Jeremy Thorpe: A Very English Cover-Up(s)
by TIM HICKS
Jeremy Thorpe: A Very English Cover-up(s)
Introduction: the Jeremy Thorpe Affair
For those who are unfamiliar with the Jeremy Thorpe  Jeremy Thorpe affair, there is a good summary here  and an excellent documentary here . But briefly, Jeremy Thorpe and three other men went on trial in 1979 for conspiracy to murder Mr Norman Scott, who was one of Mr Thorpe’s homosexual lovers. Thorpe was additionally charged with incitement to murder. All four men were acquitted of all charges.
There has been widespread dissatisfaction with the original investigation and allegations of a cover-up, both at the time and up to the present day.
To quote Peter Bessell, the former Liberal MP who was the main prosecution witness:
“Indisputably there was a deliberate cover-up, or a series of cover-ups, for almost eighteen years of Jeremy’s relationship with Scott. Certain ministers of the Crown, branches of the security Services and more than one police force knew about the cover-up and took no action to prevent it.”
Jeremy Thorpe died in 2014, his obituary from the Daily Telegraph is here.
The NYE first started investigating Thorpe and Cyril Smith in 2012 in connection with their connections to Jimmy Savile and the Scarborough paedophile ring. The NYE has continued this investigation because it is historically such an important case with major implications about the current day accountability of the Security Service MI5 and the police.
It has been separately alleged that Thorpe had one of his other lovers Henry Upton murdered. This was investigated by the NYE and we succeeded in getting the suspicious disappearance of Upton re-examined by Sussex Police. The Sussex Police investigation was commendably thorough, but inconclusive due to the passage of time.
Norman Scott today – Jeremy Thorpe at the Old Bailey after his acquittal – Contract killer and underworld
armourer Dennis Meighan today, with one of his guns.
Did MI5 and MI6 protect Thorpe?
Homosexuality was a crime until it was legalised for consenting adults over the age of twenty-one in England and Wales in 1967. It was decriminalised in Scotland in 1981. Homosexuals were regularly prosecuted well into the 1960s. The law at the time defined anyone under the age of twenty one as a minor. Because Mr Scott was under twenty one at the time they were intimate, Thorpe would have been charged with homosexual rape, as well as being a homosexual which would certainly have ruined his legal and political careers.
MI5 maintained files on all MPs and must have been aware that Thorpe was a homosexual:
- In 1960, following the conviction of a friend of Thorpe’s who was connected to the Royal family. MI5 asked Devon and Cornwall Police to investigate Jeremy Thorpe. It confirmed he was suspected of being homosexual.
- Thorpe visited the United States in 1961. He had an affair with a man in San Francisco, who was on probation following a theft conviction. This man was arrested for a probation violation in 1963. In his possession was an intimate letter from Jeremy Thorpe. The FBI were informed because the letter was from a British Member of Parliament, (the Bureau wrongly believed he was a Labour MP not Liberal). The FBI notified the Attorney General Robert F Kennedy. His response (shown below) was to show the letter to a third party whose name is redacted, but is obviously a member of the UK Government.
The FBI will also have notified its agent in the US Embassy in London (known as the “Legal Attaché”)  who liaised with MI5 and the police. Following the John Vassall, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean  spy scandals, homosexuals were believed to be a security threat. There is therefore no doubt that the Legal Attaché would have notified MI5. The US Ambassador made it clear to the Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas Home that Thorpe would be denied entry to the United States should he try to visit there again . This must have caused enormous concern, because homosexuality was a criminal offence at the time, automatically made Thorpe a security risk and undermined US confidence in British security.
- The MI5 file confirming that Thorpe was a homosexual was withheld from a 1962 investigation conducted by Detective Inspector Bob Huntley of the Metropolitan Police CID into Scott’s allegations of homosexual rape by Thorpe.
- Thorpe was appointed as a Privy Councillor in 1967, giving him access to highly sensitive classified information and official briefings. The vetting would have revealed his homosexuality, the San Francisco affair with a convicted thief and the Scott affair. Confirming that Thorpe was liable to blackmail, making him a security risk. However, MI5 did not withhold his security clearance.
- MI5 did not intervene in 1974, when Edward Heath offered Thorpe the position of Home Secretary in a coalition government.
- Thorpe had been a target for the South African Intelligence Service BOSS (Bureau of State Security). It had allocated an agent working undercover as a journalist to damage Thorpe by releasing allegations of homosexuality to the press. In 1976 MI5 and MI6 investigated Thorpe at the request of the Prime Minister Harold Wilson as part of a wider investigation into the activities of BOSS in the UK. This again would have revealed the Scott affair, but again, MI5 did nothing.
- Former Home Secretary Jack Straw has recently revealed that when he was working as a special advisor to the Social Security Minister Barbara Castle in the 1970’s, he was asked to review Norman Scott’s Social Security file. He found that the files had intimate details of Scott’s relationship with Thorpe; that they supported the claims that Thorpe had withheld Scott’s National Insurance Card and alleged that he had been in contact with BOSS. Incredibly, documents in the files had been classified using the UK Government Security Classification “SECRET”. Thereby ensuring that his information could not be released to the press. Who had previously reviewed the files and marked them as “SECRET” is not revealed, but I do not think it was the DHSS. Given that some of the information related to a foreign intelligence service operating in the UK, I think it a valid deduction that MI5 would have been informed and would have reviewed the file and it was MI5 that classified the documents as “SECRET”, thereby protecting Thorpe from exposure. Full report from the Guardian here .
- BBC journalist Tom Mangold has stated that MI5 used the BBC to investigate Thorpe. BBC Report here.
Despite the fact that Thorpe was a criminal and a security risk, and its duty was to expose him; no action was taken by MI5. This confirms beyond doubt he was protected by MI5 from at least 1962 onwards. This was a major security failure by MI5, which was concealing criminality by a leading MP and protecting a security risk.
There are a number of reasons why MI5 would protect Thorpe:
- Thorpe was a leading broadcaster, commenting on African colonies that were becoming independent for the leading current affairs programme “This Week” from 1956 onwards. He made many speeches supporting independence opposing Apartheid and the Rhodesian regime. Thorpe met many African leaders and his views ensured that he had close contact with them, at a time when Britain’s relations with black African countries were important for the Foreign Office. This would have brought him to the attention of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). I have no doubt that he would have been approached by MI6 to be an informant. If this is so, then MI6 would have ensured MI5 protected him, because he was a useful intelligence source.
- The MI5 file on the Lord Boothby Affair  confirms that following on from the Profumo affair  that rocked Britain in 1963. There was a fear that high profile sex scandals involving senior politicians and establishment figures would undermine the established political order. (The situation alluded to by Robert Kennedy in the memo above). MI5 therefore followed a policy of suppressing political scandals involving senior politicians. Cyril Smith was protected by MI5 and the Metropolitan Police Special Branch, as covered in my article here. MI5 also protected Boothby and Labour MP Tom Driberg in accordance with this policy. As a very senior politician and leader of one of the main parties, this protection would also have been afforded to Thorpe.
- Thorpe was an establishment figure. An old Etonian married to a minor member of the Royal Family, (Marion Countess of Harewood, the ex-wife of the Queen’s cousin). He was a friend of Princess Margaret and of Anthony Armstrong Jones whom he had known at Eton. At one time he was suggested as the best man at their wedding. BBC journalist Tom Mangold narrates how this ensured Thorpe would benefit from an instinctive establishment cover up here  and how pressure was brought on him to abandon his investigation in this BBC Report. A similar case was Russian spy Sir Anthony Blunt, who was protected because he was the Queen Mother’s cousin . Blunt was eventually exposed by Mrs Thatcher because she was opposed to establishment cover-ups.
Did MI5 and some Police Forces pervert the course of Thorpe’s trial?
There is credible evidence that Thorpe’s trial for attempted murder was perverted, ensuring that Thorpe and the other three accused were acquitted:
- Thorpe stated several times that he was being protected by MI5.
- Meighan stated that after he had admitted going to Mr Scott’s home in Devon with a gun to assassinate him and then supplying the gun and ammunition that were used in the attempt to kill Mr Scott. He was told to go to the Metropolitan Police Station at Brentford, where he was given a pre-prepared statement by men in civilian clothes who said they were police officers who told him to sign it, to ensure he had no more involvement. The new statement supressed most of his evidence and ensured that he did not have to give evidence in Court. Had his evidence been placed before the Court, there is little doubt it would have secured the convictions of Thorpe, the other three defendants, Meighan and his unnamed accomplice.
- Avon and Somerset detectives would normally have met Meighan at a police station in Avon and Somerset, not a police station in London. MI5 was London based and used the Metropolitan Police Special Branch as its executive arm. The Metropolitan Police would not have become involved in an Avon and Somerset investigation unless it was ordered to by MI5. It therefore seems likely that the men in plain clothes who met Meighan at Brentwood were from the Metropolitan Police Special Branch, acting on behalf of MI5. Hence the reason they chose a Metropolitan Police Station to meet Meighan.
- As Meighan stated, in return for withdrawing his evidence, he was protected. He did not stand trial for supplying the gun and ammunition used in the attempted murder of Mr Scott the other three accused stood trial for. Further, no attempt was made to arrest Meighan, his accomplice, Thorpe or the other three accused over the first abandoned attempt by Meighan to assassinate Mr Scott.
The conclusion is inescapable that the original Avon and Somerset investigation supressed evidence, and/or acquiesced to evidence being supressed.
London criminal Mr Dennis Meighan alleged in a BBC interview that:
- He and another man had gone to Mr Scott’s home in Devon with a gun to assassinate him.
- He subsequently supplied the gun and ammunition that were used in the attempt to kill Mr Scott by Andrew Newton, in which Mr Scott’s dog was shot.
- The police supressed some of his evidence, thereby protecting Thorpe.
In response to these allegations, Avon and Somerset Constabulary (which conducted the original investigation) asked Gwent Police to conduct an investigation into the disclosures made by Mr Meighan  which was codenamed Operation Velum.
Operation Velum’s terms of reference were:
- “To examine and research the circumstances of events, in light of the recent disclosures by Mr Meighan.
- To conduct the review in a manner that is legal, ethical and proportionate, with sensitivity to those involved and the families of those now deceased.
- To confirm or disprove any criminality, corruption, misconduct or undue interference with the previous investigation.
- To identify and refer any individual(s) responsible to the Crown Prosecution Service should there be criminal liability.
- To identify, locate and preserve any records currently held and relevant to the previous and current inquiry.”
Gwent Police reported to Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Operation Velum was closed in May 2017.
Since the closure of Operation Velum, there have been a number of new developments in the Thorpe affair:
- As a result of some very good journalism in the United States by Freedom of Information specialist Martin Rosenbaum, new documents have emerged. BBC report here.
- The BBC has run a miniseries called “A very English Scandal”, starring Hugh Grant (Trailer here) which will increase public awareness and interest  into what actually happened. It is based on the book “A Very English Scandal. Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment”, by John Preston. This has increased public interest in the case and what actually happened.
- Former Home Secretary Jack Straw has made revelations about the content of Norman Scott’s Social Security file.
- A key witness -hitman Andrew Newton- believed to be dead by Gwent Police has been traced by journalists. BBC Report here.
Media Suppression during Operation Velum, the latest cover-up into the Thorpe affair.
No public statement was made about Operation Velum by Gwent Police or by Avon and Somerset when it was closed. Further enquiries elicited this statement from Gwent Police in 2017:
“In relation to our investigation it was given the operational name of Velum.
We submitted an evidential file to the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to the matters you describe below. This was reviewed by a Senior Crown Prosecutor. The decision was made that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with this investigation.
We have now handed this investigation back to the originating Police area, Avon & Somerset.”
Operation Velum is overseen by the Avon & Somerset Professional Standards Department. I wrote to Chief Constable Andy Marsh of Avon and Somerset Constabulary in November 2017 asking him to release a statement on the outcome of Operation Velum. My request was ignored, which was astonishing, given the high profile of the case.
Chief Constable Marsh.
Providing minimal comment on the Thorpe affair and no comment on the role of MI5 had in it, or why the original investigation failed.
The NYE gave MI5 the opportunity to comment on Operation Velum. No response was received.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson responded “We can neither confirm nor deny” if Jeremy Thorpe had ever been an MI6 informant.
As a result of further correspondence with Avon and Somerset Constabulary in April 2018, it issued the following minimal statement to the NYE, but neither Avon and Somerset nor Gwent Police had made any public statement on its website or issued a general press release at the time:
“Following disclosures by Dennis Meighan which came to light as a result of a
BBC Radio 4 documentary, Avon and Somerset Police referred his allegations to the Independent Office for Police Complaint Commission (now the IOPC).
The IPCC determined that these circumstances should be locally investigated by the force.
Owing to the specific allegations concerning former Avon and Somerset staff, Gwent Police was asked to conduct a review which resulted in two members of the public being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The CPS concluded that as a result of this independent investigation, there was insufficient evidence to proceed with any criminal proceedings, including any for corruption by any serving or former Avon and Somerset officer.
Gwent Police has ensured all relevant parties have been updated on the outcome of their investigation.”
The statement does not address the major issues in the case or all the points in the terms of reference. Specifically:
- No explanation is given as to why the four accused, Meighan and an unnamed accomplice of Meighan were not charged with attempted murder for their original aborted attempt to kill Scott at his home, although Avon & Somerset Constabulary were aware of this at the time.
- No explanation is given as to why Meighan was not charged with providing a working pistol and ammunition to Newton, for the purpose of murdering Scott.
- No explanation is given as to why hitman Andrew Newton was not charged with attempted murder.
- No explanation is given as to why Avon & Somerset did not submit all of Meighan’s evidence to the DPP.
- No explanation is given as to why Meighan did not appear as a witness at the trial, which would certainly have ensured that the accused and Meighan were convicted.
- The statement confirms that “The CPS concluded that as a result of this independent investigation, there was insufficient evidence to proceed with any criminal proceedings…. for corruption by any serving or former Avon and Somerset” This implies that some evidence of corruption was found, even if it was not enough to proceed with criminal charges. Interestingly, the Gwent Police statement does not state that no evidence of corruption or undue influence was found.
- There is no denial in the statement of corruption by offices from other forces. It only covers Avon & Somerset
- There is no denial that evidence was discovered of undue interference on the investigation.
- There is no denial of Meighan’s key allegation, -which if true confirms the existence of police corruption in the case- that his original statement containing all his evidence was substituted for one which supressed most of his evidence.
- It is unclear if the MI5 and Special Branch files were made available to Operation Velum, or if they were even requested.
- Meighan has publicly admitted being a contract killer and an underworld armourer, involved in two attempted murders, no action of any sort whatsoever has ever been taken against him. He even retains access to his gun collection. This is particularly concerning, given that he has admitted supplying antique guns for the purpose of committing contract killings and the National Ballistics Intelligence Service identified antique firearms as a source of guns used in crime. 
- It is clear that Avon & Somerset investigations into both of the attempted assassinations of Norman Scott were failures and fundamentally flawed. Yet there is no explanation for this failure.
I have concluded that Operation Velum was shrouded in official secrecy, and then quietly closed.
Andrew Parker, Director General of MI5.
