The former head of the Armed Forces reacted furiously as he was questioned by police over ‘preposterous’ claims made by an alleged fantasist that he was a paedophile, a court heard yesterday.
At times, Field Marshal Lord Bramall, then 91, banged on a table as a junior Scotland Yard detective grilled him for 100 minutes over a series of historic child sex claims made by former nurse and school governor, Carl Beech.
These included allegations made by Beech that he had spiders tipped over him by his abusers and that Lord Bramall forced him to eat his own vomit after making him perform a sex act.
In the video of his police interview, played today for the jury in Newcastle, Lord Bramall says: ”Please report to your superiors and say there is no evidence, there is no case to answer. Make it clear I am no longer a suspect’
Field Marshal Lord Bramall, pictured with his wife of 64 years Dorothy, who died before his name was cleared
Carl Beech, 51, told detectives he had been passed around parties attended by powerful men, to be sexually abused. He accused Lord Brammall – who later told the detective who interviewed him that he ‘obviously believed’ Beech
Beech, 51, formerly known by the pseudonym ‘Nick’, also accused Lord Bramall of abusing him at Christmas parties where he was regarded as a ‘present’ to be unwrapped, and also molested him on Remembrance Days, at the private members’ Carlton Club and Dolphin Square apartment block in London.
When it was put to Lord Bramall that disgraced TV presenter Jimmy Savile was a member of a supposed VIP child abuse gang also including the heads of MI5 and MI6, his fury turned to outright laughter. ‘Jimmy Savile? Jimmy Savile?’ said the Old Etonian.
‘I have seen him on the television and always thought he was a dreadful man but I have never met him.’ He later described Savile as ‘the most odious man I have ever seen’.
When the D-Day hero was asked about sex orgies in swimming pools and whether he could swim, he snapped to Detective Constable Gavin Sealey: ‘I landed at Normandy and I jolly nearly had to swim.’
Newcastle Crown Court was yesterday played a video of Lord Bramall’s interview in Aldershot police station, in April 2015 – seven weeks after his home on the Surrey/Hampshire border had been raided by the Metropolitan Police.
The search took place nearly four months after Scotland Yard publicly described Beech’s VIP child sex allegations relating to the 1970s and 1980s as ‘credible and true’.
Lord Bramall, as a lieutenant, receiving his Military Cross for gallantry in the field from Field Marshall Montgomery in 1945
Westminster abuse ring accuser complained about press harassment court hears
The jury has heard that Carl Beech complained to police about press harassment, insisting he had ‘done nothing wrong’.
Beech, 51, apologised to his Metropolitan Police handler and said he wanted to pull out of the inquiry, explaining: ‘I cannot do this any more.’
The jury at Newcastle Crown Court heard this happened in January 2016, weeks after a police interview in which he was asked to explain discrepancies in what he told detectives more than a year before, following extensive inquiries by up to 30 officers.
Beech, an ex-nurse and school governor, had ended the police interview, where a specialist homicide detective had asked him questions about his story, as he said he had a headache.
Later that month, the senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Diane Tudway, and Detective Sergeant Danny Chatfield, went to Beech’s home, where the defendant was accompanied by his mother.
Tony Badenoch QC, prosecuting, asked Mr Chatfield: ‘Was there a discussion on that day about press harassment? Was Carl Beech saying that they had reported lies? Was he saying that he had done nothing wrong and only told the truth?’
The detective agreed with all the questions, and that Beech was ‘upset’ at ‘press intrusion’.
Mr Chatfield agreed Beech expressed ‘disappointment’ when he was told Lord Bramall, former head of the British Army, would face no further action in relation to allegations he had made against the elderly Second World War veteran. Beech denies 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one of fraud.
The force spent 16 months and more than £2 million investigating his claims against Lord Bramall, former PM Edward Heath, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor and various former security services chiefs before closing the inquiry without any arrests or charges.
An investigation by Northumbria Police was launched into father-of-one Beech, and he is on trial accused of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one of fraud. He denies the charges.
