Bro. Cyril Smith of The Mercurius Masonic Lodge, No. 7507(1)
Bro. Cyril Smith After 35 years in which Fleet Street ignored the fact that Sir Cyril Smith MBE was a predatory paedophile, the Daily Mail decided on its front page last Saturday that there had been a “Monstrous Cover-up”.
Private Eye’s first detailed account of Bro. Smith’s Masonic crimes appeared as long ago as May 1979 (issue 454). That more people have not taken the crimes seriously before now is saddest of all for Smith’s youngest victims – pupils at a residential school for boys in Rochdale called Knowl View who were abused by him in the 1980s and 1990s.
After decades of denials Freemason dominated Rochdale council began to reassess Knowl View school in 2012 after Chris Marshall alleged that he was forced to perform a sex act with Smith on school property while another “well-dressed man” looked on.
More than a dozen former pupils are also identified as abuse victims of other men in internal council reports. They too have never received justice.
In January Rochdale council appointed Andrew Warnock QC to appraise its supervising role in the school which was home to dozens of boys aged between eight and 16. Warnock reports next month. A parallel investigation by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has now identified 11 suspects connected with the school.
Victims can be forgiven for not feeling reassured. GMP has now been looking at Knowl View for 20 years and has secured but a single conviction. Meanwhile Warnock’s review is confined to examining Knowl View’s history from “the late 1980s to the mid 1990s” which may mean vital truths about the preceding decades remain buried.
For example, Warnock will consider a series of horrific reports made by Phil Shepherd, a health worker who visited Knowl View in 1991, and a consultant clinical psychologist who investigated the school in 1992. These reveal that “up to a third of the residential pupils have been involved at some stage in serious sexual incidents”. They describe how boys in the senior dorm were sexually attacked over a period of two nights by a paedophile called Rodney Hilton in 1990. And they reveal that pupils in their early teens were working as rent boys.
According to former pupils who have spoken to Private Eye, such problems began years earlier, however. For example, one former pupil alleges that Hilton abused and beat him on school property – specifically in the woods adjoining the grounds – in the early 1980s: a period outside Warnock’s remit.
Another former pupil, Michael Seed (the Franciscan friar who would later persuade Tony Blair into the Catholic faith), describes a “well-organised contingent of rent-boys, selling their bodies to kerb-crawling paedophile homosexuals” in his memoirs. He joined Knowl View in 1970.
While Warnock’s appraisal concerns events beginning in the late 80s, the real question is why problems were not addressed long before. For Knowl View’s earliest history is even darker – and Smith was not the only founder of the school to be suspected of child abuse.
From the earliest stages, Bro. Smith was assisted by a Conservative councillor and Freemason called Bro. Harry Wild. In the late 1960s, Smith and Wild chaired Rochdale’s powerful education and children committees and started Knowl View together, delegating the power to appoint staff to the governing body on which they would later serve.
Police investigations into Bro. Smith, which began in the mid-1960s and were shut down in 1970, identify Wild as his “close associate”. The file police prepared in 1969 states: “Councillor Harry Wild has been viewed with suspicion regarding his association with young men and boys at Rochdale.” In the decades that followed, that suspicion only grew. By the 1990s, after Wild stood down from the council, he was targeted by Operation European, another Greater Manchester Police child abuse investigation.
In 2000, the Manchester Evening News reported the allegations after GMP’s chief constable intervened to prevent Wild’s appointment as high sheriff of Greater Manchester. Wild told the paper that his community work made him vulnerable to “mischievous claims”: “Of course, one has to consider the type of boy at Knowl View – low-grade really.” Just like Bro. Smith, he was never convicted and Bro. Wild died, aged 80, in 2001.
How much of this Warnock is prepared to acknowledge will be known next month; but even if he could examine the full length of the school’s life, some victims can never receive justice. One council report confirmed that, aged 14, Ian Broomhead was raped by Rodney Hilton during the overnight intrusion into the senior dorm. He fought back on the second night and continued to fight after he left Knowl View.
With the assistance of the school’s social worker, Martin Digan, and health worker Phil Shepherd, Broomhead began proceedings against Rochdale council. His case was reported by Louise Jury in the Independent. She obtained Broomhead’s only interview, anonymised on publication, in 1995.
