Lies, propaganda, scapegoats and cover-ups

FMD

DURING a recent dinner party a couple of long-time friends asked why I ‘always blame’ the so-called Establishment for so many of our current problems.

“Surely, if the BBC report it as fact, we can believe the BBC,” one friend added.

That was the excuse I needed, and fuelled by a few glasses of wine I began to burble a list which started somewhere around the creation of Israel, took a detour to the murder of Princess Diana, the real terrorists behind the 9/11 atrocities and crudely ended with Margaret Thatcher’s deployment of nuclear weapons during the Falklands War.

Yes, I suppose I am a bit of conspiracy theorist… but only when that conspiracy has credibility, and that credibility is supported by cast iron facts.

As a journalist I have witnessed far too often the lies and dirty tricks that the Establishment will stoop to, to get their own way.

Murder, war and disease are the forerunners.

And as a journalist, I know the deadly propaganda that our mainstream media – including the BBC and Sky – will feed the population to give credence to those lies.

The distorted reporting surrounding the recent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia are a case in point… but that would be another detour!

So to answer a few questions I have decided to dig out and reload one of my published investigations.

This one dates from early 2001, soon after Foot and Mouth Disease devastated British farming.

Conspiracy?

You bet!

THE British, Canadian, US and Mexican Governments were preparing for the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease FOUR months before it emerged on a Tyneside farm.

An investigation has discovered that all four countries were staging a co-ordinated Foot and Mouth simulation exercise in October 2000, despite the fact that Britain had not been struck by the disease for 34 years and the USA and Canada had not been affected since 1929.

And North timber merchants have confirmed that they were approached for urgent supplies to tackle the disease by Ministry of Agriculture officials as early as December.

Today scientists called for the Government to admit it knew that Foot and Mouth was present in the UK long before it was officially pinpointed at Bobby Waugh’s Heddon-on-the-Wall pig farm on 23rd February.

And Mr Waugh has called for a public apology from the Government after the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) consistently blamed his farm as “the likely source of the outbreak”.

An investigation has discovered that last October the United States and Mexico began preparing for “a simulated outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease” in all three countries.

According to papers leaked from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the exercise – which took place between 6th and 9th November – was “for the purpose of emergency planning”.

It took place in Ontario, Alberta, Texas, USA, and Tamaulipas, Mexico.

The papers say: “This exercise is the first of its kind and provides all three countries with a unique opportunity to apply their emergency response plans in the event of a real disease outbreak.”

Yet neither Canada, the USA nor Mexico had been affected with Foot and Mouth Disease since 1929.

And the exercise – which is estimated to have cost over $1million – was the first US “Foreign Animal Disease Response Simulation” of any kind since 1993. At the same time the UK Government was preparing its own “contingency plans” for a Foot and Mouth outbreak.

Yet the last Foot and Mouth outbreak was in 1967.

We discovered that MAFF officials began telephoning timber merchants as early as December asking if they could supply wood for pyres, should Foot and Mouth strike.

Mike Littlehales, who ran a timber yard in Staffordshire said he received a phone call “out of the blue”.

He said: “I got this call from a lady who said ‘This is the Ministry of Agriculture. Would you be interested in supplying timber in case of foot-and-mouth?’ because she wanted to update her records.

“It surprised me, and I thought it was doubly strange when three weeks later the Government tell us we have an outbreak of the disease.”

Mr Littlehales said the last time his timber business had received a similar call was during the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 1967.

Fran Talbot, a timber merchant at Eccleshall, said she was approached in first week of February and asked about the availability of railway sleepers in the event of a FMD outbreak.

“The woman said ‘are you still in a position to supply timber for burning animals in case of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth’.

“It was a very odd thing to happen just three weeks before an outbreak.”

Mrs Talbot’s firm had supplied sleepers during the 1967 outbreak, but had not heard from MAFF since.

Tommy Norman, who runs a timber yard at Longtown, Cumbria – the centre of scores of cases of Foot and Mouth Disease – confirmed he had received a similar call from MAFF in January.

“It’s difficult for me to say any more,” he added. “I have provided masses of wood for MAFF pyres, but they still owe me a large amount of money.”

Top US scientist Dr Patricia Doyle, who has led a stateside campaign to discover the truth about the UK Foot and Mouth outbreak, said: “I am convinced that MAFF knew about the virus was on the loose long before this February.

“And the US Government was protecting its back because they weren’t sure how far the virus had leaked.”

Amble-based geneticist Bruce Jobson, added: “This confirms what we knew all along, that the Government was aware Foot and Mouth was on the loose long before they identified it at Bobby Waugh’s farm.

“The new Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) must now admit that MAFF had covered up the real cause of this outbreak”.

Newcastle-based microbiologist Dr Harash Narang added: “I firmly believe that the virus escaped from a MAFF experiment and had infected sheep as long ago as last October.

“This evidence now supports that belief.”

Mr Waugh said he felt vindicated that he was not responsible for the Foot and Mouth outbreak.

“Again, again and again I have been blamed for this disease, when I knew all along it wasn’t me.

“I now want the Government to admit they got it wrong and tell us all how this thing really started.”

Stuart Renton, a vet for almost 30 years, who works out of the Newcastle Foot and Mouth centre in Kenton Bar, Newcastle, launched a scathing attack on his MAFF employers.

He said he and many other vets working for MAFF believe Mr Waugh is innocent.

Dr Renton says he has seen enough evidence of ‘old’ Foot and Mouth sores on infected sheep to convince him the disease was present in the UK long before 15th February.

And he blasted the Government for adopting the wrong policies to deal with the outbreak. “They made our work extremely harrowing,” he said.

The 50-year-old North East vet’s contract with the MAFF may now be on the line for daring to tell what he believes is the truth.

Throughout the entire Foot and Mouth epidemic MAFF vets have not been allowed to speak about the crisis.

Instead any official comment has only come from MAFF press office in London, its chief scientist Professor David King or Agriculture Minister Nick Brown.

Dr Renton said: “Long standing Foot and Mouth lesions are being found in sheep nationally, indicating the disease was probably present long before the so-called initial outbreak in Heddon. We are still getting pockets of infection in sheep which we cannot trace back to Heddon.”

Dr Renton has been part of the MAFF team diagnosing and overseeing the destruction of animals since taking on a case at Black Callerton, Westerhope on 26th February.

He said: “Along with a number of the veterinary surgeons involved, I have serious doubts over the culling policies being adopted by the Government, which makes our work in this outbreak extremely harrowing,” he said.

“And from day one MAFF has been terribly under-resourced to cope. I knew when I took on case number 10 on 26th February that we were on the edge of a disaster and it’s been playing catch-up ever since.”

MAFF said it was ‘unfortunate’ one of its vets should choose to speak to the press. “We will investigate this immediately,” said a spokeswoman.

Although Dr Renton’s contract with MAFF could be terminated by his decision to speak out, we understand it is unlikely he will lose his job because of a shortage of replacement vets.

A spokesman for the Canadian Government said he was unable to comment on its Foot and Mouth simulation exercise due to agreements it had made with the British Government.

“Due to the sensitivity surrounding events which have occurred since February this year, we are unable to comment further on the reasons or results of the November exercise,” he added.

But a DEFRA spokesman denied that MAFF had tried to cover-up the outbreak.

He said: “We did not know of Foot and Mouth in this country at a time earlier than 21st February, when it was identified at the abattoir in Essex and then traced to Mr Waugh’s farm in Northumberland.

“There has never been any deliberate concealment.

“From time to time we do emergency planning exercises and the inquiries about wood may well have been of this nature.”

According to official records the last official UK Foot and Mouth contingency plan was in 1993.

  • NOTE: This investigation led directly to me receiving an honorary doctorate in written journalism from an US university.

Brief encounter – the murder of Diana

diana and dodi

IT was a wet February in 1997 and I was ensconced in a four star hotel in Islington, tasked with bringing home what could be the biggest newspaper story of the decade.

My job as Chief Investigative Reporter for the Scottish national daily The Scotsman was to gather information from Harrods owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, about an alleged conspiracy involving his business rival Tiny Rowland and a senior Conservative government minister.

It was an enjoyable and wholly productive three days of interviews with the gregarious and at times incomprehensible Mr Al Fayed, his PA Michael Cole and head of security John MacNamara – a former Scotland Yard senior detective.

The daily routine was purposeful: breakfast at my hotel, a taxi ride across London to Knightsbridge, an escalator to Mr Al Fayed’s office on the fifth floor of the Harrods department store, a coffee and croissant with Michael Cole and up to three hours of talking, questioning and sifting through reams of documents and photographs.

On Wednesday 12 February, I arrived as usual at 10am in the reception area outside the office and boardroom.

I was greeted cheerily as usual by Mr Cole. But on this morning he asked me if I minded waiting in an ante-room for half an hour as his boss was expecting a personal visit from Princess Diana.

I was shown into the room and given the usual coffee and croissant plus copies of the day’s national newspapers to browse at my leisure.

After 10 minutes waiting, I suddenly needed a quick loo break so quietly made my way to the now familiar private washroom.

Upon my return to my isolated coffee and partly eaten croissant, I stopped suddenly as the most recognisable woman in the world walked by, accompanied by Mr Cole and an as yet unknown young Middle Eastern man.

Diana turned briefly and smiled at me.

It was a memorable brief encounter.

But a tragic event some six and a half months later undoubtedly made it more memorable.

Later that day, I caught my return train to Edinburgh and The Scotsman offices at North Bridge.

Upon my arrival I was introduced to our new editor Martin Clarke, who had taken up his position while I was away in London.

My first meeting with him was also memorable, but for very different reasons.

I was brusquely told that our investigation into the conspiracy surrounding Tiny Rowland had been spiked for ‘political reasons’. I was also told I was ‘wasting my and the newspaper’s time’, not to ask any more questions and to ‘get on with some proper reporting’.

The months passed and on 31 August 1997, two events coincided: it was my final day working for The Scotsman and ironically Princess Diana, 36,  her lover (Mohamed Al Fayed’s son) Dodi Fayed, 42, and driver Henri Paul were killed in a horror car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris.

My reaction to the deaths at the time was the same as it is now: they were murdered.

But it was only 10 years later at a judicial inquest, following a three year inquiry into their deaths and possible murder, that my own brief encounter came back to haunt me.

The inquest, under Lord Justice Scott Baker, heard on at least six occasions that at the time of his romance with Diana in the summer of 1997, Dodi Fayed was engaged to an American model, Kelly Fisher. Dodi had bought a house in Malibu for Fisher and himself with money from his father.

The inquiry also heard heart surgeon Hasnat Khan give his first detailed account of his two-year relationship with Diana, during which he says he often stayed at Kensington Palace and met the princess’s sons.

He described how the princess broke up with him after she got back from a holiday with Mohammed Al Fayed and his family.

The inquest dismissed reports that Dodi and Diana were in a relationship prior to that summer and therefore any talk of an impending engagement in August 1997 – and possible motive for their murder – were subsequently rubbished.

Something I knew then and now to be untrue.

The Inquest jury returned a majority verdict that Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were unlawfully killed due to the gross negligence of their driver, Henri Paul, and the paparazzi.

But I am still left with the haunting question: if that was the case, what were Diana and Dodi doing making a personal visit to Mohamed Al Fayed on 12 February 1997?

Mr Al Fayed later claimed that a plot to kill Diana was kicked into high gear as soon as British authorities found out from the CIA that Dodi had picked out a $215,000 star-shaped diamond ring for his future bride.

“The only reason my son and Diana were in Paris that night was so that he could personally collect the ring and propose to her,” he said.

“I spoke to Dodi and he was so excited and happy. Diana was too. They deserved a lifetime’s love together, and this beautiful ring was to put a seal on that,” he added.

“Diana believed all her married life that she was under surveillance by British and foreign intelligence agencies who reported back to her husband Prince Charles and the British establishment,” said Laurie Mayer, Mr Al Fayed’s press spokesman.

“She had every reason to think they intercepted her phone calls. The call she made to Lucia on the afternoon of her death could have alerted them she really was going to marry Dodi and that he, a practising Muslim and the son of a man who helped bring down the British government, would be stepfather to Prince William and Prince Harry.”

Mr Al Fayed also wanted – and got – files on two photographers, a Frenchman and a Dutchman.

“These men know what went on that evening,” said John McNamara.

“They filmed the motorbike we know was blocking the exit road, forcing the Mercedes to take the tunnel. That could show the license plate of that bike and another one we believe shot into the tunnel behind the white Fiat Uno.

“The Fiat Uno was waiting at the mouth of the tunnel. There was a collision and since then the bikes and the Fiat have vanished.

“Immediately after the crash, the photographers sent their pictures round the world. Some of those wired to an agency in North London had vital frames showing the vehicles we cannot now trace.

“The agency was broken into just hours after the crash and neither we, nor the police, believe it was an ordinary burglary.

“Many photographs show Diana lying in the rear seat of the Mercedes, one arm flung across Dodi and her legs buckled up under, have been seen across the world. Some have even been published in Europe. But none has shown the bikes or the car.”

Just one of far too many unanswered questions over the death of the People’s Princess.

 

We abuse victims must speak out and stand together in solidarity

HUNDREDS of children may have been sexually abused by figures within football, former England and Tottenham player Paul Stewart said today.

Mr Stewart, who says he was abused by a coach for four years as a child, said the sport could face allegations on the scale of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

It comes as the NSPCC said more than 50 people had rung an abuse helpline within two hours of it being set up.

It was launched after four footballers spoke about being abused as children.

Former Crewe players Andy Woodward and Steve Walters, ex-Manchester City player David White, as well as Mr Stewart have all spoken out about abuse in the game.

Mr Stewart, 52, a former England international who started his career at Blackpool and also played for Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Liverpool, said an unnamed coach abused him daily for four years up to the age of 15.

Mr Stewart said he believed there were “hundreds of victims” of sexual abuse who could come forward.

The NSPCC said callers to the new abuse hotline had raised concerns about children now and in the past, and it expected “many more” to come forward.

Today’s news resonates with me and my own battle with depression and alcohol to drown the memories of being sexually abused in my early teens by someone working closely with young boys.

For the past 18 months I have been writing my autobiography (working title: Survive the Rollercoaster and Assume the Position), which will be published later next year.

The book gives a blow by blow account of my life which includes: two battles with cancer, bereavement, divorces, bankruptcy, the suicide of a family member, my own attempted suicide, denial of access to two of my children, the repossession of my home, becoming a single parent and an unprovoked assault that almost took my life anyway.

Set against that backdrop there is a star-spangled career in journalism with a raft of awards and recognition and a series of stories of Establishment corruption at every level.

But underpinning all of this, is the sexual abuse I suffered as a 14 and 15 year-old.

So in an effort to stand with Paul Stewart, Andy Woodward, David White and Steve Walters I am today publishing online one chapter from that book in advance of its proper publication in 2017:

Chapter One

I HAVE slipped into a malaise. Not a depression, just an ever-circling melancholy of blue, which rotates before my eyes like a small planet.

I glance sideways and meet your gentle eyes. We sip flat white coffee together and share a smile. Holding hands, your spirit and mine disappear into the dense forest.

Sightless.

The forest and the memory.

I begin to cry.

I was born very far from where I now belong, and at this point in time realise there is no direction home.

So I stop, shopping bag full and weighing heavy in my right hand. I glance down and hand the homeless man a bag of oranges. He looks up with a toothless smile of gratitude. Stumbling for words I quietly blurt: “Some vitamin C for you.”

I wink nervously and move once more towards the blue.

Both prisoners on the road of life, yearning for love and light.

Tracing steps back to the forest we float in a mist of grey.

I offer you a handful of rain and slip back in time.

Hope sits eternal, but the darkness still lingers.

The smell of dank leaves and old bark assaults my nostrils.

And I see once more.

Standing in the gloom of a deciduous woodland, with his beige trousers bunched around his ankles, a slight and overly skinny 15-year-old boy is being sexually abused by a much older man – a man trusted to care for him.

I look more closely.

The tears welling in my eyes blur the vision, I choke back phlegm… the boy is me.

The man’s identity will come later.

It’s so many years ago… a Friday evening, early in April, 1971.

The abuser is the district commissioner for Scouts in my home town, a post-war new town set in Hertfordshire’s semi-rural suburbia.

The memories return slowly, like a traveller frightened of the road.

Only the rumble of a train on the nearby Euston line allows a sharper focus.

I had moved to this town with my parents and two sisters from the happier climes of Sussex some two years earlier.

We had found family refuge in a spacious Victorian coaching house nestling on the busy Belswains Lane, which years later would lead to the M25 motorway.

My ground floor bedroom of this old building, decorated with pictures of my favourite footballers, was my only refuge or sanctuary.

I was an awkward and spotty young teenager and had struggled to make friends in my new area. Although innately bright, I was just about middling at the local grammar school and divided my time between fishing on the nearby canal, playing football and Scouting.

The local Scout troop was proving to be something of a salvation. Located on the banks of the aforementioned canal, it had been failing and rumour spread that it might close. So, with dwindling numbers and a new young Scout leader, the older district commissioner had stepped in to lend a guiding role.

He was a 38 year-old, overweight office manager with permanent dark sweat stains around the arm pits of his Scout shirt. To us boys he seemed immediately odd and peculiarly frightening, if only by his insistence on wearing khaki shorts – something which had been ditched from the adult Scout uniform some 10 years earlier.

But, then we were sightless.

Behind his fashion sense, false Cheshire Cat smile and Brylcreemed hair, lay something dark and sinister.

With a strange fascination it bid us in.

I look back dazed in the headlights of the past.

Over many months this portly man had encouraged me to attend camps, orienteering, patrol leader weekends and wide games to help me ‘get the most out of Scouting’.

I had enjoyed being in the Cubs and Scouts since the age of seven.

It was fun and offered flights of real adventure.

But not anymore.

The oblivion of abuse had begun almost a year earlier, soon after my 14th birthday, at a so-called winter camping weekend in the woodland campsite adjacent to the aforementioned railway line – some three miles from my home, and five from the centre of town.

Over the course of 14 months, the abuse had become regular, routine and progressively invasive.

As it progressed I became weakened and controlled. And within my young teenage brain… terrified. I screamed silently for someone or something to help me.

But, I had been sworn to secrecy by this man. After all, I was the one he had caught ‘playing with’ himself in my Scout tent, and I would be totally humiliated if anyone found out.

I felt dirty and terrified and above all convinced I must be a ‘queer’ to allow this to happen. My constant over-riding feeling was a need to escape this darkness, this control, this nightmare.

The fear was becoming corrosive, my Blakean innocence being poisoned and my future altered before it had begun.

In recurring nightmares I met a monster sleeping by a huge oak tree, the air was a stagnant musty yellow, and when I looked closer I found the monster was me.

In reality I tried all manner of excuses not to attend Scouts and these ever more frequent camps.

When eventually my concerned parents questioned my ongoing reluctance, I lied that I was being bullied by older boys. Their answer was simple: ‘stand up to the bullies’. Followed by: ‘If you leave the Scouts they will know they have beaten you’!

Inside my head was screaming “No, no, no, why can’t you hear me?”

Now, looking back over all these years, and with the perspective of parenthood, I wish I had told them the truth. But, I was sure my mother would accuse me of exaggerating. Equally, my father was a strong-minded man and I was terrified he would humiliate me further, with jibes about me being a ‘poof’ or something much worse.

I now know he would have hugged me close and in all likelihood physically attacked my abuser had he known.

I don’t blame my parents, they were the most loving and caring I could have wished for. But times were different back then and there were many things in life that were still taboo.

So the abuse continued unabated as I turned 15 and turned more introspective and aloof to friends.

I was in my abuser’s control and I could not break free from the ever burning pit of fear.

There seemed no way out. Killing myself did not enter my head then, but it did do many times since as the memory of the abuse ate away at my adult life.

But, I did eventually escape in May 1971.

My abuser had arranged a patrol leaders’ meeting at his house on the other side of town. It was a ‘must attend’ gathering.

I had met an older boy called Brian from another troop during a district jamboree and after one quick phone call we agreed to go together. Brian’s dad would take us there and my dad would pick us both up at 9pm.

At least with Brian I should be safe, I thought.

We arrived at this spacious detached bungalow in a quiet middle-class cul-de-sac on the other side of town at about 7pm and were ushered inside by my abuser. Others were arriving and by the time we were all assembled, there were about 10 boys aged between 13 and 15 in the semi-lit dining room.

The meeting was a blur. My mind was already in the forest.  And in what seemed no time at all, parents were arriving to pick up their kids. Soon, just Brian and I remained silently while the clock ticked.

My abuser said he would make a cup of tea for us both and asked if we would like a biscuit too. Brian said ‘Yes’ for both of us.

Then as he walked down the hallway to his kitchen, Brian whispered to me: “Scarper… run!”

Without hesitation we both ran to the front door, fumbled at the latch and tore down the driveway to the cul-de-sac.

But, no sign of my fucking dad! Where the hell was he?

We could hear my abuser call out our names from his front doorway. Panic washed over us both and we ran as fast and as far away as we could.

We didn’t stop until we reached a red phone box on the outskirts of the town centre, about a mile away. We then stared at each other shaking. At that moment, I knew Brian was a victim too.

I rang my home phone number. Mum answered. But before I could say much, she berated me for being ‘so rude’ as to run away from the nice man’s house. She also chastised me for leaving her and my dad terrified for my safety.

She told me to stay at the phone box and when dad returned home she would send him out again to pick us up.

He did and when I eventually got home to the safety of my bedroom, I broke down and cried into my pillow all night long.

But that night was a watershed.

I had begun to face this demon, and by knowing that in Brian I was not alone, I felt somehow stronger than before.

From the following day I used every excuse I could find to avoid my abuser and never went back to the Scouts or camping again.

Even when my own troop leader – a mild mannered family guy called Ralph – called at our house to ask if I was okay, I managed to lie and stay safe.

My passion for football and school work helped mask the real reasons.

But the events of 1970-71 were just the beginning of the nightmare for me. My abuser’s smirking face and the smell of his stale sweat never leaves me.

And the fear of being alone is terrifying.

As I sit here writing and remembering, I still cannot untangle the many ways my life was ruined so completely in those 14 months.

I lived and grew through my mid-teens convinced I must be gay to have allowed a man to do the things my abuser did to me. I also lived in terror that either my parents, sisters, or worse still my school friends, would find out and I would become an object of ridicule.

Resultant behaviour patterns started to emerge: a need to control every aspect of my life and the social environment around me, outbursts of vocal anger, walking away from any situation which threatened my control, and as I turned 18, progressively heavy drinking.

The control aspect was – and still is – vital. For without it I feel vulnerable and frightened and unable to function normally. At home my behaviour often borders on OCD.

The chronology is compulsive.

Once away at university in the far flung mill town of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, I also had a driving inner need to prove I was ‘normal’ or straight!

Whereas a lot of young men ‘sow their oats’ in these late teenage years, I sowed more than most. I am not proud in any measure, but I bedded as many girls who would say ‘yes’ as I could, proving to myself I was ‘like all the rest’.

The relationships did not matter, for my selfish misogyny it was somehow healing to enjoy straight sex with a girl of my age.

I also needed female company. A fear of being unsafe and alone was constantly with me.

Eventually the need for a steadier relationship was also persuasive.

By the time I was 22-years-old I was engaged to a church-going Geordie girl who promised to always care for me.

By the age of 24, we were wed and moved into our own home together the day after the honeymoon.

It was a sadly inappropriate marriage of two polar opposites and lasted just eight years. My outbursts of vocal temper, deep introspection and a need to control my own life, plus an affair, did not help.

But I survived my first divorce – and by some cruel irony an 18 month battle with cancer which left my body as ragged as my emotions.

I tried to start over.

In 1990, aged 34, I moved to the west of Scotland and found a geographical escape from my past.

It involved burying myself in my job as a journalist on a small weekly newspaper alongside the tranquil and spiritually healing Loch Fyne.

Soon Atlantic seals, otters and osprey helped sooth my anger, which still smouldered beneath the surface.

Often working 12 hour days, prolonged success at work allowed me to control my life at last.

One year after moving north – in November 1991 – I met a young woman who told me of the sexual abuse she had suffered as a 14-year-old.

She added that I was the first person she had confided in.

I listened intently and reached out to her.

But, I could not share my abuse with her… it was still too terrifying to tell anyone close to me.

But, this was a strange epiphany and after consuming half a bottle of malt whisky I at last saw a possible way out.

A colleague at work was married to a local police officer. I quietly approached him a few days later while he was off duty and told him the barest details of my abuse.

He smiled grimly, put his hand on my shoulder and said; “Nic you are doing the right thing. These guys get away with it far too often.”

Within a couple of days he helped me lodge a formal complaint against my abuser via the Inspector at the local police station.

This older man took a lengthy statement from me which included as many details and names as I could remember.

He, in turn, passed on the complaint to Hertfordshire Constabulary and it was now a simple matter of waiting for the outcome of their own investigations.

I went home and waited in trepidation, wondering what might happen next and prepared to make the 400 mile drive south to face my parents if a court case was involved.

Two weeks passed before I was asked to attend the local police station to talk with the Inspector again.

I was visibly shaking all over. The balding senior officer invited me into an interview room at the back of the station, where he told me something I was not ready for… my abuser was dead!

He had died a few years earlier.

My heart felt like it would explode any second. I felt acid bile rising into my throat. I was unsure if I might faint or scream… I did neither.

So I walked zombie-like back to my office, barely able to talk with anybody.

How could my abuser be dead! How could he not face justice or retribution for what he had done?

How could I carry on?

The anger inside me was immense, festering, raging, burning.

The next few months were hard as I tried to keep a lid on my emotions. But rages came, tears and gloom overwhelmed and eventually in the summer of 1992, I walked out and left that part of Scotland for good.

The following 20 years were much like the previous 20, with black moods, multiple broken relationships and a growing need to drink to forget.

Only success at work allowed me to be my real self.

By 2003, I recognised that I was fast becoming an alcoholic. Alcoholics Anonymous was a temporary refuge and it allowed me to share my past in confidence with complete strangers.

And I began to control my drinking.

But life happens when you’re busy making other plans, and the sudden need to care as a single parent for my youngest child – who had only just turned four years – reinforced the desire to take control of life and at last start to live it with purpose as a sober dad.

In January 2006 I moved to North Wales to begin again, both at work and at home.

I needed to be close to family and more especially to my dad who was inexorably and slowly dying from Parkinson’s Disease.

Work had a solitary purpose as I edited a small but successful weekly newspaper. I had already edited other similar local papers years earlier and had twice taken them to win newspaper of the year awards.

This time it was treading water, but somehow enjoyable all the same. It allowed me stability for a full seven years and the flexibility and income to raise my son.

At work, stories came and went and along the way and I worked with and befriended some wonderful people.

I also wasted no opportunity to expose convicted child sex offenders whenever their cases came to light. Ironically the so-called ‘Paedo Files’ in North Wales seemed more expansive than anywhere else I had lived or worked. It was like an unsolicited cathartic therapy.

My empathy with the victims was immense. But still I could not share what remained buried for so long inside of me.

That was until the winter of 2009 – a year after my father had passed away – when I met one special person, who in hindsight became the catalyst I had waited almost a lifetime to meet.

Jay (not her real name) was damaged, just like me, and when we met she was emerging from the hell of a court case, which saw her father jailed for 10 years for the vile damage he had inflicted on her when she was a child.

Sadly, Jay’s and my relationship, which was always mutually caring, did not last.

I guess we were both too damaged and the time was wrong. But, for the first time she had allowed me to talk about my own abuse and open the door for what was to follow.

Three years later fate suddenly dealt me straight and I met my soul mate and soon to be wife, Gill. I shared everything with her and I found love and stability for the first time since I had turned 14.

Life was starting to have a meaning.

But just when life breathes in fresh air something unexpected takes the breath away and leaves it stale.

In June 2013, that something happened and sent my life into a complete tailspin. And to mix metaphors, the tailspin became a train crash.

While researching on-line for more information about a North Wales’ child sex abuse case which I was carrying in my newspaper, I had access to a privileged database, and decided to look for any lasting details about my own abuser.

It didn’t take long and the moment will stay with me forever.

I discovered that my abuser was indeed dead. But he had died late in 1996, aged 63… some five years AFTER the police told me he was already dead!

I double and triple checked my facts and it was there in black and white.

*** full details of the abuser’s identity will be revealed in my forthcoming book ***

Even now as I write this, I still cannot comprehend what happened.

Had the police in 1991 cocked up? Had they identified the wrong man? Or worse still was it a conspiracy to protect someone of importance in the local community or masonic lodge?

I guess I will never know, but I had been denied the justice and closure I had wanted all those years earlier.

The rages and tears returned like a tempest storm as I struggled to take back control.

Work was becoming poisonous and I felt undermined at every turn by junior bosses whose experience did not hold a candle to my own.

Suddenly I was losing control of my own newspaper, my sanity and my life.

Control was no longer mine.

On Wednesday 12 June 2013 I walked into my office to find that one of the younger editors, some 15 years my junior, had changed my front page, after I had gone to press – without any reference to me.

It was the day the elastic band finally snapped.

I flipped and with it my whole life lay on its back kicking into a nothingness.

I was later told it was a ‘nervous breakdown’.

That was almost three years ago and now as I write this I am, for the very first time, receiving professional help to deal with my demon and his lasting legacy.

He will never go away, nor will the pain, but I have a loving wife, a courageous and wonderful mother, a gorgeous young son and some truly amazing close friends, who all now know of my dark secret. And by sharing with them, I am slowly losing the need to control my life. It is liberating and I am recovering.

My mind drifts.

The smell of newly cut grass wafts into my senses.

I turn and walk away from the forest.

You hold my hand tightly and tell me you love me. Your bright eyes tell me it’s true.

We pass the beggar who smiles and says ‘hello’ and the ever turning planet glows an iridescent light blue.

Hope beckons.

The journey continues.

 

 

 

The Lasting Legacy of Childhood Sexual Abuse

I WROTE the attached blog piece two years ago, following my nervous breakdown in June 2013. At the time of writing I was trying to make sense of events in my life which had led to the breakdown.

abused child

THE breakdown was a long time coming… 43 years to be precise. Yes, that really is a long time to keep a secret and many events along the way could have been my undoing much sooner. So I marvel that it took so long.

Two massive battles with cancer; the loss of most of my right lung and shoulder; the ruination of a much loved career by my own stupidity; the death of my best friend and later my father; divorces and more failed relationships than you care to shake a stick at; bankruptcy; the suicide of a family member; denial of access to two of my children for 12 years; the repossession of my home; discovering my wife was enjoying sex with another man; becoming a single parent at the age of 50 and an unprovoked assault that almost took my life anyway.

Set against that backdrop there is a star-spangled career in journalism with a raft of awards and recognition at the highest level, the chance to meet and talk with some stellar people, five wonderful kids plus a host of amazing and loyal friends.

These are just snippits of my life so far and more than enough to form the framework of a powerful autobiography.

But casting a huge shadow over every move I have made, every tear, every relationship, every job and every sick joke was something much more sinister.

Wednesday 12 June 2013 was the day the elastic band finally broke and my life unravelled before my eyes, and those of my wife and precious son, who could only watch with me.

It all began in another time and another place…

I was, a young 14-year-old boy standing in darkness in open woodland, with my trousers around my ankles, being sexually abused by a 38-year-old man – a man trusted by my parents to care for me.

It was 1970.

He was the district commissioner for Scouts in my home town and over many months had encouraged me to attend camps, orienteering, patrol leader weekends and wide games to help me ‘get the most out of Scouting’.

I was a bright, gentle and slightly quirky kid who had enjoyed being in the Cubs and Scouts since the age of seven.

But not anymore.

The abuse had begun some months earlier, soon after my 14th birthday, at a so-called winter camping weekend at the Scout-owned woodland campsite – some three miles from my home, and five from the centre of town.

Over the course of 15 months, it had become regular, routine and progressively invasive.

I had been sworn to secrecy by my abuser. After all, I was the one he had caught ‘playing with’ himself and I would be totally humiliated if anyone found out.

I felt dirty and terrified and above all convinced I must be a ‘queer’ (gay) to allow this to happen. But the over-riding feeling was a need to escape this darkness, this nightmare.

I tried all manner of excuses not to attend Scouts and these frequent camps. When eventually my loving parents questioned my ongoing reluctance, I lied that I was being bullied. Their answer was simple: ‘stand up to the bullies’. Followed by: ‘If you leave the Scouts they will know they have beaten you’!

How I wish I had told them the truth. But I was sure my mother would not have believed me and accuse me of exaggerating. Equally, my father was a strong-minded man and I felt he would humiliate me further, if I told him, with jibes about me being a ‘poof’ or something. Sadly in adult hindsight he would probably have hugged me close and physically attacked my abuser had he known.

I don’t blame my parents, they were the most loving and caring I could have wished for. But times were different then and there were many things in life that were taboo.

Anyway, the abuse continued unabated as I turned 15 and as I turned more introspective and aloof to friends.

I was in my abuser’s control and I could not break free.

But I did eventually escape in the June of 1971.

My abuser had arranged a patrol leaders’ meeting at his house on the other side of town. It was a ‘must attend’ gathering.

I had met a lad called Brian from another troop and we had agreed to go together. Brian’s dad would take us there and my dad would pick us both up at 9pm.

We arrived at this spacious bungalow in a quiet middle-class cul-de-sac at about 7pm and were ushered inside by my abuser. Others were arriving and by the time we were all assembled, there were about 10 boys aged between 13 and 15 in the semi-lit dining room.

The meeting was a blur. My mind was already in the dark woods.  And in what seemed no time at all, parents were arriving to pick up their kids. Soon just Brian and I remained silently while the clock ticked.

My abuser said he would make a cup of tea for us both and asked if we would like a biscuit too. Brian said ‘Yes’ for both of us.

Then as he walked down the hallway to his kitchen, Brian whispered to me: “Scarper!”

Without hesitation we ran to the front door, fumbled at the latch and tore down the driveway to the cul-de-sac. No sign of my fecking dad! Where the hell was he?

We could hear my abuser call out our names from his front doorway, and we ran as fast and as far away as we could.

We didn’t stop until we reached a red phone box on the outskirts of the town centre, about a mile away. We then stared at each other. At that moment, I knew Brian was a victim too.

Shaking, I rang my home phone number. Mum answered. But before I could say much, she berated me for being ‘so rude’ as to run away from the nice man’s house. She also chastised me for leaving her and my dad terrified for my safety. She told me to stay at the phone box and when dad returned home she would send him out again to pick us up.

He did and when I eventually got home to the safety of my bedroom, I broke down and cried into my pillow all night long.

That night was a watershed for so many reasons.

I had begun to face this demon, by knowing that in Brian I was not alone.

From that day I used every excuse I could find to avoid my abuser and never went back to Scouts or camping again. Even when my own troop leader called at our house to ask if I was okay, I managed to lie and stay safe.

My passion for football and hard school work helped mask the real reasons.

But the events of 1970-71 were just the beginning of the nightmare for me. My abuser’s smirking face and the smell of his stale sweat never leaves me.

I lived and grew through my mid-teens convinced I must be gay to have allowed a man to do the things my abuser did to me. I also lived in terror that either my parents, sisters, or worse still my school friends, would find out and I would become an object of ridicule.

Resultant behaviour patterns started to emerge: a need to control every aspect of my life and the social environment around me, outbursts of vocal anger, walking away from any situation which threatened my control, and as I turned 18, progressively heavy drinking.

The control aspect was – and still is – vital. For without it I feel vulnerable and frightened and unable to function normally. At home my behaviour sometimes borders on OCD.

Once away at university in the far flung environs of Yorkshire I also had a need to prove I was ‘normal’ or straight! Whereas a lot of young men ‘sow their oats’ at uni’, I sowed more than most. I am not proud in any measure, but I bedded as many girls who would say yes as I could, proving to myself I was ‘straight’!

I also needed female company, as a fear of being unsafe and alone was constantly with me. By the time I was 22-years-old I was engaged to a girl who promised to always care for me.

By the age of 24, we were wed. It was a sadly inappropriate marriage of two polar opposites and lasted just eight years. My outbursts of vocal temper, deep introspection and a need to control my own life, plus an affair, did not help!

But I survived my first divorce – and an 18 month battle with cancer – and tried to start over.

In 1990, aged 34, I moved to Scotland and found a geographical escape from my past. It involved burying myself in my job. Often working 16 hour days, prolonged success at work allowed me to control my life at last.

One year after moving north I met a young woman who told me of the sexual abuse she had suffered as a 14-year-old, adding that I was the first person she had confided in. I could not share my abuse with her… but this was an epiphany and I saw a possible way out.

A colleague at work was married to a police officer and I used him to help me lodge a formal complaint against my abuser via the Inspector at the local police station. He, in turn, passed on the complaint to the police force in the area of southern England where I had lived as a young teenager.

It was November 1991.

I waited in trepidation, wondering what might happen next and preparing to come clean with my parents if a court case was involved.

Two weeks passed before I was asked to attend the local police station to talk with the Inspector again. He invited me into an interview room at the back of the station, where he told me something I was not ready for… my abuser was dead!

I walked zombie-like back to my office, barely able to talk with anybody.

How could my abuser be dead! How could he not face justice for what he had done? How could I carry on?

The anger inside me was immense.

The next few months were hard as I tried to keep a lid on my emotions. But rages came, tears and gloom overwhelmed and eventually in the summer of 1992, I walked out and left that part of Scotland for good.

The next 20 years were much like the previous 20 with black moods, multiple broken relationships and a growing need to drink to forget.

Only success at work allowed me to be my real self.

By 2003 I recognised I was fast becoming an alcoholic. Alcoholics Anonymous was a refuge and it allowed me to share my past in confidence with complete strangers.

But life happens and the sudden need to care as a single parent for my youngest child reinforced the desire to take control of life and at last start to live it with purpose as a sober dad.

In January 2006 I moved to Wales to begin again, both at work and at home.

Work had a purpose as I edited a small but successful weekly newspaper. I had already edited other similar local papers years earlier and had twice taken them to win newspaper of the year awards. This time it was treading water, but enjoyable all the same and allowed stability for a full seven years.

Stories came and went and along the way and I worked with and befriended some wonderful people. I also wasted no opportunity to expose convicted child sex offenders whenever their cases came to light. Ironically the so-called ‘paedo files’ in North Wales seemed more expansive than anywhere else I had lived or worked. It was like unsolicited cathartic therapy.

My empathy with the victims was immense. But still I could not share what remained buried for so long.

Last year fate suddenly dealt me straight and I met my soul mate and now my darling wife. I shared everything with her and I found love and stability for the first time since I turned 14. Life was starting to have a meaning.

But just when life breathes fresh air something unexpected takes the breath away and leaves it stale.

Four months ago that something happened and sent my life into a complete tailspin. And to mix metaphors, the tailspin became a train crash.

While researching on-line for more information about a North Wales’ child sex abuse case we were carrying in the paper, I decided to look for any lasting details about my own abuser.

It didn’t take long and the moment will stay with me forever.

I discovered that my abuser was indeed dead. But he had died in 1996, aged 64… some five years AFTER the police told me he was already dead! I double and triple checked my facts.

I still cannot comprehend what happened.

Had the police in 1991 cocked up? Had they identified the wrong man? Or worse still was it a conspiracy to protect someone of importance in the local community? I guess I will never know, but I had been denied the justice and closure I had wanted all those years earlier.

The rages and tears came again as I struggled to take back control.

Work was corrosive and I felt undermined at every turn by junior bosses whose experience did not hold a candle to my own. I felt managed out of my job and was losing control of my own newspaper and my life.

On Wednesday 12 June 2013 I walked into my office to find that one of these junior charge hands had changed my front page – after I had gone to press – without any reference to me. I flipped and with it my whole life lay on its back kicking into a nothingness.

But now as I write this I am, for the very first time, receiving professional help to deal with my demon. And it is my abuser who is the demon, not some bungling police officer.

The demon will never go away, but I have a loving wife, a courageous and wonderful mother, a gorgeous youngest son and some amazing close friends, who all now know of my dark secret. And by sharing with them, I am slowly losing the need to control my life. It is liberating. I am recovering.

And it is for them that I need to live and share my inner self. The abuser has not won… I am fighting back.

This blog is the means to that end.

 

The UK Paedo Files: a can of worms that only opens from the inside

JIMMY Savile, Gary Glitter, Max Clifford, Leon Brittan, Cyril Smith, Greville Janner, Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall, Jonathan King, Oliver Reed and Chris Denning are just a few of the UK’s high profile child sex offenders to have been convicted or outed in the past three years.

But there are many more.

A ‘powerful elite’ of at least 20 prominent Establishment figures formed a VIP paedophile ring that abused children for decades, one whistleblower has now claimed.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police confirms it is investigating paedophile and sexual abuse claims against 76 British politicians, 178 TV and movie celebrities and seven sports stars.

Peter McKelvie – a former child protection officer who first raised the alarm about high profile individuals engaged in child sex abuse – said senior politicians, military figures and even people linked to the Royal Family are among the alleged abusers.

Mr McKelvie said that their campaign of abuse may have been going on for as long as 65 years, but ‘there has always been the block and the cover-up and the collusion to prevent an investigation.’

Mr McKelvie, whose claims led to Scotland Yard’s 2012 Operation Fernbridge investigation into allegations of a paedophile network linked to Downing Street, said the alleged VIP child abuse ring may at last face justice, although several members are now dead.

“For the last 30 years and longer than that, there have been a number of allegations made by survivors that people at the top of very powerful institutions in this country – which include politicians, judges, senior military figures and even people that have links with the Royal Family – have been involved in the abuse of children,” said Mr McKelvie.

“At the most serious level, we’re talking about the brutal rape of young boys,” he added.

Describing the child abusers as making up a ‘small percentage’ of the British Establishment at the time, Mr McKelvie admitted there was ‘a slightly larger percentage’ of people who knew about the abuse but did not report it to the police.

He said these people ‘felt that in terms of their own self-interest and self-preservation and for political party reasons, it has been safer for them to cover it up than deal with it.’

Meanwhile, a former Metropolitan Police officer says he was told a member of the Queen’s family and an MP had both been identified as part of a major child abuse inquiry.

But the operation was shut down by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for ‘national security reasons’.

The ex-officer explained how a named detective sergeant based at London’s Marylebone Police Station in the late 1980s, spoke to him about the investigation and the fact it had been axed.

The former officer said: “I was in a car with two other vice squad officers. They were discussing a madam who had provided a girl of about 15 to the film actor Oliver Reed.

“The detective sergeant said he had just had a major child abuse investigation shut down by the CPS regarding a royal and an MP.

“He said the CPS had said it was not in the public’s interest because it ‘could destabilise national security’.”

The former officer added: “What I was told has stayed with me to this day.”

Reed was never prosecuted over underage sex.

The Metropolitan Police now insists it is pursuing claims of abuse, no matter who was said to be involved.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse said: “We have seen lots of allegations of cover-ups, and I think it’s helpful that people are coming forward. We will go where the evidence takes us, without fear or favour, I think that is what the public expect.”

Earlier this year it was announced the Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating 14 separate referrals spanning four decades, amid cover-up claims.

The claims – referred to the IPCC by the Met – allege the force suppressed evidence, hindered or halted investigations and covered up offences because of the involvement of MPs and police officers.

Former Met Deputy Commissioner Albert Laugharne said that, while head of Lancashire police, he had been asked by a DPP officer to lie about allegations involving the late Lib Dem MP Cyril Smith, later unmasked as a paedophile.

A surveillance operation that unmasked Leon Brittan’s links to child sex abuse is also said to have been shut down by Met detectives.

The Sunday Mirror revealed last year how the former Home Secretary was snapped by officers during a 1986 investigation into rent boy orgies run in North London buildings.

But the day before swoops on alleged suspects were due to be carried out, officers on Operation Orchid were told it had been disbanded.

Smith and top judges were also believed to have been photographed entering the underage sex dens. Sources claim up to 16 high profile figures were due to be arrested.

Leon Brittan was under investigation by the Met over sex abuse allegations at the time of his death in January this year. However, in October, the CPS said they had not found enough evidence to prosecute.

In 2013, police investigating allegations of a child paedophile network seized a list naming top politicians, members of the Royal household and a world-renowned pop star.

They were allegedly visitors to a bed and breakfast guest house which operated as a brothel where youngsters were abused at gay sex parties.

The names were recorded on a handwritten note found by police at the North London home of child protection worker Mary Moss during a raid.

She had initially declined to co-operate with the investigation.

Documents and a laptop were seized and Ms Moss later handed over other 19 files she had put in a neighbour’s shed.

The papers include a list of men who went to sex parties in the 1980s at the Elm Guest House, in Barnes, south west London.

Among them were two former Conservative Cabinet ministers, four other senior Tories, a Labour MP, a prominent Irish republican and a leading National Front member.

The note also allegedly names two members of the royal household – one a former Buckingham Palace employee – plus the owner of a multinational company and two pop stars.

In Government documents released in July this year, Leon Brittan was one of four senior Westminster figures named in connection to child sexual abuse.

Along with Brittan, the former British diplomat Sir Peter Hayman, and former ministers William van Straubenzee and Peter Morrison were named in the secret government files.

It was reported that Brittan and Hayman were among the suspects who were involved in an alleged Westminster paedophile ring operating in the 1980s, according to an investigation by the Australian current affairs programme 60 Minutes entitled Spies, Lords and Predators.

One victim accused Brittan of regularly abusing children at the Dolphin Square apartment block in Pimlico.

The victim told 60 Minutes that Brittan liked boys to dress in women’s underwear before abusing them.

The fact that a paedophile ring had been operating within the British Establishment first emerged in an investigation by campaigning Tory politician Geoffrey Dickens.

In November 1983, the MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth sent a 40-page document to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan detailing alleged VIP child abusers, including Cyril Smith and other senior politicians.

In a newspaper interview at the time, Mr Dickens claimed his dossier contained the names of eight ‘really important public figures’ that he planned to expose, and whose crimes are believed to have stretched back to the 1960s.

But in March 1984 Home Secretary Brittan told Mr Dickens that his dossier has been assessed by prosecutors and passed on to the police, but no further action is taken.

In 1989, Brittan was suddenly made European Commissioner for Competition at the European Commission, resigning as an MP to take the position. He accepted the post as European Commissioner reluctantly, as it meant giving up his British parliamentary ambitions.

(In late 1990, while I was working as the editor of a weekly newspaper in Argyll, I was told by a leading Scottish Conservative politician that Brittan had been moved to Europe, because “he has an unnatural fascination for young boys”.)

In May 1995, Geoffrey Dickens died. A short time later his wife destroyed his copy of the paedophile dossier.

The only other copies – one received by Mr Brittan and another allegedly sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions – are believed to have been lost or destroyed.

In September 2010 Cyril Smith died aged 82 without ever being charged with sex offences.

In October 2012 during Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour MP (and now Deputy Leader) Tom Watson claimed there is ‘clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No10’.

A month later the CPS admitted that Smith should have been charged with crimes of abuse more than 40 years earlier.

The CPS also admitted Smith had been investigated in 1970, 1974, 1998, and 1999, but rejected every opportunity to prosecute him.

A former special branch officer, Tony Robinson, said a historic dossier ‘packed’ with information about Smith’s sex crimes was actually in the hands of MI5 – despite officially having been ‘lost’ decades earlier.

Then in June 2014, Labour MP Simon Danczuk called on Leon Brittan to say what he knew about the Dickens dossier.

A month later Home Office permanent secretary Mark Sedwill revealed that 114 files relating to historic allegations of child sex abuse, from between 1979 and 1999, have disappeared from the Home Office.

It is clear that this nasty can of worms only opens from the inside.

To be continued…

 NOTE: I was also a victim of Establishment child sexual abuse. You can read my story at: https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/when-you-gonna-wake-up-and-strengthen-the-things-that-remain

 

Suppression of the Truth – Part 2: Gary Lineker and Radioactive Poison

Suppression of the Truth

Part 2: Gary Lineker and Radioactive Poison

IT was the summer of 1990.

Like many, I was held bedazzled as the Italia 90 World Cup unfolded on our TV screens, and England found football glory with David Platt, Gary Lineker and the irrepressible Paul (Gaza) Gascoigne.

Earlier that year I had moved to be a reporter on a busy weekly newspaper in North Wales, leaving behind four care free years working for glossy computer magazines.

So, I sat on the warm evening of Wednesday, 4 July in a large pub near Conwy, with my new pals from the paper to watch a truly memorable game of football on a large TV screen.

The semi-final of the World Cup: England versus West Germany.

It was a game you couldn’t miss. It was a passion.

We were a happy bunch as we forgot about work and chatted about football and whether Gascoigne was the answer to England’s lack of a creative midfield.

We drank beer, cheered loudly as Lineker scored, shouted obscenities when Gaza was booked and cried into our beer after we lost the game on penalties to the Germans.

More beer was consumed until we wended our ways home.

The next day was press day at my newspaper in nearby Llandudno Junction – the day our weekly work went to press… a hectic morning, followed by feet up and a chance to recharge batteries in the afternoon.

Nursing a hangover (in more ways than one), the morning flew by in a blur, and after a sandwich and a coffee I sat at my desk and began to write a list of stories and tasks for the following week.

The office was empty as the phone on the neighbouring desk suddenly rang.

Out of routine I picked up the call.

“Weekly News, Nic Outterside, can I help you?” I asked.

A woman’s voice answered: “Are you a reporter?”

“Yes,” I replied, and began to listen.

Within a minute the lady on the phone had me listening like I had never listened before, and scribbling notes like there was no tomorrow.

She explained nervously that she was a nurse and the local hospital and her husband had worked for the past 20 years at Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power station, situated some 36 miles away on the outskirts of Snowdonia National Park.

The previous evening her husband had planned to come home early to watch the World Cup semi-final and enjoy a few beers.

Instead, she explained, he had arrived home crying and handed to her an official letter he had received from his employers Magnox Ltd, which informed him that, following internal testing, his body had received more than 20 times the safe clinical level of radiation during his years working at the plant.

He was to be transferred to another part of the plant for his own health.

At this point the lady on the phone began to cry uncontrollably.

“I don’t know much about radiation or my husband’s job, but I do know two of his friends there have recently been diagnosed with cancer, and my husband has been having stomach pains and had bleeding from his bowels,” she stuttered.

She explained that she was terrified, as the letter her husband had brought home was marked “Confidential” and he had been told he and his work colleagues were bound by the Official Secrets Act.

“I can’t even tell you my name or where we live” she added, “Or we could both end up in prison.”

I sat gobsmacked by what I had heard.

But I knew that as a journalist I could not do anything with this news unless I had proof.

I gently informed the lady of my dilemma and suggested we could maybe meet somewhere neutral so I could see the letter for myself.

After a moment’s hesitation she agreed, and gave me the location of a bus shelter on the Penrhyn Road, some three miles from my office.

A meeting time of 4pm was made. I explained I would park near the bus shelter in my black Fiat Uno car.

And so my first “Deep Throat” liaison was arranged.

But as I put down the phone, something worried me… if this news and indeed the letter were bound by the Official Secrets Act (OSA), would that stop me revealing the information in our newspaper?

I knew a little about the OSA as my dad had signed it at least twice on contracts he worked on for the Ministry of Defence, but I needed to know more.

A quick phone call to a legal friend gave me the answer I needed.

“It is a sham and a lie,” he told me, “A frightener employed by the company to keep their workers quiet.

“While the technical data about the reactors may be deemed as being in the national security interest, the health of the reactor workers definitely is not.

“This is a civil nuclear fuel facility, not bloody Faslane,” he added.

I was relieved and thanked him.

Two hours later I sat nervously in my car, parked across the road from the arranged meeting place.

A few minutes passed and a lady in her early 50s, with dyed blonde hair and wearing a green coat walked up to the bus shelter.

She looked in the direction of my car. I caught her eye and beckoned her across the road.

She bent down and looked in my open car window.

“Mr Outterside?” she asked nervously.

Her eyes were red from crying as she opened the passenger door and sat next to me.

We started to chat about the sudden change of weather – it had begun to rain – as she hurriedly took a folded letter from her handbag.

“Here it is,” she whispered.

I tried to explain that the Official Secrets Act threat was bunkum, but quickly knew her fears did not allow her to believe me.

I read the letter from top to bottom – even glanced at her husband’s name and their address which gave me a bona fide – and scribbled a few notes in my note book.

I no longer have the technical data that was included in that letter, but I was quickly able to ascertain that this poor lady’s husband had indeed received something like 23 times the safe recognised level of radioactive contamination during his years working at Trawsfynydd.

Seven days later I made my first exclusive front page splash at my newspaper. The headline rang out: “Workers health fears over radioactive poisoning”.

I was delighted to break some news that the nuclear industry did not want to become public.

Inside I felt my first buzz as a proper journalist.

But, I also thought deeply about the man – and his colleagues – who had their lives ruined by their toxic work environment.

Some years later I discovered that the man had died in 1991, “after a long illness”.

Earlier this year (2015), it was reported that the now partially decommissioned Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station may be responsible for elevated levels of cancer found in communities downwind of it.

Research supervised by Dr Chris Busby, attached to the Latvian Academy of Sciences in Riga, showed the incidence of breast cancer was five times higher downwind from the power station than would have been expected.

Some other kinds of cancer were found at around double the expected rate.

Trawsfynydd is the only inland nuclear power station to have been built in the UK.

It has two “Magnox type CO2 cooled graphite moderated” reactors and is situated on a lake, Llyn Trawsfynydd, which acts as a cooling water source and is also a sink for radioactivity released from the plant.

A significant amount of radioactive material exists in the lake bed sediment.

The prevailing winds at the site are south westerly and more than 90% of those living downwind of the power station were surveyed by researchers working for Dr Busby.

The paper, published by Jacobs Journal of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, states: “Trawsfynydd is a ‘dirty’ nuclear power station. As it has carbon dioxide, gas-cooled graphite block reactors its releases to air are higher than most other types of nuclear reactor.

“In addition, all the liquid releases are discharged to the lake, where they have accumulated to the lake body sediment.

“Results show very clearly that the downwind population has suffered because of these exposures. This is most clear in breast cancer in the younger women below 60, where the rates were almost five times the expected.

“Additionally we see a doubling of risk in those who ate fish from Trawsfynydd lake, which supports the conclusion that it is mainly a nuclear power station effect that is being seen.”

Other forms of cancer showing elevated levels included prostate, leukaemia, mesothelioma and pancreas.

Altogether, 38 people in the area researched were diagnosed with cancer between 2003 and 2005, against an “expected” level of 19.5.

The report says: “These results are remarkable and relevant to political decisions about nuclear energy.”

Last month a spokesman for Magnox Ltd said: “Comment on the details of the study is a matter for experts in public health.

“However the radiation exposures of our workforce, and that of the general public, from authorised discharges from the nuclear industry, are well below the maximum levels authorised by independent regulatory bodies.

“The limits are set to ensure members of the public are properly protected.”

Dr Jill Meara, director of Public Health England’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE), said: “Identification of disease clusters are matters for local public health teams. If those teams needs specialist support, such as in radiation epidemiology, they can talk to CRCE for assistance.”

Suppression of the Truth – Part 1: Nothing Prepared me for This

Suppression of the Truth

Part 1: Nothing Prepared me for This

SOMETIME during the winter of 1987, while recovering from my battle with cancer, I sat with my late dad and watched a rented VHS video which ultimately changed my thinking about everything.

The movie was called The Whistle Blower.

Let me tell you a bit about it:

The Whistle Blower is a 1986 British spy thriller, starring Michael Caine, based on the novel of the same name by John Hale.

Frank Jones is a retired British naval officer. His bright and idealistic son, Robert, works as a linguist at GCHQ, the top secret British intelligence listening station, using his love of Russian to listen to various pieces of communication on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Robert tells his father that strange things are happening at GCHQ, and he’s planning on leaving the service.

He tells his dad: “We live in an unseen world of shadows.”

“Then there are the lies. They start on the very first day. Nobody is as they seem, nothing is what it is made out to be.

“The truth recedes. Our secret world is beyond the law”.

The scene cuts to a room in British Intelligence, where operatives are listening to a tape recording of the conversation between Frank and his son.

A few days later, police tell Frank that Robert has died in a fall from the roof of his apartment, in an apparent suicide, and a verdict of accidental death is recorded.

But Frank is puzzled by the circumstances of his son’s death and decides to use his old skills to conduct his own investigation. He approaches his friend Charles Greig, who had joined MI6 after his service in the navy. Greig agrees to make discreet enquiries on his part.

Returning to Robert’s flat, Frank is confronted by a left wing journalist Bill Pickett, who had arranged to meet Robert to discuss the problems at British Intelligence, but Frank rejects his investigative approaches.

Pickett is also killed in mysterious circumstances in a bizzare road traffic accident (hold that thought!) having found out the name of the man who Robert wished him to meet before meeting Frank.

As the movie unfolds we find that Greig had a part to play in the MI5 murder of Robert and the Soviet mole is a high ranking member of the British aristocracy Sir Adrian Chapple.

The movie ends with the death of Chapple and many loose ends.

It is truly gripping narrative.

But the words: “The truth recedes. Our secret world is beyond the law”, have stayed with me and grown like another cancer as I began to discover the truth.

But my initiation didn’t end there.

Some three years after watching this movie, and on the eve of my entering newspaper journalism, my dad bought me a book which would change my thinking forever. And in many ways prepared me for my unforeseen journey.

The red covered 260 page tome was Tony Collin’s Open Verdict: An Account of 25 Mysterious Deaths in Defence Industry.

This remarkable book contains a detailed investigation into a series of strange deaths linked to the British defence industry during the 1980s.

As my dad was working for Marconi on a “Top Secret” contract for the MoD at the time, I immediately found his gift of the book intriguing.

Here is a short taste:

In March 1987, in Popham near Basingstoke on the A33, David Sands did a U-turn at 80mph on a duel carriageway at high speed crashing into a derelict café, strangely with two extra cans of petrol in his car boot.

This led to him being burned beyond recognition by the fire that engulfed the car.

He worked for a company named Esams, (Elliot Automation Space and Advanced Military Systems Ltd) Marconi’s sister company on Star Wars contracts. Specifically “on the simulation of signals technologies and a secret application” directly related to Stealth.

On 10 April 1987, Stuart Gooding drove across to the wrong lane in Cyprus and hit a lorry coming in the opposite direction, the same day that David Greenhagl fell from a bridge in Britain.

The only personal details given was that Gooding was aged 23 and a scientific officer, and at the Royal Military College of Science. Since independence in 1960, Britain has held 93 square miles of Cyprus for its military bases which include an outpost for GCHQ and EW related operations.

Greenhagl worked as a “defence contracts manager” at the defence division of ICL (International Computers Ltd). His death occurred 130 yards from a police station.

Michael Bakers worked at Plessey Major Systems in Poole on System X when he had his accident on 3 May 1987. He was also a signals specialist in the territorial unit of the SAS (Special Air Services).

Allegedly Baker was taking two friends to Kingsbridge Lakes to teach them fly fishing when his BMW crashed went` through the central reservation of a dual carriageway and overturning.

Although, strangely yet again, neither of his passengers were injured, Baker died of brain damage at the scene of the crash. It was claimed he had “lost concentration” which led to the coroner recording a verdict of accidental death.

In 1982, Professor Keith Bowden whose work involved sophisticated military computer simulations, drove his BMW across a duel carriageway and down a railway bank.

According to Collins, “an accident investigator hired by her (Hilary Bowden, his widow) solicitor says someone removed the new tyres on the car at some point before the crash and replaced them with worn-out retreads”.

With echoes of Henri Paul, it was claimed later by the police that he had been drinking, but Hilary Bowden said: “We were very shocked by that because l had been told by a doctor that he had not been drinking, by a policeman he had not been drinking, and by the man who he was with all evening that he had not been drinking.”

Joe, a former RAF engineer was an informant of Collins when he worked on Computer News – the first mainstream publication to highlight the coincidental deaths or workers in the British defence computer industry. Joe described a crash which had remarkable similarities to some of the incidents detailed above.

He related to Collins how he spun his car at high speed across a dual carriageway, only being saved by the fact that the car: “hit dense brush on the central reservation and came to a halt facing in approximately the right direction. When he realised with some surprise that he was unhurt, apart from a minor whiplash injury, he tried to move the car and found that the handbrake was on. He had no recollection of what had happened, but assumed that for some reason that he had attempted a hand brake turn at high speed. He felt his life was still in danger”

Within a few days of the alleged Soviet spy and GCHQ worker Geoffrey Prime appearing in court in 1982, a senior GCHQ radio operator Jack Wolfenden died instantly “when his powered glider went into a shallow dive and crashed into a Cotswold hillside in perfect flying weather. He was an experienced pilot and they was no sign of illness or mechanical failure to explain the crash”.

His colleague, Ernst Brockway was found hanging a few months later, leaving no suicide note. His widow, Janet, told reporters “my husband was a sick man and that’s all there is to it. I have been told by the police and GCHQ to say nothing”.

Mark Wisner, was a Professional Technical Officer who worked on the Tornado aircraft at the Aeroplane and Armament Establishment (A&AEE). On 24 April 1987. According to Open verdict, he was found dead at his home wearing high-heel women’s boots, suspenders and a PVC top with nine feet of cling film wrapped around his face.

A hole had been left for the mouth, and a plastic bag had been placed over his head. No exact time of death is usually given in cases of this nature. It was reported afterwards that he was a transvestite, although none of his work colleagues were aware of this.

Wisner died exactly a week after Shani Warren, a secretary to the Divisional Manger of a firm called Microscope, which specialise in “intelligent electronic systems”.

Soon after her death on 17 April 1987 her company was bought by GEC Computers – its first acquisition for seven years for £16 million. She was found dead in a lake, “gagged with a blue scarf, a noose was tied around her neck, her ankles were secured with a tow rope and her wrists were tied behind her back. She had been face down in 18 inches of water for an indeterminate period”.

Her car – which was found parked in a layby adjoining a lake, was “an immaculate black Vauxhall Cavalier”. However, Collins reports that it was later found “to have a faulty gear box which prevented it being driven away in first or second gear”

It was later determined by a Home Office pathologist that Shani had tried to strangle herself, gagged herself, bound her ankles, tied her hands behind her back, and hopped in stiletto heels into the shallow water were she drowned”.

Richard Pugh, who had recently left a company which was involved in “digital networks and exchanges, C3i for NATO and associated EW equipment” tied himself virtually head-to-toe with rope and was “accidentally asphyxiated”.

Stephen Drinkwater, who worked in the highly classified copying department in GCHQ was found asphyxiated with a plastic bag over his head in his bedroom by his father in 1983. Collins reports that there was speculation at the time that his death may have been linked to the Prime affair – but the coroner recorded a verdict of misadventure.

Stephen Oke, in 1985 was found hanging from a beam from a beam in a loft in his home in Cornwall where he was employed at GCHQ’s most advanced listening post at Morwenstow.

The coroner was “puzzled by the fact that a piece of string was found twisted around Stephen’s hands and tied in a reef knot, but he was told by the police that Stephen could have done this himself”.

At the time his wife and children were on holiday in the Midlands whilst he redecorated the kitchen. Amongst the unanswered questions of the case was that cigarettes were found at the scene – although Stephen did not smoke – and a brandy bottle was found in the dustbin – although he did not drink spirits.

Now 25 years later we could add MoD scientist Dr David Kelly, Tory Defence PPS Stephen Milligan and former Labour Cabinet Minister Robin Cook to this frightening and still growing list.

But I digress.

The initiation is fulfilled.

Let’s go back to 1990, where my own journey into this secret world of shadows, lies and cover-ups begins.