Lord Bramall rose to be Chief of the General Staff – the top Army post – and then Chief of the Defence Staff, the officer commanding the combined forces of the Army, Navy and RAF.
Before the video of him being questioned by police was shown yesterday, jurors were told the war hero, now 95, was ‘in very poor health’ and unable to attend court and give evidence.
The film showed him being interviewed under caution by DC Sealey. Repeatedly denying ever being involved in child abuse, he told the officer in a series of sharp exchanges: ‘I am absolutely astonished, amazed and bemused.
‘I find it incredible that anybody should believe that someone of my career standing, integrity, should be capable of any of these things, including things like torture. Unbelievable.’
Beech told police his stepfather Major Ray Beech had sexually abused him, then taken him to Lord Bramall’s office in Erskine Barracks, Wiltshire, when he was in charge of the UK Land Forces, in about 1976. Beech, a former head of complaints at the Royal Gloucester Hospital, told police that Lord Bramall undressed him and sexually molested him, but the peer told detectives this was ‘absolute rubbish’. He was scornful when it was put to him that two other senior military figures – General Sir Roland Gibbs and General Hugh Beach – were also involved in the alleged VIP sex gang.
‘This is ridiculous,’ he told DC Sealey. ‘They have taken in the whole damned Army.’
Lord Bramall said he had never heard of Major Ray Beech.
Responding to an allegation that he had raped defendant Beech, whose identity police refused to give to him during the interview, he said: ‘How anyone could think me capable of doing these things. I have never had sex with anyone of my own sex.
‘I certainly never had an inclination of being a paedophile.
‘I have children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – I love children and any allegation is absolutely outrageous.’
Lord Brammall told the detective interviewing him that his CV was available in Who’s Who
Lord Bramall was told the allegations by ‘Nick’ included that abuse had happened at Imber – a derelict village on Salisbury Plain used by the Army for training.
Lord Bramall said: ‘I have never seen boys tied together and I have certainly never tortured them.’
Of the other men Beech named, he said he had only seen Mr Brittan in the House of Lords, and not spoken to him, and he did not know Mr Proctor, whom he thought was in the Labour Party. He knew Sir Maurice Oldfield, head of MI6, and praised his reputation in intelligence, but did not know Sir Michael Hanley, who led MI5.
Lord Bramall later scolded officers for searching his house in the presence of himself and Avril, his wife of 65 years, with evidence from Beech that was uncorroborated by anyone. And he pleaded with officers to complete their inquiries as quickly as possible so his reputation was not damaged any further than it already had been.
The jury were shown pictures of Carl Beech aged around 10 in his final year of primary school when he claimed the abuse began
Of the allegations themselves, he said: ‘This thing is so preposterous, it is so very difficult to understand how it could possibly have been made up other than by someone who specialises in sci-fi fiction.’
He became frustrated that Beech had been unable to give specific times and places for when and where he claimed the abuse had happened. DC Sealey said the police had to ‘make allowances’ for that as Beech had been a young boy.
Lord Bramall slapped his hand on the table as he replied: ‘I make no allowances, I will not make any allowance for it, I think it is absolutely monstrous.’
His wife, whom he married in 1949, died before detectives from Operation Midland announced in January 2016 that they were not proceeding with the case against him.
In a second police interview in his home, soon after his wife’s death, he was reduced to pleading with the police to clear his name swiftly. He told them: ‘It is really awful for someone in my position to have had this damage done by what has gone to press and the web net.
‘Please report to your superiors and say there is no evidence, there is no case to answer. Make it clear I am no longer a suspect, no longer under investigation. Otherwise my reputation is still being damaged on Google and that is not fair after my record and at my time of life.
Yard’s questions – and his angry replies
Police: ‘Special guests were brought in as a treat for the boys. One of them was Jimmy Savile. Did you know Jimmy Savile?’
Bramall: ‘Jimmy Savile. Jimmy Savile! I have seen him on the television and always thought he was a dreadful man but I have never met him.’
Police: ‘Can you swim?’
Bramall: ‘I landed at Normandy and I jolly nearly had to swim.’
Police: ‘You made him (Beech) eat his vomit.’
Bramall: ‘I have said very clearly don’t be squeamish, spell it out in absolute detail and you have done that. So thank you.’
Police: ‘On Field Marshal Roland Gibbs and General Sir Hugh Beach being part of the gang…’
Bramall: ‘This is ridiculous. They have taken in the whole damned Army.’
Police: ‘The children were chained to rings on the walls, their hands tied above and their feet off the floor.’
Bramall: ‘Are you suggesting a very, very senior Army officer with an impeccable record engaged in the torture of children?’
‘I ask you to clear this matter up and take me out of this investigation as soon as you possibly can.
‘It is a very painful experience to have to go through at my age of 91 and having now just lost my wife.’
In that same interview at his home, he asked the police what corroboration there had been for Beech’s claims before they searched the house in March 2015.
Lord Bramall complained that officers had ‘thought it was sufficient to get a warrant with uncorroborated evidence’.
Collingwood Thompson QC, defending, told the jury that had Lord Bramall been able to attend court, he would have been asked a series of specific questions on Beech’s behalf, including suggesting to Lord Bramall he was a ‘leading member of a paedophile ring’.
Field Marshal Edwin Noel Westby Bramall was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps on 22 May 1943 during the Second World War and took part in the Normandy landings in June 1944.
He went on to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces in Hong Kong, then Commander-in-Chief of UK Land Forces and retired as Chief of Defence Staff, a role he was appointed to in 1982.
The father-of-two married his wife Dorothy in 1949 and they lived at Bulford Manor in Wiltshire during his time as head of the army.
The trial has heard that Beech told both Wiltshire and the Metropolitan Police about the abuse he claimed to have suffered at Erskine barracks in Wiltshire, the HQ of UK land Forces in the mid 70s.
He said his step-father Major Ray Beech took him to General Bramall’s office where he was abused by him.
A succession of retired senior military figures have given evidence at the trial to say they could never recall seeing a child being brought into the offices.
At the time it was the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the IRA had launched a bombing campaign on mainland Britain.
Cars were searched inside and out using mirrors on wheels to look underneath for car bombs.
Former Colonel Mark Norbury, who was at the base at the same time as Lord Bramall, described the question as to whether children were allowed onto the base as ‘asinine.’
The Met Police spent 18 months and £2m on Beech’s claims of a Westminster paedophile ring
When prosecutors laid out their claims against Beech at the opening of the trial opened, the court heard:
- Beech is a convicted paedophile who pleaded guilty after police found indecent images of young boys, including some recorded by Beech, on devices in his home
- He fled to Sweden once police closed in and lived in a remote cabin in the woods, shown in police footage above, under a series of assumed identities and false names
- He claimed to have sketched the locations at which abuse took place from memory – but his laptop showed he had googled them before speaking to police
- He claimed not to have researched the men he accused – but had googled them
- He claimed his abusers mowed down and killed a boy, ‘Scott’, whom he tried to befriend – but the boy did not exist. He was shown in police footage telling officers about this fictitious incident
- He claimed a fellow victim, ‘Fred’ could corroborate his story – but in fact he made up the friend and posed as ‘Fred’, fabricating emails to police
- He claimed he had been regularly taken out of school to be abused by multiple men at ‘parties’ – but his attendance at his schools was exemplary
- He claimed he had a lifelong fear of water, abused by the men, who dunked him and threw him off boats – but photos show him snorkelling on honeymoon
- He produced an ‘abuse map’ of the places and ways his body was tortured – but his medical records show no evidence of abuse
- He claimed he was abused on beds in cabins on Ted Heath’s yacht – but the vessel was a racing yacht and only had hammocks
- He claimed MP Harvey Proctor had threatened to cut his genitals off with a pen-knife Proctor later gifted to Beech. He gave the knife to police asking for forensic tests – but his estranged wife told police he’d kept it in a ‘happy memories’ box
- He had googled how victims of Jimmy Savile received compensation
- He bought a £34,000 convertible Mustang with the compensation payout he received for the alleged abuse
- He was in debt and living grossly beyond his means, intending to make money on the international speaking circuit, speaking about his ‘abuse’
The charges relate to claims Beech made that former prime minister Edward Heath (left), ex-home secretary Leon Brittan (right) and others were part of a child abuse ring
Timeline of Beech’s alleged falsehoods and the investigations they launched
2014/2015: Over more than 20 hours of recorded police interviews, Carl Beech makes lurid allegations of child rape and murder against senior Establishment figures including Ted Heath and Lord Brammall.
