Revealed: Police launch probe into what Clement Freud knew about Maddie as we uncover new details about ex-MP’s disturbing relationship with the McCanns
- Another astonishing twist in case of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance
- Freud befriended the McCanns in Praia da Luz, in the western Algarve
- With laid-back security the area became a hive of paedophile activity
- Freud invited McCanns around for lunch two months after disappearance
Every last, tenuous lead had been followed to its conclusion, every unlikely theory had been explored. Witnesses were re-examined, morsels of evidence painstakingly re-evaluated. Yet still there was nothing.
So, by the end of this summer, the last rites in Operation Grange — the Metropolitan Police’s five-year, £12 million investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann — were expected to have been played out.
Met chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe warned that the end was approaching in a radio interview two months ago. The team of detectives working on the case had been cut from more than 30 to two or three, he said, and when they had followed one remaining line of inquiry, the plug would have to be pulled.
This week, however, there has been yet another astonishing twist — one that has given the dying inquiry fresh impetus
The late broadcaster, humorist, politician and chef Sir Clement Freud at a party given by the publishing executive Victor Lowndes
Police are investigating what Freud knew about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Last Wednesday, I can reveal, two detectives from Operation Grange were quietly dispatched to Somerset to pursue a new avenue of inquiry. They spent 90 minutes interviewing Vicky Haynes, the 64-year-old grandmother who, in a haunting Daily Mail interview last week, told how she had been sexually abused as a 14-year-old girl by the late broadcaster, humorist, politician and chef Sir Clement Freud.
For Mrs Haynes suspects that Freud — who owned a secluded villa in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, a few hundred yards from the Ocean Club holiday complex from which Madeleine vanished in May 2007 — harboured crucial information about her fate.
And she fears that when the celebrated former Liberal MP died, aged 84, in 2009, he may have taken this grisly secret to his grave. Indeed, her son, Mason, told me he first emailed the Operation Grange team, to alert them to this disturbing suspicion, some three years ago, after they learned that Freud not only kept a holiday home in Praia da Luz, but that he invited Gerry and Kate McCann to lunch there, just two months after Madeleine went missing.
Mason is one of the world’s most respected close-protection guards.
Yet he says the Grange team either ignored or forgot about his message, and ‘apologetically’ retrieved it only this week after his mother told her story to the Mail.
‘When I heard about the connection between Clement Freud and the McCanns, a light-bulb was switched on in my head,’ he told me. ‘It makes no sense for a man we now know to have been a predatory paedophile to have invited them into his life, at that time, unless he had some ulterior motive.
‘My theory is that if you live somewhere for 25 years [the length of time Freud owned his Algarve villa] as a paedophile, you become part of the paedophile ring that exists in that area. You share information and stories; that’s how it works.
‘I think the abduction was carried out by that ring, and Freud knew something about what happened to the child. Either he invited Madeleine’s parents to his house to get some sick turn-on out of their visit, or he was trying to get information about where the police had got to with the investigation.
‘It is well-known by psychologists that paedophiles like to go back to the scene of their crimes. Perhaps this was his way of doing it.
‘Freud was 83 at the time. I’m not suggesting he went to that flat and abducted Madeleine himself. But you never stop being a paedophile, no matter how old you are, and I think he knew something.’
With those words in mind, it is chilling to recall that Kate McCann once described a nightmare in which she dreamt Madeleine was buried on a hillside on the outskirts of Praia da Luz . . . close to Clement Freud’s villa.
Many years ago, before the rugged western tip of Portugal morphed into a package-holiday destination favoured by middle-class families such as the McCanns, it attracted a very different type of Briton.
With its donkey-paced ambience, rustic villas that were as ridiculously cheap as the delicious local wine and fish, and a relaxed moral code (described by one long-time expat as ‘anything goes, as long as nobody knows’), it was then a magnet for Bohemian celebrities and minor aristocrats.
Among those lured to this furthermost tip of the Continent was Freud, whose diverse talents — including being the hangdog face of the nation’s favourite pet-food commercial (juxtaposed with his lookalike bloodhound, Henry) — had made him a national treasure.
The father-of-five also wrote children’s books and became a fixture for a time on the much-loved after-school programme Jackanory.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Clement Freud was a friend of the paedophile entertainer Rolf Harris, too, having given the Australian his entrée into the London club scene when he managed a West End nightspot. And after being elected as the maverick Liberal MP for the Isle of Ely, in 1973, he shared a Commons office with another serial child abuser, Cyril Smith.
Freud had homes in St John’s Wood and Suffolk. In 1987, after losing his parliamentary seat and acquiring a knighthood, he also bought a white-washed villa on the promontory overlooking Praia da Luz bay.
Sir Clement Freud’s villa in Praia da Luz
This cliff was later one of the places where Kate and Gerry McCann went jogging to ease their angst as they waited for news of Madeleine.
Freud often chronicled his summer exploits in Praia da Luz in his weekly column for The Times; and given how he chose to befriend the McCanns, we might find these jottings quite pertinent. While he waxed lyrical about his herb garden and citrus groves, which provided ingredients for his favourite Mediterranean recipes, and we learnt that he played golf and boules, he wrote little about the company he kept.
In fact, the only people he mentioned were his Portuguese ‘Maria’ — the maid who came each day to wash, clean and iron — and his secateurs-wielding gardener, Alfredo.
Was this perhaps because Freud didn’t want anyone to know about the dark company he kept?
After all, as the Madeleine inquiry revealed, the western Algarve, with its bucket-and-spade resorts, wide-open verandas and patios, and laid-back security, had become a teeming hive of paedophile activity.
One investigator said he knew of 38 child sex abusers living in the area; and between 2005 and 2009, the children of seven holidaying families were reportedly subjected to sex attacks — five before three-year-old Madeleine was taken from Apartment 5A at the Ocean Club, and two afterwards.
The names of paedophiles and suspected paedophiles based in Praia da Luz or nearby towns when Freud was a regular visitor are too many to mention. They include serial sex offender Raymond Hewlett, a Briton who was living on the Algarve with his wife and six children in May 2007, and became a prime suspect shortly before dying of throat cancer, aged 64, four years ago.
Another Briton, Chris Ridout, worked as a DJ in his parents’ pub, the Plough and Harrow, 200 yards from the Ocean Club. He was forced to flee the resort shortly before Madeleine disappeared, after he was alleged to be bombarding a 12-year-old local girl with lewd texts and indecent images. He is now thought to be living in the United States.
Ridout doesn’t have any convictions and says he was unfairly hounded after death threats.
Freud is said to have drunk on occasion in the Ridouts’ pub, which locals dubbed ‘The Plough and Paedo’ (daubing its new name in huge letters on the wall). Could it be that the knight of the realm (Clement Freud) was secretly consorting with loathsome men such as Hewlett?
Of course, Mrs Haynes and the three other women who have come forward in recent days to describe being assaulted by Freud were far older than Madeleine when he forced himself on them, and paedophiles typically choose their victims from a narrow age bracket.
Yet, as one expert told me, they also tend to gravitate towards others who share their proclivities, regardless of the type of victims they prefer.
Freud retained the five-bedroom villa, Casa da Colina, with its shaded pool, sunken terrace and pastoral tiles, until 2002, when he sold it to the current owner, Andrew Wright.
However, Mr Wright, from Devon, who now rents the property for £2,470 a week in high season, continued to make it available to Freud until he died. Intriguingly, he revealed that he had been contacted by Operation Grange detectives ‘about two years ago’, when he confirmed ownership of the villa.
This could suggest the Met squad hadn’t completely ignored the email sent by Mason Haynes after all.
The case is also being reviewed by a fresh team of Portuguese police officers based in Porto, in the north of the country. Yesterday, a source in the unit said they would look into the possible involvement of Freud — who was not mentioned once in the original 11,000-page case file.
‘This person [Freud] was never under investigation during the case, not even under British formal request,’ said the source. ‘This new information will be considered in the review we are now undertaking.’
And so to Madeleine’s disappearance. What evidence is there to suggest Freud might have been involved, however tangentially?
Thus far, the Freud family’s only comment has come from his son Matthew, a high-powered PR. Between expletives, he told a Mail reporter his father had been in Britain on May 3, 2007, the night she was abducted from her bed as her parents ate a tapas supper with friends in a nearby restaurant.
His assertion appears to be supported by the fact that Freud’s horse-racing column for the Sun was published two days later, on May 5.
By early July he was once again installed in Praia da Luz. As Kate McCann recalls in her book, at the beginning of that month they received a cryptic letter at their lodgings near the Ocean Club.
‘Dear McCanns,’ it began. ‘I have a house in P da L, been ashamed of the intrusion into your lives by our media . . . and if you would care to come to lunch/dinner at any time before Wednesday next, do ring and let me know.’
Doubtless sure of his culinary renown, he signed off with a droll aside: ‘I cook decent meals.’ Ironically, however, Kate and Gerry could barely remember who he was, and had to be reminded. Even so, they were touched by Freud’s gesture of ‘kindness and friendship’ (it came at a time when the tide of public opinion was turning against them, and they were falling under the unwarranted suspicion of the Portuguese police) and duly accepted his invitation.
Yet this week, when I asked several key players in the McCann saga what they made of Freud’s decision to place himself at the centre of the circus surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance, they said they found it odd, to say the least.
For Freud was an obsessively private man who always kept himself apart from the English ex-pats in the resort, and he is not remembered for his neighbourly gestures.
Residents described him as ‘reclusive’ and ‘aloof’, but most could barely recall seeing him at all. Was this frigid man really so moved by the McCanns’ plight? Or, as Mason Haynes ponders, was his gesture motivated by sinister self-interest?
‘I’d like to know what he had to gain by the meeting,’ he said.
The McCanns attended the luncheon accompanied by Gerry’s sister, Trisha Cameron, and her husband Sandy, and their then PR adviser Justine McGuinness, a former Liberal-Democrat parliamentary candidate. Though McGuinness and Freud had a political affinity, I am assured that the pair had never previously met and she did not fix the meeting.
McCann watchers suggest, however, that some part might have been played by Clarence Mitchell, who briefly handled the couple’s PR before McGuinness and would become their mouthpiece after she quit the role.
This is because Mitchell entered into a consultancy contract with Matthew Freud’s company a few months later. From his office in Brighton this week, Mitchell insisted this was a coincidence.
As Kate describes colourfully in her book, the lunch was an odd affair. Freud’s opening gambit was to offer his guests shots of strawberry vodka, though it was only just midday. He then prepared them, as Kate recalled, a ‘bloody marvellous’ watercress salad followed by mushroom risotto — ‘the best we’ve ever tasted’ — and regaled them with his trademark wit.
It might easily be construed as an innocuous occasion — until we remember that Freud took pleasure in cooking an elaborate meal for at least one of his victims (for whom he prepared a gourmet omelette) before thrusting himself on her.
Shortly after the lunch, eaten alfresco on the terrace, Freud returned to Britain but remained in touch with the McCanns by email, as Kate recounts. The Operation Grange team will no doubt wish to examine these exchanges, which might with hindsight prove telling.
He returned to Portugal on August 31, whereupon — again weirdly, we might think — he phoned Gerry McCann. Freud cracked a lame joke which compared what he said was his ‘poor circulation’ to that of the ailing Daily Express.
A few days later, when Kate and Gerry were in turmoil after being made arguidos, or suspects, by the Portuguese police, Freud invited them to his home again; this time at 9.50pm. Greeting them in his nightshirt, he offered them brandy and made another dry quip.
‘So, Kate, which of the devout Catholic, alcoholic, depressed, nymphomaniac parts is correct?’ he inquired, referring to the plethora of newspaper stories speculating on her character and parlous state of mind.
When the couple told Freud how sniffer dogs were supposed to have detected signs that someone had died in their apartment, he replied laconically: ‘So what are they going to do? Put them on the stand? One bark for yes, two for no?’
To Kate, who could have no idea about the kind of man they were consorting with, this was just the tonic she needed: Freud’s ‘way of making everything seem a little less terrible’.
According to Clarence Mitchell, she and her husband were ‘shocked and appalled’ when they learnt the truth about him a few days ago. Yet, on the basis of all they know so far, he says they ‘can see no reason to believe’ he may have had knowledge of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Those who remember Freud not as an avuncular shoulder to lean on but as a callous predator hold a different opinion. Now it is for the depleted Operation Grange squad to determine whether the clue they desperately need lies buried in the vile past of a great English eccentric.
SHEREE DODD (PR Spokesperson)
First to arrive in Portugal was a former Mirror journalist and long-term government spokesperson called Sheree Dodd. In an unprecedented move, the Government took over news-handling on behalf of the McCanns. Sheree Dodd, a former Daily Mirror journalist and long-serving senior spokeswoman for the Government, was dispatched to Portugal. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced that she was being deployed as “press officer responsible to act as media liaison officer for the McCann family”. Sheree Dodd was formerly Director of Communications at the Department for Trade and Industry where she had responsibility for media handling, stakeholder relations, marketing and e-communications. Prior to that post she led the news and media relations operations at the Department for Work and Pensions and the Northern Ireland Office. Before joining government communications she enjoyed an extensive career as a political and industrial correspondent on The Mirror newspaper. Sheree is Managing Director of which provides advice and delivers communication solutions to a wide range of public and private sector clients. But Dodd was swiftly replaced by the more senior and bombastic figure of Clarence Mitchell, who took a pro-active role, orchestrating a visit to meet the Pope and a tour which took in Spain, Germany and Morocco.
Andrea maria preston@Andreamariapre2
Kate McCann in her book “Madeleine”
“Thank god for people like Clement who kept us smiling”
Clement Freud Emails between ‘paedophile’ Clement Freud and Madeleine McCann’s parents to be probed for child sex abuse inquiry
20 Jun 2016
Kate wrote of the meeting: “He gave me one of his looks and a giant glass of brandy, and managed to get a smile out of me with his greeting: ‘So, Kate, which of the devout Catholic, alcoholic, depressed, nymphomaniac parts is correct?’
“Clement cheered us up with his lugubrious wit…”
Vicount Ian Kerr CGC@IanKerr
Go back to your constituencies, and prepare to deny everything about paedophilia in UK politics.
“Be careful what you say about Cyril Smith because nothing has been proved against him at all, it’s all been scurrilous hearsay and so far we are waiting for the final outcome of the inquiry” – former Liberal leader David Steel on the allegations against Cyril Smith
A man is known by the company he keeps.
It was just ‘tittle-tattle’ and the
#mccann are very nice people.
Jason Sinclair @jlsinc
David Steel, working in a small parliamentary party with Jeremy Thorpe, Clement Freud and Cyril Smith, must have been the most unobservant man in the world.
The views of current and former Police Officers and experts on the McCanns
David Steel hairdresser Stephen August is director of company that Colin Peters is also director off Mr August other clients are Michael Heseltine and Julian Fellowes
Dame Alun Roberts @ciabaudo
You couldn’t make it up: ‘With Thorpe forced to stand down, Freud backed David Steel to succeed him; Steel improbably made him spokesman on Northern Ireland’. Time for a closer look at NI ministers, spokesmen and SPADs …
David Steel/NI/Clement Freud/Colin Wallace/Closed file
David Steel correspondence on Kincora, Wallace and sexual abuse – closed:
|Description||Correspondence and statements regarding disciplinary action taken against Colin Wallace in the 1970s for allegations he made regarding the Clockwork Orange project and sexual abuse at the Kincora boys home. Includes references to the BBC Two Programme ‘Private Eye’ and discussions in the House of Commons. Includes correspondence from
|Access Status||Closed; for further information on closed files see http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/accessingMaterials/readingRoomAccess/freedomOfInformation.aspx|
David Steel and paedophile PIE member – Peter Hayman
David Steel criticised whistle-blower Geoffrey Dickens MP for exposing Sir Peter Hayman -,,,
Does Anyone here have Gordon Brown phone number? no other parents seem to have it the
#McCanns do though cause they rang him the night Madeleine #McCann vanished in to thin air. he was Prime minister at the time.
Gordon Brown joins mourners at funeral of Clement Freud
Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, joined U2 frontman Bono and comedian Stephen Fry and David Steel for the funeral of Sir Clement Freud, the writer, broadcaster and former Liberal MP .
Mr Brown paid tribute to his friend during the service at a church just off Fleet Street in central London.
“He was not only a national treasure but became within his own right a national institution,” he said.
He said that he had first met Sir Clement in 1974 when both were rectors of Scottish universities – Mr Brown at the University of Edinburgh and Sir Clement at Dundee University.
1968 In Aid of the Albany Trust – Clement Freud will speak during the evening on the Trust’s work…
- In 1978 Peter Righton and PIE Manifesto author Micky Burbidge team up to exert control over grassroots gay youth groups, establishing the umbrella Joint Council for Gay Teenagers (‘JCGT’)
- Righton & Burbidge take control of the London Gay Teenage Group (‘LGTG’) liaising with the Greater London Council and ILEA for official recognition and relocating the LGTG to Islington, Manor Gardens Community Centre
- In 1980 Chair Edward Heath and his Youth Affairs Lobby (‘YAL’) meet with Burbidge and the LGTG
- With the assistance of YAL Liaison member the British Youth Council (‘BYC’) and its Chair Peter Mandelson, Burbidge gets to take a group of gay teenagers to lobby a group of cross-party MPs directly with Clement Freud MP (Lib), Charles Irving MP (Con) attending with 4 Labour MPs
- By 1982 JCGT and PIE’s Micky Burbidge have been invited to meet with Islington Councillors Bob Crossman, Sandy Marks, Derek Hines and Keith Veness at a Gay Groups meeting – the access to Councillors lobbying groups had was later deplored by Council Chief Executive Leisha Fullick in her report Modernising Islington
- JCGT teamed up with the National Association of Youth Clubs (NAYC) to form GYM (Gay Youth Movement) in time for GYM to campaign for the defendants of the second PIE trial during September-October 1983
Clement Freud (Lib: Isle of Ely) In June 2016 it was revealed that Freud’s name had been given to Operation Yewtree in 2012 and that at least three women had come forward to report rapes and sexual assaults by Freud against them as children during the 50s, 60s and 70s. As a heterosexual ebephile sexually interested in grooming and molesting females aged 10+ Freud was particularly susceptible to pressure had it been known he’d moved a young girl he was sexually abusing from the age of 10 into his house as an au pair to his children. Telegraph
Does she think Freud was part of a ring?
‘Of course,‘ she says.
‘He was great friends with Rolf Harris, shared an office with Cyril Smith and had a villa right there for 25 years – an area where a number of paedophiles were living and where Madeleine disappeared.
Praia da Luz – “Lots of important people are linked to Praia da Luz and its neighbourhood.
Spotlighted: Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine on the album cover with (l-r) Michael Parkinson, Kenny Lynch, James Coburn, Clement Freud, Christopher Lee and John Conteh
Paul McCartney & friends:
Hollywood ReporterVerified account @THR
Paul McCartney says he masturbated with John Lennon: “It was good harmless fun” http://thr.cm/w8erIN
Paul McCartney with paedophile Jimmy Savile
Paul McCartney & paedophile Wilfred Brambell
Elton John, Cliff Richard and Tom Jones have all been accused of abuse.
Praia da Luz – “Lots of important people are linked to Praia da Luz and its neighbourhood.
“Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Clement Freud, Robert Murat, Hunter Davies,Paul McCartney, Philip Edmonds…