UK abuse victim apologizes to Thatcher party treasurer

Fri Nov 9, 2012 6:10pm EST
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By Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - A child rape victim apologized on Friday to an ally of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher who had been falsely identified on the Internet as his abuser, after days of furious speculation of a high-level pedophile ring in Britain.

Steven Messham, who had told a flagship BBC show last week he was abused as a child in social care by a leading political figure in the late 1970s, said former Conservative Party treasurer Lord Alistair McAlpine was not among his attackers.

The BBC, reeling from Messham's disclosure, apologized "unreservedly for having broadcast this report", and froze all investigations on its Newsnight program for reassessment.

McAlpine, 70, who served as Conservative treasurer from 1975 to 1990, had earlier been forced to deny a flood of Internet allegations, saying he had been wrongly named in a "media frenzy" as the mystery pedophile.

From the BBC to the police and the National Health Service, some of Britain's most venerated institutions have grappled with claims they failed to protect children from Jimmy Savile, a former BBC presenter who was unveiled as a prolific child sex offender in October.

A November 2 report by Newsnight about child abuse involving an unidentified Conservative Party figure, and claims by a lawmaker about a pedophile ring with links to a former prime minister's aide, propelled the scandal firmly into political circles.

Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned an investigation after the BBC report, and a host of Conservative Party figures - including McAlpine - were named on Internet and social media sites as pedophiles whose alleged crimes had been covered up.

The blunder is another embarrassment for the state-funded broadcaster which is already facing awkward questions over why Newsnight axed an expose of Savile after his death last year.   Continued...

Steven Messham arrives at the Wales Office in London November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor