Two arrested over claims that MPs took part in child-sex ring

Detectives question former deputy head of children's home and a Catholic priest
  • @martin_hickman

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of sexual offences by Scotland Yard detectives investigating allegations that some MPs belonged to an establishment paedophile ring in the 1980s.

A pensioner, 70, from East Sussex and another, aged 66, from Norfolk were held in dawn raids and questioned by child-abuse investigation officers from Operation Fernbridge. Police are looking into allegations that figures from politics, diplomacy and other spheres of public life abused children at a guest house in Barnes, south-west London.

Children from the local Grafton Close children's home are said to have been supplied to Elm Guest House. The 70-year-old man arrested at his home in St Leonards-on-Sea is understood to be John Stingemore, the former deputy head of Grafton Close. The other man was named by the Diocese of East Anglia as Father Tony McSweeney.

As The Independent reported last year, Scotland Yard launched Operation Fairbank into alleged historical sexual abuse, following claims by MP Tom Watson that an "aide of a former Prime Minister" had belonged to a paedophile network.

Powerful individuals used their connections to escape justice, the Labour MP claimed.

Some of the allegations were so serious that last month the Metropolitan Police began a full criminal investigation, Operation Fernbridge. The inquiry is proceeding with help from Mr Watson and the NSPCC.

Commander Peter Spindler, head of the Metropolitan Police's Specialist Crime Investigations, said: "This is a complex multi-agency investigation supported by the NSPCC, CEOP [Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre] and Richmond Social Services involving non-recent allegations of sexual assault against children.

"It is vital that anyone who has been affected by or has information about activity in the early 1980s at the Elm Guest House, or the Grafton Close care home, in Barnes, speaks to the NSPCC on their Helpline on 0808 800 5000, or their local police." Scotland Yard pointed out that the allegations were not connected to current residents of the property. In an interview with ITV News, a former childcare worker, Mary Moss, claimed that the house in Rocks Lane had been used to make child pornography.

Asked who had visited there, Ms Moss, a former chair of the National Association of Young People in Care, said: "MPs. All sorts of prominent [people]… It was a child-porn racket. I don't think that necessarily anyone would be accused of just simply being perverts. This was a money-making business."

She added: "One of my cases that walked into the office was a young boy who had been abused there. And another case… was a boy who had been abused in another children's home and it all linked up.

"He [the abuse victim] was abused at Grafton Close children's home and procured for the Elm Guest House, where they were filmed to make child porn, which was then distributed."

Saying the police had not investigated properly, she added: "We were closed down… because of the names of the people who were involved."

Police are expected to make a public appeal asking for abuse victims to contact Mr Watson or the NSPCC later this week.

Peter Watt, of the NSPCC, said: "We will assist the police in gathering evidence and supporting those who come forward.

"It's important we recognise the massive impact abuse has on children and young people, often well into their adult life."