There was not a scintilla of evidence for ‘Nick’s’ vile claims so why did the Met lap them up? Top lawyer RICHARD HENRIQUES details the flaws of Operation Midland, the probe into a ‘VIP paedophile ring’ at the heart of the British establishment
Sir Richard Henriques, one of Britain’s most distinguished lawyers, played a leading role in some of the most notorious trials in recent years. Now retired as a High Court judge, his is a unique insight into the inner workings of our justice system. In the first extract from his new book, From Crime To Crime, in Saturday’s Mail, Sir Richard gave a gripping account of his role in the trial of Dr Harold Shipman who murdered at least 215 of his patients.
Today, he details his review into the multiple failings of Operation Midland, the investigation by the Metropolitan Police into alleged sexual assaults by famous public figures.
Four years ago I was called out of retirement as a High Court judge to conduct a review into the shocking failings of Operation Midland, the investigation by the Metropolitan Police into alleged sexual assaults, torture and even murder by a circle of abusers in high places — politicians, generals and a former prime minister among them.
The police launched it on the strength of accusations made by a liar and fantasist known as ‘Nick’, real name Carl Beech — now serving 18 years in prison, having been found guilty of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice, one of fraud, and several child sexual offences.
The question I was asked to resolve was how the Met had come to believe him and then, on his say-so alone, cruelly expose a number of very eminent, innocent individuals to vile and false accusations.
Sir Richard Henriques (pictured) was called out of retirement four years ago to review the failings in Operation Midland, where several key public figures were accused of paedophilia
In late 2014, Carl Beech (pictured), who went by the name of ‘Nick’ said that he and several others had been abused by important figures such as Sir Edward Heath and several MPs between the ages of 7 and 16. These allegations turned out to be incredibly false
Within hours of beginning to read the documentation about the lengthy police operation, it was obvious to me that ‘Nick’ was not only a serial liar but that his allegations were manifestly incredible.
In a nutshell, the 51-year-old Beech/Nick alleged that between the ages of seven and 16 he had been collected by car from his various schools in the country and driven to London, where he and other young boys were raped, burned, stabbed and tortured.
Among his abusers, he said, were Sir Edward Heath; Lord Brittan, former Home Secretary; Lord Bramall, former Chief of General Staff; Maurice Oldfield, former head of MI6; Lord Janner, a former Labour MP; Jimmy Savile; and former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, who supposedly murdered two children in Nick’s presence and organised the killing of a third.
The offences were committed in the Carlton Club or in the apartment block in Pimlico called Dolphin Square. Afterwards, Nick would be returned by car to his home, where he lived alone with his mother.
Retired senior British Army officer and former Chief of General Staff Lord Bramall (pictured) was one of the men accused by ‘Nick’
He had originally made allegations to Wiltshire Police, who had interviewed him but concluded he lacked credibility. His mother was also questioned and told them she had no knowledge of any unauthorised absence from school and had never seen any bloodstained underwear or similar sign of sexual abuse.
Yet for some reason the Met officers listening to his allegations were not provided with these earlier interviews and therefore missed the numerous inconsistencies.
For example, to Wiltshire Police he stated that the first Army officer who raped him was an unnamed Lieutenant-Colonel, but to the Met he said it was General Bramall.
To the Wiltshire Police he said names were never used while to the Met he named nine individuals.
To the Wiltshire Police he stated he had been taken to different hotels including the Hilton on Park Lane; to the Met, he gave the venues as Dolphin Square and the Carlton Club.
In my judgment, such inconsistencies alone rendered his allegations incredible. Yet the Met’s investigation continued for 16 months, in a disordered and chaotic manner and littered with mistakes.
They failed to ask Nick for his computers or mobile phone. They ignored the fact that his medical records disclosed no injury consistent with his allegations in his personal online blog that his feet were stabbed and burned, poppies pinned to his bare chest and numerous bones broken.
They had no regard to the inherent improbability of men of the highest standing and impeccable character having behaved in the manner alleged.
Instead the police made a public appeal for information, with a senior officer, Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, standing outside New Scotland Yard and telling a press conference that they believed Nick’s allegations to be both ‘credible and true’.
Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald said in a press conference outside New Scotland Yard that he believed Beech’s allegations to be true
The words should never have been uttered, and the officer himself later admitted they were inappropriate, saying he selected the wrong words in the heat of an interview.
But there was no correction for many months, by which time, as we will see below, two completely bogus potential witnesses had come forward with more lies purporting to support ‘Nick’.
I remain at a loss to understand how McDonald and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse, the commander of Operation Midland, could possibly have believed Nick, given that neither had ever met him. His credibility had not been established and there was not a scintilla of evidence to support his allegations.
Yet, despite this, warrants were sought from a district judge to search the homes of Lord Bramall, Harvey Proctor and the recently deceased Lord Brittan, on the grounds that ‘the victim has been interviewed at length by experienced officers from the child abuse investigation team. His account has remained consistent and he is felt to be a witness who is telling the truth’.
Former Home Secretary Lord Brittan (pictured), who died in 2015, was another person ‘Nick’ accused of sexual abuse. His home, along with Lord Bramall’s, were searched following the claims
The claim of consistency simply wasn’t true. As a result, I believe those warrants were obtained unlawfully and that the judge who granted them was misled, as he himself has confirmed.
The application form for a search warrant contains a paragraph headed ‘Duty of Disclosure’. It asks if the applicant is aware of ‘anything that might reasonably call into question the credibility of information you have received, and explain why you have decided that the information still can be relied on’.
The letters ‘N/A’ for ‘not applicable’ appeared in the box beneath those words. This constituted a gross failure of duty to the court because it failed to make the following disclosures.
1. That no witness had come forward to support Nick’s allegations despite extensive media coverage.
2. There was no evidence that ‘Fred’, asserted by Nick to be his companion at times of abuse, had ever existed.
3. Every boy named ‘Scott’ at Nick’s primary school, alleged by Nick to have been murdered by Proctor, had been found alive. No victim of any murder had been either identified or proven to have existed.
4. Nick’s blogs and his interviews with Wiltshire Police were inconsistent with his Met interviews.
In written submissions to me for my review of the operation, DAC Rodhouse conceded that a number of these undermining factors should have been disclosed. He also wrote that ‘before applying for the warrants, we fully recognised aspects of the investigation were not borne out by our investigation’.
I am quite satisfied not only that there were no reasonable grounds for believing any indictable offence had been committed but that senior officers did not believe there were. Had they believed reasonable grounds really did exist, I have no doubt Proctor would have been arrested since he was allegedly a serial child murderer at large.
But the judge took the officers at their word and, having obtained the warrants, the police went into action, with searches taking place at the homes in question.
Lord Bramall was 91 and his wife was terminally ill at the time. Twenty-two officers spent ten hours in their home looking for material relating to the abuse of children.
Lady Brittan, whose husband had died only weeks earlier, was never told the purpose of the search but officers showed particular interest in the garden, conveying the impression to the housekeeper that a body or body parts had been buried.
Nick also accused former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor of murdering two children in Nick’s presence and organising the killing of a third
Harvey Proctor’s home and office were searched by 15 officers for some 15 hours and laptop computers, hard drives, DVDs and other materials seized.
In all cases, nothing of significance was found. But the police raids quickly became public knowledge, adding to the distress of those affected. Proctor, for example, lost both his home and his job on the Belvoir estate.
The publicity, along with the earlier ‘credible and true’ pronouncement, was such that in September 2015, two potential witnesses came forward, known as A and B.
There was plainly no truth in the allegations they made. One had a history of giving false information about being systematically abused by a paedophile ring. He also had convictions for sexual offences against children, fraud and theft. Manifestly his evidence was worthless and fraudulent.
The other also had convictions for theft, fraud and violence, and his own brother, a clergyman, described him as a prolific liar. When police showed B an album of photos, he was unable to identify any suspect, but did select other photos chosen at random.
Operation Midland officers readily agreed that A and B had deliberately lied, but still the main investigation continued, even though, as the months passed, the mendacity of Nick became increasingly obvious.
(In my review of the operation, I recommended that A and B should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice and wasting police time, but this has never happened.)
A shameful low point was reached when Lord Bramall, a war hero, former head of the British Army and a Knight of the Garter who many think the most distinguished living Englishman, was humiliatingly interviewed under caution as if he were a common criminal.
Lord Bramall (pictured) was interviewed in the same way as a common criminal would during the investigation
As I watched the video recording of that interview, I was angered and saddened in equal measure.
Angered that our criminal justice process could treat this man such a way, when it was blindingly obvious that ‘Nick’ was a liar. Saddened that such a fine man in his 92nd year should be exposed to such a degrading ordeal, having given so much for his country.
On May 20, 2015, over six months after the investigation was opened, a statement was most belatedly taken by the Met from Nick’s mother. In it she said that she had no impression that her son was unhappy or that anything was wrong with him.
She did not remember ever seeing her son inexplicably dishevelled, dirty or smelly.
If he had been taken away by men for any period of time and abused and returned a matter of hours later, she was surprised that she would not have smelled it or sensed it on him.
The only injury spoken of in her statement was her son chipping a bone in his ankle on a skiing holiday.
The first she heard of any Westminster paedophile ring was when she saw a profile of ‘Nick’ on television in November 2014.
It struck me as absurd that interviewing Lord Bramall under caution had taken precedence over interviewing Nick’s mother.
Harvey Proctor was similarly interviewed and at one point shown a penknife with which he had apparently threatened to cut off Nick’s genitals — until Edward Heath had intervened and stopped him!
He told the officers that ‘the fantasy gets bigger by the minute’ and asked his interrogators when they were going to wake up and realise they were being taken for a ride by Nick.
And yet the charade went on. Police decided to put off any medical examination of Nick on the grounds that it would be ‘intrusive’ and might damage their relationship with him.
For the same reason they did not ask to examine his computer, which was plainly wrong and delayed the closure of this investigation by several months.
They even found ‘Aubrey’, whom Nick had said was present when he was abused, but Aubrey said he had not seen anything sexual.
Nick’s explanation for this anomaly was that he had used the name Aubrey in place of the real victim, ‘Fred’. Steps were then taken to trace Fred, without success.
Nick now stopped turning up for meetings and was beginning to disengage from the investigation. He had just received £22,000 from the Criminal Compensation Board for his supposed injuries. It is remarkable that no one contemplated the possibility he had perpetrated a fraud.
Bit by bit, however, Operation Midland was unravelling. The CPS, the Crown Prosecution Service, had misgivings and was highly unlikely to bring any prosecutions as a result of Nick’s allegations, because of suspicions that the police had too readily accepted his account.
Finally, in March 2016, the investigation was closed down. But even then the Met issued a press statement insisting that its officers had not found evidence to prove they were knowingly misled by Nick.
This statement was unfair to every one of those persons he named, especially Lord Bramall and Harvey Proctor.
There was in fact an abundance of evidence, and to say otherwise was simply false. This was a shabby end to a reprehensible investigation.
The question remains, how was it possible for the Met to believe Nick?
‘Nick’ was sentenced to 18 years in prison after being found guilty of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice, one of fraud, and several child sexual offences
It has been said he was a good liar but he wasn’t. He was only a good liar if the Met interviews are read in total isolation. They weren’t consistent with what he’d told Wiltshire Police or with his own blogs.
But those interviewing him in London were not supplied with the Wiltshire interviews and so did not contrast them.
The operation commander, DAC Rodhouse, told me that he did not read the Wiltshire interviews, but was informed of their content by more junior officers. I have been told this is standard practice within the Met, but I cannot accept it is good practice.
Had he read the interviews himself, I am quite sure this investigation would have been short-lived.
In my report, I concluded that Operation Midland was a grossly incompetent investigation, as a result of poor judgment and a failure to evaluate known facts accurately.
I found the most significant error was the deception of the district judge over the issuing of search warrants. DAC Rodhouse was fully appraised of every undermining factor and should never have given the authority for the applications to be made.
I called for a ‘rigorous investigation’ of this aspect of the case.
I was assured by the then Met Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe — who had commissioned my review — that it would be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
I handed my report to him confident that a full and proper investigation would take place.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Hower (pictured) assured Sir Richard that his review would be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission
DAC Rodhouse and DSU McDonald were referred to the IPCC but the process was unreasonably protracted, the lead investigator had no education in, or sufficient knowledge of, the criminal law, and a conclusion was reached that no competent tribunal could have come to.
They were exonerated by the IPCC without interview. No single question was asked of the officers authorising the warrants despite there being reasonable grounds to believe a criminal offence had been committed.
I remain firmly of the view that one or more of them either perverted the course of justice and/or committed misconduct in public office in the obtaining of the search warrants.
In total five Operation Midland officers were referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct for investigation for possible misconduct, and all were exonerated.
The Met paid compensation amounting to £700,000 to those falsely accused, but the money was not the point, set against the misery and distress heaped upon them and their families.
They — and the public — deserve better.
Adapted from From Crime To Crime by Sir Richard Henriques, published by Hodder on June 4 at £25.
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