Our four weeks begin on Thursday the 30th July 2015, the concluding day of Regina versus Fellows at the Old Bailey in London. In a witness statement, Ben Fellows had claimed that Kenneth Clarke MP had molested him after plying him with alcohol in the office of political lobbyist Ian Greer during research for a cash for parliamentary questions Cook Report television programme in 1994.
Following a police investigation, detectives had decided that Fellows’ allegations were untrue resulting in his being charged with perverting the course of justice.
During the resulting trial, Mr Clarke maintained that the original accusations against him were “preposterous”, “off the Richter scale”, “like Martians landing” and not only had such an encounter not taken place, but that he had never even “had the compulsion” to do such a thing. Mr Clarke’s legal council claimed that it was their client who was the victim and echoed the prosecution’s claim that the defendant, Fellows, was a fantasist.
At the end of the trial, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. After leaving the court a free and exonerated man, Mr Fellows said that the ordeal of the legal proceedings (that had lasted for two years) had been “intense and terrifying”. He had been out of his depth and would make no further comment about Mr Clarke or the events of 1994. Mr Clarke’s legal counsel echoed the sentiment stating that, as far as their client was concerned, the matter was closed.
As the jury preferred Mr Fellow’s sworn testimony to Mr Clarke’s, does this suggest Mr Clarke to be a perjurer or even a sexual abuser? Barrister Mathew Scott, through his award-winning Barristerblogger website, tried to interpret the jury’s intention. Mr Scott assured his readers that, despite the verdict of not guilty, the jury must have been “almost sure” that Fellows was lying but, given the burden of proof required, not sure enough. In the case that Fellows was telling the truth, Scott helpfully added that, “It is perfectly possible for people to believe that an incident took place when it, in fact, did not.” That’s the end of that then. There’s no more to be said about VIPs and possible deviant behaviour towards young men. Or is there?
On the following Monday, 2nd August 2015, BBC’s Newsnight reported an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announcement,
“It is alleged that a criminal prosecution was not pursued, when a person threatened to expose that Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children. In addition to this allegation, the IPCC will examine whether Wiltshire Police subsequently took any steps to investigate these claims.”
On the same day, Superintendant Sean Memory of Wiltshire police stood outside the house of the late Edward Heath in The Close, Salisbury and made the following statement.
“Are there victims of sexual abuse from Ted Heath or witnesses and if so I would ask them to come forward today, we’ve got a dedicated team, waiting to answer calls.”
A longer version of the Superintendant’s statement appeared in the Salisbury Journal,
“Wiltshire Police do not have a direct accusation relating to Ted Heath. The point is that if the allegation from the [discontinued] trial is true then I do believe victims are out there. What I want to do is appeal to those victims to have the courage to come forward.
I am looking for witnesses or victims from any time. I don’t have any specific locations, he would have moved around as an MP so it would be wrong for me to say it only took place here [Heath’s house, ‘Arundells’].
We are in changing times where people are much more willing to come forward with child sex abuse allegations and there has been a long history with Jimmy Saville where people now hopefully trust the police to investigate these historical matters.”
Newsnight’s Nick Hopkins went on to say this was the first formal announcement to show a police enquiry potentially linking Ted Heath with claims of child abuse. Additionally, Newsnight had been told that Heath’s name was also connected to Operation Hydrant, a London based police enquiry looking into child abuse within institutions and amongst public figures.
Simon Danczuk appeared on the same edition of the programme, speculating that more accusations would follow, claiming he had inside information regarding Heath that had been confided to him by former police officers.
At the time, Simon Danczuk was the MP for Rochdale and the author of an award-winning book exposing sexual abuse carried out by his predecessor, Liberal MP Cyril Smith. Stories of this abuse had been circulating in Rochdale’s local independent media for many years with Smith taking out an injunction to stop them from being repeated in the national press.
In January 2013, former Liberal leader David Steele had written to Private Eye disputing any allegations of a cover-up and saying,
“I can only repeat that no complaint of any conduct against Cyril Smith MP was ever made to me.”
Even if no complaint had been made, Steele knew of Smith’s activities having been told by Smith himself. Steele revealed this information in evidence to an astonished Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in 2019. As a result of the ensuing criticism, Steele resigned from what was by then the Liberal Democrat party and quit the House of Lords.
