A man who made repeated sex abuse allegations against Leon Brittan and other senior Westminster figures has said that campaigners may have coerced him into making false claims.
The man referred to as “David” told the BBC’s Panorama programme that he had provided names including that of the late Lord Brittan, a former Home Secretary, “as a joke suggestion to start with” but that he had later gone along with it.
His revelations came as an extraordinary row erupted between the Metropolitan Police and the programme-makers about their investigation, which police said “could compromise the evidential chain should a case ever proceed to court.”
David, who said that he had been abused for most of his life, spoke to the programme as part of its investigation into the so-called Westminster paedophile ring, which is said to have murdered three boys in the 1970s and 1980s.
He said that campaigners had suggested names to him over a period of weeks and that Lord Brittan’s name was “done as a joke suggestion to start with but that suggestion became a reality”.
“I just went along with it,” he said, adding that he had identified Lord Brittan, who died in January 2015, from a photograph. “There again, he’s a well-known MP and I might have seen him on TV through the years and stuff and I might just have been confused,” he said, adding that he had been interviewed by police as a possible witness for 90 hours and had told them about the possible coercion.
In a statement the Metropolitan Police said it had “serious concerns about the impact of this programme on its investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse and homicide, on the witnesses involved, and on the willingness of victims of abuse to come forward to police. We have warned previously about the risks of media investigations compromising a criminal investigation,” the force said, adding that it had not yet completed its work.
“There are still lines of inquiry to pursue which are not in the public domain and we will not reach a judgement until that work is completed,” the Met said.
Lord Brittan was among four people named in confidential government files relating to child abuse allegations released earlier this year.
Diplomat Sir Peter Hayman, minister Sir William van Straubenzee and an aide to Margaret Thatcher, Sir Peter Morrison, were also named. All are now deceased.
Tom Watson, who is now the deputy Labour leader, had campaigned for a review of all abuse allegations made against the former Home Secretary, including the claims made by David.
Officers interviewed Lord Brittan, who was suffering from terminal cancer. Although no charges were brought, the fact of the interview led to his being named in the media.
In the programme, Mr Watson was criticised for his role in the investigation by a former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord McDonald. “For a politician to take on a campaigning role on a justice issue is very common,” he told Panorama. “To combine that campaigning role with an attempt to influence investigations in particular cases that have no constituency link, I think, is far riskier. The consequences for the people accused of the crime can be so serious.”
In a statement to the programme Mr Watson said that he had tried to help the victims and had also helped to bring historical sexual abuse cases to court.
“It was clear to me very early on that some testimony would prove to be unreliable, yet not all of it,” he said.
A BBC spokesperson said: "This is important and fair investigative journalism that rightly asks legitimate questions about the conduct of the police, journalists, campaigners, and politicians in handling historic allegations of child abuse. We were aware the Met Police has concerns about this Panorama going ahead but as they recognise there is public interest in reporting on their investigations. Whilst we take their statement seriously the Met Police had not seen the programme before issuing it - people can draw their own conclusions now it has been broadcast."