Picture shows the site of the former children’s home in Brixton (left)
Tony Blair and a photo posed by a model (top right)
A probe was halted soon after an ex-social services boss told police of his alleged evening visits in the early 1980s
One of Tony Blair’s ministers was among a group of men suspected of sexually abusing children at a home run by a convicted paedophile.
But the probe was halted soon after an ex-social services boss told police of his alleged evening visits in the early 1980s.
Official documents seen by the Daily Mirror during a 16-month investigation reveal former residents told detectives that a group of paedophiles attacked children in a private flat in the home.
But two former Lambeth social services employees involved in the case suspect a cover-up because experienced detective Clive Driscoll was removed from the investigation and given other duties.
One, a former manager who alerted police in 1998, said: “One wonders why Scotland Yard would be so desperate to stop it being investigated.
“I believe it was stopped because somebody in power was trying to prevent any further investigation into the politician.”
And Dr Nigel Goldie, a council boss in charge of child protection in 1998, said: “There were some allegations that children were being abused by one or two prominent persons.
“There were a lot of very senior people trying to put a lid on it. There was something very unfortunate about the way the whole thing was dealt with.”
The Mirror has seen a Lambeth council memo that shows there was an intention to brief then Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, about the police investigation.
But Mr Dobson said he did not remember being briefed and was never told a minister in Tony Blair’s government was suspected of child abuse.
Both Dr Goldie and the former manager have called for an independent probe into their suspicions the minister was protected by the Establishment.
After being tracked down by the Mirror, the ex-manager said in the early 1980s she saw the man visiting Michael John Carroll at the Angell Road children’s home he ran in Brixton, South London.
She said she told top Lambeth officials at the time she suspected Carroll was at the centre of a paedophile ring at the home.
Bosses learned in 1986 that he was convicted of sexually assaulting a boy of 12 in the Wirral in 1966.
But the pervert was allowed to continue running the home until 1991.
Carroll was finally arrested in the summer of 1998 and convicted of a string of child sex attacks dating back three decades including assaults on youngsters in Angell Road.
He was freed from his 10-year sentence in 2004. Dr Goldie, who was assistant director of social services at Lambeth, then helped Met Detective Inspector Mr Driscoll investigate claims of sexual abuse in children’s homes.
At the time, Mr Driscoll was an experienced child protection detective. He went on to nail two racist thugs who murdered Stephen Lawrence.
But in 1998 he was taken off the Lambeth case and faced disciplinary proceedings for allegedly naming the politician among the suspects.
Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll
Describing how he learned the minister was being investigated, Dr Goldie said in a signed statement: “Clive started talking about the politician… He articulated that his approach was to shake the tree and be quite open about what he was doing and see what happened.”
Dr Goldie, now a non-executive director of mental health charity the Richmond Fellowship, added: “The allegation was that the politician had been seen going in and out of Angell Road.
“There were allegations he sexually abused children.”
Dr Goldie said he received a call from a senior police officer a short time later.
He recalled: “It was all very cloak and dagger stuff. He said, ‘Can you come downstairs and meet us outside?’”
Dr Goldie met the officer, who was accompanied by a junior colleague, in a cafe in Clapham, South London. He said: “They had an air of authority like they were used to taking decisions. They asked if there had been other allegations about the individual [the minister].”
Dr Goldie, described a second meeting with the same senior officer at the same cafe a few days later. He said: “They said essentially that they saw it as fantasy. They were rubbishing Clive’s evidence. It was a closure job on what Clive was saying.
“They put a lot of pressure on me. I had to treat it all confidentially.
“By that point Clive had been called in and given his disciplinary notice. They said that Clive hadn’t been able to provide them with evidence for the claims.”
Dr Goldie said their manner was “threatening” and added: “I was told not to tell anyone or repeat it. It was heavy.”
Mr Driscoll was questioned under caution by Met officers and removed from the Lambeth district. The disciplinary proceedings were later dropped.
Dr Goldie, who left Lambeth council of his own accord four months later, added: “What is needed is a proper independent investigation with a judicial element to get to the bottom of who was involved in the decision to shut Clive’s investigation down and to re-open the investigation into the original allegations.”
An internal memo written by Dr Goldie, dated September 1, 1998, said Mr Dobson was to be updated about the investigation by the Social Services Inspectorate – the body responsible for overseeing children’s homes.
Whitehall officials are now conducting a review, at Mr Dobson’s request, of all documents and briefings he received from the SSI when he was Health Secretary.
Mr Driscoll’s investigation was scrapped soon after Ron Davies quit as Welsh Secretary when he was mugged by a male prostitute at a gay meeting spot on Clapham Common, South London, in October 1998.
A week later, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown was forced into revealing he was gay by the News of the World. Neither men are the minister suspected of child abuse.
Alastair Campbell’s entry for November 4, 1998, in his published diary, The Blair Years, states: “As TB said later, with a touch of black humour, we could get away with Ron as a one-off aberration, but if the public start to think the whole Cabinet is indulging in gay sex, we might have a bit of a political problem.”
Mr Driscoll’s probe was shut down that month before Sir Denis O’Connor, then an assistant commissioner, set up new investigation Operation Middleton. It was contacted by more than 200 alleged victims and secured three convictions. In 19 cases suspects could not be identified.
Detective Superintendent Richard Gargini, who led Middleton, said last night: “Every allegation was taken seriously, including unsubstantiated rumour.
“Where victims and suspects were identified the inquiry was conducted ethically and with complete professionalism. We found no evidence of an organised network where people in authority attended the children’s’ homes for inappropriate purposes.”
Mr Driscoll was taken off the Stephen Lawrence case in January after he criticised Yard bosses for removing him from the 1998 probe.
He has been forced to retire next month. Several ex-Lambeth children’s home residents have recently come forward to police to allege abuse. One ex-residential social worker faces trial next year.
The Mirror sent Scotland Yard a detailed list of questions on March 21 which they have failed to answer.
A spokesman said last week: “Various inquiries relating to Operation Middleton remain ongoing.”
Mr Blair’s spokesman refused to comment last night. All children’s homes in Lambeth were shut down by 1995.
• If you are an adult who suffered child abuse and want professional help, call NAPAC on 0800 085 3330.
• If you have any information that you think might help our investigation, please telephone the Mirror on 0800 282 591 or email email@example.com
by Tom Pettifor