November 2014: The Met Police launch Operation Midland, which raids the homes of several elderly men looking for evidence to support Beech’s claims. A detective calls the accusations ‘credible and true’.
April 2015: D-Day veteran and former Army chief Lord Brammal interviewed.
June 2015: Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, whom Beech accused of child murder, interviewed under caution.
March 2016: Beech notified no further action was to be taken in respect of the allegations he had made.
2016: Northumbria Police conclude Beech’s claims are ‘totally unfounded, hopelessly compromised, and irredeemably contradicted by other testimony’.
November 2, 2016: Police arrive to raid Beech’s home in Gloucester.
January 23, 2018: Beech got £60,000 as an early pension from the NHS
February 6, 2018: He travels to Calais preparing to flee to Sweden, where he buys a cabin in the woods and lives under a series of assumed identities, travelling hundreds of miles from city to city to stay on the run
October 1, 2018: He was tracked down by Swedish and British police and arrested in advance of a 20-hour train journey to Gothenburg booked in the name of ‘Samuel Karlsson’.
2018: A highly critical review of Operation Midland reports police ‘acted like they were searching for bodies’ during raids on homes.
2018: Beech pleads guilty to possessing indecent images of children, in a separate trial.
December 2018: restriction on reporting of Carl Beech’s real identity lifted.
May 2019: Beech goes on trial for perverting the course of justice.
Beech’s claims led to raids on the homes of prominent and elderly people including Lord Brammall.
Beech’s extraordinary unfounded accusations were levelled against a list of prominent men including:
- Former PM Sir Edward Heath: he said he was sexually abused at Heath’s home in London and on his yacht
- Former head of the army Lord Brammall: he said Brammall repeatedly raped him and was present at the first meeting of ‘the group’
- Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor: he said Proctor demanded oral sex, abused him with a pen knife, and murdered two children, one after tying him to a table, raping, and stabbing him
- Former head of MI5 Michael Hanley, and former head of MI6 Maurice Oldfield: said to be responsible for abuse and torture including spiders being tipped over him, electric shocks, and having darts thrown at him, culminating in threats ‘to make him disappear’
- His step-father, Major Ray Beech: he said his step-father frequently and repeatedly abused, raped, and beat him, the first time in a public toilet at a wildlife park
- Former Home Secretary Leon Brittan: He said Brittan murdered a child, describing him as a ‘mini-Harvey’ who was sadistic and enjoyed putting his head under water
In all, Beech accused 12 men: Major Ray Beech, his step-father; Lt General Beach; General Gibbs; Lord Brammall; Jimmy Savile; Peter Hayman; Harvey Proctor; Leon Brittan; Greville Janner; Edward Heath; Michael Hanley; Maurice Oldfield.
Prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said the 12-week trial would show Beech’s accusations against the men were ‘demonstrably untrue.’
The Metropolitan Police’s disastrous £2 million Operation Midland investigation into Beech’s unsubstantiated and unsupported claims collapsed in 2016 with no arrests, despite a senior detective saying Nick’s stories were ‘credible and true’.
The Met has since paid six-figure sums in compensation to distinguished former Field Marshall Lord Brammall and to Lady Brittan whose late husband Leon was also accused by Beech
The trial continues.
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