THE FALL OF JOHN ARTHUR JONES

September 16, 2016

16 September 2016rebecca_logo_04TODAY ONE of Anglesey’s most controversial figures was finally brought to book.

John Arthur Jones — disgraced council official and failed politician — was given an 18 months sentence for endangering RAF training jets.

Judge Geraint Walters told him he was a man driven by “arrogance”.

A jury had earlier found him guilty of 13 counts of shining bright lights into the cockpits of Hawk jets taking part in night manoeuvres at the Mona airfield.

The jets fly over Jones’ Parc Cefni business park next to his home in the village of Bodffordd near Llangefni.

The prison sentence is the climax of a saga that started more than thirty years ago.

For three decades John Arthur Jones ruthlessly exploited the council in his attempt to create a multi-million pound property empire.

♦♦♦

IN 2012 John Arthur Jones started a campaign against the RAF.

He objected to jets from RAF Valley using the Mona Airfield near his business park for night exercises.

Valley is home to the RAF’s 208 Squadron which uses Hawk jets to train fighter pilots.

Mona has been used by the RAF for more than a century.

Jones’ Parc Cefni business park, which also includes his home, is under the flight path of the Hawks.

Jones initially asked the RAF to change the route to avoid the complex which includes a children’s nursery.

JAJ_01
“JESUS” ARTHUR JONES
IN 1998 John Arthur Jones gave an interview to HTV’s current affairs programme Wales This Week. He’d just been sacked as Anglesey County Council’s Housing Director because the authority had lost confidence in him. Jones compared himself to Jesus: “A man stood in front of Pilate two thousand years ago and Pilate said I can see nothing wrong in this man. But at that time the Pharisees said crucify him. Now then, the descendants of those Pharisees are living today on Anglesey – they’re saying crucify him.”

He felt that the flights intensified after he made this request — and complained to the newspapers.

In September 2012 the Daily Mail published  an article in which Jones threatened to step up his campaign.

He asked:

“Are our children being subjected, as some say in the village, to punishment by a gang of Hooray Henrys for daring to ask if they will fly over open fields instead of a children’s nursery?”

In another letter, he warned:

“Since you have refused to send independent observers to Parc Cefni I will be arranging for a weather balloon to be raised daily at the corner of our property. It will be taken down each evening at midnight.”

This prompted the RAF to ask North Wales Police to visit Jones — a move he branded “heavy-handed and sinister”.

He dropped the weather balloon idea — but in 2013 began to shine a bright light into the cockpits of the jets as they approached Parc Cefni.

Several landings at Mona had to be abandoned because of the danger to pilots.

Undercover police mounted a surveillance operation and, on one occasion, saw Jones tracking the planes with a powerful torch.

In October 2014 he was charged in connection with 13 incidents of endangering aircraft between November 2013 and September 2014.

Jones denied all the charges and called members of his family to give evidence.

His daughter Catrin Lloyd Davies, a solicitor, and her husband, army captain Gareth Lloyd Davies gave Jones an alibi for one of the incidents.

They said the family had had a meal together and Jones didn’t leave the house.

Jones denied his campaign was actually driven by his failure to sell any of the planned holiday chalets on the site because potential buyers were put off by the jets.

Jones’ barrister Lisa Judge compared her client to the TV character Victor Meldrew.

In June this year a jury of 11 found him guilty of all 13 counts.

♦♦♦

THIS AFTERNOON Jones’ barrister Lisa Judge asked for an adjournment, telling the court Jones had attended a medical examination this morning.

Another was booked tomorrow — with a biopsy scheduled for later this month.

She said he was “a man potentially facing death” with a possibility “he could die in prison”.

Judge Walters said that he’d been told nothing about these tests until this week.

He noted that it was John Arthur Jones who had commissioned the examinations — and that he was paying for them privately.

He’d heard nothing from a consultant telling him exactly what the problem was.

In the absence of a proper diagnosis, he said, the claim that John Arthur Jones might be dying was simply “courtroom advocacy”.

He dismissed the application.

He told Jones he was a man  of “arrogance”.

He did not believe his claim that his campaign against the RAF was motivated solely by concern for the children attending the nursery at Parc Cefni:

“That was only one of the many lies you told during the trial.”

His actions were “highly reckless”.

He sentenced him to 18 months in gaol for each of the 13 counts, the sentences to run concurrently.

Tonight he is on his way to Altcourse Prison in Liverpool …

♦♦♦

JOHN ARTHUR JONES’ interest in the Bodffordd area began in the 1980s.

He bought a piece of agricultural land on a hill overlooking the village.

It enjoyed a magnificent view of the island, the nearby Cefni Reservoir and Snowdonia.

In 1987 Jones applied for planning permission to build a bungalow at the top of the hill.

He wrote to the director of planning to say that “for 10 years I have been looking for a suitable site on which to develop a fish farm”.

This particular site was perfect for the operation, he said, but there  was just one snag — security.

Jones wrote:

” … the best possible deterrent is to live on the site and be in a position to see the ponds by day and which can be lit up at night.”

Planners were opposed.

DSC_0995
COUNCIL HOUSE
THIS IS Nant Garedig, the house John Arthur Jones built in the 1990s. It’s one of scores of houses constructed by Anglesey councillors on land that the council’s own plans say shouldn’t be built on. The current owners have no connection to John Arthur Jones.
Photo: Rebecca

The application was in “conflict with the approved Anglesey Structure Plan Policies”.

But approval was given by other officers using delegated powers.

By 1990, by which time Jones had been appointed Housing Director, the permission to build the bungalow had sprouted dormer windows.

The fish farm never materialised.

At present day values, the planning permission was worth between £125,000 and £150,000.

He did not start building the house —  known as Nant Garedig — until the mid 1990s.

The construction was to be as controversial as the planning permission …

♦♦♦

WHEN JOHN Arthur Jones finally built Nant Garedig he did it on the cheap.

The foundations included hardcore which came from the former Shell oil terminal at Rhosgoch.

The council took control of the terminal in 1990, the year John Arthur Jones became Director of Housing.

The site was managed by the Housing Department.

At that time there were some 15,000 tonnes of hardcore left on the site.

In the years that followed much of it disappeared.

John Arthur Jones placed an ad in the local paper calling for tenders for what he called the remaining “random rubble”.

One of the successful tenders — for 200 tonnes at 50 pence a tonne — came from John Arthur Jones himself.

It went into the foundations of Nant Garedig.

The Housing Department did not send its Director a bill until two and a half years later.

Jones said he had asked for an invoice on three separate occasions.

When the District Auditor investigated this issue, he noted that this invoice was finally raised “during the period when the Director was being investigated by the police”.

The council also accepted a bid for the “random rubble” from a builder called O J D Griffiths.

In October 1996 John Arthur Jones drafted a letter warning the contractor that he had “carried a large quantity of stone” from the site “in direct contravention of the prohibition” not to enter the site without permission.

The implication was that he’d taken the stone without paying for it.

“Before I refer the matter to the Police for further investigation,” Jones continued, “I invite you to respond to these allegations.”

O J D Griffiths never got the chance to reply because the letter was never sent.

An official in the Housing Department, Paul Roberts, noted:

“John Arthur Jones … said letter not to go – speak to the contractor instead.”

The District Auditor investigated.

“I am particularly concerned,” he wrote in his report, “to discover that during this period Mr O J D Griffiths was undertaking work on the home of Paul Roberts … and later in the year sold and delivered hardcore from the [Rhosgoch] site to the Director of Housing and Property [John Arthur Jones] which was in the process of being constructed.”

“The apparent lenient approach taken by these officers towards this contractor represents, in my view, extremely poor judgement, particularly in the light of their personal contractual relationship with the contractor.”

At the same time the District Auditor was investigating, police began looking at some of the men working on the building of Jones’ new house.

Several were receiving housing benefit.

JAJ_02
“I DON’T BELIEVE IT!”
JOHN ARTHUR JONES — the man his barrister likened to Victor Meldrew — is no stranger to the police. In the late 1990s, after he’d been arrested by the North Wales Police investigating his use of builders on housing benefit, he went on holiday with a detective inspector from the same force. In the same period he also offered the former head of Anglesey police a contract — tracking down housing benefit fraudsters …

At the time his own housing department was mounting an operation to prevent housing benefit fraud.

John Arthur Jones was arrested in 1997 by detectives from the North Wales Police.

Eventually, he was charged with misuse of public office, intimidating witnesses and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The case later collapsed after prosecution witnesses admitted discussing the case during the trial.

♦♦♦

BUT MAKING a small fortune on his new home wasn’t enough for John Arthur Jones — he wanted to be a property tycoon.

In the early 2000s Welsh Water decided to sell its Bodffordd depot next to the Cefni Reservoir.

John Arthur Jones thought it was an ideal site for a private housing development.

He bought the five acre site for £241,000 in September 2003.

The previous month he’d sold Nant Garedig for £365,000 — and moved into the small bungalow that came with the Welsh Water depot.

