1 Jun 1979: Sometimes I dream, in the long sleepy afternoons, that the Defence calls a surprise last minute witness, and Rinka bounds in.
— Auberon Waugh Diary (@AuberonWaugh_PE) December 6, 2014
Having your former leader on trial at the Old Bailey for conspiracy to murder makes modern-day political scandals look tame. Tweeting a picture of a house with a flag? Pfft.
I enjoy Tom Mangold's Radio 4 programme Jeremy Thorpe: The Silent Conspiracy, but I am slighlty puzzled by its most important claim.
A BBC News report about it says:
Presented by Tom Mangold, who reported on the Thorpe case for the BBC at the time, it contains material from the 1970s that has never been broadcast before, along with new evidence.
One particularly strange puzzle arises from the account of Dennis Meighan, who provided the gun that was used to shoot Mr Scott's dog, Rinka - an incident in which Mr Scott says he feared for his own life.
Speaking in a broadcast interview for the first time, Mr Meighan discloses that he himself was asked to kill Mr Scott by a man who, he was told, represented a Mr Big in the Liberal Party.
Mr Meighan says that he initially agreed to carry out the plan before changing his mind. However, after he confessed this to the police, he was surprised when they later presented him with a prepared statement for him to sign.
"I read the statement, which did me no end of favours, but it did Jeremy Thorpe no end of favours as well, because it left him completely out of it.
"So I thought, 'Well, I've got to sign this'. It just virtually left everything out that was incriminating, but at the same time everything I said about the Liberal Party, Jeremy Thorpe, etcetera, was left out as well."
This meant that Mr Meighan has never had to appear in court and explain his role in events.Extraordinary, extraordinary goings on. Yet (and I know this thanks to an otherwise unremarkable thread on Urban75) it is clear that Meighan's role was known about and reported at the time.
Here is Auberon Waugh writing in the Spectator on 5 June 1981. Among six questions that remain to be answered about the affair, he lists:
Why Denis Meighan, the man who sold Newton his gun, was not allowed to mention Newton's offer of £1,000 to do the job - of murdering Scott - for him.Waugh sat through the committal hearing at Minehead and later wrote a book about the affair. It is also widely rumoured that some of the wilder speculations in his columns were informed (if that is the right word) by MI5 sources.
He was better informed than most.