As published in The Sunday Times:
A senior police officer has blown the whistle on what he claims was a conspiracy by Scotland Yard protection officers to “stitch up” the cabinet minister at the centre of the Plebgate affair.
The officer, said to be a superintendent, has provided an account of the alleged conspiracy to a lawyer whom he has hired for his own protection.
He is said to fear that his career could be destroyed by the disclosures in which he claims evidence was doctored by his police colleagues against Andrew Mitchell, who was forced to quit as Tory chief whip over the affair.
In a witness statement subsequently given to the Metropolitan police, the officer names a police colleague whom he alleges “orchestrated” the plot to bring down Mitchell. The Sunday Times knows the suspect’s identity but has decided not to name him.
Mitchell resigned after it was claimed he called police officers “f****** plebs” when they stopped him trying to ride his bike through Downing Street gates. After doubts emerged about the evidence against Mitchell, Scotland Yard began an inquiry, Operation Alice. Eight people have been arrested, including five other Met police officers, for allegedly fabricating evidence or leaking it to the media.
The insider’s new information is the first full account of the alleged police collusion that led to Mitchell’s dramatic downfall.
The whistleblower says he received the information from a superior officer. He admits he does not have direct knowledge of the conspiracy he has outlined.
Nonetheless, his account is being taken seriously by the Met, which has described him as “potentially a key witness”. The officer in charge of Operation Alice described his information as “serious and highly pertinent” to his inquiry.
The new account will reinforce claims that a cabal of Met officers has tried to cover up evidence that a cabinet minister at the height of his career was the victim of a deliberate attempt to “toxify” the Conservatives and ruin his career.
The whistleblower’s disclosures are contained in a statement he gave to David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, and a friend of Mitchell. Sources close to Operation Alice say Davis passed the information to the Met in a signed witness statement last month.
According to the whistleblower, the “genesis” of the Plebgate incident was in a confrontation between Mitchell and officers at the Downing Street gates on September 18 last year — the night before the Plebgate row itself.
Mitchell is believed to have jabbed his finger at one of the gate officers, demanding that he open the gates. The whistleblower stated: “On the 18th September, 2012 Mr Mitchell had also insisted on being let out through the main gate. Following this [officer X] said to the other officers: ‘Right, we can stitch him up’.”
The whistleblower then went on to state that the word “plebs” was added by the named officer to the original police log of the conversation that Mitchell was said to have had with the officer who was guarding the gates on September 19.
Mitchell has always denied using this “toxic” phrase, adding that it was the claim that he had used this word that forced him to tender his resignation.
The whistleblower also claims that officer X went on to “orchestrate” the writing of two bogus emails sent by a second diplomatic protection officer the following day to John Randall, the Tory MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip and then Mitchell’s deputy.
In one of these emails, PC Keith Wallis, who is in the diplomatic protection unit, purported to be a member of the public who had witnessed the altercation of September 19. In his email Wallis claimed he was sightseeing with a nephew near Downing Street when he heard Mitchell use the words “f****** plebs”. In fact, he was off duty at the time of the incident and is believed to have been nowhere near Downing Street.
The Sunday Times has learnt that in mid-July this year, the whistleblower approached Davis, the Tory MP who has been helping Mitchell try to clear his name. In June, Davis was responsible for handing police information that led to the arrest of four more people implicated in the conspiracy, including two police officers.
In a leaked Metropolitan police document seen by The Sunday Times, Detective Superintendent Steve Williams, the senior detective in charge of Operation Alice, described the whistleblower as “potentially a key witness” whose allegation is “serious and highly pertinent to this inquiry”.
The Met has spent much of the last month trying to track down the whistleblower. After police were told he had used Mitchell’s own lawyers to represent himself, the Met wrote to them demanding they disclose his identity.
However, the officer has told the lawyers not to do so because he fears that acting as a whistleblower would destroy his career in the Metropolitan police.
Davis and Mitchell declined to comment, though Davis said he was waiting for a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service “in the very near future” on whether charges would be pressed against any of those arrested.
However, a source close to Operation Alice said Davis had written to Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, demanding police look into the whistleblower’s claims.
He asked Starmer to ensure police examined the “forensic trail” of emails and phone calls between officer X, his associates and Wallis.
On September 9 Davis submitted a signed witness statement to deputy assistant commissioner Pat Gallan, who is overseeing Operation Alice. “The officer, whilst understandably nervous (because of the career risks to Met police whistleblowers) seemed to be straightforward and honest. It seemed unlikely that there was any malevolent intent in his testimony,” Davis told the Met.
An investigation by Channel 4 News last December found that CCTV footage of the incident raised questions about the account in police logs leaked to newspapers. According to the logs, there were “several members of the public” outside the Downing Street gates at the time who were “visibly shocked” by what was happening. But the CCTV footage showed there were no crowds of people watching and listening.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met commissioner, found himself personally embroiled in the controversy in March after secretly briefing two newspapers, which then erroneously reported that his criminal inquiry had found “no evidence” of a police conspiracy.
Lord Macdonald, a former director of public prosecutions, last month said that if the word “pleb” had been fabricated by officers it would be like a missile “heading straight for the heart of the Metropolitan police”.
Wallis was arrested last December after his role in writing the bogus email became known. It is not known whether police have questioned officer X. The CPS is expected to announce shortly whether anyone will face criminal charges.