Liam Fox, Adam Werritty, and the curious case of Our Man in Tel Aviv

This odd trio met six times - not that the Government wants you to know that, of course. What did they discuss? Did it include Iran? And who exactly is Adam Werritty? Brian Brady investigates a Whitehall mystery which is slowly unravelling

They were the Odd Couple: the men with identical morning suits, matching jackets and jeans but from radically different generations. They commanded more column inches than any X Factor wannabe. The Mysterious Case of the Defence Secretary and the Strange Bloke with the Cheap Business Card gripped us all, until it culminated in Liam Fox's resignation.

What on earth had they been up to, the nation wondered. The plot thickened somewhat when an official inquiry confirmed that the curious duo was in fact, at times, a trio. They had had two meetings with Matthew Gould, Britain's ambassador to Israel, adding to claims that they were running a pirate (pro-Israel, or anti-Iranian?) foreign policy. Then, before we had got to know Adam Werritty properly, it all went quiet.

He has not been seen in the UK or abroad for several months; no neighbour has reported his presence at any of the various addresses unearthed when he was being sought by every news outlet in the country.

However, the trail has not gone cold because it emerges that Liam Fox and his adviser met Britain's ambassador at least four times more than was previously admitted. So why were we not told this before? Isn't this yet more evidence that they were operating outside the control of the Foreign Office?

The fog seems to extend even to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, whose report into the affair, which sealed Dr Fox's fate, identified just the two meetings between the former minister, Mr Werritty and Mr Gould.

The three men met in Tel Aviv at "a private dinner with senior Israelis" and, before Mr Gould took up the ambassador's post in Tel Aviv, for "a general discussion of international defence and security matters". Sir Gus observed that Mr Werritty was invited "as an individual with some experience in these matters".

Even this was a bit unsatisfactory, said Sir Gus. His report highlighted the September 2010 meeting in the UK with Mr Gould, then the UK ambassador-designate to Israel, ruling that "as a private citizen, with no official locus, it was not appropriate for Mr Werritty to have attended this meeting".

Yet it has been left to the former UK ambassador Craig Murray to uncover four more similar meetings – although Sir Gus claimed last week that "some of those ... took place before the election".

The suspicion of even more secret meetings, an inquiry which did not cover all the ground and the spectre of a favourite bogeyman is a gift to conspiracy theorists. However there are legitimate questions to be answered. The IoS revealed last month that Mr Werritty had visited Iran on several occasions and was so highly regarded by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad that he was able to arrange meetings at the highest levels of the Israeli government.

The disclosure that he – and Dr Fox – had met Britain's most senior official in Israel on more occasions than previously thought underlines their interest in the region.

The Labour MP Paul Flynn questioned why the official inquiry into the Fox affair had failed to investigate all the activities of Mr Werritty. He asked the Cabinet Secretary, during his appearance before the Public Administration Select Committee: "Are you satisfied that you missed out on the extra four meetings that took place, and does this not mean that those meetings should have been investigated because of the nature of Mr Werritty's interests?"

The accusation was not received well. Sir Gus rejected any criticism of his work, noting instead that: "If you look at some of those meetings, some people are referring to meetings that took place before the election." Mr Murray, however, has established that there have been at least five meetings altogether since the election and one beforehand.

Sir Gus added that "some issues arose where I wanted to be sure that what [Dr Fox] was doing had been discussed with the Foreign Secretary. I felt reassured by what the Foreign Secretary told me."

Craig Murray submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Foreign Office very late one night last week, asking for all communications between Mr Gould and Mr Werritty; barely an hour later, he received a rejection, explaining that his request was "likely to exceed the cost limit". Given that Freedom of Information requests normally take at least a fortnight to be answered, the swift, late-night reaction has done nothing to douse suspicions.

"It is plainly nonsense that to gather correspondence between two named individuals would be too expensive," Mr Murray said. "They could just ask Gould."

The Foreign Office remains nonplussed by questions about Mr Gould's conduct. "The FCO has total confidence that Matthew Gould has acted appropriately at all times and at no stage was he acting independently, or out of line with government policy," a spokesman said yesterday.

Clearly not satisfied with the efforts of Sir Gus and his attempts to question him last week, Paul Flynn is calling for a wider investigation. He said: "Witnesses before a select committee have said that the inquiry into the Werritty affair was rushed and inadequate, and possibly in breach of the ministerial code as it was not conducted by the only person who is the enforcer of the code: the independent adviser on ministerial affairs [Sir Philip Mawer].

"As the inquiry was conducted for reasons of political expediency to avoid embarrassment for the Government, and as new evidence is available, should we not have a full legitimate inquiry conducted by Sir Philip?"

The demand has, so far, received a response that would make Sir Gus's reaction seem enthusiastic.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent