Jackie Malton says investigation into Vishal Mehrotra’s death in 1981 could have been compromised by the ‘power of politicians’ at the time
A detective who investigated the murder of a young boy more than 30 years ago has voiced fears of a “cover-up” following claims that the child died at the hands of aWestminster paedophile ring.
Jackie Malton, the inspiration behind Dame Helen Mirren’s character in the ITV series Prime Suspect, said the investigation into Vishal Mehrotra’s death in 1981 could have been compromised by the “power of politicians” at the time.
“During my time in the police there was a feeling of misuse of power,” she told The Telegraph. “There were a lot of powerful people saying, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’”
Now retired from Scotland Yard, Miss Malton was a detective sergeant when she worked on the case, which has never been solved.
Vishal, nine, was abducted as he walked home to Putney, south-west London, after watching the marriage procession of the Prince and Princess of Wales. He disappeared less than a mile away from the notorious Elm Guest House in Barnes. His bones were found in a Sussex field six months later. Last week, the Metropolitan Police announced it was investigating possible murders linked to the guesthouse.
The new inquiry was opened when an alleged victim came forward claiming to have witnessed three boys being killed, including one allegedly strangled by a Conservative MP during a depraved sex game.
Earlier this week, Vishal’s father, Vishambar Mehrotra, a retired magistrate, claimed he had recorded a mystery caller saying his son might have been taken to the Elm Guest House. He took the recording to police at the time but claimed they refused to investigate an allegation implicating “judges and politicians”.
Mr Mehrotra said it had been a huge ‘cover-up’.
Miss Malton, now aged 63 and living in Surrey, worked on Vishal’s disappearance for about four months in 1981 before being seconded to another investigation, weeks before his father’s tape was handed in. She said the culture of policing at the time meant it was possible the recording was ignored and the murder covered up due to the alleged involvement of senior figures at Westminster.
“There is clear evidence that something was happening at that guesthouse,” she said. “If nothing has been done about it in retrospect, then Mr Mehrotra is right. Either the police disbelieved it, or they covered it up one way or another.
“I do remember that the officers were highly passionate about the Mehrotra case, but for some reason we never managed to get anywhere.”
Scotland Yard opened Operation Fairbank two years ago to look into suggestions that high-profile political figures had been involved in a VIP paedophile ring and subsequent cover up.
Officers have set up a new strand of the inquiry, Operation Midland, after being passed information about the three alleged murders connected to the group.
Miss Malton, who retired from Scotland Yard as a detective chief inspector in 1997, was the model for Jane Tennison, Dame Helen Mirren’s character in Prime Suspect. She was one of just four female DCIs in her Hammersmith-based squad when Linda La Plante worked with her for six months while researching her police series about a woman detective.
Working now as a full-time TV technical adviser and addiction counsellor, she claimed police officers during the 1980s often felt pressure from above when dealing with politically sensitive cases.
“Some inquiries would come to an end when someone senior said, ‘That’s enough’,” she said. “I remember a case where there was an MP accused of cottaging and it all kind of disappeared.”
Miss Malton said she had no specific evidence that officers in the Mehrotra case were leant on by politicians to drop their inquiries, and she never worked on the investigation into the Elm Guest House. But she said the influence of Westminster was felt throughout Scotland Yard during the 1980s.
“There was also a strong sense of the power of Parliament and of politicians. It was very much a case of ‘do as you are told’, she claimed. “There was certainly a culture of disbelief among the officers, and that often didn’t help to get to the truth. But the politicians were very much in power, and the police officers’ voices could often not be heard. It’s very different now. Back then, people were nowhere near as accountable for their actions.”
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, described the allegations as “grotesque” and echoed Mr Mehrotra’s calls for a proper investigation.
Simon Danczuk, the MP whose book exposed the former MP Cyril Smith as a serial abuser of boys, said he may raise the issue in the Commons today.
Mr Mehrotra on Wednesday said he had still not been contacted by officers investigating the alleged murders.