Orders of the Day — Miss Hilda Murrell

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:43 am on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Giles Shaw Mr Giles Shaw , Pudsey 1:43 am, 26th June 1985

The investigation is in the hands of the local police. The decision whether to publish the report in due course will rest with them. The hon. Gentleman's intervention is on the record.

The second question that the hon. Member for Linlithgow asked was about the security services. He wanted to know whether Mr. Smith had approached Sir Robert Armstrong. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, I gave him a categorical assurance on 28 December that Government intelligence services were not involved in any way.

Mr. Smith had full access to all the information held in the force's incident room and to all persons who may in any way have been able to assist his review. I understand that Mr. Smith has seen all those persons at the highest levels in Government when he wished. I can therefore give the assurance that he has seen Sir Robert Armstrong. Indeed, Sir Robert confirmed to me that all those persons involved at the highest levels of Government have been seen.

The present position is as was stated on 28 December. There is no involvement whatever in any aspect of the security services in this affair. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the investigation continues and 19 officers continue to follow up the lines of inquiry, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham reminded the House.

If anyone submits information, each and every bit of it will be examined. The West Mercia police are in the extraordinarily difficult position of being accused of covering up all the evidence that they have, and the evidence which is produced, whether it is from the hon. Member for Linlithgow, or from the recent book by Mrs. Judith Cook which refers to Mr. Otter—who has views on this matter similar to those quoted by the hon. Member for Linlithgow in relation to Mr. Morgan Grenville.

I understand from the chief constable that Mr. Otter's involvement was first drawn to Mr. Smith's attention by the hon. Member for Linlithgow. I am grateful to him for his letter of 23 May. The information was passed to West Mercia police on 28 May and it was followed up immediately. Mr. Otter has now been interviewed three times by West Mercia officers, but nothing that he has said has helped to take the investigation forward. That has been so on a number of issues which the hon. Gentleman raised.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the telephone disconnection and the problem of storm damage. He knows from the letter of 14 January when I described fully that the police confirmed that Miss Murrell's telephone at her home in Shrewsbury had been disconnected, that at first it was believed that this was done by removing the connectors at the junction box, but at no time did the police use the term "sophisticated" about the way in which it was done. In the absence of any further evidential confirmation that this was the means of disconnection, and after checks of the junction box, the police believe that the connecting wires were simply snatched out, perhaps because the connecting screws were loose.

There has been a detailed response to many of the questions which the hon. Member for Linlitgow has put to me. He has put many more questions to me tonight. I shall do my best to write to him about some the detailed points. However, the central issue remains the same. The hon. Gentleman believes that leads about the involvement of the security services or others involved in the private investigation of Sizewell have not been followed up and that allegations should be made. Every allegation and every lead which he has offered, or which anyone else has offered, has been taken seriously and examined from every possible angle by the West Mercia police.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the involvement of private detectives. Before the most recent press speculation about Mr. Peachman's activities as a private investigator, West Mercia police had already investigated the alleged link between the activities of private detectives, the Sizewell B project and Miss Murrell's death. The hon. Gentleman will know from the chief constable's report on Mr. Smith's report that one of Mr. Smith's criticisms was about the way in which certain aspects of the alleged connection were followed up. They have established that inquiries in connection with Sizewell B were undertaken for a private client but that these were concluded over a year before Miss Murrell's death and that she was not the subject of the inquiries.

I understand also from the chief constable that Mr. Peachman was engaged by Zeus Security to undertake inquiries on 21 January 1983 and had completed his engagement by the end of the same month. The conclusions of his inquiries were passed to the client's solicitors and the chief constable has no information about what happened thereafter. Miss Murrell did not correspond with the secretary to the Sizewell inquiry until August 1983 and was therefore not known to the inquiry as an objector at the time of Mr. Peachman's inquiries. It cannot be deduced from the involvement of that private detective agent with the Sizewell objectors that Miss Murrell had any connection with the inquiries that were being made at that time.

Much as everyone in the House would like to achieve a resolution of this affair, it has not yet been possible so to do. The hon. Gentleman will know—my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham referred to the fact—that regrettably there are homicides that are never fully solved. I gather that there are about 398 currently without a suspect and with no likelihood of being concluded. Sometimes a case with many and various pieces of evidence attached to it cannot be concluded satisfactorily.

West Mercia police, having had a thorough appraisal of what had been done, which was conducted by a independent and senior police officer from a force without any connection with West Mercia, are still proceeding to try to solve the case. I can assure the hon. Gentleman, my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham and everyone else that that must be a professional and significant undertaking and one which is sometimes not helped by those who raise false points on complicated issues.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at eight minutes to Two o'clock.