I have just read the biography of Jeremy Thorpe by Michael Bloch. Many aspects of the story told – and the sleight that Bloch puts on it – felt very familiar.
Thorpe was the leader of the Liberal Party who ended up standing trial at the Old Bailey in 1979 for conspiring to kill Norman Scott, a man younger than him with whom he’d had a sexual relationship many years previously. The trial became notorious – the presiding judge was Justice Cantley and Jeremy was represented by George Carman QC. The trial made Carman’s reputation – and that of David Napley, Jeremy’s solicitor. Jeremy and his co-defendants were acquitted and the trial was widely seen as complete establishment stitch-up. Scott was a prosecution witness but was insulted and abused by Cantley, who also commented that he didn’t like the idea of sending a distinguished Privy Councillor like Jeremy to prison and made jokes about the incompetence of Andrew Newton, the prosecution witness who admitted that he’d been paid to kill Norman. The trial led to a spate of books and Peter Cook’s ‘biased judge’ parody. I knew much about all this, but I discovered a lot more from Bloch’s book.
Jeremy was born into an incredibly well-connected political family. His grandfather and father were politicians and Jeremy socialised with politicians, public figures and their families from his earliest days. He was personally acquainted with many historical figures – his family were close friends with Lloyd George’s family, they made visits to north Wales to Lloyd George’s family home. Jeremy was particularly fond of and close to Megan, Lloyd George’s daughter, a Liberal MP herself. Jeremy saw Lloyd George as a role model and was saying whilst he was still a teenager he would be a Liberal PM like Lloyd George. He was encouraged in this ambition by his family and by Megan – he made regular visits to Parliament to take tea with people like Megan and years later when he was elected as an MP it was remarked upon that unlike most new MPs, Jeremy wasn’t in the least bit over-awed by Parliament, he was completely familiar with it. As a child he was friends with the Carey Evans branch of Lloyd George’s extended family – members of the shithouse – and as he matured he made more and more friendships with leading members of the shithouse. Thorpe lived his entire life in the shithouse and was the ultimate example of one of it’s members.
He followed the standard privileged path – Eton, then Oxford to read law. Thorpe was a member of both the Oxford Union and the Oxford University Law Society – he rubbed noses and became friends with numerous powerful people in law, media and politics along the way, whom later proved to be of great use to Jeremy.
Whilst he was involved with the Oxford University Law Society, Thorpe invited guests such as Lord Denning and Lord John Morris of Borth-y-Gest. Morris was a paid up member of the Welsh branch of the shithouse. He was a friend of the Lloyd George’s, a barrister on the Northern Circuit and stood as a Liberal candidate on two occasions. Morris was chairman of the Quarter Sessions in Cheshire for 25 years, was a High Court judge, a Lord Justice of Appeal and a Law Lord. He was Pro-Chancellor of the University of Wales 1956-74, a member of the Gorsedd of the Bards and the Vice-President of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. I suspect that he knew Dafydd and Gwynne.
So Jeremy had some strong Welsh connections – later in life he became friendly with Liberal Party donor Gerran Lloyd and awarded him a peerage, thus turning him into Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran.
At Oxford, people maintained that Jeremy was not known for having sexual relationships, gay or straight. People claimed that he was solely interested in building his career.
As a young man Jeremy certainly had a following. He was often described as popular, witty and entertaining – but even his fans admitted that he was extraordinarily grandiose, constantly pontificating on his future as PM. His detractors however maintained that Jeremy was a very nasty piece of work – dodgy, ruthless, dishonest and downright dangerous in terms of what he was prepared to do to advance himself.
In the years after Oxford, there was evidence that Jeremy was not only gay but was having many casual liaisons. He was a member of the National Liberal Club and the Reform Club, which both offered opportunities for gay encounters and contained many gay men in influential positions.
Jeremy harboured an ambition to marry Princess Margaret – he spoke about this quite frankly and was seriously miffed when she announced her engagement to Armstrong-Jones. In an ideal world Jeremy would have had sex with both of them – upon the announcement of their engagement in 1960 he sent a notorious House of Commons postcard to a friend upon which he’d written ‘What a pity about HRH. I rather hoped to marry one and seduce the other’.
As Jeremy progressed through his political career more and more anecdotes circulated about his risky behaviour – cruising, frequenting gay bars, casual encounters, ‘rough sex’ and his boasting about seducing young men, including cameramen who were filming interviews with him, policemen on duty in Parliament and footmen when he was invited to receptions at Buck House.
Jeremy was elected as the Liberal MP for North Devon. It was well-known among his constituents that he was gay – he had relationships with a number of men from north Devon and took London boyfriends down to the constituency.
Jeremy was friendly with a number of people who were considered beyond the pale, including the gay Labour MP Tom Driberg who generally shocked everyone for numerous reasons. Driberg commented that he had heard about Jeremy from various rent boys – Jeremy and Driberg were using the same ones. Lord Boothby was a family friend of the Thorpes – Boothby was bisexual, he was friends with the Krays and had a long-running affair with Harold MacMillan’s wife, as well as gay sexual encounters with figures from the criminal underworld.
MI5 and the police knew all about Jeremy’s sexual activities – they also ended up getting their hands on the Princess Margaret postcard. When Jeremy’s close friend Jeremy Fry was prosecuted for gross indecency Thorpe’s activities once more came to the attention of the authorities.
At the same time as leading a stereotypical example of a double life, Thorpe continued to make gobsmacking efforts to increase his network of powerful friends, including on an international basis – he became personal friends with many heads of state and hobnobbed with the Royal Family. Thorpe had already built up a successful media career as a radio and TV personality by the time that he entered Parliament.
Jeremy was active in the Homosexual Law Reform Society, ostensibly from a liberal standpoint. Between 1963-66 most of the meetings of the Society took place in Thorpe’s Parliamentary office.
Norman Scott – then known as Norman Josiffe – was working as a stable boy for one of Thorpe’s friends when they met. They had a relationship in early 60s which Norman perceived as very abusive. Norman was a lot younger than Jeremy and was in law still a minor when their relationship began. Norman didn’t have a very solid home background – ironically Norman’s mother spent a lot of her time at Bexley Heath Conservative Club, where Ted Heath was the local MP. Ted Heath would later offer Thorpe a position in his Gov’t, at a time when Thorpe claimed that he was being ‘persecuted’ by Norman. Norman claimed that Jeremy ruthlessly sexually used him and described Thorpe as becoming increasingly callous. Following an initially warm relationship during which Thorpe kept him, bought him presents etc Thorpe ended up basically shagging Norman and then ordering him to spend nights on a camp bed, throwing him out when he felt like it. Rather than Norman persecuting Thorpe, the available evidence suggests that a predatory mature man with powerful friends used a rather confused young man sexually – whilst Thorpe also conducted casual liaisons with others – and then dumped him, subsequently maintaining that they barely knew each other.
Norman Scott had a very bad press and not just at the hands of the biased judge. What is clear is that Norman was for some reason very fragile – but nobody seems to have asked why. He seems to have become increasingly distressed after his encounters with Jeremy, was in poor mental health and made a number of suicide attempts. Norman himself consistently told people that Jeremy had ruined his life and interestingly enough a number of people who knew Norman took the same view and even made representation to third parties about this. As more and more of Jeremy’s friends hurled abuse at Norman – as did Jeremy himself – shrieking that he was ‘neurotic’ and ‘a nutter’, they didn’t seem able to explain a few obvious things. Such as the letter dated 1961 that Jeremy wrote to Norman on House of Commons notepaper – which years later became notorious when the press finally got hold of it – a letter which certainly reads as though it’s from a gay man to his lover, making a reference to ‘bunnies’ going to France (Thorpe admitted that ‘bunnies’ was his pet name for Norman). The letter also makes reference to some photos which Jeremy asks to be returned – yet no-one commented on this. Norman consistently maintained that Thorpe had stolen his National Insurance card after Thorpe failed to pay contributions when Norman worked for him and thus Norman couldn’t seek work. No-one seems to have investigated Norman’s claims regarding this – although it would have been easy to confirm if this was the case or not. Yet after quite a fuss and a very long time, it transpired that one of Jeremy’s political friends used his influence with the DHSS to sort this out behind the scenes – that’s not really a reaction to someone who’s completely mad and is saying things of no substance.
Norman also claimed that Thorpe paid him hush money and tried to conceal their relationship. Among the hysterical claims that Norman was making it all up, Norman then produced letters and documents demonstrating that Thorpe had made payments to him, regularly, over a long period of time, whilst claiming to some people that he’d never known Norman. Yet Thorpe had told other people that he was Norman’s guardian. Every time Norman became distressed and then demonstrated that he had lived with Jeremy, had been given money etc but was now claiming to be destitute because of Jeremy, Jeremy’s explanation to people who asked what the hell was going on was always the same – that Norman was mad, Jeremy had tried so hard to help him, he had been so patient but there was just no dealing with Norman and now he realised that Norman was a wicked manipulative man who had fooled a lot of people and was hounding him. Which was exactly what Dafydd Alun Jones said about Mary Wynch and me when we told people that Dafydd had illegally imprisoned us and that we had evidence of Dafydd’s criminal activities.
Again and again events occur which suggest that Norman was no fantasist. Another man at one point comes forward with sexual allegations about Thorpe – his account of Thorpe’s conduct is strikingly similar to Norman’s, although at that time Norman’s allegations had not found their way into the public domain. Norman maintained that Thorpe had promised to secure him a job – Thorpe made such offers to other people as well. Thorpe actually arranged for Norman to begin a new life in Switzerland – except that Norman didn’t want this and returned to the UK. This was seen as further evidence of Norman’s insanity and lack of gratitude – no-one asks why he was sent abroad by Jeremy and his mates for no good reason when he clearly had no desire to go. But then Thorpe and co were quite enthusiastic about sending people abroad – years later they arranged for Andrew Newton, the man who maintained that he had been hired to kill Norman, to begin a new life in Southern Africa after he had killed Norman’s dog but failed to kill Norman because his ancient gun jammed.
Bloch’s account of Thorpe packing Norman off to Switzerland and then getting very angry and pathologising Norman when he came back reminded me of something that I witnessed at Bangor University Student Health Centre years ago, as I did battle with the corrupt Dr DGE Wood and Gwynne the lobotomist. There was a young woman on my course whom I knew, but not very well. By the time that we were in the third year of our degrees, this young woman seemed to be very obviously falling apart. There were rumours that she had a serious drug problem – which was unusual for a student in those days – she lost a terrific amount of weight, was often seen walking around Bangor in her nightclothes and her hair started dropping out. I had no idea that she was having anything to do with the Student Health Centre until after my finals I was talking to the nurse up there when she asked me how this young woman had got on and it transpired that she had sat her exams in the medical room on the grounds that she had been having serious health problems. A couple of weeks later I was in the Student Health Centre when the same nurse started fuming about this young woman, stating that she ‘didn’t want to be helped’ and that there was ‘nothing that anyone could do for her’. It transpired that DGE Wood had been pressurising this young woman to go to Australia no less – he’d even arranged a job out there for her. Except that she was horrified at these arrangements and had ‘broken down’ at the very thought of being packed off to Australia and had refused to go. I have mentioned on this blog how Wood ended up having screaming rows with me and told me to leave Wales and forget about everything that had happened there. I’ve been wondering whether, like me, this young woman who was being pressurised to go to Australia had discovered a few things about Wood and Gwynne Williams. She was very obviously not coping with life very well and had sat her finals under special conditions. Who on earth would try and force her into leaving for Australia under such circumstances? Perhaps someone who was very worried about her continued presence in north Wales…
Not only were there huge questions about Thorpe’s conduct in relation to Norman that went unasked, but far from Norman ‘having no evidence’ for his story, evidence seems to periodically pop up but a lot of people work very hard to ensure that it doesn’t get to see the light of day. One of Thorpe’s closest friends, a fellow Liberal MP Peter Bessell, played a key role in ‘managing’ the problem that was Norman. Bessell meets him constantly, tells him that Jeremy will do this, that and the other to help him – although Jeremy never does – and Bessell makes payments to Norman whilst telling him not to mention Jeremy’s name to anyone (not that Norman was ever given hush money of course). On one of Norman’s enforced trips abroad, his luggage is lost. Thorpe goes to very great lengths to retrieve this luggage, using his Gov’t contacts. It transpires that there are letters that Jeremy has written to Norman in that luggage and Jeremy wants those letters back. After many years, Bessell and Thorpe fell out and Bessell emigrated to America. In November 1974, builders carrying out work on Bessell’s former office in London discovered a briefcase full of ‘compromising material’ relating to Jeremy Thorpe including documents concerning Norman, hidden in a false ceiling. The builders realised that they’d hit gold and took the documents to the Sunday Mirror. The Sunday Mirror editor Bob Edwards and the Chairman of the company that owned the paper, Lord Jacobson, knew Jeremy and knew about Norman. Surprise surprise, not a word was published – the documents were personally returned by Edwards to Thorpe at a meeting in his Westminster office, after copies had been made for the legal manager’s safe.
A Dr Roger Gleadle also ends up in possession of incriminating documents relating to Thorpe’s relationship with Norman and sells them. Gleadle was Norman’s GP and he also maintains that Norman is mad – Gleadle keeps him under ‘heavy sedation’ but that doesn’t stop Norman trying to kill himself whilst he is in Gleadle’s ‘care’. Interestingly enough Norman maintains that Gleadle has sold documents of his without his permission and is trying to poison him. Gleadle’s conduct becomes known when it is revealed that the person who purchased the documents was a friend of Jeremy’s. There are other Top Doctors who were well-aware of what was going on – including a number of psychiatrists who ended up treating Norman as he had breakdowns and made suicide attempts. At one point he was sectioned. One of the hospitals that treated Norman – in 1963/64 and again in 1967 – was St George’s.
Like Jeremy, the Top Doctors stressed how they tried to ‘help’ this madman who is inexplicably in constant fear and distress and makes crazy allegations about that nice Mr Thorpe which of course none of them believe – although the whole bloody lot of them are keen to get their paws on any documentation that Norman might have relating to Jeremy. Jeremy stressed to people that Norman is someone who had been in a ‘mental home’. I have a document in my possession written by Andrew Park, a corrupt lawyer at the Welsh Office, stating that I have been in a ‘mental institution’. Of course I have – Dafydd illegally detained me in one after I complained about him and his colleagues. The reason why Andrew Park found out about it was that after I complained about being unlawfully arrested and held in a mental institution, Andrew Park advised Dafydd et al on how to ensure that my complaints were never investigated.
Norman spends a lot of time telling people that Jeremy has ruined his life – Norman’s mates agree with this perception but everyone else maintains that Norman has an irrational obsession with poor Mr Thorpe and is ‘persecuting him’. What Norman is actually doing is making statements to the police and other people alleging very serious offences on the part of Thorpe et al. Norman consistently said the same thing – that Thorpe befriended him but ended up repeatedly sexually assaulting him in a manner that Norman did not want and since then had done a number of things to try and keep him quiet. No-one bothered to report how Norman thinks Jeremy has ruined his life – it might have been worth asking him because a lot of very unfortunate things happened to Norman. He landed jobs but then lost them, he became homeless and destitute, got back on his feet again, but hey presto suddenly he’d been sacked and he’s homeless once more. In the mid 70s, Norman was robbed, beaten up and an attempt was made to murder him – the people involved all maintained that they were put up to it by Jeremy or his friends.
Despite the constant claims of what a dreadful man he is, no-one ever produces evidence of anything very serious that Norman has actually done wrong. Whereas evidence constantly crops up suggesting that Jeremy was a lying bastard who was having numerous sexual encounters with much younger men, that his friends were constantly hassling Norman and that those claiming to ‘help’ Norman seemed to be benefiting from his distress and were often in close contact with Jeremy and his circle.
Norman does have a habit of producing very damning evidence against Thorpe – including evidence that Thorpe wrote him a letter in 1961 which suggests that they were having a sexual relationship whilst Norman was a minor. The explanation? That Mr Thorpe ‘made a mistake’ when he dated the letter to Norman – he obviously wrote the highly incriminating letter to Norman a few years later, whilst Norman was older. Not that the letter proved ANYTHING anyway of course.
Jeremy and co constantly maintain that Norman is a ‘nut’ whom absolutely nobody believes. For a nutter who can’t be believed they are certainly very bothered by him. So bothered that in June 1971 the Liberal Party launch an inquiry into Norman’s allegations – it is of course a secret inquiry, conducted by a small number of Jeremy’s close associates, namely Emlyn Hooson (a lawyer who was by that time leader of the Chester and Wales Circuit), David Steel and Frank Byers (the Liberal leader in the Lords). Norman told his story in person at the inquiry only to be shouted down and insulted by Byers. Hooson had been in touch with Scotland Yard about a police statement that Norman had made about Jeremy in 1962. When Thorpe found out about this he got in touch with Reginald Maudling the Home Secretary – Thorpe and Maudling were friends – and asked him to instruct the police to only give out a minimum of information. Maudling seems to have done as requested – a Detective Inspector Edward Smith attended the inquiry but would only provide brief factual answers to questions. Maudling told Jeremy by letter that he had discussed the matter with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
Hooson stated himself to be ‘appalled’ at the ‘Mafia-like atmosphere…of lies and intrigue’ that had been created. Jeremy subsequently recommended Byers for the Privy Council.
For a secret inquiry – that of course exonerated Jeremy – which was precipitated by allegations from a lunatic whom no-one believed it caused quite a stir.
Norman was so pissed off at his treatment by Byers that he returned to the police, made a 33 page statement and contacted a journalist who passed the story to MI5, MI6, the People newspaper and the Sunday Mirror. Yet no-one responded.
Jeremy and co maintained the line that everyone thought that Norman was a nutter who couldn’t be believed for many years, even throughout the eventual Old Bailey trial in 1979. I’ve got news for Jeremy and Michael Bloch, who believes that the folk of north Devon loathed Norman and considered him an insane nuisance – I grew up in west Somerset not a million miles away from north Devon and Exmoor, where much of the action took place. Norman had been living on Exmoor for years and an awful lot of people knew about him and Jeremy. I was a teenager when Norman’s dog was shot and Norman turned up as a crying wreck alleging that the gunman had tried to kill him as well and I remember the subsequent trials – NO-ONE locally thought that Norman was a nut. They believed him and were appalled at Thorpe and his mates. Thorpe had always been a flash git, he was perceived to be a London man with upmarket and powerful friends – the bumpkins were definitely overawed, but they believed Norman. There were a lot of very crude bawdy jokes in circulation, but those jokes did not involve Norman being a nutter – they were jokes about Jeremy sexually assaulting teenaged boys. Now where did those jokes come from I wonder? I knew Liberals – my own family were all Tories, but the west country was a Liberal stronghold, there were a lot of them about – who were seething at Thorpe’s conduct.
Furthermore, some people were very worried for Norman’s safety, particularly after Thorpe et al were acquitted. I remember our baker – who had contacts in north Devon – telling us that everyone feared that Jeremy’s lot were going to go after Norman again and this time succeed in killing him. Another person who delivered to our village claimed that he knew a friend of Norman’s and that after the trial Norman had plastered his house in photos of him and Jeremy, as a gesture in the wake of being branded a liar by the judge. Take it from me Bloch, a lot of people knew about Jeremy and Norman and the general opinion was that Jeremy was a lying potentially murdering bastard but bumpkins like us didn’t stand a chance against his mates. Furthermore, although Thorpe and the crooked judge et al kept stressing that Norman was a blackmailing sponger who lived off the great and the good, the evidence doesn’t suggest that. Norman likes horses and he worked with horses – that usually involves hard work and not much money. Press reports about Norman always referred to his job as a ‘male model’ – he did do some modelling for a bit, but most of the time he worked as a horseman. But if one is trying to discredit Norman, ‘effete male model’ is more effective than ‘well regarded skilled horseman’. After the Old Bailey trial, if Norman had wanted he could have been a millionaire – the media were finally reporting the story and Norman had evidence that was never presented in Court. Norman could have sold his story across the world – he didn’t. He went back to Exmoor and the horses and he still lives down there. Ironically, Norman has outlasted all the others – nearly everyone who wanted him dead are now dead themselves, but Norman is still alive.
As I read Bloch’s book I recognised many of the names of Thorpe’s friends and people who helped him. Some have already been named on this blog. Others were the mentors and patrons of the people named on this blog. As well as members of the shithouse in north Wales, there was a south Wales connection as well – two of the people who stood trial with Jeremy for conspiracy to murder were a pair of crooks from south Wales, it was they who found the hit man. I get the distinct impression that those who protected Thorpe and threw mud at Norman were pretty much the same people who protected Dafydd and Gwynne in their younger years. The context is identical – public figures sexually exploiting vulnerable people and then destroying them, whilst everybody ignored mountains of evidence that this was going on. The techniques used to discredit Norman are tried and tested – Top Doctors are utilised to detain him in a psychiatric facility, suggest that his extreme terror and distress are unfathomable and then discredit any witnesses or sympathisers of Norman by darkly muttering about Norman’s ‘charm’ and ‘manipulation’. Only they know Norman’s black heart. Interestingly enough, one of Norman’s staunchest defenders – a widow from north Wales with whom Norman lived with in 1971 – was found dead in 1972. Norman produces a good explanation as to why the official reason for her death is not credible, but of course Norman is mad. This lady had been an active Liberal and her father had known Emlyn Hooson. She had been so worried about what was happening to Norman that she wrote to Hooson and subsequently met up with the Liberal Chief Whip David Steel. She produced evidence of payments that Thorpe was making to Norman via Bessell and also a letter from one of her neighbours who also knew about Jeremy and Norman and who had written to Jeremy himself. It was her representation that had sparked off the ‘inquiry’ by Byers et al. Hooson was very worried indeed after this lady made representation – he wanted Thorpe to resign from the leadership and give up his seat. Jeremy maintained that Norman was trying to blackmail Bessell. After this lady’s death – allegedly from alcohol poisoning – Norman gave evidence at the inquest. He claimed that she had actually killed herself in despair at discovering what had been happening in the highest echelons of the Liberal Party and at her inability to help him. Local journos passed the story on to the London newspapers. Nothing happened. Scott’s story was dismissed as ‘cold and stale’.
Witnesses stated that Jeremy had become particularly vexed about Norman in the late 1960s – when for much of the time Norman wasn’t having much to do with him. Jeremy’s close friends Peter Bessell and David Holmes admitted that Jeremy spoke at length to them about having Norman killed. He discussed possible ways – shooting, strangling or poisoning. He suggested that Norman’s body could be disposed of down a tin mine (Peter Bessell was the Liberal MP for Bodmin). Jeremy held further discussions about murdering Norman in 1974. When Jeremy was reminded of these conversations after the killing of Norman’s dog, Jeremy brushed them off as humour or metaphors. Yet one man stated that he was paid to kill Norman, another man admits that funds were liberated from Liberal Party coffers to pay the hit man and other people detail their efforts to find a suitable hit man.
Readers will remember that in the 70s, British politics was in freefall; Heath’s Gov’t was weak, Wilson’s subsequent Gov’t was weak and the Liberals were really enjoying their position as being able to exert political muscle – people had to do deals with them to survive. There was the infamous Lib Lab pact. I can remember the excitement of West Country Liberals as they really believed that a Liberal PM was a possibility. I used to work for a neighbouring farmer whose brother was John Pardoe, one of Jeremy’s leadership rivals, and there was much talk of the possibility of Mr Pardoe ending up as PM. Jeremy was acutely aware of the hope that a Liberal could become PM and very obviously had nightmarish visions of Norman’s story becoming public and scuppering his chances.
Although nearly all the politicians involved were greedy duplicitous backstabbers, as with Top Doctors they stuck together like glue rather than dare rat on each other. The modus operandi of everyone seems to be one of covert or overt blackmail and the formation of complex alliances and this results in rivals propping each other up or covering each others arses. Cyril Smith, that well-known child molester, was a staunch supporter of Jeremy’s because Jeremy had helped him get elected – for his part, Jeremy had hoped that Smith’s success in Rochdale was the start of a Liberal revival. In 1974 Jeremy’s Conservative opponent in North Devon, Tim Keigwin, knew that Norman feared for his life and took receipt of a statement about Jeremy from him – a local solicitor delivered the statement to Conservative Central Office and it was read by Lord Carrington, the Party Chairman. Keigwin also spoke to the Attorney General, Sir Peter Rawlinson. Rawlinson and Carrington decided that no use should be made of Norman’s story – Ted Heath agreed. During the General Election campaign of early 1974, Keigwin was told by both his Tory colleagues and by Jeremy’s Devon solicitor not to mention the Jeremy-Norman story. Newspapers were also offered the story about Roger Gleadle selling letters that could embarrass the Liberals throughout the campaign – it was referred to in Private Eye but no-one else touched it. Thorpe was invited for political negotiations by Heath and Wilson after the election. Heath offered Thorpe a post in Gov’t but not a coalition – Thorpe rejected the offer. Wilson’s Press Secretary Joe Haines maintained that if Thorpe joined the Cabinet and kept the Tories in office, then Labour would tell the Norman Scott story. It is not known if Wilson blackmailed Thorpe.
Bloch’s book is frank that many senior politicians were told of Norman’s allegations and knew that Jeremy was a promiscuous gay man. Parliamentary gossip being what it is, I suspect that by the time that Thorpe stood trial just about everyone in politics would have heard something about Jeremy and Norman.
So let’s look at who definitely knew about Norman’s allegations.
In Dec 1962 Norman gave a formal police statement at Chelsea Police Station about Jeremy sexually assaulting him when he was a minor. He produced letters from Jeremy and the postcard that Jeremy had sent his friend upon the engagement of Princess Margaret.
Peter Bessell informed George Thomas who was then a junior Minister at the Home Office about Jeremy’s ‘problem’ with Norman -Bessell knew Thomas personally. Thomas has of course in recent years been named as a paedophile himself and was investigated by the South Wales Police. Thomas was sympathetic to Jeremy and arranged a meeting between Bessell and Sir Frank Soskice in May 1965. Soskice too was most understanding – he commented that Norman ‘couldn’t prove anything’ but ‘it’s a pity about those letters’. (The letters that proved something.) Soskice remarked that he was ‘very fond’ of Thorpe and that he was ‘an asset to the House’. During the meeting, Soskice had a file in front of him – which Bessell presumed contained Norman’s police statement and the letters. Bessell mentioned that Thorpe was anxious that the documents should not remain on record.
Bessell later bumped into George Thomas. Thomas told him that he’d spoken to Soskice who told him that Jeremy had nothing more to worry about. Bessell took this to mean that the file had been destroyed, but it seems that Soskice meant that no further action would be taken.
Bessell stated that he ‘intimidated’ Norman into ceasing his ‘harassment’ of Jeremy. Norman’s ‘harassment’ seems to have constituted a police statement, desperate requests to Bessell and to Jeremy for help with the stolen NI card and then a letter to Jeremy’s mother pleading for help, telling her that he was virtually destitute and asking her if she could influence Jeremy to behave rather more acceptably. Jeremy’s mother was unmoved by Norman’s pleas, but it is on record that she didn’t disbelieve his allegations.
In August 1965 Bessell told George Mackie, the Chair of the Scottish Liberals about Jeremy and Norman. When Mackie lost his seat in 1966, he told the story to the new Liberal MP Richard Wainwright. Alisdair MacKenzie, the Liberal MP for Ross & Cromarty, heard of Norman’s allegations from a constituent who had visited Ireland, where Norman had then been living.
Alice Bacon, a Home Office Minister, also knew about Jeremy and Norman – she was one person who was horrified.
By the time of the 1966 General Election, the matter was known about by the new Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, also his junior Minister Dick Taverne (who knew Jeremy from Oxford) and by Harold Wilson. They were all sympathetic to Thorpe.
Bloch suggests that Henry Brooke, the Home Secretary at the time of Norman’s police statement in 1962, would also have known. Furthermore, his predecessor Rab Butler had been given information concerning Jeremy’s activities which came to light during the investigation into Jeremy’s friend Jeremy Fry’s suitability for the role of best man at Princess Margaret’s wedding in 1960. By 1966 Brooke and Butler were both in the Lords.
Jeremy himself sought advice from Labour MP Leo Abse – a friend of George Thomas. Abse is someone else who has been subject to historic abuse investigations. Abse told Jeremy to deny everything. Jeremy’s conduct was so well-known that during the 1966 General Election campaign angry Conservative MPs hurled homophobic abuse at him.
Jeremy had been involved in other scandals as well. In 1961 he visited San Francisco, had a relationship with a young man and subsequently exchanged letters with him – Thorpe’s letters were written on Commons notepaper. The young man was under investigation by the FBI, so they found out about Jeremy. In 1963 the US Ambassador in London suggested to Lord Home (who was shortly to become PM) that Jeremy should not visit the US again. Home shared this info with the Liberal leader Jo Grimond. In 1964 Grimond passed the info on to Mark Bonham-Carter and Frank Byers, the leader of the Liberals in the Lords.
In 1965 in Tangiers Jeremy had tried to seduce an English tourist who was outraged and had contacted both the Liberal and Tory Associations in North Devon.
Jeremy had an affair with a John Wilkins and then employed him as a Parliamentary researcher. Wilkins developed an alcohol problem and in June 1966 whilst drunk he caused two scenes in one day in the Commons, shouting to onlookers that he was Jeremy’s jilted lover. Wilkins also knew about Norman from Bessell and had confided in Liberal MP Michael Winstanley that Jeremy was not suitable to succeed Grimond as leader of the Party. Winstanley agreed.
So by 1966 most senior Liberals had been directly told about Thorpe’s gay encounters and a lot of people had been told about Norman specifically. Jeremy’s conduct was very well-known. Presumably people had noticed not only that Jeremy had numerous encounters with different men but that for some reason a lot of Jeremy’s partners felt very badly treated by him.
By this time, the Liberal leader Jo Grimond was about to stand down and a leadership contest was looming. Grimond was known to dislike Jeremy but protected him to avoid scandal – Grimond also wanted to block Emlyn Hooson from the leadership. However Grimond’s wife and mother-in-law thought that Jeremy was great and wanted him to succeed Grimond as leader. David Steel also supported Jeremy for the leadership – Steel was Jeremy’s PPS and was indebted to Jeremy for his role in getting him elected. Steel offered to be his campaign manager.
Some in the Liberal Party expressed concerns that if Thorpe were to become leader, a scandal would inevitably occur as a result of his homosexual encounters. Nonetheless in Jan 1967 Thorpe did become leader. Bessell warned him that if his ‘past’ became public he would have to resign.
As well as friendships with those across the political divide – such as with Tony Benn – Jeremy hung out with celebs such as the Beatles, Bobby Charlton and Morecombe and Wise. He was mates with Princess Margaret – despite being banned from acting as best man at her wedding – and the Archbishop of Canterbury. His only real allies in the Liberal Party then were David Steel and Eric Lubbock (aka Lord Avebury), then the Liberals Chief Whip.
Jeremy was in the habit of offering people who did favours for him peerages. One person who actually got one was Gerran Lloyd, who parted with dosh for the Liberal Party.
In April 1967 Thorpe was in a fix again. He showed Bessell a letter from a rent boy called Bill Shannon who had asked Thorpe for a loan. Jeremy interpreted it as blackmail – Bessell wrote to Shannon, subsequently met him and threatened him with the police if he ever mentioned Jeremy’s name to anyone. In 1979 Shannon spoke about Jeremy after being contacted by the police and journos – Shannon’s account of Thorpe’s behaviour was remarkably similar to Norman’s. Shannon maintained that he had not been trying to blackmail anyone but had had the living daylights threatened out of him by Bessell.
In April 1967 Norman wrote to Bessell requesting his help – Norman was planning to go to America to live, but the problem of the NI card remained. He needed documentation to be in order to acquire a passport. In July 1967 Norman wrote to Bessell again – he was for some reason back in St George’s Hospital being treated by a Dr Brian O’Connell. O’Connell knew about Jeremy.
Jeremy’s response to this was to consult Lord Goodman and threaten Norman with a blackmail charge. Goodman suggested instead that Jeremy should set Norman up in America. Days later Norman turned up at Bessell’s office in a terrible state – Bessell told him that he would find him a job in the US. And offered him a retainer until he did. Sounds like hush money to me…
By 1967 Jeremy had decided that he needed a wife. He was friendly with Caroline Allpass, a society girl who worked at Sothebys. They subsequently married – Caroline developed a cult following and was hugely popular in north Devon. She knew about Jeremy’s homosexual encounters and by all accounts had no problem with them at all – she seemed to have been close to a number of gay men before her involvement with Jeremy. Caroline also knew about Norman.
After his engagement Jeremy fessed up to Bessell that he’d had an encounter with a New York street boy. He was also in a relationship with Guy Huntingdon – who later wrote about their affair – whom Jeremy met at a Buck House banquet whilst Guy worked there as a footman. Jeremy offered to get Guy a job at the BBC.
In May 1969 Norman married Sue Byers, who worked at the Tate. Sue’s sister was a relation of the actor Terry-Thomas and Norman and Sue lived in a cottage of theirs in Dorset. But Norman still had no NI card, so when Sue became pregnant they were unable to claim maternity payments. Norman rang the DHSSL in London and told the Private Secretary of the Social Security Minister David Ennals about Jeremy. Norman then rang Bessell and threatened to sell his story to the press if he didn’t get his NI card. Bessell acquired the NI card – and maternity payments for Sue. Norman had also told social security officials in Dorset and London about Jeremy.
Norman’s marriage did not last long – Sue left him. Norman’s divorce lawyer was Leonard Ross of Dorset Square. He knew about Jeremy. For some reason Jeremy paid Ross’s bill. Jeremy’s marriage didn’t last long either – Caroline was killed in a road accident in 1970. The explanations for Caroline’s loss of control at the wheel were questioned by people who knew her.
At about this time Bessell claimed that a blackmailer had turned up in north Devon claiming to possess compromising letters from Jeremy to Norman – Jeremy promised Bessell a peerage if he got rid of him, if necessary by murder. Jeremy didn’t need to hire a hit man on this occasion, the letters turned out to be forgeries.
Jeremy remarried in 1972 – someone even posher than Caroline, namely Marion, Countess of Harewood, a relative of the Queen’s via Marion’s first marriage. The biased judge at Jeremy’s Old Bailey trial made much of the virtues of Marion.
By the mid-1970s when Norman was being robbed and physically attacked, the world and his wife knew about him and Jeremy. The Metropolitan Police knew, the Devon and Cornwall Police knew, the North Devon Infirmary knew (they had treated Norman for his physical injuries), local social workers knew and a radical group in London called ‘Up Against The Law’ knew and alluded to it in their newspaper. In Sept 1975 Norman was arrested for the non-payment of an hotel bill – I don’t know why but he was kept in custody for two days, during which time he was warned that he might be in danger if he didn’t stop talking about Jeremy. He was confronted by Andrew Newton the hit man one month later.
The idiocy on the part of the authorities didn’t stop even after Newton had shot Norman’s dog and tried to shoot him. Avon and Somerset Police suggested that Norman had shot the dog himself to ‘create publicity’. It was only after the dog was shot that anything hit the newspapers – the West Somerset Free Press ran the story of the murdered dog and journalists who knew about Norman’s story contacted Jeremy. It was after Newton was charged with possessing a firearm with intent to danger life that the full story finally appeared in the national press – the final straw being Norman getting so fed up (he’d now been done for a minor social security fraud) that he mentioned Jeremy in Court and to the reporters. Jeremy issued a statement through Harold Wilson’s fixer Lord Goodman and the story finally exploded.
Unbelievably, considering how many people knew about the Jeremy and Norman story, everybody continued to try to brazen it out. The hit man claimed that Norman had been trying to blackmail him – David Holmes, Jeremy’s mate, later admitted that Goodman had come up with the plan to claim that Norman was trying to blackmail both Jeremy and Newton. Holmes also offered to pay Newton after his trial if Newton kept his and Jeremy’s name out of it. Marcia Williams, Harold Wilson’s infamous Secretary, begged Wilson to save Jeremy. Wilson made a statement in the House suggesting that BOSS, the South African security services, were behind Jeremy’s troubles on the grounds that they wanted to smear Jeremy because of his anti-apartheid stance. George Thomas, the newly appointed speaker, was most friendly towards Jeremy and discouraged some right wing Tories who tried to ask embarrassing questions. It was revealed that in 1974 after seeing the dossier on Scott sent by Tim Kiegwin, Thatcher had stated that she had no intention of ‘smearing’ Jeremy.
The Mirror discovered that it was David Holmes who had purchased the incriminating letters of Norman’s from Roger Gleadle – Holmes had a meeting with the DPP and a statement was prepared on his behalf by David Freeman, the PM’s Press Solicitor. Holmes claimed that Wilson vetted the statement.
Goodman advised Jeremy to receive Sir Harold Evans, the editor of The Sunday Times and The Sunday Times subsequently published a number of articles sympathetic to Jeremy.
Newton’s trial in Exeter opened on the same day that Harold Wilson resigned and the announcement that Princess Margaret was to divorce. Not only was Margaret still a mate of Jeremy’s, but she would have consulted Wilson over her announcement. It has been suggested that Wilson timed his resignation to detract from both the Royal Divorce and Newton’s trial.
At Newton’s trial the prosecuting counsel was Lewis Hawser QC – an old friend of Jeremy’s. It is alleged that Hawser consulted with the Attorney General and Lord Goodman before the trial. Newton was found guilty – the maximum possible sentence was twenty years. He received two. But he must have still been disappointed – Jeremy’s friends had told him that people in high places would ensure that he would not go to prison. Hawser’s other high points included conducting the review of the case of James Hanratty in 1974 on the orders of Home Secretary Roy Jenkins – Hawser found the conviction to be safe – and defending Brian Field, the Brains behind the Great Train Robbery.
Most of the Liberal Party just wanted rid of Jeremy but he refused to go and no-one would put the boot in. The rest of the shithouse supported him in his time of need – Michael Foot believed that an ‘indiscretion’ was all that had occurred and Jeremy and Marion were guests at HM the Queen’s 50th birthday party at Windsor. Jeremy tried to stop the police from returning Norman’s documents to Norman by asking a friend of his to tell the police that Norman posed a threat to Jeremy.
Jeremy finally stood down as leader and David Steel was elected. Jeremy was appointed the Liberals Foreign and Commonwealth Spokesman which involved working with the newly appointed Foreign Secretary, Dr Death. Dr Death and Jeremy really got on well together – as they had done previously.