Back in the first week of August 2015, The Salisbury Journal looked through their archive for a case that might have been dropped because of a threat to expose Ted Heath. They found a likely candidate.
Local businesswoman Mayra Forde had appeared in front of the magistrates in September 1992 charged with running a brothel, but subsequent editions of the Journal made no further mention of the case. Legal proceedings had been adjourned until later the same month but journalists at the Journal could find no subsequent reference to them in their archive. Was this the case that had been dropped?
The Journal contact Ms Forde’s solicitor from the original hearing who assured them that,
“My former client [Ms Forde] wishes me to make it very clear that at no stage did she state that Ted Heath was a client and at no stage did she threaten to expose him as a client of hers if the prosecution was continued. For the avoidance of any doubt, Myra Forde wishes me to make it clear that she had no involvement with Ted Heath of any kind and has no knowledge of any misconduct on his part.”
However, the following week a totally contradictory statement was issued by Ms Forde’s lawyers to The Daily Telegraph, who had relegated her from a former Salisbury businesswoman to a ‘Filipino prostitute’.
The Salisbury Journal summarised the new narrative as follows,
Now in separate interviews with Channel 4 News and The Sun, Forde claims to have arranged male escorts for Sir Edward, but insisted the former prime minister was not a paedophile.
Forde said: “I knew Edward Heath in the early 90s and provided young men for him. But he was not into sex with children.
“He was just a very secretive and shy gay man. It was impossible for someone in his position to be openly gay at the time so he came to me.”
According to the paper, Forde claimed the pair first came into contact when the former Conservative leader called her about an advert in The Journal in 1990.
He initially told her his name was “John” and went on to pay £500 a time for meetings with foreign male escorts but she later recognised him when she saw a picture in a newspaper, Forde said.
When she told Sir Edward she knew his real identity, he apparently broke off contact.
If the ghost of Sir Ted Heath was having a hard time, within days the baton had been passed to The Right Honourable The Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss GBE PC.
On the 12th of August, Dame Elizabeth appeared as a character witness for a defendant, Philip Chard, in a child rape case at Exeter Crown Court. The Daily Mirror reported that she told the jury of her considerable legal experience, not least in the Family Division, where she had dealt with sexual and physical abuse cases over many years. She went on to reassure the court that she had “no concerns about Mr Chard”, was astonished by the allegations against him and judged the defendant, “a much less probable offender than many I have come across.”
In July of the previous year, the Baroness had been appointed chair of the IISCA to a flurry of criticism. It was pointed out that her brother, the late Michael Havers, was the Attorney-General who had refused to prosecute diplomat Sir Peter Telford Hayman. Hayman was a member of the Pedophile Information Exchange and had left his personal diary, detailing his sexual abuse of children, on a bus. Found by a member of the public, the book had been handed to the police.
Although kept quiet at the time, Geoffrey Dickens MP raised the matter in the House of Commons. The same Geoffrey Dickens who handed a dossier on VIP child abuse to the then Home Secretary. A dossier that subsequently went missing. That Home Secretary was Leon Brittan.
Furthermore, when carrying out an enquiry into Peter Ball, the Bishop of Gloucester, Dame Elizabeth missed out one of the complainant’s evidence explaining that she, “Didn’t want to give the press a bishop.”
Woefully unsuitable for the job, she stood down from the IISCA and was replaced by Fiona Wolfe. As a personal friend of the Brittan’s, Wolfe was also woefully unsuitable for the job and was replaced by Dame Lowell Goddard, a senior New Zealand judge. Woefully unsuitable for the job, she was replaced by Alexis Jay, who remains the chair of an enquiry that continues to deliberate six years later.
Needless to say, as with Mr Clarke at the Old Bailey two weeks previously, the jury at Exeter Crown Court disbelieved Dame Elizabeth and on the 17th August 2015 found defendant Chard guilty.
One might think that, with sceptical juries and a number of ongoing police investigations, the vexed issue of establishment child sex abuse was about to be addressed fully in public. Not so, within nine days the tables had turned completely.
To be continued…..
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