At 2:34pm on Friday 22 June 1979, the jurors in what had been billed as "The Trial of the Century" filed into Number One Court at the Old Bailey to deliver the verdict on the Rt Hon Jeremy Thorpe, Privy Counsellor, the former MP for North Devon and ex-leader of the Liberal Party. For 30 days, the nine men and three women of the jury had listened, opened-mouthed, like the rest of the country and many millions abroad, as prosecution lawyers tried to prove that Thorpe and three other men had recruited an airline pilot called Andrew Newton to kill Norman Scott, a former male model who claimed that he had once been Thorpe's lover. It had been an extraordinary trial. The star witnesses were Scott, Peter Bessell, a former Liberal MP and failed businessman who had once been Thorpe's confidant, and Newton, who had shot Scott's dog, a Great Dane bitch called Rinka, but failed to murder Scott as ordered. Mr Justice Cantley, the judge, was not impressd with these witnesses and made it clear that, if there was any justice, they should have been in the dock.
He was rather more charitable to Thorpe, whom he suggested should have been leading the nation rather than enduring the inconvenience of a trial, and to David Holmes, Thorpe's homosexual friend from his days at Oxford. Cantley indicated to the jury that, perhaps, Holmes and the others had tried to frighten Scott but said there was no proof that Thorpe was even involved in that limited conspiracy. After 52 hours' discussion they returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty. This work seeks to tell the true story of how Norman Scott, a penniless neurotic who loved animals more than people, destroyed Jeremy Thrope, the charismatic and wise-cracking leader of the Liberal Party who was a secret homosexual. It is a scandal of post-war British politics but above all, it is about the revenge of Scott on Thorpe, the man whom he could not forgive for abandoning him. Set against the backdrop of Westminster, the West Country, the Caribbean and California, this is the story of a cover-up and the drama of idealism and cynicism in the media, of political chicanery, and of police obstruction.
It is based on almost 100 interviews and contains collaboration with Barrie Penrose, who was one half of the "Pencourt" team who investigated the story in the 1970s.show more