Not commenting on the role of MI5 in the Thorpe affair. Has he ordered a media clampdown?
Operation Velum: The latest incredible developments
Gwent Police did not interview the key witness in the Thorpe case -hitman Andrew Newton-because it had concluded he was dead. In fact, journalists were able to trace him and found him alive and well, living openly under the name of Hann Redwin.
One cannot help but ask how it is that experienced detectives with all the resources of the state at their disposal, were unable to trace him when journalists armed only with a computer were.
Avon & Somerset Constabulary which has operational control over Operation Velum has confirmed to the NYE that it did not re-open Operation Velum, or request that Newton/Redwin be interviewed.
Gwent Police then issued this statement to the NYE on the 4th of June 2018:
“Gwent Police Statement
In 2014, the BBC broadcast claims made by Dennis Meighan of Police corruption in the original Jeremy Thorpe investigation.
As a result of this, Avon and Somerset Police asked Gwent Police to examine and investigate these claims on their behalf.
The investigation was codenamed Operation Velum.
Gwent Police interviewed Mr. Meighan under caution and completed other lines of enquiry before submitting its findings to the CPS.
The CPS concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the claims made by Dennis Meighan and that no further action would be taken against Mr Meighan or any other person.
The investigation was closed.
In conducting its investigation, Gwent Police had reasonable grounds to conclude that Andrew Newton / Hann Redwin was deceased.
However, recent information obtained by the Force indicated that this may not be correct.
Having confirmed his status and whereabouts, officers from Gwent Police spoke to Mr Redwin who is unable to provide any additional evidence to that which has already been obtained in the original enquiry.
As Mr Redwin’s evidence has already been considered by the CPS prior to this matter being closed, Gwent Police is satisfied that there is no basis to re-refer the matter to the CPS and the investigation remains closed.
Gwent Police would like to clarify that at no point has it re-opened the original Jeremy Thorpe investigation. Operation Velum was specifically about claims made by Dennis Meighan of Police corruption relating to the Thorpe enquiry.
The two enquiries are linked but are separate investigations.
In conducting its investigation, Gwent’s priority was to review the matter with sensitivity to those involved and the families of those now deceased.
A similar statement was issued on the Gwent Police Website on the 5th of June.
However, Gwent Police would not respond to the NYE’s questions on:
- What the “reasonable grounds to conclude that Andrew Newton / Hann Redwin was deceased”
- If Newton/Redwin was interviewed under caution in a police station.
- How, having closed the Operation Velum investigation and passed it back to Avon & Somerset, Gwent Police have interviewed Newton/Redwin without the case having been formally reopened and an investigation authorised by Avon and Somerset Constabulary.
The need for a comprehensive statement
The credibility of Operation Velum as an investigation into police corruption is now in tatters.
MI5 has authorisation to conduct acts which would be criminal  if committed by a citizen. It must be subordinate to the law and to police investigations, and accountable for past mistakes. As demonstrated by its recent statement to the Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse.
The police must act openly “without fear or favour” to maintain public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the police service; particularly in cases involving allegations of misconduct by senior politicians, policemen and MI5.
Large sums of tax payer’s money have been spent on Operation Velum. The public have a right to know what it discovered and if there was undue influence brought to bear on the original investigation, Operation Velum and the latest post closure investigation.
The trial of Jeremy Thorpe was one of the greatest trials since the Second World War. It arguably contributed to the disappearance of the Liberal Party and remains of enormous political and historical significance today.
All the recent investigations into allegations of historical crimes by politicians have been open and provided a full statement on closure. It is in the public interest that the full truth emerges. Chief Constable Marsh is preventing this by refusing to comment. That is an abuse of his position.
Sources Wikipedia article.  BBC article or program.  Guardian article  Channel 4 program  Federal Bureau of Investigation  Daily Telegraph article  Daily Mail article  Jeremy Thorpe by Michel Bloch  “A Very English Scandal. Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment”, by John Preston.