The bloggers have the wrong man: former Tory treasurer Lord McAlpine prepares legal action against 'wholly false and defamatory' child abuse claims
Solicitors for Lord McAlpine have said they are preparing to take legal action against media who they claim defamed him by suggesting he was the senior Tory figure from the Thatcher era involved of sexually abusing young people in a North Wales children's home.
In a statement, Lord McAlpine's representatives said: "Following the statement released by Lord McAlpine earlier today, RMPI LLP, solicitors to Lord McAlpine would like to confirm that they are in the process of preparing writs and will be taking legal action against all media who have defamed Lord McAlpine's reputation and published defamatory statements."
The 70-year-old grandee, who was party treasurer and a powerful figure within the Conservative government in the 1980s, had earlier described the claims as “wholly false and defamatory”.
The life peer made the extraordinary decision to end days of fevered speculation on Twitter and elsewhere after it was reported in a national newspaper that he was misidentified by a victim at Bryn Estyn, the Wrexham care home at the centre of the allegations.
A list of alleged paedophiles was handed to the Prime Minister live on television by This Morning presenter Philip Schofield. An ambushed David Cameron immediately criticised what he described as a “witch hunt” that he feared could turn against gay people as well as senior Tories.
In a lengthy statement Lord McAlpine said: “I must publicly tackle these slurs and set the record straight”.
He added: “It is obvious that there must be a substantial number of people who saw that I had been identified in the internet publications as this guilty man and who subsequently saw or heard the broadcasts or read the newspapers in question and reasonably inferred that the allegation of guilt in those broadcasts and newspapers attached to me.”
Three-times married Lord McAlpine, who now lives in Puglia, Italy and is in poor health, said there had been a “media frenzy” surrounding him and had acted before he was publicly named as the suspect. He said that by doing so he had not given up the right to sue for defamation and was considering his next legal move.
He said that he had sympathy for his accuser – care home abuse victim Steve Messham – who made the allegations without publicly naming the construction tycoon on Newsnight last week.
”I wish to make it clear that I do not suggest that Mr Messham is malicious in making the allegations of sexual abuse about me. He is referring to a terrible period of his life in the 1970's or 1980's and what happened to him will have affected him ever since. 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,” he said.
But Lord McAlpine, who was made a life peer as Baron McAlpine of West Green in 1984, said he had been to Wrexham only once when he visited the local Constituency Conservative Association whilst deputy chairman and that at all times he was accompanied by Conservative Central Office agent Stuart Newman, who has since died. He also denied ever visiting the children’s home or any other similar institution.
The peer also denied other claims which have been repeated extensively across the internet in recent days. “I have never stayed in a hotel in or near Wrexham, I did not own a Rolls Royce, have never had a 'Gold card' or 'Harrods card' and never wear aftershave, all of which have been alleged. I did not sexually abuse Mr Messham or any other residents of the children's home in Wrexham. “
He said his lawyers were now seeking to find people who could remember the visit to corroborate his version of events. He said he was willing to travel to Britain to meet the Chief Constable of North Wales, Mark Polin and Keith Bristow, the director general of the National Crime Agency, who has been charged by the Home Secretary Theresa May with exploring why previous inquiries failed to examine whether abuse took place outside the care home.
He said he was confident this would “eliminate me from their inquiries and so that any unwarranted suspicion can be removed from me”.
Scots-born Alistair McAlpine is the son of construction tycoon Sir Robert McAlpine – himself a baronet known as Concrete Bob. He entered the family business and later founded his own publishing house.
He first met Mrs Thatcher at a dinner party in 1975 when she was Leader of the Opposition. The relationship between the two flourished and he was appointed treasurer revolutionising the party’s finances.
His biography, The Servant , described his role securing Mrs Thatcher’s three electoral successes. He later resigned from the Tory Party joining the Referendum Party after falling out with John Major over Europe although he came back in 2010.
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