Truth is stranger than fiction

Laura White
Laura White

The story of Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe’s plot to kill his lover Norman Scott has always fascinated me.

I went to Oxter County School where Jeremy Thorpe’s pipe smoking, monocled mother Ursula Thorpe was the Chairman of the Board of Governors so I would see Jeremy out for a walk from time to time in Oxted with his little boy Rupert.

Then the whole affair exploded in 1975 when Thorpe hired a hitman Andrew ‘Gino’ Newton to silence Scott. Gino Newton lured Scott to Exmoor and told Scott to get out of the car with his dog Rinka. Newton shot Scott’s Great Dane dog before putting the gun to Scott’s head and pulling the trigger; the gun jammed and Scott escaped death.

The trial of the century took place four years later in 1979 at the Old Bailey where Thorpe was charged with conspiracy to murder Norman Scott but was subsequently acquitted, but his political career was in tatters. Tom Mangold, the BBC’s Panorama reporter who used to work with my father on The Sunday Pictorial newspaper, produced a special on the Thorpe – Scott affair and how the establishment had covered up Thorpe’s homosexuality for almost two decades.

MI5 and police Special Branch knew, even Bobby Kennedy the US Attorney General in his brother J F Kennedy’s administration knew after the FBI intercepted a letter from Thorpe to a lover in San Francisco.

The Panorama programme was pulled and all copies of the programme ordered to be destroyed by the Director General of the BBC, but Tom Mangold kept a copy which was shown on BBC4 after the last episode of ‘A Very English Scandal’, a three-part drama about the Thorpe affair.

I also knew Jeremy Thorpe’s son Rupert; he was a photographer like me, and like me was a night picture editor on The Sun while I was on the sister paper Today, so we talked most evenings and helped each other out. Back in April last year we reported that Gwent Police has reinvestigated the whole case again and spoke to Norman Scott who now lives on Dartmoor.

They put forward their finding of a conspiracy to pervert justice, by at least two people including a former policeman, to the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) but they threw it out. The long-awaited mini-series ‘A Very English Scandal’ was finally shown with Tom Mangold’s 39 year old Panorama report following.

Then the Mail on Sunday found the hitman Andrew ‘Gino’ Newton living in Surrey when Gwent police thought he was dead, so last Sunday police finally banged on his door, but by now Newton had fled. On the Monday, the police said they had no plans to reinvestigate anymore.

The polices’ investigations into this affair for almost half a century has been a complete farce, with one man denied justice – Norman Scott.