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Whistleblowers' deaths probe call

UK government: an assurance that witnesses to appear at the HIA to give evidence into alleged abuse at Belfast's Kincora Boys' Home will not face prosecution under Official Secrets Act
UK government: an assurance that witnesses to appear at the HIA to give evidence into alleged abuse at Belfast's Kincora Boys' Home will not face prosecution under Official Secrets Act

A campaigning MP has called for the reinvestigation of the suspicious deaths more than 20 years ago of two whistleblowers who he believes had significant information relating to organised child abuse.

And John Mann called on Home Secretary Theresa May to lift the restrictions of the Official Secrets Act in relation to historic abuse, which he believes are holding back former Special Branch police officers from coming forward with vital information relating to allegations of a child sex ring linked to powerful people in Westminster in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr Mann's comments came as a second Labour MP warned that the Government looks as though it does not "want to get to the truth" about historic child abuse after Mrs May indicated that a troubled inquiry panel commissioned to look into the issue could be disbanded and replaced.

Simon Danczuk said victims would be dismayed at the lack of progress in the probe, and could not help worrying that the litany of mistakes - including the resignation of two chairmen following claims about their perceived closeness to establishment figures - was "deliberate".

Mr Mann has handed over a dossier to the Metropolitan Police detailing allegations relating to 22 MPs and former MPs - including some still active in the Houses of Commons and Lords. He said 13 former ministers were on the list given to the Operation Trinity investigation into alleged abuse in children's homes in Lambeth, south London.

And he said the two suspicious deaths involved victims believed to have been planning to hand over "signficant information" about abuse in Lambeth to the authorities.

One was council official Bulic Forsythe, whose body was found in a burning flat in 1993, and the other an unnamed Lambeth caretaker who died in a suspected arson attack a couple of years earlier.

Mr Mann told Sky News: "What I want to see is both those suspicious deaths reinvestigated because what links them together was both were people who in essence were blowing the whistle on child abuse."

The two men's deaths were "undoubtedly linked to child abuse and potentially linked into the wider scandal", he said.

"There are figures in authority who are linked in, in both cases, and therefore it's all the more important that they are fully investigated. And that means putting significant resource in. That's what I'm calling for - enough police officers with enough specialism in there so that every stone is turned over to see what lies beneath it. There's certainly a lot there with these two cases."

It was "crystal clear" that Mr Forsythe's death was highly suspicious and that he had "crucial information about child abuse" which was "very precise and relates to what's come much more to light in the last 12 months", said the Bassetlaw MP.

And he added: "It was said at the time there was a caretaker in Lambeth where there was a very suspicious death following a fire. It was said he was providing information and tapes relating to sex abuse and sex parties. The information relating to them has been given to Operation Trinity and I'm hoping that more people, if they know things will come forward because it's an important part of the inquiry."

Mr Mann indicated that some of the information in his dossier came from former police officers, and urged Mrs May to take action to lift restrictions preventing them from coming forward with evidence.

"There's former police officers, especially Special Branch officers, some of whom have contacted me, who do have significant information and if the Official Secrets Act restrictions are lifted on them will be far more willing to come forward and divulge that information," said Mr Mann.

"I think some of that would be hugely significant in moving forward and potentially prosecuting some of these cases.

"Don't forget, Special Branch was keeping an eye particularly on senior MPs and there's a lot of information there that is not available to those police officers investigating at the moment."

Mr Mann said it would be "inappropriate" for him or any other MP to use the cloak of parliamentary privilege to name the individuals in his dossier, as some were under active police investigation and naming them in Parliament could get in the way of them being prosecuted and jailed.

Mrs May signalled a potential shift of approach last week when she told MPs that she wanted the wide-ranging abuse inquiry to be given extra powers.

That could mean the panel requesting statutory powers after the appointment of a chairman, a new inquiry being set up under statutory terms or a Royal Commission being established.

In a reply to Mrs May obtained by investigative website Exaro News, panel member Sharon Evans said: "I, like other members of the panel, feel devastated at the prospect of the independent inquiry being halted as it has been made clear to us 'off the record' that the panel will be stood down in the new year."

But Peter Saunders, of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "If indeed the decision has been made or is made to disband the panel as it is currently constituted, then I know that that would be supported by the vast majority of survivors or survivor organisations that we are in touch with.

"I have yet to encounter any survivors who have any faith in the process, or in the panel as it is currently constituted."

Mr Danczuk told Today the situation was a "mess" and warned people might turn to "more direct action ... more and bigger peaceful protests, more challenging of ministers, more challenging of the police to take action" out of frustration at slow progress

"If Government are set on doing this then it can be achieved. But you can't help thinking that they are not intent on getting this right," said the Rochdale MP, who played a crucial role in uncovering sex abuse by the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith..

"There is a catalogue of mistakes that have been made, some of them fairly basic, and you can't blame the survivors of child abuse for wondering - because of the allegations of high-profile figures involved in the abuse - you can't help thinking that some of this is quite deliberate mistakes."

A Home Office spokesman said: "The Home Secretary is determined that appalling cases of child sexual abuse should be exposed so that perpetrators face justice and the vulnerable are protected.

"She is absolutely committed to ensuring the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has the confidence of survivors.

"The Home Secretary is also clear that we have to balance the need to make progress with the need to get this right."

Shadow Home Office minister Diana Johnson said Mrs May should be "utterly ashamed" and " needs to take responsibility for the utter failure to get this vital work off the ground over such a long period".


From Belfast Telegraph