Operation Midland is a probe into credible testimony, writes Exaro’s Editor-in-Chief
By Mark Watts | 5 September 2015
This is what I am most frequently asked about the Metropolitan Police Service’s ‘Operation Midland’, coming slightly ahead of questions that are in essence: who are your confidential sources?
Journalists at a Press briefing at Scotland Yard last December were truly taken aback by the comment that detectives regarded the witness’s account as credible.
We at Exaro were not so surprised. We knew what they thought.
And we knew why.
We cannot at this stage explain the main reason for this assessment on credibility for fear of interfering with the criminal investigation.
Exaro would not, of course, ever reveal the identity of a confidential source, unless the person concerned wished to go public.
Since Exaro’s launch in 2011, we have broken huge, agenda-setting stories. David Hencke led our exposure of senior civil servants who were able to avoid tax by working off-payroll.
David again was at the forefront of our exposure of a secret recording of a meeting where Rupert Murdoch made clear that he was aware that some of his newspaper journalists had paid bribes.
But our investigation into the ‘Westminster paedophile network’ has sent the biggest shock waves through the UK establishment.
We called one of those witnesses, “Nick”. He had met Mark two months earlier, and his claims went far further than we reported. We limited our report to what had been corroborated.
Nick then decided that he would have an initial meeting with police so long as Mark attended.
A small number of ill-informed commentators have condemned this arrangement and criticised Exaro’s reporting of Nick’s allegations. But the criticisms have each been made on a false basis.
The initial meeting, attended by Mark, was exactly that. It was not, as often wrongly claimed, an interview. The preliminary meeting was to explore whether Nick would make a formal complaint and do a police interview.
Nick decided to do so, leading to Operation Midland. Officers later conducted video interviews with Nick, and no one from Exaro attended.
The Met later announced that Operation Midland was investigating “homicide” – as well as child sex abuse.
Throughout, Exaro has reported testimony from a witness, Nick, regarded by us – and experienced detectives who specialise in child abuse and in homicide – as credible.
Some detectives may, as the Daily Mail claimed today, have “grave doubts” about Nick’s account.
But they are not on Operation Midland.
We did not name – explicitly or implicitly – Harvey Proctor, former Conservative MP, as being under investigation for murder until Harvey Proctor made that public himself.
Proctor, who must be presumed innocent, denies all allegations against him.
We have always been careful to avoid publishing anything that might contaminate evidence or disrupt the criminal investigation in any way, as is clear from Proctor’s statement.
Proctor criticised Exaro for revealing in March that police had raided his house, but then named several people under investigation by ‘Operation Midland’ without first consulting them or their relatives.
One columnist referred to Nick as a rent-boy. However, as anyone who had properly read Exaro’s solid reporting would realise, this claim was false.
The same applies to the accusation that Nick’s list of abusers had grown, when it has remained the same.
Operation Midland is not, and never was, a homosexual witch-hunt. It is a criminal investigation into credible allegations of child abuse, torture and murder.
Police believed – and still believe – that these allegations warrant proper investigation. They are investigating a network of several powerful people, alive and dead.
Will the Met’s top-brass order Operation Midland to be shelved? If it did, it would not be the first police investigation into VIPs to be pulled prematurely.
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