Two BBC reporters began researching for a book about Jeremy and Norman – Jeremy tried to stop publication of the book (he had successfully persuaded Penguin to withdraw another book about the case). The Director General of the BBC Sir Charles Curran was ‘supportive’ of the book – but the reporters were then given new BBC contracts depriving them of control of their material. So they left the BBC. Jeremy and Lord Goodman then tried to persuade Harold Wilson to withdraw his co-operation from the ex-BBC reporters.
Eventually on August 4 1978 Jeremy and three others were charged with conspiring to kill Norman. Jeremy was also charged with having incited David Holmes to murder Norman in 1969. Lord Avebury stood surety for Jeremy’s bail. Jeremy refused to resign from his seat – he even got the date of his next Court hearing postponed to fit in with his election campaigning, although Callaghan then changed his mind about calling an election.
A Defence Fund to help Jeremy with his legal costs was set up by Lord Lloyd Kilgerran. James Goldsmith donated 5k. Jeremy’s solicitor David Napley hired George Carman, whom Jeremy had known at university. Carman had been working on the Northern Circuit alongside a few other members of the shithouse, including Justice Cantley who presided over Jeremy’s trial at the Old Bailey. After his death, Carman’s son wrote a book in which he exposed Carman as a ferocious wife-beater, a drunk and a gambler. He claimed that when Carman worked in Manchester he spent much time boozing with criminals, prostitutes and generally questionable people. Jeremy’s mate David Holmes who was so instrumental in the plans to dispose of Norman was based in Manchester. The discussions with the hit man were alleged to have taken place in the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool. Carman came from Blackpool. Carman also had a secret gay life.
One of Jeremy’s co-defendants, George Deakin, was represented by Gareth Williams QC, later Lord Williams of Mostyn. Williams later became Attorney General under a Labour Gov’t. He represented Gordon Anglesea when Anglesea successfully sued for libel after he was accused of sexually abusing boys in care in north Wales. Williams originated from north Wales. Another co-defendant, John Le Mesurier, was represented by Denis Cowley QC. Cowley had stood as a Liberal candidate twice and was a barrister based in Nottingham on the Midland and Oxford Circuit. He was a Recorder of the Crown Court and in 1984 was appointed to the Mental Health Appeal Tribunal.
The forewoman of the jury at the Old Bailey was Celia Kettle-Williams, a member of the Liberal Party and an admirer of Jeremy.
I have mentioned that barely anyone in the West Country believed in Jeremy’s innocence. A lot of Tories were frank in their opinion that he was a total degenerate. Auberon Waugh – who lived in west Somerset – stood in the General Election (which was held just before the main trial opened at the Old Bailey in 1979) as the Dog Lovers candidate, in tribute to Norman’s murdered dog Rinka. Waugh placed an election address in the Spectator – Jeremy sought an injunction preventing Waugh from disseminating this address and the Master of the Rolls Lord Denning, who had been a mate of Jeremy’s for decades, obliged.
Jeremy lost north Devon at the election and for the first time in decades it became Tory. He was subsequently acquitted as were his co-defendants. He tried to continue in public life and very nearly succeeded too. He was persona non-grata in the Liberal Party but the rest of high society continued to embrace him. The only thing that really stopped him making a come-back was that he developed Parkinsons.
Numerous matters emerged in the trial suggesting that Jeremy and his circle – and indeed the political class and the ‘establishment’ as a whole – were actually far, far worse than anyone had ever suspected. People had blackmailed and defrauded each other like there was no tomorrow and had lied and swindled until the cows came home. Just about the only person in the Court room who hadn’t been involved in the most dreadful conduct was Norman Scott. Which was probably why he’d nearly ended up dead.
Reading Bloch’s book I concluded that Jeremy got away scot free for exactly the same reasons that Dafydd et al have – although absolutely everybody knew how serious their criminality was, so many of their peers were doing or had done equally offensive things that no-one dared cross their paths.
Whilst Jeremy was destroying Norman and conducting conversations regarding the best method of killing him, another political sex scandal blew up, involving Lord Lambton the Conservative defence Minister. Lord Lambton had been caught smoking joints in bed with call-girls. He resigned although he was quite upfront about it all. Lord Lambton was declared the lowest form of life on earth and was subsequently interviewed by Robin Day, who wore his characteristic bow tie and ludicrous expression and spat at Lord Lambton something along the lines of: you are a peer of the realm and a rich cultured man. Why do you have to have sex with a ‘WHORE???’ To which Lord Lambton responded ‘well I like a bit of variety, don’t you?’ That was the end for Lord Lambton. Who had not assaulted minors or anyone against their will, who had not accused the victim of their assaults of blackmailing them and who had not tried to have anybody murdered. Robin Day was a good friend of Jeremy Thorpe. And a high profile member of the Liberal Party. But it was Lord Lambton who copped it for getting stoned with consenting adults, in much the same way that Frank Bough was kicked out of the BBC after the cocaine and prostitutes revelations but Jimmy Savile remained friends with Royalty and senior Tories until the day that he died.
Other friends who supported Jeremy included William Rees-Mogg (who attempted to launch a ‘coalition of the centre’ with him), his close friend Clement Freud, his long-term friend Lord Hailsham and his childhood friend from Lloyd George’s circle, Jean Trumpington.
Jack Straw also knew about Jeremy and Norman. Joe Haines stated that at one point Harold Wilson called for a summary of the saga of Norman’s NI card from Gov’t sources – the task was undertaken by Jack Straw in his capacity as Barbara Castle’s policy advisor at the DHSS. In 2002, when Straw was Home Secretary, he maintained that he didn’t know that this report was for use against Thorpe.