He wanted permission to build 22 Canadian-style wooden chalets.

The council was happy to give him permission but insisted on conditions, the most important of which was that the park be managed as a single business.

This meant that Jones could not sell individual plots.

He has always maintained that this condition was unlawful and, many years later, a government planning inspector agreed and ordered the council to remove the condition.

Jones has always insisted that those people who criticised his plans  “… have a personal agenda based on malice and jealousy”.

Jones built two of the Canadian-style chalets but was never able to sell either of them on the open market.

The fact that the RAF conducted low-flying exercises was one of the reasons which put off potential buyers.

The remaining 20 chalets have never been built.

♦♦♦

IN 2004 John Arthur Jones was elected to the council.

A year later he had his own political party — the Radical Independents.

There were just four members — Jones was the leader and he was joined by Hefin Wyn Roberts, John Rowlands and David Lewis Roberts.

The group was small but held the balance of power on the island.

The glue that held the Radical Independents together was greed.

John Rowlands and David Lewis Roberts wanted the valuable planning permissions —  worth between £100,000 and £150,000 — which John Arthur Jones and Hefin Wyn Roberts already enjoyed.

John Rowlands got his almost immediately, despite objections from planners.

He’d given a field to his daughter and she was given permission to build a new house because she wanted to return to the island.

After she received the permission, she sold the site for £150,000.

David Lewis Roberts went one step further.

He secretly bought a plot of land near Benllech — and then tried to smash the council’s green belt policy preventing new building in the area.

When another councillor accused Roberts of corruption, Roberts complained to the Ombudsman who referred the matter to the council’s Standards Committee.

The committee decided that David Lewis Roberts was, indeed, corrupt.

It ruled that his conduct “had been within the generally understood meaning of ‘corrupt’ …”

and

“gave a clear impression that he had misused his position for personal advantage, and that it amounted to the criminal offence of misconduct in public office.”

The police were not interested in prosecuting Roberts.

But the electorate took a dim view of the chaos John Arthur Jones and his Radical Independents had unleashed.

In the election of 2008, John Arthur Jones lost his seat.

The turmoil he’d triggered continued for years afterwards, forcing the Welsh government to take over the running of the council in 2011.

The intervention lasted several years.

♦♦♦ 
Published: 16 September 2016
© Rebecca
♦♦♦

Note
This article is based on a series of pieces already published. They are:

MAY THE FARCE BE WITH YOU

♦♦♦ 

DONATIONS

If you would like to support the work of Rebecca, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS

Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  
If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


EDITOR’S LOG — CHANGES

May 8, 2016

rebecca_logo_04

YOU’LL SEE there are changes to the site today.

Rebecca Television becomes just Rebecca.

And this new personal column is introduced.

Why the changes?

Well, there haven’t been any TV programmes since the three produced in the website’s early years.

I’m sad about that because television is a powerful tool in the armoury of investigative journalism.

And, having previously worked for the ITV series Wales This Week where programmes normally cost around £10k for 23 minutes, the Rebecca videos weren’t expensive.

But Rebecca doesn’t generate the money needed to produce them.

Another problem is politics.

Two of the three programmes that were produced had to be withdrawn because they infringed ITV Wales copyright.

I acknowledged this — but hoped that, since ITV Wales had never been interested in the material, they wouldn’t mind me using it.

Or, at least, allow me to use it for a fee.

However, someone at ITV in Wales or London took exception to a critical programme about Ofcom Wales director Rhodri Williams.

This included an interview with Williams’ former boss filmed by ITV Wales but never broadcast.

ITV insisted the interview be removed — and wouldn’t even allow me to pay for the use of it.

(For those of you who’re interested, the battle with ITV is told here and the material that was censored is in the article A Man Of Conviction?)

The fall-out of this was that another programme also had to go.

It also used an interview that ITV Wales had never broadcast.

So, with just one programme surviving, it’s time to call it a day.

The second change is this Editor’s Log which gives my views rather than those of Rebecca.

This needs a little explanation — after all I write everything that appears on the site.

The fact is Rebecca articles operate to very high standard of evidential proof.

In a major Rebecca investigation readers need to have a large amount of accurate information to test the editorial line being advanced.

This is not to say these pieces are “impartial” — such a thing does not exist.

But, readers should have enough accurate information to make up their own minds.

This column allows me to say things from my personal point of view.

♦♦♦

TOMORROW, Rebecca begins the long analysis of the Macur Review.

This is the government’s judge-led examination of the work of the 1996-1999 North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal.

