Police to probe Leon Brittan’s alleged Westminster paedophile cover-up beyond the grave
Child sex abuse campaigners have spoken of their fury that Leon Brittan has taken secrets of an alleged Westminster paedophile cover-up to his grave.
The former Tory Home Secretary has died after a long fight with cancer – leaving unanswered questions about his role in the disappearance of a dossier said to reveal the existence of an abuse network at the top of government.
And detectives declared they would still be investigating claims Lord Brittan raped a teenager in 1967.
The dossier was handed to him in 1983 by Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens and the row over its “loss” led to Home Secretary Theresa May launching a wide-ranging public inquiry into the allegations of a paedophile ring.
Labour MP Simon Danczuk, who first challenged the peer on the claims, said: “Firstly, I’d like to offer my condolences to Sir Leon’s family for their loss.
“However, his untimely death is also a loss to the inquiry that the Home Secretary ordered into establishment child abuse.
“Only this morning we were debating the lack of progress in the inquiry and Sir Leonis someone who should have faced questions and been compelled to give evidence over his role as Home Secretary in the 1980s when a dossier containing allegations of establishment child abuse was handed to him.
“It’s fair to say that a cloud has hung over him for a long time.
“If we’re going to get to the truth Theresa May needs to start making progress. A lot of the people who need to give evidence are in advanced years and we’re running out of time.”
Law firm Leigh Day is representing the alleged victims of abuse.
The group’s Alison Millar said: “Our clients will be disappointed that Leon Brittan, as a witness at the centre of the issues the inquiry is to examine, is not able to answer questions about what he knew about allegations of child sex abuse.”
Lord Brittan died at home in his sleep aged 75.
But Scotland Yard confirmed police would continue to investigate claims made by a 66-year-old woman in 2012 that she was raped by him 45 years ago in a London flat.
The alleged victim approached campaigning MP Tom Watson after detectives told her they had no plans to arrest or question the Tory grandee.
A review was carried out along with “further lines of inquiry” into the claims after the Labour MP wrote to Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders criticising the police decision.
Lord Brittan was then quizzed under caution last summer. He strongly denied the allegations.
A Met Police spokesman said: “After further consultation with the CPS, it was confirmed that those additional inquiries had not strengthened the original evidence; but police have subsequently been carrying out a further review of the case which remains ongoing.”
Despite the controversies surrounding former Thatcherite Lord Brittan – who leaves a widow Diana and her two daughters – tributes flooded in from colleagues, led by David Cameron.
The PM described the former EU Commissioner as a “dedicated and fiercely intelligent public servant”.
He added: “As a central figure in Margaret Thatcher’s government, he helped her transform our country for the better by giving distinguished service.
“He went on to play a leading role at the European Commission where he did so much to promote free trade in Europe and across the world.
“More recently, he made an active contribution to the House of Lords. My thoughts are with Leon’s family and friends at this sad time for them.”
Former Tory party leader Lord Howard said it was a “tragedy” that Lord Brittan’s final days had been overshadowed by the paedophile controversy.
He added: “As far as I know, he behaved perfectly properly.”
Former PM Sir John Major – who served alongside the peer in the Thatcher Government – said: “Leon Brittan had one of the most acute and perceptive brains in politics.
“He will leave his wide circle of friends in and out of politics with many memories to cherish.”
William Hague, who succeeded Lord Brittan as the MP for Richmond, North Yorks, told the Commons: “Many of us who have known him a long time know he’s been ill for many months but it is a sad moment to receive this news.
“He was a kind, assiduous and brilliant man. We send or our deepest condolences to his wife Diana.”
Announcing his death, Lord Brittan’s family said in a statement: “Leon passed away at his home in London after a long battle with cancer.
“We shall miss him enormously. We should like to pay tribute to him as a beloved husband to Diana, brother to Samuel and a supportive and loving step-father to Katharine and Victoria, and step-grandfather to their children.
“We also salute his commitment to British public life as a Member of Parliament, minister, Cabinet minister, European commissioner and peer, together with a distinguished career in law, and in business.”
Relatives said there will be a private funeral service for family only. A memorial service is also being planned.
The Home Office admitted last July that more than 100 files relating to historic organised child abuse over a period of 20 years had gone missing.
Lord Brittan confirmed he had a meeting with Mr Dickens and was given a file, which he passed on to officials.
But he said: “I do not recall being contacted further about these matters by Home Office officials or by Mr Dickens or by anyone else.”
Mr Danczuk said later he was warned against challenging the ill peer on child sex allegations and told he could be responsible for his death.
Lord Brittan, who often clashed with Thatcher in the 80s, came under further pressure last October when Labour MP Jim Hood used parliamentary privilege to accuse him of “improper conduct with children”. He denied the claim.
Alleged victims of sex abuse fear the inquiry into the Westminster paedophile ring claims will never be heard after a series of launch setbacks.
Its first chairwoman Dame Fiona Woolf stood down after it emerged she was a friend and neighbour of Lord Brittan and his wife.
Baroness Butler-Sloss was appointed but quit following claims about her links to establishment figures potentially implicated in previous cover-ups.