by Justin Penrose Sunday Mirror’s crime reporter. 17 February 2013.
Police are preparing to arrest a former Tory Cabinet minister after a woman came forward to claim she had been raped by him as a girl.
Detectives are also investigating claims that he abused boys.
We can reveal that the former minister is suspected of being part of a VIP paedophile ring that was regularly handed boys by child rapist and killer Sidney Cooke for vile sex orgies.
The former high-ranking MP, who we cannot name, is under investigation by Scotland Yard’s paedophile unit.
Sources close to the probe gave details of the new allegations to the Sunday Mirror and investigative news website Exaro.
A former detective who worked on the original investigation into Cooke told the Sunday Mirror that the minister was among those alleged to have been photographed in a 1986 police surveillance on premises where boys had been dropped off.
Others allegedly included Jimmy Savile, MP Cyril Smith and top judges – though none of them were ever arrested.
Cooke, 85 – dubbed Britain’s most notorious paedophile after he tortured and killed 14-year-old Jason Swift in 1985 – would pick the unsuspecting teenage boys up off the streets around Kings Cross.
He would drive them to locations across North London where paedophiles lay in wait to repeatedly rape them.
Last week the former officer, who worked on Operation Orchid which convicted Cooke and his gang, said they had taken pictures of the minister.
The former officer said up to 16 high profile figures were due to be arrested. But the day before they were to be carried out detectives were told the operation had been disbanded.
The revelation means Scotland Yard knew about allegations concerning the Cabinet Minister and Savile in 1986 but did nothing about it, instead choosing to cover up the claims.
A source told Exaro last week that senior officers, including Commander Peter Spindler, the head of the Paedophile Unit, have had a secret briefing on preparations to arrest the ex-minister.
It is understood that the investigation is at an early stage but there is a plan to arrest him in the next few weeks.
After the 1986 operation into Cooke was disbanded the former officer went to check the file – only to find the pictures had disappeared and any mention of the men involved had also vanished.
The former officer said: “It was clear a cover-up had taken place.
“The investigation showed that Cooke would pick up rent boys and take them back to flats or garages where large groups of men were waiting to abuse them.
“These paedophiles, which included a lot of high-profile figures that were said to include the former Cabinet Minister, Savile and MP Cyril Smith, all knew each other and all operated together. They would lie in wait and Cooke would turn up with the boy who wouldn’t know what was going to happen.
“We had photographic evidence of these high-profile figures entering or leaving buildings where the abuse was taking place. Everyone knew Savile was a paedo but nothing was ever done.
“Cyril Smith was photographed going into one of the properties with a high-profile film director.
“All of the others were pictured and were going to be arrested before the plug was pulled. I was sickened and to this day I wonder how many children we could have saved if we had been allowed to arrest those men.
“I feel guilty they weren’t arrested but there was nothing I could do at the time as the evidence had gone.”
The Sunday Mirror knows the identity of the paedophiles in the gang but has chosen not to name them.
In 1993 Detective Superintendent Ed Williams tried to track down the Orchid file on Cooke to see if there were any similarities with the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Daniel Handley, but he struggled to find the folder.
He eventually found it in the basement of Arbour Square Police Station in Stepney, East London.
While there were references to a “wider paedophile ring” there were no photographs or names.
Mr Williams said: “I was very upset about the way the Met treated paedophile cases but I was a voice in the wilderness at that time and people thought I was being over-emotional.
“I found the Orchid files where they had been put for storage purposes and somebody had completely forget to send it back to the Yard. I was trying to look for paedophiles and connections with other cases as I was trying to build up a profile of the offender.
“The report spoke about boys being passed around from paedophile to paedophile.
“There were no pictures on the file. It did mention that there was a wider ring of individuals but did not mention Jimmy Savile or a cabinet minister.”
Sidney Cooke, along with three accomplices – Leslie Bailey, Robert Oliver and Steven Barrell – was found guilty of the manslaughter of Jason Swift in May 1989. They have been linked to up to 20 murders.
Cooke was believed to have murdered seven-year-old Mark Tildesley but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring charges as he was already serving 19 years for Jason’s death.
He was released in 1998, to a public outcry, but was rearrested the following year for systematically abusing two boys in the 1970s and jailed for life.
Savile was exposed last year as one of the UK’s most prolific paedophiles, with 450 victims. Police said he “groomed a nation” by avoiding justice while abusing hundreds of children over 54 years.
Officers on Operation Yewtree, which investigated the claims, have also arrested celebrities including Gary Glitter, comedian Freddie Starr, DJ Dave Lee Travis, publicist Max Clifford and comedian Jim Davidson. All have denied any wrongdoing and not all the allegations involve under-16s.
Scotland Yard said they would not comment on an on-going investigation.
Visit the Exaro website for more on this story.
Updated 09.38 17 Feb 2013
Twitter is getting angry that the BBC isn’t reporting this headline from the Mirror.