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Alistair McAlpine, who was treasurer and deputy chairman of the U.K. Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher, issued a statement denying Internet rumors he had been part of a pedophile ring.
“Ill- or uninformed commentators have been using blogs and other Internet media outlets to accuse me,” McAlpine said in an e-mailed statement today, talking of a “media frenzy.” He said he “must publicly tackle these slurs and set the record straight.”
McAlpine, who held the post of Tory treasurer from 1975 to 1990, issued his statement three days after Home Secretary Theresa May announced plans to examine whether allegations of sexual abuse at a children’s home in Wrexham, north Wales, in the 1970s and 1980s were properly handled.
That review was prompted by Steve Messham, a victim of abuse at the Bryn Estyn home, who alleged involvement by a senior figure in the Tory party in an interview with BBC television’s “Newsnight” program last week. He said he was “sold” to men for sexual abuse at a nearby hotel. The BBC didn’t name the political figure.
Messham this evening said in a statement that he was mistaken about the identity of his abuser and that he apologized, the BBC reported on its website. According to the BBC, he said police had shown him a picture of his abuser in the early 1990s and investigators at the time incorrectly told him the man was McAlpine. The BBC reported that Messham said he had seen a picture tonight of McAlpine and realized his mistake.
The broadcaster apologized “unreservedly” for airing the report, it said in an e-mailed statement. “There will be an immediate pause in all Newsnight investigations to assess editorial robustness and supervision,” the BBC said.
A report into the abuse, for which 650 people were questioned, was published in 2000 by Ronald Waterhouse, a retired High Court judge, after a three-year inquiry. Messham said that inquiry did not fully uncover all the harm at the care home.
Waterhouse’s findings will now be investigated by Judge Julia Wendy Macur. In a separate probe, Keith Bristow, the director general of the National Crime Agency, will review the way the police handled the original complaints of abuse and investigate any fresh allegations.
“I have every sympathy for Mr. Messham and for the many other young people who were sexually abused when they were residents of the children’s home in Wrexham,” McAlpine said.
“I do not suggest that Mr. Messham is malicious in making the allegations of sexual abuse about me,” he said. “If he does think I am the man who abused him all those years ago I can only suggest that he is mistaken and that he has identified the wrong person.”
McAlpine said he’d only been to Wrexham once in his life, when on Conservative Party business. “I have never been to the children’s home in Wrexham, nor have I ever visited any children’s home, reform school or any other institution of a similar nature.”
McAlpine said twice in his statement that he was reserving the right to take legal action against “those who have defamed me in the recent past or who may do so in the future.”
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