The son of a former Conservative MP has told The Telegraph he believes his father was a “prolific sexual predator” who he fears might have been linked to an alleged Westminster paedophile ring.
Anthony Atkinson suspects his father David Atkinson’s name may also have been included in a notorious dossier compiled by his fellow Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens. The dossier, handed to the then Home Secretary Leon Brittan in the 1980s, has subsequently been lost or destroyed.
David Atkinson, according to his son, had a string of young lovers, among them a number of parliamentary assistants, with whom he conducted affairs behind the back of his wife and two children.
Justin Fashanu, the former professional footballer, who had grown up in a children’s home and subsequently committed suicide, had claimed to have had an affair with a married Conservative MP.
The MP is now thought to be Mr Atkinson. Letters from Mr Fashanu to Mr Atkinson, now in possession of his son, suggest the two men, although close, did not consummate their relationship.
Mr Atkinson eventually finally came out to his family as gay – after being confronted by his wife Susan – and before he died entered into a civil partnership in 2011.
His son has compiled a dossier of his own on his father. In it he writes: “In the research work that I have done… it is clear that my father was associated with some very dangerous people.”
Mr Atkinson, 37, an illustrator, decided to speak out after becoming increasingly concerned about his father’s behaviour and his wider circle of acquaintances. David Atkinson was MP for Bournemouth East for almost 28 years before stepping down in 2005. The father-of-two died in 2012 at the age of 71 having suffered from bowel cancer. His family learned after his death that he had also been diagnosed HIV positive.
Antony Atkinson’s father, Conservative MP, David Atkinson (UPPA Ltd)
There is evidence that the MP had been blackmailed by a member of staff within the Palace of Westminster who had threatened to sell details of his private life to a newspaper. In the letter, sent in 2003, the former friend of Mr Atkinson’s threatened to sell his story to the News of the World and added: “I want NO FURTHER CONTACT WITH YOU. SO DO NOT APPROACH ME PHYSICALLY or VERBALLY, now or in the future.”
On one occasion Anthony Atkinson was told by the relative of a teacher his father was a “paedophile” who had had an affair with a school pupil.
Mr Atkinson told The Telegraph: “What we have found shows my father to be a sad, lonely man but there is something more sinister there as well. I just want to try and work out what happened to my father.
“At the very least he is guilty of prolific predatory sexual behaviour. My father was predatory and prolific and we [my mother, my sister and I] all thought that the behaviour attributed to Jimmy Savile of being predatory and prolific also applied to him.”
When Tom Watson, the Labour MP, claimed in the House of Commons in October 2012 that ‘a paedophile network’ may have existed in the past at a high level, protected by connections to Parliament, Anthony Atkinson and his mother Susan got in touch with the MP, suggesting their father might have been at the very least on the fringes of the group.
On one occasion Anthony Atkinson was told by a school friend that a teacher had claimed that the MP was a “paedophile”.
L-R Sue, Katie, David and Anthony Atkinson on a family trip to the beach (BNPS)
Mr Atkinson also discovered on the internet a claim made by a former American intern of improper conduct by the MP.
In the internet posting, the intern, a university student, wrote of being taken to dinner by Mr Atkinson on his last day working in the Commons as a thank you. “After dinner at a restaurant he insisted showing me his apartment,” wrote the intern, “As soon as I entered I got a suspicious feeling from all the little Greek statues around. Either he was a scholar in the classics (he wasn’t) or he had a real fascination with statues of Greek boys. Or he had a fascination with Greek. And boys.”
Once in the flat, the intern wrote: “It became apparent he was trying to get me drunk… I went to use the bathroom and when I came out he was standing is a short, girly, silk bathrobe. I looked past him and saw he had the lights low and the sheets of his double bed pulled back.”
The intern concluded: “It goes to show that politicians are politicians no matter what their nationality. In his case I’d keep children away from him though – I am not anti-gay at all, just anti pervert. And that, based on my experience and in my opinion, describes David Atkinson, MP.”
Other suspicions, which fuel Mr Atkinson’s concerns about his father, cannot be repeated in The Telegraph for legal reasons. There is nothing in the evidence so far gathered by Mr Atkinson that offers any clear proof that his father had had sex with under-age children.
Mr Atkinson did however take his concerns to the police on Mr Watson’s recommendations. Police interviewed his ex-wife as well but decided there was nothing further to investigate.
Mr Atkinson said: “Detectives spoke to us but they made it clear they were short-staffed and really because of the lack of resources they were only really interested in people still alive who they could prevent committing more crimes and that my dad was just somebody who was gay and was not comfortable with that and got himself into some scrapes.
“But I think my father got mixed up with the wrong people. I think he didn’t want anybody to find out he was gay and used that to influence him. He liked young men.”
He said his father kept ‘meticulous’ notes of his every day activities in House of commons pocket diaries. Mr Atkinson does not have access to his father’s diaries.
“It is almost like my father became two people,” said Mr Atkinson, “There are times when I am upset when I think about my father but there are times when we just want to find out what happened. It’s duel thing. One the one hand he is my father and on the other I want to know what he did. If I don’t ever find out, I will always be asking.
“I can’t help but think everything going on is linked. I suspect my father is named in the Dickens’ dossier. Only the other day I found a photograph of my father with Geoffrey Dickens. Dickens once came to stay and he famously said that one of his friends is named in the dossier and that could be my dad. It is hard to reconcile all this with the father I grew up with.”
Mr Atkinson only discovered his father was gay when his parents got divorced. He was staying at his father’s flat and discovered gay pornography and sex toys hidden in a cupboard. “I remember asking him; ‘are you gay?’ and he said: ‘yes.’
“I said: ‘how long have you known?’ and he said: ‘I have always known, stupid.’ The he went back to reading his newspaper and that was the end of the discussion. I didn’t expect tears and hugs because that was not his way.”