Detectives are investigating claims that former Conservative Home Secretary William Whitelaw ordered police to drop an investigation into a VIP paedophile ring.
Whitelaw allegedly told a senior Metropolitan Police boss to quash a year-long investigation into a gang accused of abusing 40 children, the youngest of whom was six.
The alleged intervention came in 1980 after a newspaper revealed the country’s chief prosecutor was considering 350 offences against the gang, including allegations it ‘obtained young boys for politicians, prominent lawyers and film stars’.
The report, published on July 7 that year in the Evening News – a daily London newspaper – revealed police had passed evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and that up to 12 men could face trial for procuring boys and sexual assault.
Jeff Edwards, the journalist who wrote the story, claims that just days after it was published he was summoned by police to an interview and threatened with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
Mr Edwards also claims his source, a serving police officer, was disciplined and fined six months’ wages for leaking the story.
He also says he was told by his police source that Whitelaw called a senior police boss and told him to halt the inquiry.
Mr Edwards said: ‘My source told me the Home Secretary had spoken to a senior Met Police boss and demanded action was taken to make sure nothing more was printed about the affair and that the investigation be dropped.’
The Mail on Sunday can reveal Mr Edwards has spoken to senior detectives working on the Met’s Operation Midland about the incident, but the Met would not confirm this. Midland was set up last month to investigate sensational claims that boys were murdered and abused by Conservative politicians at parties held in Dolphin Square, an upmarket block of flats close to Westminster popular with MPs, in the 1980s.
Mr Edwards said he had been invited to give a statement to detectives in the next few weeks and hopes to give evidence to the upcoming Home Office inquiry into historic sexual abuse.
Last night, campaigning MP Simon Danczuk described the allegations as ‘a breakthrough’ in the Westminster child abuse scandal and suggested it was strong evidence there was a paedophile network operating at the heart of the Establishment.
The article, unearthed by The Mail on Sunday from newspaper archives, provides a fresh line of inquiry for police probing claims a paedophile network with links to Westminster.
It revealed six officers in a special unit were conducting the operation from Arbour Square police station in East London. Police had taken statements from 40 youngsters, it said, and established the gang had links between London and Liverpool.
It said 12 children in Liverpool from schools for the ‘educationally subnormal’ had given police information. Mr Edwards told The Mail on Sunday his police contact, an experienced detective sergeant who was part of the Arbour Square team, told him when the story broke it ‘caused an eruption at the top in Scotland Yard’.
‘My friend told me the anti-corruption squad, then known as A10, had been told to carry out an urgent investigation about how this matter had got in the press,’ he said.
‘He told me he had been threatened with demotion. Within a day or two I was summoned to the anti-corruption branch HQ at Tintagel House in Vauxhall [South London]. At the end of the interview, which went on for two hours, I was told I could be in breach of the Official Secrets Act and the matter would be formally reported to the DPP to consider whether I should be prosecuted.’
Mr Edwards, who is president of the Crime Reporters Association and was chief crime correspondent on The Mirror, said he heard nothing more from police or the DPP. The Mail on Sunday asked Scotland Yard whether Mr Edwards’s police source, who is now in his 80s and in a care home, was disciplined. It refused to answer questions and claimed it was ‘unable to pursue such historical inquiries’. The Crown Prosecution Service said there was not enough information in Mr Edwards’s article to search DPP records.
Viscount Whitelaw, who was Deputy Prime Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government from 1979 to 1988, died in 1999. Mr Edwards’s claims come amid a flurry of allegations politicians were involved in a VIP paedophile ring.
Operation Midland was started after a man came forward to say he witnessed a Tory MP murder a boy at a party. The man also claimed that a different Tory MP watched as a boy was sexually abused.
The Met’s Operation Fernbridge is looking into claims that politicians, lawyers and pop stars abused children at the Elm Guest House in Barnes, South-West London, in the 1980s. Police have confirmed disgraced former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Cyril Smith was a visitor and this year The Mail on Sunday interviewed a boy he abused.
Last night, Mr Danczuk said: ‘This is the strongest evidence yet that there was a paedophile network operating at the heart of the Establishment. The fact we now know hundreds of child abuse offences linked to politicians and other prominent people were being examined by the DPP is a breakthrough.
‘That Cabinet Ministers and police helped shut this investigation down through collusion and cover-up is something the Government’s child sex abuse inquiry must look at.’