Rebecca now has the figure of how much this exercise cost: £3 million — all of it to be paid for by the Ministry of Justice.

Was it worth it?

Rebecca says it wasn’t — and there’ll be a raft of articles to say why.

But here I want to say something about my involvement with the Review.

When David Cameron announced the Review in 2012, I thought “perhaps this time the judiciary will get to the bottom of what happened”.

There’s always the suspicion the exercise is going to be a con — just a sop to show concern and then produce a whitewash.

But, if you’re trying to find out the truth, you have no choice but to hope the process will be an honest one.

So I spent some two weeks preparing long statements — and then flew to London to meet Lady Justice Macur.

In the end, of course, it was all smoke and mirrors: she produced the suspected whitewash.

I have to say, though, I felt compromised by the whole process.

And, of course, the report is a gift to the conspiracy theorists.

A judge is persuaded to take on the dirty job of protecting the establishment — and then, a few months later, gets appointed to the Court of Appeal.

This is the elite of the judiciary — just 42 strong, bringing with it the equivalent of a knighthood and membership of Her Majesty’s Privy Council …

♦♦♦

BUT IT turns out to be a lot less simple than that.

Lady Justice Macur may have produced a whitewash — but she does seem, bizarrely, to have had a conscience about it.

Yes, she clears the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal and says its conclusions were correct.

And, yes, she also stoops to a shoddy and shameful handling of the Rebecca material.

But, having protected the conclusions of the Tribunal, she then lays into the Tribunal chairman, Sir Ronald Waterhouse.

By the time she’s finished with him, his reputation is in tatters.

She uses mild language but the sentiments are brutal.

She does this in two ways.

She provides an enormous amount of new information — and then condemns him for the way he either handled or ignored it.

The result is a whitewash that, strangely, provides ammunition for the Tribunal’s opponents — including me.

She even makes this point more or less explicitly.

On page 18 of her report, she states baldly:

“Where there is information that runs contrary to my conclusions, I have reported on it.”

The result is a report that is full of new and valuable information — some of it is sensational.

I can’t ever remember reading anything like it …

PADDY FRENCH

♦♦♦
Published: 8 May 2016
© Rebecca 2016
♦♦♦

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards


ANOTHER RE-BAIL FOR GORDON ANGLESEA

September 11, 2014

rebecca_logo_04

BAIL FOR the former North Wales Police superintendent Gordon Anglesea has been extended again.

Anglesea was the 18th person to be arrested as part of Operation Pallial  — the re-investigation of historical child abuse allegations in North Wales — in December last year.

When he answered bail today at an undisclosed police station he was re-bailed until January next year.

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency, which runs Operation Pallial, told Rebecca Television:

“enquiries are ongoing.”

GORDON ANGLESEA The former North Wales Police superintendent has had his bailed extended until September.  Picture: © Daily Mirror

GORDON ANGLESEA
THE RETIRED North Wales Police superintendent has had his bail extended until January.
Picture: © Daily Mirror

♦♦♦

COMING UP

THE INVESTIGATION into the closed world of BBC Wales continues with a detailed analysis of the crisis that engulfed the Corporation between 2008 and 2011. The current regime, headed by Rhodri Talfan Davies, has taken the unprecedented step of announcing it will no longer answer questions from Rebecca Television 

♦♦♦

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


GORDON ANGLESEA RE-BAILED

April 29, 2014

rebecca_logo_04

POLICE BAIL for former North Wales Police superintendent Gordon Anglesea has been extended.

Anglesea was the 18th person to be arrested as part of Operation Pallial  — the re-investigation of historical child abuse allegations in North Wales — in December last year.

At that time he was bailed to appear at a police station this month.

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency, which runs Operation Pallial, told Rebecca Television yesterday that Anglesea answered bail on April 17.

He was then re-bailed until early September.

GORDON ANGLESEA The former North Wales Police superintendent has had his bailed extended until September.  Picture: © Daily Mirror

GORDON ANGLESEA
The former North Wales Police superintendent has had his bail extended until September.
Picture: © Daily Mirror

COMING UP

IT’S ONE of the greatest gravy trains in Welsh history. Glas Cymru — the not-for-profit company which owns Welsh Water — claims its sole concern is the welfare of its customers. But it also takes good care of its directors — paying them mouth-watering sums of money …

♦♦♦

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


MIRROR CONFIRMS GORDON ANGLESEA ARREST

January 24, 2014

rebecca_logo_04WEDNESDAY’S DAILY MIRROR carried an article confirming the arrest of former North Wales Police superintendent Gordon Anglesea.

A reporter from the paper spoke to the retired police officer outside his home on Monday (Jan 20).

He said “I have no comment to make”.

The Daily Mirror story was marked “Exclusive” but was in fact largely based on the Rebecca Television (RTV) article published last week.

The Daily Post in North Wales, which belongs to the same group, made the story its lead on Wednesday (Jan 22).

The RTV story was not acknowledged by either title.

The Daily Mirror later accepted that much of the article was lifted from the Rebecca Television piece — and has agreed to make a donation to the website.

♦♦♦

Keep up to date with developments on Rebecca Television investigations by clicking on the “follow blog by email” button on the right hand side of the home page.

Your email address will only be used to alert you to newly published articles…

MIRROR "EXCLUSIVE" The Mirror article published on Wednesday. The paper later accepted that much of the article was lifted from the Rebecca Television piece — and has agreed to make a donation to the website.

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


GORDON ANGLESEA ARRESTED

January 16, 2014

rebecca_logo_04

RETIRED NORTH Wales Police superintendent Gordon Anglesea has been arrested on suspicion of historic physical and sexual assaults against children.

Anglesea was detained at his Colwyn Bay home in December by officers of the National Crime Agency.

He was the 18th person to be arrested as part of Operation Pallial, based at North Wales Police headquarters.

 Operation Pallial was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron in November 2012.

 His decision followed the BBC Newsnight programme which falsely implied that Tory peer Lord McAlpine had abused children in North Wales care homes.

GORDON ANGLESEA The retired police superintendent arrested on suspicion of historic sexual and physical abuse of children in North Wales. Picture: © Daily Mirror

GORDON ANGLESEA
The retired police superintendent arrested on suspicion of historic sexual and physical abuse of children in North Wales.
Picture: © Daily Mirror

ON 12 DECEMBER officers from the National Crime Agency knocked on the door of a house in a quiet suburban street in Old Colwyn on the North Wales coast.

Inside the property they arrested a 76-year-old man and later took him to a police station in Cheshire.

The detectives were part of the Agency’s Operation Pallial team.

They questioned the arrested man about allegations of child abuse dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.

Seven men have alleged that they were sexually or physically abused by the retired police officer in the period 1975 to 1983 when they were between 8 and 16 years of age.

The following day the National Crime Agency, which is in charge of Operation Pallial, said the pensioner had been released on police bail until mid-April.

The Agency would not reveal his identity.

Rebecca Television understands it is Gordon Anglesea.

Between 1975 to 1983 he was a North Wales Police Inspector based in Wrexham.

He served as a policeman for more than 34 years and reached the rank of Superintendent by the time he retired in 1991.

Anglesea is a Rotarian and a Freemason.

Shortly after his arrest last December, he informed his local Rhos on Sea Rotary Club that he had been detained.

Six days after the arrest, on December 20, Rebecca Television rang John Roberts, secretary of the Rhos club.

We told him we were planning to name Anglesea.

Roberts replied that Anglesea had not resigned.

Roberts said the retired police officer had applied for leave of absence and that the request would be considered at the club’s January meeting.

At that meeting, which took place on January 7, Anglesea was given leave of absence until April.

He is a long-standing Rotarian, one of 51,000 members in Britain and Ireland.

He has been President of the Rhos on Sea club on three occasions — 1989-90, 1990-91 and 2007-8.

In 2010 he was the club official in charge of “Youth Service”.

A spokeswoman for Rotary International told Rebecca Television that “while there was a legal process under way, the organisation could not comment.”

nwpolicehq_001

NORTH WALES POLICE
Operation Pallial operated out of the North Wales Police headquarters in Colwyn Bay until it moved to undisclosed National Crime Agency premises.
Picture: Rebecca Television

Anglesea is also a Freemason of more than 30 years standing.

There are 250,000 masons in England and Wales — outnumbering Rotarians 5 to 1.

In 1976 Anglesea joined a masonic lodge in Colwyn Bay.

In 1982 he became a member of Wrexham’s Berwyn lodge.

He left in 1984 to join a new Wrexham lodge called Pegasus becoming its Master in 1990.

The secretary of the North Wales Province of Freemasonry, Peter Sorahan, said:

“In view of the fact that Operation Pallial is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment.”

“However”, he added, “I can assure you that if requested by the Police to do so, the Province of North Wales will provide full assistance with their inquiries.”

Masonic HQ, the United Grand Lodge of England based in London, also confirmed it would assist the police if asked.

On January 8 Rebecca Television wrote to Gordon Anglesea informing him that the website intended to reveal that he was the man arrested on December 12.

We asked for a comment.

Royal Mail confirmed delivery of the letter.

There was no reply.

Operation Pallial can be contacted on 0800 118 1199 or by email at operationpallial@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk.


© 
Rebecca Television 2014

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

 


THE MESSHAM INTERVENTION

November 13, 2013

rebecca_logo_04THE JOURNALISTIC nightmare which engulfed the BBC over the handling of child abuse allegations in North Wales has catapulted the Rebecca Television series The Case of the Flawed Tribunal into the limelight.

In November 2012 the Newsnight programme allowed Stephen Messham to falsely accuse Lord McAlpine of abusing children in North Wales.

There was plenty of evidence that Stephen Messham is a damaged character whose testimony required careful evaluation.  

But the BBC’s mistake has made it possible for the Rebecca Television investigation to be taken seriously.

David Cameron’s decision to launch an  inquiry means the allegations outlined in The Case of the Flawed Tribunal will be considered by a High Court judge.

(This article was originally published last December.)

STEPHEN MESSHAM

STEPHEN MESSHAM
Photographed in 2000 holding a copy of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal report, Messham was described in its pages as “severely damaged psychologically”.
Photo: Phil Noble / PA

HOW WAS it that Stephen Messham — a man “severely damaged psychologically” —  was allowed to accuse a senior Tory politician of child abuse on a  national current affairs programme when those same allegations had been dismissed as unreliable twenty years earlier?

Messham, the 49-year-old former resident of the Bryn Estyn children’s home near Wrexham, was the key witness in the BBC’s now notorious early November edition of Newsnight about child abuse in North Wales.

Messham claimed he’d been sexually abused by a senior Tory politician while he was in care.

Newsnight did not identify the man but a frenzy of speculation on the internet meant that Lord McAlpine was quickly — and falsely — “outed” as the alleged abuser.

A week later Messham saw a photograph of Lord McAlpine and declared he was not the man who had abused him.

The media firestorm that followed this disastrous broadcast forced the BBC’s newly-appointed Director General, former Newsnight editor George Entwistle, to resign.

It also cost the editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Iain Overton, his job.

It was the Bureau’s lead reporter Angus Stickler, a former BBC journalist, who came up with the idea for Newsnight and he presented the item.

On the morning of the broadcast, Overton tweeted:

“If all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile”.

The night before Overton had attended an Oxford University Union debate where Channel 4 News reporter Michael Crick, himself a former Newsnight journalist, asked him if the unidentified politician was McAlpine.

The Observer quotes Overton as saying: “Well, you said it.”

On the day of the broadcast, Michael Crick spoke to Lord McAlpine who denied that he was involved in child abuse — and said he would sue if he was named.

Newsnight did not contact the politician because it decided not to name him.

So why did Stickler, an experienced reporter who won the Sony Radio Academy Award for the best news journalist in 2006, make such an elementary mistake?

LORD McALPINE The Tory peer was faslely accused of child abuse by Stephen Messham on Newsnight. He

LORD McALPINE
The Tory peer falsely accused of child abuse by Stephen Messham on BBC Newsnight. He wasn’t named in the item but quickly identified on the internet. He brought successful actions against many media outlets.  Photo: PA

After all, there has to be a good reason why such a serious allegation had never been reported by a mainstream newspaper or broadcaster in more than two decades.

That reason was simple — journalists could find no evidence that justified publication.

The only title that did accuse Lord McAlpine was the magazine Scallywag — and Scallywag was never taken seriously.

In addition, there is plenty of easily accessible material about Stephen Messham’s tragic life.

Take Lost In Care, the report of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse.

In its pages, Stephen Messham is identified as “witness B”.

This is what the report said about “witness B”:

“We are satisfied that B has suffered a long history of sexual abuse before, during and after his period in care and, to a significant extent until he left care, of physical abuse.”

“As a result he has been, and remains, severely damaged psychologically: he has been greatly affected also by the sudden death of his young wife in very sad circumstances …”

“A major problem is that the damage is reflected in B’s personality in such a way that he presents himself as an unreliable witness by the standards that an ordinary member of a jury is likely to apply.”

“Thus, he is highly sensitive to any criticism and explosive in his reactions …”

“He has been described also as manipulative and there are many matters on which he is particularly vulnerable in cross-examination.”

Lord McAlpine is not the only figure Stephen Messham has falsely accused of serious sexual offences.

He was one of three witnesses who appeared in the 1994 libel action brought by former North Wales Police superintendent Gordon Anglesea against Private Eye, The Observer, the Independent on Sunday and the broadcaster HTV.

See the article The Trials of Gordon Anglesea for the full details of the case.

Stephen Messham is not named in this report but he is the witness who collapsed in the dock.

He was cross-examined about inconsistencies in his evidence.

A jury found by a majority 10-2 verdict that Gordon Anglesea had been wrongly accused.

Damages of £375,000 were agreed.

Another publication where Stephen Messham’s approach to evidence is highlighted is Richard Webster’s 2005 book The Secret of Bryn Estyn.

Here Messham is given the alias “Lee Steward”.

Webster tells the story of how Messham was approached several times about Gordon Anglesea by the freelance journalist Dean Nelson.

Messham complained to the police that Nelson was harassing him.

In a statement he said “ … I would like to say that at no time did Gordon Anglesea ever sexually abuse me.”

It was only later that Messham made statements claiming he’d been abused by Anglesea.

There was, then, plenty of evidence that Stephen Messham’s testimony should be treated with caution.

♦♦♦

WHEN STEPHEN Messham finally admitted he’d made a mistake about Lord McAlpine, there was a danger the government would call off the two inquiries into the North Wales scandal.

But in the highly charged political atmosphere that existed in the wake of the Jimmy Savile affair, David Cameron and the Cabinet decided that they must go ahead.

THERESA MAY The Home Secretary told Paul Flynn MP in the House of Commons that the Rebecca Television allegations would be investigated. Photo: PA

THERESA MAY
The Home Secretary told Paul Flynn MP in the House of Commons last November that the Rebecca Television allegations would be investigated.  Photo: PA

They are a review of the Waterhouse Tribunal by High Court judge Mrs Justice Macur and an investigation of new allegations of child abuse in the 1970s and 1980s by the director of the National Crime Agency, Keith Bristow.

Rebecca Television (RTV) is already a participant in these inquiries and has made several statements to both.

In addition, editor Paddy French met with Mrs Justice Macur at the Royal Courts of Justice earlier this year.

Before Messham’s intervention, the series of articles published as The Case of the Flawed Tribunal by RTV were totally ignored by the media.

Now the allegations are likely to be tested.

The most important of the failures of the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal highlighted by the series is the treatment of Des Frost, the number two at the privately-owned Bryn Alyn complex of children’s homes near Wrexham.

Frost’s boss John Allen was gaoled for six years in 1995 for abusing boys in his care.

Briefly, Frost claimed he had reported allegations of abuse against Allen in 1980 — more than ten years before Allen was arrested.

He said that he asked detectives from Cheshire Constabulary to pass on his concerns to police in Wrexham.

(The full story can be found in the article Silent Witness.)

During the period when the Tribunal was taking evidence, in 1997, the HTV programme Wales This Week interviewed Frost about these allegations.

The Tribunal found out and threatened programme-makers with contempt if details of the allegations were broadcast.

They were removed.

But Frost was not called as a witness and his evidence  was never investigated.

Rebecca Television believes this was a major flaw in the Tribunal’s deliberations.

As a result, the Tribunal conclusion — “there was no significant omission by the North Wales Police in investigating the complaints of abuse to children in care” — is suspect.

Police visited Frost shortly after he was interviewed by HTV and took a statement from him.

In 2011 we wrote to the North Wales Police officer who carried out this interview — Detective Chief Inspector Neil McAdam — to ask what happened to this statement.

McAdam discussed this letter with his superiors who, after discussions with police HQ in Colwyn Bay, told him not to answer.

Rebecca Television complained about the lack of a reply.

The investigation that followed cleared McAdam because he’d been instructed not to reply — “ownership to respond” rested with “someone higher within the organisation”.

We had already written to Chief Constable Mark Polin about the matter.

He did not reply.

In October 2011 we also wrote to then Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan asking her to intervene.

QUESTION TIME The  former Welsh Secretary did not answer a letter from Rebecca Television asking her to appoint a barrister to examine allegations that the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal had not done its job properly.
Photo: PA.

QUESTION TIME
The former Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan (on the right) did not answer a letter from Rebecca Television asking her to appoint a barrister to examine allegations that the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal had not done its job properly.
The Tribunal had been launched in 1996 by William Hague (on the left) when he was Welsh Secretary. Last autumn  David Cameron launched an inquiry into the work of the Tribunal — not by a barrister but by a High Court judge.   Photo: PA.

The letter asked her to “appoint a suitably independent barrister to examine the Rebecca Television allegations.”

