The Daily Mail has said staff at the now defunct Exaro News should be “profoundly ashamed” of their role in bringing about a failed police investigation into a supposed VIP paedophile ring.
The comments were made in a leader column today after the investigative news agency closed on Wednesday in a snap decision by its owners.
- July 26, 2019
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It came only days after being declared “open for business” by joint head of news David Hencke, appointed alongside Mark Conrad after the dismissal of editor-in-chief Mark Watts.
Exaro’s story about an alleged paedophile ring was described as a “contemptible lie” by the Mail.
It resulted in a £1.8m police probe, Operation Midland, that closed in March with no charges brought.
Former Prime Minister Edward Heath, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan and former chief of defence staff Lord Bramall were all named as part of the investigation.
The Mail said Exaro had closed, “but not before dragging a string of lives and reputations through the mire”.
It said: “On the word of a disturbed fantasist, it accused Edward Heath, Lord Brittan and former chief of defence staff Lord Bramall of being part of a VIP paedophile ring.
“It was a contemptible lie and for helping to peddle it, Mr [Tom] Watson and the so-called journalists of Exaro should be profoundly ashamed.”
Watts told Press Gazette: “I predict that the revelations that have appeared on Exaro over the last five years are going to reverberate for many years to come.”
He added the “whole picture has not yet been revealed” but that others were continuing the work to find out the truth, including journalists, the police and the ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse led by judge Dame Lowell Goddard.
Hencke said it was “patently absurd” to suggest a small website could influence the Metropolitan Police to spend millions on an investigation.
“The Met police took their decision independently of us after interviewing the survivor without anybody else present,” he added.
“Paul Dacre should know better than to suggest this.”