UK

VIP paedophile inquiry: Lord Brittan claims unreliable - 'victim'

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Media caption'David' tells Panorama that past claims against Lord Brittan cannot be relied on

A vulnerable man who made sex abuse allegations against VIPs has told the BBC he may have been led into making the claims by campaigners.

The man told Panorama he had provided VIP names including that of ex-Home Secretary Leon Brittan, "as a joke suggestion to start with", which had later been repeated in earnest.

His account was the basis of news reports about the late Lord Brittan.

Police investigated his claims but brought no charges.

The man - who Panorama refers to as "David" - has given campaigners and journalists details of alleged abuse by Lord Brittan over more than 20 years.

'Confused'

David, who says he suffered abuse for many years, was also interviewed by police as a potential witness for a total of 50 hours.

He spoke to Panorama as part of its investigation into the so-called Westminster paedophile ring, which is said to have murdered three boys in the 70s and 80s.

The late Lord Brittan was one of those accused of being part of it.

Panorama understands that David told the Metropolitan Police he was worried that two well-known campaigners may have led him into making false claims.

One of the campaigners suggested names to him "over a period of weeks", he said.

"It were just done as a joke suggestion to start with but that suggestion became reality. I just went along with it. I identified him [Lord Brittan] with a photograph.

"But there again, he's a well known MP and I might have seen him on TV through the years and stuff and I might just have been confused," he concluded.


Find out more

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Panorama has been told that past claims against Lord Brittan cannot be relied on

Read What's the truth about the VIP paedophile ring by Panorama editor Ceri Thomas


'Terminal cancer'

Before Lord Brittan died in January 2015, there was an explosion of press speculation linking him to sex abuse.

Police considered interviewing him over an allegation that he raped a woman in 1967.

But in the event, officers chose not to question him.

That decision prompted Tom Watson, now the deputy leader of the Labour Party, to write to the director of public prosecutions.

Panorama has seen the letter Mr Watson wrote, in which he demanded a full review of all abuse allegations made against Lord Brittan, including claims made by David.

Officers subsequently interviewed Lord Brittan, who was suffering from terminal cancer at the time.

No charges were brought.

But questioning him enabled the media to name Lord Brittan as a suspect in a sex abuse case.

Image copyright Getty Images

Former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord McDonald QC criticised Mr Watson, saying: "For a politician to take on a campaigning role on a justice issue is very common.

"To combine that campaigning role with an attempt to influence investigations in particular cases that have no constituency link, I think, is far riskier.

"The consequences for the people accused of the crime can be so serious."

Responding to Panorama's findings, Mr Watson stressed that he had helped bring historical sex abuse cases to court, and that his motivation had been to help the victims.

But in a statement, he added: "It was clear to me very early on that some testimony would prove to be unreliable, yet not all of it."

Retired Metropolitan Police detective Sue Hill told Panorama political intervention was making the job of the police harder.

"Whatever they do it'll be wrong because politicians will then be giving the police more pressure," she said.

"It needs someone at the top to say, 'Stay out of policing, let them get on with their jobs and stop putting pressure on cops.'"

Scotland Yard has criticised the BBC's decision to broadcast the Panorama programme. It said: "The Metropolitan Police Service has serious concerns about the impact of this programme on its investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse and homicide, on the witnesses involved, and on the willingness of victims of abuse to come forward to police."

It stressed that its inquiry was continuing and said it would not give a "running commentary" on the investigation.

Watch The VIP Paedophile Ring: What's the Truth? on Panorama, 22:35 BST Tuesday 6 October on BBC One, or catch up later online.