‘Under the bedclothes’
“It was physical force,” he said of Hilton’s attack. “He threw me against the wall, threw me around the room. He threatened to kill me if I told anybody.” Afterwards Broomhead lay in bed terrified, hearing other pupils screaming but no staff were on duty. He raged against Hilton: “If I saw him now I’d kill him”; against the school: “Before I went there I had a life. I don’t have one now”; and against Rochdale council: “I want to go to the Black Box [a nickname for Rochdale’s old municipal offices] and just blow the whole lot of them.”
By coincidence, Broomhead’s solicitors were the Masonic Molesworths Bright Clegg, which advised Bro. Cyril Smith when police originally investigated his abuses in the 1970s. The senior partner at the firm, Bro. John Kay, had also known Smith since birth. Bro. Mark Walker, the junior who was passed Broomhead’s case, was never told by his client that he had also been abused by Bro. Cyril Smith while at Knowl View.
Broomhead did, however, admit it to AIDS worker Phil Shepherd: “Ian told me that he was touched by Cyril Smith,” Shepherd told the Eye. “He would go round putting his hands under the bedclothes when the lads were in bed at night. He was getting access. I said at the time that, if Bro. Cyril Smith was involved, then other councillors would be involved.”
‘Close to suicide’
At that time Rochdale council said the “necessary action” had been taken but the pupils in Broomhead’s era were horribly damaged. Several interviewed for this article receive regular psychological treatment. Many have criminal records.
“I’ve been close to suicide,” Ian Broomhead said in his interview with Louise Jury, “and I’m extremely lucky I haven’t gone to prison.” He died of a drug overdose ten months later. He was 20 years old.
Last week, the current leader of Rochdale council, Bro. Colin Lambert (an employee of Bro. Jim Dobbin MP), pledged that he will “not stop until the truth is out”. The sentiment is fine; but for Ian Broomhead is far too late, and no one in Rochdale believes a word Bro. Lambert says.
(Copied from Private Eye #1364, 18 April – 1 May 2014, page 29)
Arrivals at the new GCHQ established the lodge
Harding was convicted of an indecent assault against four children aged eight and nine in 1958 and classified a Schedule-1 offender, which meant the offence remained on his criminal record all his life.
His name was also on a list of about 400 Pie members seized by police in 1984, the year the organisation disbanded.
The Sunday Express revealed earlier this month how Harding met MPs Cyril Smith and Leon Brittan in the 1980s when he ran a north London antiques store.
Thirty-five years ago he appeared alongside paedophile television presenter Jimmy Savile in a Christmas special of Jim’ll Fix It.
The lodge boasts of its Government Communications Headquarters heritage on its website.
“They even voted him the highest honour by making him Worshipful Master.
“Keith felt the Freemasons were somewhere he finally belonged, he called them his “brotherhood”.
“When he died last year, they arranged his funeral and made sure the ceremony started at midday because the time apparently has significance within Masonic ritual.”
Spies displaced from London and Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, where the German wartime Enigma code was cracked, set up the Mercurius Lodge in 1957.
It meets at the Grade IIlisted Cheltenham Masonic Hall, purpose-built in 1823.
Harding ran the Mechanical Music Museum 10 miles away in Northleach after moving from London in 1987.
In 2013, he organised a trip to the museum for Freemasons and their families.
A photograph shows Harding wearing a Masonic apron, collar and medals during a ceremony a couple of years ago.
The Mercurius Lodge last night declined to comment.
Detectives probing historical sexual abuse allegations revealed on Wednesday they are investigating 1,433 suspects, including 135 from the entertainment industry, 76 politicians, seven sportsmen and 43 from the music industry.
Knighted by Steel and eulogised by Clegg: Cyril Smith and the indelible shame of the Liberal Party
Seventy years ago, Sir Winston Churchill complained of ‘the persistent freemasonry of the House of Commons’ — a cynical readiness among MPs to protect their own. The Cyril Smith cover-up shows this freemasonry is still very much in evidence.
One of the most telling insights into why Smith’s political colleagues turned a blind eye to his abuse was given by Michael Meadowcroft, the former Liberal MP for Leeds West.
He acknowledged he’d heard rumours that Cyril ‘liked boys’, but said blandly: ‘I don’t think we did much about it. Maybe we should have done at the time, but we didn’t.
Within the Liberal Party, many – including the leadership – did not like Smith. But they were prepared to tolerate his dark side because he had the electoral Midas touch. L to r: David Steel, Cyril Smith and Jeremy Thorpe
‘Essentially, as long as a colleague turns up and votes the right way, we don’t really do much about their own problems.’
This chilling confession, on Channel 4’s Dispatches spoke volumes about the rotten culture within politics. But so did an incident when the interview was over, while a cameraman was filming shots of Westminster as background for the programme.
A former Tory Cabinet minister from the Eighties walked up and asked what the film was for. When he was told, he shook his head and said: ‘We all knew, you know.’
Within the Liberal Party, many — including the leadership — did not like Smith. But they were prepared to tolerate his dark side because he had the electoral Midas touch.
In this respect, the party’s slow and shambolic response to the allegations of groping by Lord Rennard — the Lib Dems’ by-election tactician — suggests little has changed.
Smith’s own by-election win at Rochdale in 1972 kick-started a Liberal revival.
He became the most famous and popular member of a party that spent much of the Seventies reeling from the scandal surrounding its leader, Jeremy Thorpe, who was accused — though ultimately acquitted — of conspiring to murder Norman Scott, his alleged lover.
It’s worth recalling that on Cyril’s 80th birthday, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg lauded him as ‘a beacon for our party in the Seventies and Eighties’
The Liberals handled the Thorpe affair badly. An indication of how they might have dealt with the allegations against Cyril can be seen in a secret internal investigation into Thorpe carried out by David Steel and fellow Liberal MP Emlyn Hooson in 1971.
It was considered by many to be a sophisticated cover-up.
When the Thorpe allegations became public a few years later, the politicians involved in the investigation blamed everyone except themselves. No one in the party, it appeared, wanted to know what was going on.
The same David Steel was leader of the party when rumours of Cyril’s paedophilia were raised. Yet he went on to ensure Cyril got a knighthood.
The Information Commissioner recently overturned a Cabinet Office decision to keep Cyril’s knighthood nomination papers secret, which would have prevented it being known that Steel put his name forward.
Furthermore, the Commissioner concluded that it was in the public interest for this to be known because the person who nominated Cyril would have been aware of rumours about him at the time.
To begin to even try to understand why Steel dismissed such serious rumours — satisfying himself with Smith’s denial of wrongdoing when he asked him about the allegations — you have to consider the zeitgeist of the Seventies.
There was a febrile mood in the party and a sense that British institutions were under threat. The Establishment was being battered by scandals and now the Liberals were in the firing line.
Peter Bessell, a former Liberal MP who gave evidence against Thorpe, captured the mood at the time.
Anyone with public prominence, he explained, automatically acquired a measure of immunity denied to everyone else.
One of the many Liberals who clearly had doubts about Cyril was Lord (Tony) Greaves, who served on Lancashire County Council for 25 years. He was asked to write an obituary for a national newspaper when Cyril died, but refused because of ‘political reasons’.
By this, I believe he didn’t want to criticise Cyril publicly for fear that it might be damaging for his party. When I spoke to him and listened to him squirming over the phone, the hypocrisy was obvious. Greaves despised Cyril and was quick to say that he hopes there will never be another politician like him.
Unlike some of his colleagues, ex-deputy leader Simon Hughes made no effort to excuse Smith’s behaviour, calling it ‘very wrong and unacceptable’
But he was happy to allow the Liberal Democrats to bask in Cyril’s popular appeal in the immediate aftermath of his death, when party stalwarts queued up to praise Cyril as a national treasure.
I invited him to set the record straight and give an insight into the real Cyril Smith from the view of those within his own party. He politely declined, giving the same reason he turned down that obituary:
‘I don’t want to do it for political reasons.’
Truly, the Liberals have come to a sorry pass when senior figures are still reluctant to denounce child abusers for ‘political reasons’.
But denial runs deep. In 2012, after I first exposed his abuse, in the Commons, Rochdale’s former Liberal Democrat MP, Paul Rowen, went on TV to attack me. Liberal Democrats would actively avoid me in Westminster. Some got out of the lift when I got in. Others just stared ahead, bristling with indignation.
It’s worth recalling that on Cyril’s 80th birthday, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg lauded him as ‘a beacon for our party in the Seventies and Eighties’, who continued to be ‘an inspiration to the people of Rochdale’.
When he died two years later, Clegg gushed that everyone in Rochdale knew Cyril ‘as a friend’.
Smith’s fall from grace affected many in the party. When I first approached Simon Hughes, a former deputy leader, to speak about him, his face dropped.
But he agreed to do it and, unlike some of his colleagues, made no effort to excuse Smith’s behaviour, calling it ‘very wrong and unacceptable’. At the same time, he made no attempt to hide his respect for Cyril. ‘I saw him as an uncle or godfather in the party,’ he admitted, saying Smith was always supportive to him and remained a great example of a type of MP that’s sorely needed.
‘For Cyril, Rochdale was his place. He was passionate and emotional about it. We need more people in politics like that.’ Hughes’s fervour for community politics is genuine.
I decided not to mention some of the other things I’ve found out about Cyril’s approach to his constituents: how he intercepted and burnt postal votes cast for his opponents; his willingness to hush up health concerns for working-class people in return for 1,300 shares in the town’s asbestos factory.
Nor did I ask how ‘community politics’ can be squared with Smith’s failure to put the needs of vulnerable boys ahead of his twisted sexual appetite. There was no point.
Deep down, Hughes knows this. As we talked, he had the look of someone still coming to terms with the fact his mentor was a monster.
Since our conversation, Hughes has become a Justice minister. He now has the opportunity to put right some of the wrongs of the system that failed Cyril’s victims.
To ensure history doesn’t repeat itself, it’s vital we take away the responsibility to root out abusers like Smith from a political establishment fraught with freemasonry. We have to ensure the police can pursue prosecutions free from political influence.
This change has to come. I only hope the uncomfortable spectre of Cyril Smith gives Hughes the motivation to drive this through.
WHY MI5 HID THE EVIDENCE OF SMITH’S TERRIBLE CRIMES
Tony Robinson, a Special Branch officer with Lancashire Police in the Seventies, has confirmed that all files on Cyril were removed by MI5 officers from the safe at police headquarters in Preston
How Cyril came to be afforded protection by MI5 is one of the great mysteries of his story. But the jigsaw is starting to piece together.
He is thought to have been a key catalyst behind the Lib-Lab pact in the Seventies that kept the faltering Labour government in power.
Any scandal surrounding him would have undermined the Liberals and that fragile pact at a time of great political turbulence.
What’s less well known is that, earlier in the decade, the Conservatives had invited the Liberals to form a coalition under which there was a very real prospect of Cyril being made a minister.
Initially, he wasn’t keen, knowing that rank-and-file Liberals did not want to prop up a Tory government. But the talks worked to his personal benefit as he had to be vetted for a possible ministerial role.
Police files documenting the many allegations of child abuse committed by Smith began quickly disappearing.
Tony Robinson, a Special Branch officer with Lancashire Police in the Seventies, has confirmed that all files on Cyril were removed by MI5 officers from the safe at police headquarters in Preston.
Within the files were affidavits from young boys detailing their abuse at Cyril’s hands.
These were taken to London and never seen again. Why? MI5 had a unit that monitored MPs and reported to the Cabinet Office. ‘The fact that the security service wanted the file obviously indicated that he was about to be vetted,’ says Robinson.
But if Cyril was to ever become a minister, then scandals about child abuse could not become public. All evidence had to be hidden.
Powerful figures thought Cyril had a potentially useful role to play in a government of national unity. Militant trades unions were seen as the main reason for Britain’s decline and the Tories were itching to tackle their power.
He never did become a minister. But a no-nonsense populist like Cyril was seen as a useful bulwark against the Left. Perhaps for that reason the Establishment effectively granted him a pardon — and Cyril Smith became untouchable.
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