threatened Byline Times months before. The entirely fake allegation of child sexual abuse was published without the comments I had sent them,. A tweet with even worse commentary (“just the tip of the iceberg” was spread by Blue Tick account James Melville (with over Twitter 180,000 follower) and his editor at Country Squire Magazine, James Bembridge. Both also have a history of derogatory comments about me.

The Legal Principles. I have instructed specialist defamation solicitors at Bindmans LLP. I understand this is a slam dunk case of serious harm (what could be more distressing and damaging than an allegation of child sexual abuse?), but bringing the sources of this malicious libel to book is an expensive process, and there is no security that I could recover my own legal costs if it goes all the way to court and an inevitable victory.

I previously wrote about Byline here and here, and I have met Peter a few times. He is perhaps best known to the general public for his efforts with Alastair Morgan to highlight the police corruption that stymied police investigations into the 1987 murder of Alastair’s brother Daniel Morgan.

Beecher’s article claims that a man named “Adam” alleges that Peter sexually assaulted him in the 1980s when he was 12, apparently in Edinburgh. On Twitter, Beecher has stated that he is unconcerned as to whether the claim is true or not, but that he is is entitled to publish the allegation. He has expressed confidence that this amounts to a defence in law. There is nothing in the Politicalite article to indicate that Beecher made any enquiries as to “Adam’s” credibility or the plausibility of the allegation, and Peter has expressed scepticism that he even exists. Politicalite has run various posts attacking Byline for political reasons.

The Politicalite post was amplified on Twitter by an anonymous troll account, and a Tweet from this account was in turn promoted by Melville and Bembridge, neither of whom have any apparent link with Beecher. Unlike Beecher, they have both apologised for their actions, although in ways that are inadequate and possibly even vexatious. First, Melville:

Yesterday, I retweeted a serious allegation against Peter Jukes, made in a news article online, that was damaging to his reputation. I apologise unreservedly and am sorry for any harm this has done and distress caused. @peterjukes [1]

It’s important to act respectfully and with care on social media. Yesterday I didn’t do that. I let myself down. I am ashamed that I fell into this trap I often warn others about. So, a note to self and from me to you, be careful, be respectful and be mindful. Always. [2]

This does not amount to a repudiation of the post, and describing it as “a news article online” obscures the nature of Politicalite as a vicious fringe-right attack site. His subsequent victim narrative, in which he “fell into this trap”, and pontifications on the need to “be mindful” come across as self-serving.

Bembridge, meanwhile, has a mitigation defence:

Last night I retweeted a tweet which I apologise for retweeting related to @peterjukes. Having now read the tweet and the article it linked to, I realise that I should not have unthinkingly just retweeted the tweet. My reaction was premature. Apologies, Peter.

But Bembridge did not just “retweet a tweet” – he embedded the Tweet into a Tweet of his own, adding the suggestion that it undermined Peter’s standing to call him a “cheap polemicist”. It is very difficult to believe that he did not read the Tweet’s content, in which the allegation was laid out explicitly. And as with Melville, this again does not amount to a repudiation of the story, and the word “premature” implies he believes that it may yet be substantiated in some way.

The former England rugby player Brian Moore, who is also a qualified lawyer, had some advice:

To @TheBembridge – I’ve seen your so-called apology to Peter Jukes and as a former lawyer who did defamation work I just wanted to tell you it won’t be sufficient to defend a libel claim.

Peter noticed that Bembridge had also deleted older Tweets in which he had criticised or mocked him. Bembridge perhaps did this because a history of prior hostility might be evidence of motive if the matter comes to court; if so, though, his efforts here have been undermined by a close associate who has waded in with abusive trolling of Peter and of Brian Moore (the latter dismissed as a “shite lawyer”).

It is worth noting that the site where Bembridge is “Deputy Editor” was featured in the Guardian in late 2019 in relation to the “Hijacked Labour” smear chart that was published in the Sun ahead of the last general election. As explained by Daniel Trilling:

The map linked to by the Sun closely resembles an earlier graphic that first appeared online in August, under the name the Traitor’s Chart. The earliest mention of it that I can find is on an obscure website called Country Squire Magazine, which said it had received a press release about the map. That article, since deleted, had a publication date of 21 August. The website’s only other significant intervention to date has been a pro-Brexit polemic that described Ireland as a “land of puppy farms, rain-soaked holidays, dingy bars, drugs mule celebs, verbal diarrhoea and squeaky fiddles”, also now deleted.

There is no evidence that anyone else received the “press release”, and it should be noted that the Traitors’ Chart and Country Squire Magazine were both built using the same WordPress theme (appropriately called Canard). The deletion of the article and creation of the new “Hijacked Labour” version of the graphic occurred just a few days before the Sun article appeared. The Sun item itself was pulled after just a short time online, and its author, Tom Newton Dunn, has been derided ever since over his refusal to provide any explanation.

UPDATE (31 July): Bembridge and Melville have now both Tweeted the same formal apology, which they have agreed to pin as their top tweet for two weeks (here and here). The text reads:

On 19 June 2021, I retweeted allegations about Peter Jukes @peterjukes which I have no reason to believe are true, and am not aware of any evidence to suggest are true. I apologise for this and have paid a sum to charity and his legal costs.

The troll account of the “close associate” of Bembridge mentioned above has not reacted, although a different anonymous account fired off abuse against random Twitter users who were mocking him over the outcome. I attempted to bring this to his attention, as a consequence of which I was blocked.

UFO Author Police and Crime Commissioner Appoints Ted Heath Investigator as Adviser

From The Times:

The former chief constable who led the inquiry into alleged abuse by Sir Edward Heath and who later resigned over allegations of serious misconduct is being paid to advise an elected police and crime commissioner.

Mike Veale, who headed forces in Wiltshire and Cleveland, has been given a contract with Rupert Matthews, who runs the Leicestershire force.

…He was appointed by Matthews, a former MEP, on the recommendation of Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire. Bridgen regularly publicly defended Veale during the inquiry into Heath.

As well as being a former MEP, Matthews is the author of works such as UFOs: A History of Alien Activity from Sightings to Abductions to Global Threat and Roswell: Uncovering the Secrets of Area 51 and the Fatal UFO Crash.

As chief constable of Wiltshire Police, Veale infamously squandered £1.4 million in the futile pursuit of child sex abuse allegations against Heath, who had died a decade beforehand. Dramatic leaks to the Mail on Sunday‘s political correspondent Simon Walters claimed that Veale was “120 per cent convinced” that Heath was guilty, although the final report turned out to be a damp squib. Veale denied leaking to the media, although as soon as the report was out he gave interviews to Walters and also to Mark Watts, a journalist heavily invested in the claims of Carl Beech.

A bizarre coda was that Veale was soon afterwards found to have lied about the circumstances in which his work mobile phone had been destroyed, although he was cleared of an anonymous allegation that “he had collaborated with a Conservative MP to leak the details and covered his tracks by destroying his phone”. The IOPC accepted Veale’s account that he had accidentally destroyed the phone in a moment of annoyance while playing golf, and had lied to avoid “media attention”. By coincidence, the phone had come to grief a day after the Mail on Sunday had run a story with the headline “Police: If Ted Heath was alive today we’d quiz him under caution on child abuse claims” – a sensationalisation of routine police procedure with the intention of implying “no smoke without fire”.

Veale failed upwards by then becoming chief constable of Cleveland Police, but as noted by The Times he “later resigned over allegations of serious misconduct”. According to an update at the end of the article, the IOPC has passed a report to Cleveland’s PCC, but says it is “not in a position” to share its findings. Veale’s supporters within the conspiracy theory milieu claim that the Cleveland allegations are the revenge of the establishment; certainly, it’s possible that Veale was ousted improperly, but if so then the context is more likely to be local corruption (Veale was the third Chief Constable of Cleveland Police since Sean Price was dismissed for misconduct in 2012).

It’s not quite clear why Andrew Bridgen, who has no connection with Wiltshire, was such an enthusiast for the Heath investigation – however, he has also written in support of old allegations against Greville Janner in Leicestershire, and it may be that he saw the Heath case as being the some kind of thing. His writings on Janner in turn form part of his campaign against Keith Vaz, who has been accused of having “protected” Janner.

The regular rent-a-quote MP also has links with the conspiracy milieu: earlier this year he was criticised after giving an interview to none other than Anna Brees, and her former associate Jon Wedger previously claimed in 2018 that Bridgen had “made contact” with him.

Jon Wedger Puffed in New MailOnline Article

From journalist James Fielding at MailOnline:

A former Kray henchman and Britain’s one-time most wanted armed robber have joined forces with an ex-detective to coax youngsters away from crime.

Chris Lambrianou, one of Ronnie and Reggie Kray’s most feared gang members, has teamed up with Terry Ellis, who spent nearly nine years in jail after a spate of multi-million pound heists, and retired Metropolitan Police officer Jon Wedger.

This is Fielding’s second article about Lambrianou for MailOnline, following a 2018 piece about how Lambrianou had found Jesus while in prison. That earlier article also referred to Wedger, mentioning that Lambrianou had “joined forces with former Metropolitan Police detective John Wedger [sic] to organise a sponsored canal walk from London to Manchester to raise funds” for a different charity. Both articles are liberally decorated with file photos of the elderly Lambrianou socialising with ancient London gangsters at mob-related funerals, even though he has renounced his former activities and criticised the mythologising of the Kray twins.

It seems likely that Fielding’s line to Lambrianou came through Wedger – Fielding previously wrote about Wedger for the Daily Express, in the wake of several articles promoting the conspiracy theorist Bill Maloney, a close associate of Wedger who seems to have disappeared from public view. Maloney’s contacts led to stories by Fielding with headlines such as “Female MP abused boy in care” – this was during the middle of the last decade, when just about any story alleging “VIP abuse” could make it into tabloid newspapers on the coattails of the Carl Beech circus.

Which brings us back to Wedger: MailOnline readers are not informed by Fielding that Wedger is a prominent figure within the UK conspiracy theory milieu, with a particular focus on child sex abuse and Satanic Ritual Abuse, – associates include the likes of Jeanette Archer and, previously, Anna Brees. Wedger runs a “Jon Wedger Foundation” that sells merchandise promoting his image (1), and in one of his videos he has scoffed at the idea that he should be financially accountable, arguing that it up to anyone who thinks funds are being misused to prove their case rather than for him to be transparent. Louise Dickens (granddaughter of the late Geoffrey Dickens) at one point was working with Wedger but she has now split from him, raising numerous concerns.

Fielding’s new article has further details about the new project:

The three of them help run Changing Lives, a charity which strives to divert young people away from crime by mentoring them and working with them to find work.

So far the project has helped a number of former criminals, including teenagers involved with knife gangs, a hardened bank robber and prolific prostitute, to go straight.

Based at the Pillar of Fire Ministries in Dagenham, Essex, the charity is a stone’s throw from the East End manor that Lambrianou helped the Krays run with an iron fist.

The “prolific prostitute” is described as someone who had been trafficked from Nigeria, and given this context the description of her as a “criminal” rather than a victim is troubling framing, although she is quoted as being grateful for their help. Pillar of Fire Ministries is a Black-majority church, led by Pastor Patrick Nnadi; Lambrianou previously had an association with the now-disbanded Jesus Army.

Terry Ellis was profiled by the Guardian in 2018. He was interviewed by Wedger for a podcast back in September – Ellis described him on Twitter as “the ex-police man who exposed police corruption and the cover up of child abuse”, which is also Wedger’s self-description.

Footnote

1. Here’s an image of James Zikic sporting an “I stand with Jon Wedger” t-shirt at Speakers’ Corner in London. Zikic provides security services to high-profile conspiracy theory promoters, including David Icke.

A Note on the Media and the Wuhan “Lab-Origin” Theory

From Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post:

The source of the coronavirus that has left more than 3 million people dead around the world remains a mystery. But in recent months the idea that it emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) — once dismissed as a ridiculous conspiracy theory — has gained new credence.

…a lack of transparency by China and renewed attention to the activities of the Wuhan lab have led some scientists to say they were too quick to discount a possible link at first.

Kessler’s article has been received with glee by strong proponents of the “lab-origin” theory of Covid-19, with Fox News reacting with an article headlined “Ted Cruz mocks Washington Post as ‘clowns’ after fact-check declares Wuhan lab leak theory ‘suddenly’ credible”.

More generally, a Substack post by Michael Tracey headlined “As New Evidence Emerges For COVID “Lab-Leak” Theory, Journalists Who Screamed “Conspiracy” Humiliate Themselves” is proving popular, although Kessler’s WaPo colleague Aaron Blake has a more measured perspective:

It has become evident that some corners of the mainstream media overcorrected when it came to one particular theory from Trump and his allies: that the coronavirus emanated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, rather than naturally.

It’s also true that many criticisms of the coverage are overwrought and that Trump’s and his allies’ claims invited and deserved skepticism.

Blake notes that the Trump administration “leaned into” the lab-leak theory “hard” while declining to provide evidence.

He could have gone further: public discussion was positively corrupted by bad actors such as Steve Bannon, who produced an alleged whistleblower who claimed that the chimeric nature of the coronavirus was self-evident, but was being covered up by scientists in cahoots with China (she was heavily promoted on Fox via Tucker Carlson). In the UK, articles sensationally promoting – rather than fairly evaluating – specific lab-origin claims were prominent in the Mail on Sunday (which took credit for Trump being asked about the subject at a press conference) and the Daily Telegraph, which wheeled out  former head of MI6 Richard Dearlove to give the subject the aura and authority of “intelligence”, even though he has no more knowledge of the subject than the rest of us (Dearlove recently went on to provide similar commentary to LBC).

Meanwhile, scientific voices who argue for continuing scepticism risk being overlooked. On Twitter, a thread by Nsikan Akpan (former science editor at National Geographic) argues that there is evidence against the “lab-origins” theory and for the “natural origins” theory; his interpretation is backed by a data scientist with a biology background here and expanded on here.

UPDATE: See also “The Lab Leak Theory Doesn’t Hold Up” by Justin Ling for Foreign Policy.