Gillan never answered the letter.

She passed it on to the Home Office where a press officer replied:

“Any concerns you have should be addressed to the chief officer (i.e. the chief constable) and not the Home Office. The Home Office has no power to intervene or act on your behalf.”

A year after Rebecca Television wrote to the Welsh Secretary, the North Wales child abuse scandal is not being investigated by a barrister as we requested — but by a High Court judge and the head of the National Crime Agency.

 ♦♦♦

NOTES

1
This article was first published on the old RTV website in December last year.

2
The timeline of last autumn’s events is as follows:

Wednesday, October 3
ITV’s Exposure programme “The Other Side of Jimmy” demolishes Sir Jimmy Savile’s reputation.
It emerges that the BBC Newsnight programme shelved a similar programme the previous December — allegations are made that the decision was influenced by the BBC’s planned Xmas tributes to Savile, who died in October 2011.
The row engulfs the upper echelons of the BBC including George Entwistle, a former Newsnight editor, who had just been appointed Director-General.

Friday, November 2
Iain Overton, editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, tweets:
“If all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile”.
The Newsnight report, fronted by Angus Stickler of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, interviews Stephen Messham who claims he was sexually abused by an unnamed senior Conservative politician.

The former politician is later widely identified on the internet by public figures — including Sally Bercow, wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons, and Guardian columnist George Monbiot — as Lord McAlpine, former Tory party treasurer and a key supporter of Margaret Thatcher.

Monday, November 5 
David Cameron, on an official visit to the Middle East, announces two inquiries into the child abuse scandal in North Wales.
One would be into the way North Wales Police handled child abuse allegations in the 1970s and 1980s.

The second would be into the conduct of the 1996-2000 Waterhouse Inquiry by High Court judge, Lady Macur.

Tuesday, November 6 
Stephen Messham meets Welsh Secretary David Jones.
Home Secretary Theresa May makes a statement in the House of Commons on the North Wales child abuse scandal.
In the debate that follows, Newport West Labour MP Paul Flynn makes the following point:
“I ask the right hon. Lady to look not only at the fresh evidence but at the evidence that was available at the time and that was almost certainly suppressed by powerful people.”
“Will she look at the evidence produced by Paddy French and the Rebecca Television website on an edition of the Wales This Week that was never broadcast?”
This was Theresa May’s reply:
“The police investigations will look at the evidence that was available at the time in these historical abuse allegations, and at whether the evidence was properly investigated and whether avenues of inquiry were not pursued that should have been followed up and that could have led to prosecutions.”
“I can therefore say to the hon. Gentleman that the police will, indeed, be looking at that historical evidence. That is part of the job they will be doing.”

Wednesday, November 7 
Messham’s story begins to unravel:  Guardian reporter David Leigh uncovers “inconsistencies” in his story.

Thursday, November 8 
Philip Schofield, presenter of ITV’s This Morning programme, hands a briefly visible list of alleged abusers to David Cameron during a live interview.
ITV later disciplines 3 members of staff but does not say who they are or what their punishment is.
The company ends up paying Lord McAlpine compensation of £125,000.

Friday, November 9 
Guardian suggests the identification of Lord McAlpine is a case of “mistaken identity” because Messham told the Waterhouse Tribunal that the McAlpine who allegedly abused him was dead.
Guardian says it had asked Messham to comment on the Wednesday and Thursday but he had declined.
Later the same day Messham issues a statement saying the man in the Newsnight programme is not Lord McAlpine.
“After seeing a picture of the individual concerned in the past hour, this (is) not the person I identified by a photograph presented to me by the police in the early 1990s, who told me the man in the photograph was Lord McAlpine”.
BBC issues “unreserved” apology for broadcasting the item.
All investigations at Newsnight suspended and Corporation stops co-productions “across the BBC” with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
BBC Director Scotland Ken MacQuarrie drafted in to prepare a report.
McAlpine issues statement saying he will issue libel writs.
Subsequently, the BBC pays him £185,000 in damages.

Saturday, November 10 
BBC Director General George Entwistle resigns with a £450,000 pay-off.

Tuesday, November 12
Bureau of Investigative Journalism editor Iain Overton resigns.
Angus Stickler, the Bureau’s lead reporter, “steps aside” while an urgent investigation takes place — he later resigns from the organisation.

♦♦♦

© Rebecca Television 2012 & 2013

DONATIONS  If you would like to support the work of Rebecca Television, you can do so by clicking on the DONATE button.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.


%d bloggers like this: