Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Archbishop's family tree

Monday, 3 December 2012


Jews who fled the Nazis: secrets of Justin Welby's family tree

The German Jewish ancestors of Justin Welby, the next Archbishop of Canterbury, were forced to flee the Nazis and then faced internment in Britain during the war as “enemy aliens”.
Jews who fled the Nazis: secrets of Justin Welby's family tree

Justin Welby, the next Archbishop of Canterbury Photo: Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph

By Jason Lewis, Investigations Editor7:20AM GMT 02 Dec 201221 Comments

The full story of Justin Welby’s family, which provides a snapshot of a family caught in the dramas and tragedies of 20th century Europe, can be told for the first time today.

It is a story which his own father concealed from him and it was only last weekend that Bishop Welby learned from The Telegraph of his German Jewish roots and how his family, the Weilers, came to Britain.

But while his father, Gavin, was making his fortune in New York, posing as an aristocrat and selling whisky, his close relations faced persecution in Germany and were forced to flee for their lives.

Gavin Welby’s cousin was Dr Gerhard Weiler, a leading German chemist who ran a Berlin forensics laboratory pioneering techniques in microscopic analysis.

Before Hitler came to power in 1933 and introduced laws banning Jews from many jobs, including scientific work, Dr Weiler analysed samples for police murder investigations and Berlin hospitals.

His wife Dr Grita Thoemke worked with him and was an expert in anaesthetics.

His father, Dr Julius Weiler, brother of the Bishop of Durham’s grandfather Bernard, had founded the Westend Sanatorium, a leading psychiatric centre.

The family lived in a villa in the clinic’s grounds filled with Louis XV furniture, French tapestries, bronzes by Andrea Riccio, and paintings by Old Masters including Francisco Goya, Francesco Guardi and Jan van Goyen.

Martha Weiler, wife of Max Weiler, taken in 1919 with her sisters Emma, left and Louise, right

Julius was one of six sons of a wealthy merchant, Herman Weiler, and Amalie Hermbach. The family had thrived under the enlightened laws of the Kingdom of Hanover and, in the bustling market town of Osterode am Harz, they ran “S.J Weiler”, a small department store, started by their grandfather, Simon.

Herman Weiler sent his sons to the local Latin school and, while his siblings went to work in the family store, Julius went to University in Gottingen and studied medicine, before moving to Berlin to practise as a doctor.

The Weiler family shop taken in the late 1800's

In 1884, following their father’s death, the Weilers sold the store and four of the brothers, Siegfried, Max, Ernest and the Bishop of Durham’s grandfather, Bernard, travelled to London and set up “Weiler Brothers”, importing “ostrich and osprey feathers.

Their mother Amalie, Bishop Welby’s great grandmother, also moved to London, living in a flat in Hampstead with her unmarried youngest son Ernest. She died of pneumonia in 1914 and was buried the Jewish cemetery in Golders Green.

Back in 1920s Germany, Gerhard and his wife Grita had opened Dr Weiler’s Diagnostic Institute. Documents in the Jewish Archive in Berlin show that the family had “renounced” the faith as long ago as 1905.

As a 15-year-old Gerhard had been confirmed, but their conversion to Christianity did not save the family from Hitler’s anti-Jewish laws.

As Gerhard wrote later in his self-published memoirs: “We heard Hitler on the radio, screaming and ranting that the blame for all German ills lay with the Jews.

“It was the Jews’ fault entirely that Germany had lost the war...The Jews were also responsible for Germany’s supposed moral decline. There must only be one course of action to be taken: the Jews must be exterminated like vermin.”

The Weilers’ laboratory was in the basement of a large German villa which they rented to another family.

One of their staff, who cleaned the laboratory, was Communist. Working upstairs was a manservant who turned out to be a Nazi sympathiser.

When Hitler came to power in 1933 the manservant informed on the laboratory cleaner. He was imprisoned and executed.

“Adolf Hitler became Chancellor and the Reichstag (the German parliament) went up in flames’, wrote Gerhard. 'When we heard the news...Grita and I both agreed that we must leave the country’.

Offered a job at a laboratory at Oxford University, Gerhard headed to England and stayed with his uncle Siegfried, the last surviving Weiler brother who had set out from Germany in 1890.

“I stayed with my uncle in his luxurious flat, complete with cook, maid footman and chauffeur...(his) chauffeur drove me to Bedford College in a huge Humber limousine, where I was given a warm reception.

"I left in high spirits with the comforting thought that Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich would never harm either me or my family.”

But, travelling back to Germany to arrange their departure, he had a narrow escape at the border. Secretly carrying cigarettes in his fur coat, he was stopped by a Nazi official but claimed he had nothing to declare.

“Miraculously, they didn’t discover the cigarettes in the lining, otherwise I would probably not be here to tell the tale!”

The whole family, Gerhard, his wife Grita, her sister Kaete, a ballerina, and his father, Julius, left Germany. When war broke out, Gerhard was registered as an “enemy alien” under laws designed to stop Nazi spies and spent several months in an internment camp near Liverpool.

“All exits were guarded by soldiers with bayonets,” he recalled and several Jewish inmates committed suicide.

After the war he lived in Oxford, where he ran a private forensic laboratory, and did not return to Germany for 31 years. Grita died in 1983 and Gerhard in 1995.

He left much of his art collection, including a series of Renaissance drawings, to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum and a language prize, funded by a bequest, which bears his name at Roehampton University.

The Hanovarian town of Osterode am Harz where Justin Welby's forebares can be traced back to

Other members of the Weiler family, however, did not survive. The Holocaust records at Yad Vashem in Israel record the death of a young boy, Nathan Sommer, from Kassel, close to the Weilers’ hometown of Osterode am Harz. His mother was Gertrud Weiler, in all probability a cousin of the nearby merchant family.

A picture in the memorial archive shows a tiny boy holding a dog and clutching his sister’s arm.

Nathan, who was born in 1934, was “murdered” on an unknown date after being transported by the SS to the Riga ghetto, in Latvia, where most of the 24,000 Jewish inhabitants were massacred in late 1941.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Durham’s father, Gavin, returned to London from New York after the war and established “Gavin Distillers”, based in Oxford Street. He exported whisky to America and even had his own blend, “Gavin’s Gold Label”.

As a 19-year-old Alison Wilkinson, then Cowie, began working for Welby as his personal, business and social secretary shortly after he had stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative candidate in the 1951 election.

Gavin Welby

Mr Welby had a reputation as a ladies’ man. Briefly married before the war to factory owner’s daughter, Doris Sturzenegger — a fact which he later kept secret from his son — his second wife, Jane Portal, who is Bishop Welby’s mother, divorced him on the grounds of adultery. He also had affairs with actress Vanessa Redgrave and President Kennedy’s sister, Pat.

“I remember one time he had got this great stack of letters from a girlfriend and he said he wanted me to just tear them all up and throw them all away,’ recalls Mrs Wilkinson. 'There were girlfriends in the background but I never met any of them or knew who they were’.

Gavin Welby, who died in 1977, took many of his secrets to his grave, and his son desperately wants to know whether, unbeknown to him, he has a half-bother or half-sister.

However, The Telegraph has learnt that there were no children from his short-lived 1934 marriage to Miss Sturzenegger.

She later re-married, to Alfred Henry, a corporate accounting executive, and the couple moved to Los Angeles, where they had two children, but the family confirmed her first marriage was childless.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


The Archbishop’s father, his secret wife, an affair with a Kennedy and defaming a Labour Cabinet Minister

The new Archbishop of Canterbury's father, Gavin Welby, was a man of mystery, with a flair for reinvention and a story to rival that of the Great Gatsby.

The Archbishop’s father, his secret wife, an affair with a Kennedy and defaming a Labour Cabinet Minister
Gavin Welby, left, and Bishop Welby Photo: REUTERS

GAVIN WELBY was a man of mystery, with a flair for reinvention and a story to rival that of the Great Gatsby.
He worked his way into the upper echelons of society on both sides of the Atlantic, using a series of adopted personas. But when he died of a heart attack in 1977, alone in a flat in Kensington, his only son - the person closest to him at the end of his life - did not even know his real name or birth date.
Justin Welby, the future Archbishop of Canterbury, was only 21 at the time and studying law and history at Trinity College, Cambridge. He knew his father as an erratic and alcohol-dependent but "really, really brilliant" man who had lived an extraordinary life. But the details were unclear.
"I lived with him, but I didn't know him very well," he said yesterday. Summoned down to London to complete the formalities after the death, the heartbroken son recorded the name of his father as Gavin Bramhal Welby, born on November 28, 1914. Neither detail was correct.
The mistake was understandable, as Mr Welby Sr had hidden his identity many times. A chancer, draft dodger and adulterer, he had been sued for libel by a Cabinet minister. There was even a secret first wife that he never spoke of. But he had carefully constructed a respectable persona which allowed him to survive and to flourish, and without which his son would not have had a public school education or possibly a chance of high office.
Gavin Welby claimed a connection to the aristocratic Welbys of Lincolnshire and in particular Sir Charles Welby, the fifth baronet. He also suggested that his family owned a Scottish distillery.
These untruths helped him befriend John F Kennedy in America, becoming so close that he even dated the future president's sister Pat.
In this country, he won over senior members of the Conservative Party and the family of the deputy prime minister, Rab Butler. He married Butler's favourite niece, Jane Portal, who had been Winston Churchill's personal secretary and who would become Justin's mother.
His powerful connections helped him towards a career in politics and two failed attempts to win a seat in the House of Commons. Gavin Welbyearned enough money to send his son to Eton - although perhaps not enough for Justin to pay his way on a daily basis, leaving him the poorest child in a school house that included two Rothschilds.
The present Bishop of Durham said: "He moved quite often. I know I didn't have much money, but I don't ever remember thinking everyone else has got so much more. It was clear other people were wealthier than we were. I probably was at the bottom end. But you know, school is school, you just get on with life."
Whatever else he did in his life, Gavin Welby tried to give his son a good start. His care was returned towards the end, with the alcoholic and unwell father nursed by a loving teenage son. The Sunday Telegraph was able to share remarkable new details with Bishop Welby about the life of a man who was actually born Bernard Gavin Weiler on November 28, 1910, in Ruislip, on the outskirts of west London.
His father was a "Hebrew" German émigré also called Bernard Weiler, who had moved to Britain from Germany some 20 years earlier. Mr Weiler Sr had an elder brother called Herrman who had refused call-up papers for the army and had been stripped of German citizenship.
Much later the synagogue in the village where they came from would be burnt to the ground by the SS, and Jews sent to Nazi death camps. Several people called Weiler from the area appear on the list of victims of the Holocaust. The senior Bernard Weiler became a successful ostrich feather merchant with premises in the Barbican and in Cape Town, South Africa. He lived in a large house with his Englishborn wife Edith, who was two decades younger, as well as a cook, a maid and a nurse for the children.
But the family fortunes were hit by the First World War in 1914, and the so-called "feather crash" which saw changing fashions kill off the demand for expensive feather-adorned garments and hats.
Anti-German sentiment was strong, so the family name was changed by deed poll to Welby and Gavin's father took an agency job selling worthless "snake oil" drugs on sales trips to America. He sold an art collection, but in spite of failing health he was forced to continue making week-long voyages across the Atlantic, cramped in steerage.
Gavin took over this dubious business shortly before his father died. He was 19. As he began to spend increasing amounts of time in New York, the young man set about reinventing himself. This part of the story did enter family history and Bishop Welby said recently that he believed his father had been a bootlegger during the Prohibition era.
"I remember my father telling me [his mother] gave him £5 and put him on a boat. He said he went to New York in 1929 and traded whisky. When I was studying history, the penny dropped that Prohibition ended in 1933 ... so he was bootlegging. He was illegally trading whisky." After being told on Friday of the details of his father's life, Bishop Welby said: "He would tell me how he ran alcohol with his 'Italian friends' as he liked to call them. But he kept so much to himself."
When Prohibition ended, the inventive young man - now calling himself Gavin Bramhall James Welby - was the New York import manager for the National Distillers Production Corporation.
His job was to supply Manhattan's newly booming hotels and cocktail bars with the ingredients for their latest frozen, shaken and stirred alcoholic creations. Aged 23, with a clipped English accent, and dark, debonair good looks, he modelled himself on the Hollywood star Cary Grant. Gavin Welbyquickly became the man to know if you wanted to hold a party in one of Manhat-tan's upmarket hotels. He arranged balls for the sons and debutante daughters of New York's wealthy élite, befriending businessmen and their wives. By 1940 he was earning $7,000 (£4,300) a year, the equivalent of $116,000 (£72,000) today, and had rooms at the five-star Hotel Pierre overlooking Central Park. He could also afford to rent an apartment on the Upper East Side, where he held parties for high society.
Rather than admit to being a mere employee, Welby began hinting that his family owned one of the distilleries supplying the liquor.
The society columns of The New York Times from this period are filled with his exploits. They also reveal details of Welby's first marriage: to Doris Sturzenegger, the daughter of a wealthy factory owner, in January 1934.
Hailing from Chester, New Jersey, she was of German descent just like her new husband. "Doe" as she was known had been a student at Boston University, whose yearbook for 1930 says: "Effervescent, always with a smile, Doe's a cheerful girl, sans guile."
The marriage appears to have been very short lived. Before the year was out, she had left him. After returning first to Boston, she used her maiden name and a newlyminted American passport to sail to Britain, identifying herself as a dance teacher. There is no trace of the couple getting divorced.
After the outbreak of war in 1939, Welby remained in New York, organising parties. But when America entered the conflict he had no choice but to join up, either there or at home. In December 1942, he held a farewell party to mark his departure.
The New York Times reported: "Several hundred persons, including many prominent English men and women living here, attended a farewell reception given in the small ballroom of the Pierre by Gavin Welby, son of Mrs E James Welby of London and Surrey, who is about to join the British Army as a commissioned officer."
He received a field promotion to First Lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps, in charge of transport and supplies. However, when demobbed three years after the end of the war, he placed an announcement in The Times as "Captain" Gavin Welby, announcing that he would now be taking up residence at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York.
He also applied to Conservative Central Office, asking to be considered as a candidate for Parliament. His application forms to the party are sealed, but it is understood that he gave false details about his background, shaved several years off his age and overstated his position with the American firms that had employed him before the war.
Nevertheless, his easy manner and direct-speaking style apparently impressed the Conservative hierarchy. In 1950, he was selected to fight for Coventry East against an up-and-coming politician, Richard Crossman, who was later to become a Labour Cabinet minister.
The local Conservative party activists seem to have taken against their candidate, who continued to be based in London. A report to the constituency in January 1951 complained: "Adopted last October (Welby) has made a few visits to the Constituency, but has by no means got around the Division. I should say that he is not particularly well suited to this type of Division."
The Coventry Telegraph reported that he was heckled at the hustings. During one debate, Welby referred to the Stone Age, saying: "It was not uncommon for a man to beat his wife with a cudgel." Someone shouted: "That's private enterprise!" His brief visits to Coventry were dubbed "jetpropelled canvassing" as he took to driving around the constituency in a car with a loudspeaker, accompanied by his mother. It was reported that she had delayed an operation to join him.
Days before the poll, disaster struck. The Welby campaign team published a pamphlet entitled "Good Advice" which misquoted his opponent as saying: "Labour is not fit to govern the country ...". Crossman sued and Welby was forced to publish a grovelling apology on the eve of the election.
He had apparently approved the pamphlet but now accused his election agent of inserting the quote "entirely on your own initiative".
Crossman won a massive majority and Welby headed back across the Atlantic. Then in 1952 Walter Winchell, the king of American gossip columnists, revealed that the Englishman was dating the daughter of Joseph Kennedy, former US ambassador to Britain. Patricia was also the sister of John F Kennedy.
Alongside snippets on the love affair between Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, the columnist wrote: "JP Kennedy's daughter Pat and Gavin Welby (of the Scotch whisky clan) are intoxicated about each other." However, Patricia later married the British actor Peter Lawford. Welby returned to Britain.
During the election campaign he had met and befriended Adam Butler, the son of Rab, who would go on to be an MP, a minister and aide to Margaret Thatcher and a knight. They became so close that Welby later added a clause to his will, making Adam Butler the legal guardian of his son. He added: "I express the wish that (he) take my son to live with him ... during his infancy."
It was Adam Butler who introduced Gavin Welby to his cousin Jane Portal, the private secretary to Winston Churchill. She later said that she had been hired by Churchill as a "donkey" and "dogsbody" to do late night work, as well as taking dictation of his war memoirs. Being a niece of Rab Butler had helped her get the job. After meeting her in 1940, Churchill had said: "You'll do."
She went on to work for Churchill as he led a government after the war, helping to keep his stroke and failing health hidden from the wider world.
Gavin Welby and Jane Portal married on Monday, April 4, 1955, in Baltimore, Maryland, without their family and friends in attendance. They had apparently eloped because of disapproval from her parents. Later that month, however, the marriage was announced in The Times. A reception was held at 11Downing Street, arranged by Rab Butler.
When details of the wedding reached America, John F Kennedy wrote to his 21-yearold Swedish mistress Gunilla von Post: "Did you see in the paper that our friend — the cold, frozen Mr Gavin Welby — got married to Mr Churchill's secretary? Something must have happened."
By 1956, the Welbys were living in Onslow Square, Chelsea. Gavin had invested much of the money he had made in America and was now a Name on the Lloyds insurance market. His son was born on January 6 that year.
Justin Portal Welby was christened at Holy Trinity, Brompton, with Adam Butler and the Hon Flora Fraser, now Lady Saltoun, acting as godparents. This was the same church to which he would return for comfort after the death of his first child in a car accident in Paris, and where he first felt called to the ministry.
The marriage between his parents did not last. Within three years, Jane Welby petitioned for divorce on the grounds that her husband was "guilty of adultery". Mr Welby did not contest the claim. The divorce was finalised in February 1959. Jane Portal went on to marry Charles Williams, the former Essex county cricketer and oil executive, in 1975. When he was elevated to the House of Lords as a life peer in 1985, she became Lady Williams of Elvel.
After the marriage ended, Gavin Welby went back to dividing his time between Britain and America. He stood for Parliament again in 1955, as a last-minute replacement candidate in Goole, Yorkshire.
The local party chairman wrote: "His qualifications seem so astonishingly good ... [we] are extraordinary lucky [to have] a man of such calibre."
But Mr Welby lost again, badly.
His next notable romantic involvement was in the early Sixties, with the 23-year-old actress Vanessa Redgrave, a rising star of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Welby was now 50, but claimed to be younger.
"I have something very special to tell you," Miss Redgrave wrote to her father. "I am going to marry a sweet, darling man called Gavin Welby."
Her father, Sir Michael Redgrave, did not approve. Her mother, Rachel Kempson, wrote to him: "Vanessa is completely infatuated ... I only pray we can prevent marriage." They feared Welby was a "rotten piece of work".
The actress did eventually end the relationship. She told her father: "I have decided not to marry Gavin because, although I do love him, for various reasons I know it wouldn't work ... I had a talk with Mum this evening and realised that it is the only thing to do."
So much of this astonishing life was hidden from his son, who was moved by the story The Sunday Telegraph was able to share with him.
Bishop Welby did not know, for example, that his father had Jewish ancestry, or an older sister called Peggy.
She married a future Labour MP, the communist sympathiser Lester Hutchinson who was expelled from the party in 1949, and she died in 1983. Bishop Welby continues to wonder whether he has secret brothers or sisters.
"In many ways, I think the story you have told me brings more credit on him than the story he himself told," Bishop Welby said.
"It is the 'making good' story isn't it? It's a great thing of overcoming setbacks. I would have thought 'wow, that's a fantastic story' if he had told me about it when I was a child."
He went on: "There is no hiding the fact that he was a complicated man. He was really, really, brilliant. I think what you have said shows he was really brilliant in many ways. But there were, probably from his background, complications in his life that hindered that brilliance really being deployed fully."


Justin Welby: Secret life of my 'alcohol-dependent' father

The next Archbishop of Canterbury has described his shock at discovering the truth about his father’s secret life.

The Archbishop’s father, his secret wife, an affair with a Kennedy and defaming a Labour Cabinet Minister
Gavin Welby, left, and Bishop Welby Photo: REUTERS
In his first interview since becoming the incoming leader of the Anglican Church, Bishop Justin Welby revealed the struggles he had faced as a teenager at Eton, nursing his alcohol-dependant father whose behaviour had become increasingly erratic.
Since the age of three, Justin had been brought up alone by his businessman father, Gavin Welby, a divorcee. But he had no idea of his father’s remarkable life story, which The Sunday Telegraph has pieced together for the first time.
We were able to inform him that his father had disguised his real name and German-Jewish roots, and invented an aristocratic English persona in America, where he earned riches in the drinks industry and organising debutante balls.
He had married in America, but kept it a secret all his life, had an affair with the sister of John F Kennedy and later dated the actress Vanessa Redgrave.
He stood for Parliament as a Conservative candidate, but was sued for libel by his Labour opponent, Richard Crossman. His sister, whose identity he never disclosed, married a Labour MP who had been a Communist.
“I think it is quite a remarkable story,” said the Rt Rev Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham. “I would have thought 'wow, that’s a fantastic story’ if he had told me about it as a child.”
At the end of a tumultuous week for the next Archbishop of Canterbury, our disclosures prompted him to speak for the first time of his experiences coping with his father’s dependency on alcohol and to give an insight into how they helped shape his own faith.
“It wasn’t an easy upbringing. Living with someone who’s got an alcohol dependency is complicated, to put it at its mildest,” said Bishop Welby. “He was very affectionate, brilliant intellectually but quite demanding.”
The bishop was 21 years old, studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, when his father died of a heart attack in 1977. The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the name and date of birth given at his time of death were both wrong.
“I lived with him but I didn’t know him very well,” said Bishop Welby. “He told lots of stories but one was never really sure what was true and what wasn’t. He drank quite heavily and, you know, he would say things sometimes when he had been drinking and you did not know what was true or not.”
He said he and his family had been trying to piece the story together for years, without great success. He is desperate to know whether, unbeknown to him, he may have a half-sister or half-brother.
Bishop Welby’s mother was Jane Portal, a former personal secretary to Winston Churchill, but his father had been previously married in America to Doris Sturzenegger, a factory owner’s daughter.
Bishop Welby said: “I didn’t know about his [first] marriage.”
He asked: “You’re sure he had no other children? The reason I ask is, there were two things he said to me at one point. He had been drinking very heavily. He was right near the end of his life, and he said: 'I am very glad that I’ve got other children.’ He also said, 'I am very glad …’ something else, I don’t want to say what.
“The other thing turned out to be true, but I didn’t find that out until 20 years after his death. That has always made me wonder whether he genuinely had other children and that both statements were true.”
His father was born Bernard Gavin Weiler, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Germany, though he never told his son he had any Jewish ancestry.
“He wouldn’t talk about his family at all,” said Bishop Welby, though he did admit to his son that he had first made money bootlegging whisky alongside the Italian Mafia in America during the prohibition years. He later “went legit” running the New York concession for a major drinks firm supplying leading Manhattan hotels.
Bishop Welby said: “He would tell me how he ran alcohol with his 'Italian friends’, as he liked to call them. But he kept so much to himself. He was a great keeper of secrets.
“I think he told people the stories that he wanted them to believe and kept the rest quietly to himself.”
Our investigation has pieced together the life of a man who reinvented himself many times, here and in America, and was so successful at it that he earned enough to send his son to Eton. After being told the details, Bishop Welby said his admiration for his father as a survivor had increased.
“I think in many ways, the story you have told me brings more credit on him than the story he himself told. It is the sort of 'making good’ story isn’t it? It’s a great thing of overcoming setbacks,” he said.
“When he died, I remember feeling a deep sense of waste really. He was very good company, very sociable. He was a great raconteur.”
When told that his father had an elder sister, Peggy, born a year before him, Bishop Welby said: “He had a sister? I heard rumours of a sister. Good gracious. There were rumours of a sister whom he had fallen out with.”
Emotional at learning so much about his father, Bishop Welby added: “I feel wistful. It is the sort of thing that one would have loved to have known. To have heard from him.
“There is no hiding the fact that he was a complicated man. He was really, really brilliant. But there were, probably from his background, complications in his life that hindered that brilliance really being deployed fully.”

Monday, 5 November 2012


Jimmy Savile gave job to chief porter who had keys to the wards

Key details of how Jimmy Savile was able to gain access to NHS wards, where he abused patients, can be disclosed today.

Jimmy Savile
Savile was first invited into the Leeds hospital by its chief porter, who went on to become a paid employee of the disc jockey Photo: REX

By Jason Lewis, and Claire Duffin9:02AM GMT 04 Nov 2012
Savile used his fame for decades to cover up his activities at three hospitals – Leeds General Infirmary, Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor.

Until now it has been unclear how he came to be given rooms and keys without questions being asked.

The Telegraph can disclose that Savile was first invited into the Leeds hospital by its chief porter, who went on to become a paid employee of the disc jockey while still working at the hospital.

And his involvement at Broadmoor was rubber-stamped in 1974 by Dr David Owen, now Lord Owen, who was health minister, government papers in the National Archives disclose.

Savile had accommodation at all three hospitals and came to be in charge of Broadmoor for a period in the 1980s when he was put in charge of a task force to run the secure hospital.

Ministers have ordered inquiries into how the NHS came to allow him such access, but key details have now been uncovered that cast new light on his activities.

He was first involved in Leeds General Infirmary in 1961 when he was asked by its chief porter, Charles Hullighan, to help its new hospital radio station, and promptly volunteered as a porter.

TV Appearance: Charles Hullighan with Savile

Savile had already been questioned by police over allegations of having sex with under-age girls at dance halls he ran across the north, and had become a pirate radio disc jockey. Before he died in 1995, Mr Hullighan said: "James came to the infirmary as a volunteer porter for a few days in 1961 and he stayed for a long time. He was always available to help.

"Jimmy gave great pleasure to so many patients, and adding the many touches of humour that is so natural to his character."

Mr Hullighan became an extremely close friend of the DJ, to the extent that in 1972 he was made company secretary of the firm that dealt with Savile's earnings, despite having no business background.

It is not known whether he told hospital authorities of the business relationship, but Savile paid him a salary and contributions towards a pension, and Mr Hullighan was able to have homes in Leeds and Scarborough.

Exactly what Mr Hullighan earned is not disclosed, but in 1981, when Savile was at the height of his fame, he shared in directors' pay of £91,500, the equivalent of about £310,000 today.

Last week Mr Hullighan's widow, Beryl, declined to discuss Savile or her husband's involvement.

It can also be disclosed that the disgraced star's unrestricted role at Broadmoor secure hospital, where allegedly he sexually abused vulnerable patients, was approved by ministers at the time.

A Whitehall report signed off by Lord Owen revealed his appointment as honorary entertainments officer.

The confidential hospital advisory service report was sent to ministers in February 1974 and recommended that some patients at the secure hospital be allowed conjugal visits, supervised shopping trips, mixed wards where patients due for release could adjust to a more normal social life and "halfway house" hostels in the community.

The report by civil servants, found in the National Archives, has a section on the BBC star that says: "We were pleased to meet Jimmy Savile for a discussion of his work as Honorary Assistant Entertainments Officer."

Savile used the title and was given an office in the grounds of the hospital, a bedroom, which he called his "cell", and his own set of keys to the wards.

The report, which also went to Barbara Castle, then health secretary, outlined how Savile had raised money for a minibus for patients' families and disco equipment, and said: "Apart from the undoubted pleasure the hospital gains from having him around… he has pioneered outings for patients and has overcome opposition from outside and inside the hospital to these ventures.

"His energy, enthusiasm, sincerity and devotion to Broadmoor and its patients and staff are infectious and he performs the function of an unofficial but very successful public-relations officer outside the hospital, which can only be of great benefit for Broadmoor as a whole."

According to the surviving papers, neither Lord Owen nor officials raised any questions or passed any comment about Savile's role.

The Department of Health is now investigating the background to his appointment in 1988 as head of a task force overseeing the hospital.

Monday, 15 October 2012


Wonga faces questions over borrowing by children

Wonga, the online loans company, is facing questions about whether its checks to prevent children from borrowing cash are adequate following evidence that it has allowed under 18s to build up debts.
Wonga faces questions over borrowing by children

Wonga has faced widespread criticism over its interest rates, allegedly heavy-handed debt collection methods

By Jason Lewis, Investigations Editor8:00AM BST 14 Oct 2012175 Comments

It is the high-interest loans company which came from nowhere to become one of the fastest growing finance firms in Britain.

Wonga has faced widespread criticism over its interest rates, allegedly heavy-handed debt collection methods and, most recently, its £24 million shirt sponsorship deal Newcastle United football club, which some say will tempt impressionable young fans to get into debt.

Now Wonga.com is facing new concerns over evidence it has allowed children to borrow cash, getting themselves, their family, and friends into debt, because its checks to prevent them applying are an inadequate.

Under-18s are banned from taking out loans with the firm, and Wonga dismisses it as "fraud", but a Sunday Telegraph investigation suggests that young people are finding ways to convince Wonga’s "automated, real-time risk and decision system" that they are eligible for its 4,214 per cent APR loans.

The evidence includes:

* Cases of children who lied about their age and successfully applied for loans, building up large debts that they could not afford to repay;

* A debt relief charity says it detects a "worrying trend" with a growing number of children contacting them for help after asking 18-year old friends to take out short term loans on their behalf and then being unable to repay them;

* An MP is preparing a dossier of vulnerable young adults with learning difficulties and mental health issues who have got into debt with the firm.

Critics of Wonga, which earlier this month revealed net profits of £45.8 million for 2011, say its boast of providing cash to loan applicants within 15 minutes does not allow a sufficient "cooling off" period to think carefully about the loan they are taking out and whether they can afford it.

Wonga’s computer system checks whether applicants have a valid bank account – which can be opened by someone as young as 11 – an email address and a mobile phone number, to which it sends a unique PIN code. It also checks applicant’s addresses, asking for the surname of the "bill holder".

Applicants are also given the option of connecting through their Facebook account. Facebook users must be at least 13. "Connecting with Facebook", says Wonga, "helps us to know you better. This will improve your chances of being approved for a loan."

A leading businesswoman told The Sunday Telegraph that her son, who suffers from attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), ran up a series of debts using Wonga when he was 17.

She said: "He simply lied about his age and was able to borrow hundreds of pounds which he couldn’t afford to pay. Then debt collectors hired by Wonga came to us for the money plus interest."

Another parent said Wonga was pursuing them over loans taken out by their 17-year-old daughter on behalf of a friend, also 17. He said they did not find out until "Wonga emptied the bank account (she) uses for her education maintenance allowance and is now unable to get to college".

Wonga was set up by Israeli businessman Errol Damelin, 43, and South African Jonty Hurwitz, also 43, who helped design a mathematical model to allow the firm to issue the maximum number of loans in the shortest time possible at the minimum risk.

Rather than a bank or financial institution, Wonga is a technology firm with Mr Damelin’s ambition for it to be "world class", "like Facebook, Amazon and Apple".

The pair set up the firm in 2007, with Mr Damelin relying on his wife, Julie Blane, a marketing consultant, to cover the bills at their £580,000 East Finchley home while he paid himself just £400 a month as he built the business. By last year one of its directors, thought to be Mr Damelin, was earning £1.6 million.

The business centres on the sophisticated computer program, built by Mr Hurwitz and a team of software engineers.

The partners’ plan was simple, they would borrow from venture capitalists and issue small loans, for up to a month, to customers at a large profit.

They took out a mortgage on their computer model, repaying with an interest rate of between 7 and 12 per cent.

Although Wonga’s cost of borrowing is high – a loan of £400 for a month costs £125.48 in interest and fees – the company claims the traditional APR measure is not relevant to its short term lending.

The business took off, and has now issued more than five million loans, worth up to £1,000 each, with a maximum term of one month.

The business is helped by the lack of legislation in Britain on how much interest can be charged. Other countries, notably Australia and some US states, have placed strict caps on interest rates. Some US states have outlawed loans like Wonga’s completely.

In Britain, television advertising and Facebook marketing helped it go from a loss in 2009 to a strong operating profit.

However earlier this year the firm was criticised by the Office of Fair Trading, which warned it against letters or emails suggesting that customers may have committed fraud and telling them that Wonga would consider contacting the police.

A spokesman for the charity the Debt Advice Foundation said young people were contacting its advice line worried that they owe money to an older friend who had taken out a loan with payday companies, including Wonga, on their behalf and now finding they could not repay the debt.

She said it was evidence of a "worrying" culture change.

Stella Creasy, a Labour MP campaigning for tighter regulation of payday loans, said her office was compiling a dossier of young people who, though old enough to apply for credit, were not capable of making informed decisions and were getting into financial difficulties with the easy credit offered.

Mr Hurwitz now devotes more time to sculpture, a website of his ideas, which he calls "Binge Thinking", and a foundation for child refugees. He has a £2 million home in Haslemere, Surrey, with his wife, Oonagh.

Mr Damelin said careful checks were made to stop children obtaining loans. He said: "If somebody is using fraudulent information to get cash, and then not paying back, they are not the victim – we are the victim."

A Wonga spokesman said: "Like all online businesses, we are not 100 per cent immune to fraud, but it constitutes less than 0.1 per cent of all loans approved and we decline the majority of applications based on creditworthiness or ID-related issues."

She added that in cases of vulnerable adults getting into debt with the firm it had a "hardship team" to "manage these situations as sensitively and swiftly as possible".

Andrew Mitchell

Britain under pressure to end all aid to Rwandan government

Britain is under mounting international pressure to stop all aid to the Rwandan government.
Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, with Andrew Mitchell in his role as International Development Secretary
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, Britain's Minister for International Development Andrew Mitchell and Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni talk in Kigali Photo: REUTERS

By Jason Lewis, Investigations Editor 06 Oct 2012

The United Nations and the European Union wants the UK to withhold millions of pounds it is due to hand to President Paul Kagame's government as part of an international campaign to choke his regime of funds.

Rwanda is accused of arming rebels responsible for atrocities, including mass rape, in the neighbouring Democrat Republic of Congo.

They hope that Britain will fall in line after David Cameron replaced Andrew Mitchell as international development secretary in his Cabinet reshuffle last month.

Britain initially agreed to go along with international condemnation of Rwandan involvement and to cancel £83 million it gives it in aid each year.

But Mr Mitchell's last act in the job, before he was moved to the role of Chief Whip, had been to restore about £8m aid to the regime, with another £8m to follow later this year, apparently against the advice of officials in his department and from the Foreign Office.

He based the decision on personal assurances from the Rwandan president and on his own experiences running a small Conservative "charity" project in the country.

Officials were told his personal experience with Project Umubano outweighed evidence from a group of experts from the UN, Human Rights Watch observers and Foreign Office officials.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the UN and EU privately expressed their "disappointment" with Mr Mitchell's decision at a hastily convened international contact group meeting at the Foreign Office last month.

A source at the meeting said there were "obvious differences" between Foreign Office officials and "between different officials in the Department for International Development".

Mr Mitchell apparently also ignored police intelligence reports that suggest Rwandan dissidents living in exile in Britain are being targeted by the regime.

Last year the Metropolitan Police took the unusual step of issuing the Rwandan exiles with formal warning notices stating that "the Rwandan government poses an imminent threat to your life".

The United Nations and Europe have both accused President Kagame of giving support and weapons to the so-called 23 March Movement (known as M23) in the Democrat Republic of Congo, accusing it of attacking civilians and "acts of sexual violence".

At a meeting at the UN in New York last week the EU directly accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels. President Kagame and senior figures in his regime may now face sanctions over their links to the group and human rights abuses it has carried out.

Two new confidential reports on Rwanda's involvement with the M23 rebels were presented to Security Council officials last week and are likely to lead to further action being taken against the regime at the UN in the next few weeks.

A UN source said: "Britain's position has come as a bit of a disappointment to those who are trying to alter the position on the ground. Everyone else is united in putting pressure on Rwanda."

Britain is Rwanda's largest aid contributor and the source said its involvement in bring pressure to bear on President Kagame was "vitally important".

Internal documents from DfID, released under the Freedlom of Information Act, reveal that in a February 2011 telephone conversation, Mr Mitchell had promised the Rwandan president that Britain would increase its aid from £60m to £90m by 2015. Two months earlier, he had flown to Rwanda for a "90-minute tete-a-tete followed by lunch" with the newly re-elected president.

But the memos also reveal doubts within the department about the "political risk" in Rwanda. Mr Mitchell's ministerial colleague, Stephen O'Brien, highlighted international concern about human rights in Rwanda.

Justine Greening, the new International Development Secretary, must now decide whether Rwanda should receive the second tranche of the money promised by Mr Mitchell. Her office did not respond to requests for comment.

A DFID spokesperson said: "The Secretary of State will consider the issue of budget support to Rwanda carefully before our next decision in December."

It is understood that Mr Mitchell based his decision to continue aiding Rwanda on "personal assurances" from Mr Kagame who had previously attended the Conservative conference and lavished praise on Project Umubano calling it an "unprecedented" example of aid. He is also understood to claim, though, that the decision was later agreed by Downing Street.

The Conservatives' Rwanda project was Mr Mitchell's personal brainchild but was designed to show the caring side of Mr Cameron's Party when it was in opposition.

Now also working in Sierra Leone, the project has seen more than 200 Tory supporters, including Mr Mitchell, his wife Sharon and their daughter Rosie, fly to Rwanda for two-week stints to help as the country slowly recovers from the genocide which saw an estimated 800,000 people murdered there in 1994.

Mrs Mitchell, a GP, has also spent several months working as a doctor in Rwanda.

The Prime Minister praised the project as "the first time that any British political party had engaged in a social action project in the developing world".

He said he and Mr Mitchell had set it up "to raise awareness of global poverty and play a small part in tackling it on the front line".

Yesterday a Conservative spokeswoman said the project, which includes an annual Tories versus locals cricket match, had "provided English lessons to over 3,000 Rwandan primary school teachers, renovated a school, established a small medical library and built a community centre".

Conservative volunteers, including ministers, MPs, Parliamentary candidates and local councillors, pay their own airfares, but much of the start up money for the project came from a wealthy widow from Hove, Helena Frost.

Despite having little interest in politics, according to her family, Mr Mitchell personally persuaded Mrs Frost to provide the funding. Electoral Commission files show that before her death last November, she gave the party £250,000 in donations - £200,000 of which went to fund Mr Mitchell's office in opposition and £50,000 directly to the Rwanda project.

Last night, Mrs Frost's nephew Mark, who was close to his aunt and often accompanied her to charitable events, said he was "slightly taken aback" that she gave so much.

He said: "It would appear Mr Mitchell (was) very charming and very persuasive. It was quite a large sum which doesn't necessarily seem to fit with the amounts she ordinarily gave to the many other charities she supported.

"She was not one to meddle in politics at all and was convinced the money was going to help the poor. She would have not have given money to politicians for political use or gain, she had understood that she was helping the poor in Rwanda."

He added: "This was a private matter and she was reticent about this particular charitable donation.

"She was a wonderful woman who had a great passion for certain causes and for many people. I can only imagine that this may have been the case on this particular case for her to have contributed such large sums to a single cause."

He said Mr Mitchell had been introduced to her through another charity that he was involved with and to which Mrs Frost, who had a considerable personal fortune and had also set up a £6 million charitable foundation in the name of her late husband Patrick, had contributed large sums.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Doting wife loses everything after acting as perfect hostess for fraudster Nicholas 'Beano' Levene

He was the flamboyant and charming stockbroker with a reputed golden touch and she was the perfect hostess, loving wife and doting mother.

Nicholas and Tracey Levene.
Nicholas and Tracey Levene. Photo: Edward Lloyd/Alpha

By Jason Lewis, Investigations Editor and Simon Griver in Tel Aviv
7:00AM BST 30 Sep 2012

Together Nicholas and Tracey Levene befriended multimillionaires who he then persuaded to hand over huge amounts of cash for him to invest.

But in reality “Beano” Levene, nicknamed for his love of the boyhood comic rather than his passion for the high life, was gambling the cash and using it to pay for the couple’s life of luxury.

Levene was running a classic “Ponzi” scheme. Behind the facade, his wealth was built on a fantasy of business acumen and was paid for with other people’s money.

Last week the 48 year-old pleaded guilty to running a £32 million fraud stealing from British investors. He is facing a long prison term. In legal cases in Britain and Israel, a series of victims are trying to salvage the money they entrusted to him.

In fact, it can be disclosed, Israel was a second centre of operations for “Beano”, whose nickname there was “Nick the King”. His life in Britain and Israel ran in parallel: a friend to the wealthy, and lavish in his partying, he made friends who became clients to whom he promised healthy returns.

He offered shares in companies that included HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Imperial Energy and Rio Tinto. He told clients he had access to shares unavailable to ordinary investors, which he would trade at a supposedly huge profit.

In the end it came crashing down because the money he had supposedly been investing had been used for spread betting. Instead of buying shares, he would place his clients’ funds in bets on stock market levels and individual shares.

If the share price went up, Levene would pay his clients returns. But when the price fell, he had to pay the spread betting firms. That meant taking new investments and using those to pay his liabilities.

Eventually, the edifice collapsed, leaving clients including Brian Souter and Ann Gloag — the Stagecoach founders who lost £10 million — out of pocket.

From April 2005, he simply stole his investors’ stakes, faked paperwork, and duped new victims to keep the money coming in. He will be sentenced on Oct 22.

The rise of “Beano” began when he returned from Israel to Britain. His electrician father, Martin, and his mother, Anne, had emigrated from their home in Stanmore, north-west London, when Levene was 15.

He served in the Israeli military and worked as a hotel bell boy, but found his real home in the City. It was the peak of the 1980s boom when he started trading, aged 21. Known for his gift of the gab, he used his North London connections to win clients and kudos from his employers.

With his wife Tracey — the couple have three children — he socialised with Sir Philip Green, the retail tycoon, the Tchenguiz brothers and Richard Caring, owner of Annabel’s, the nightclub, and The Ivy restaurant.

By 2004 he had donated £10,000 to the Conservative Party and claimed Howard Leigh, then treasurer, as a “close friend”, although Mr Leigh later said: “I wouldn’t call us close friends, we didn’t go to each other’s homes.”

As markets rose, his promise of 12 per cent returns earned him a £2 million five-bedroom house in Hertfordshire with a heated outdoor swimming pool and cinema room. In Israel there was a £3.4 million villa in Herzliya, Tel Aviv’s wealthiest district, and a home in Eilat on the Red Sea for his parents. The Saturdays, the girl band, played at the bar mitzvah of Levene’s son Daniel.

However, just as his gambling grew in London, in Israel he was also finding victims, including, it can be disclosed, Daniel Jammer, a multi-millionaire German-born Israeli.

Mr Jammer had been celebrating when he met Levene in 2008. His football club, Maccabi Netanya, had gone top of the Israeli Premier League, and Levene, who had been vice chairman of Leyton Orient, offered to buy a stake in his team.

Levene would later claim to have a gambling addiction after losing £50  million. When he met Mr Jammer, Levene owed huge amounts to spread betting firms. The Levenes became friends with Mr Jammer and his wife, holidaying at the Jammers’ Ibiza villa, with Levene offering to cut his new friend in on a major stock flotation.

Last week Mr Jammer declined to talk to The Sunday Telegraph, but his bitterness at the betrayal is clear in court papers filed in Tel Aviv. The documents show Mr Jammer agreed to give Levene £9 million to buy shares in a German transport company but when the flotation fell through Levene failed to return the cash.

Mr Jammer was convinced Mrs Levene was part of the deception – his legal team claim she convinced Mrs Jammer to get her husband to invest. “From conversations they have since had with another couple from abroad who fell victim to the Levenes’ tricks, it became apparent that Tracey knew well even before the money was passed on to Levene that he would neither invest it nor return it,” the papers claimed. The court heard he “was deep in debt and was not able to pay back many people including family members”.

The Jammers tried to force Tracey Levene to sell the villa in Tel Aviv. It was in Mrs Levene’s name but was heavily mortgaged by her husband. The Israeli court ruled that Mrs Levene was unaware of her husband’s Ponzi scheme, but she still lost her Israeli home to British creditors.

A source at the Israeli accountancy firm Deloitte Brightman Almagor Zohar said Mrs Levene’s villa and the home of Sarah Levene Goffer, his sister, were seized and sold, along with an Eilat apartment registered to Levene’s parents, and home contents detailed as “expensive furniture, paintings, and carpets”.

Last week the Levenes’ home in Hertfordshire was listed with four agents priced at £2 million. Land registry documents show Levene had remortgaged the property in September 2008 and within three months a string of creditors had applied for a share in the proceeds of a future sale.

Pictures of the property show a house lined with family pictures and paintings of horse racing and traditional Jewish scenes. But the family have moved out and much of the contents are expected to be sold to pay something towards Levene’s huge debts.

For Levene, the parties in Britain and Israel are very much over.

Killing in Annecy

Gun in Annecy killing may be connected to the region

The killer in the French Alps murder used a gun which may be closely connected to the region, the Sunday Telegraph has learned.
France shooting: Three victims were shot in the head
Police around the BMW at the scene of the shooting in woods near Chevaline in the French Alps Photo: Daily Telegraph

Harriet Alexander in Annecy and Jason Lewis, Investigations Editor
8:30AM BST 16 Sep 2012

Sources close to the investigation have disclosed that Saad al-Hilli, a British engineer, his wife, mother in law and a French cyclist, were shot with a Luger P08, a highly-distnctive weapon which was standard issue to the Swiss Army.

The disclosure raises the possibility that the killer is connected to the areas as the scene of the crime is less than 40 miles from Switzerland.

It comes as The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the French investigation on the ground is being “scaled back” with many of the 120 officers originally on the case returning to normal duties.

French sources said that by last night only 40 gendarmes remained on the case, with many of the Parisian detectives having returned to their base Rosny-sous-Bois in the capital.

In addition to the French forces, 40 British officers were working on the case in the UK, where the French detectives say they are convinced the cause of the crime will be found. A major forensic search was still under way at the family home in Claygate, Surrey, last night, conducted by British officers.

There was also confusion after reports in France that police are looking for a black Mitsubishi Pajero with British number plates in relation to shooting were denied by officers.

Mr al-Hilli, 50, his wife Ikbal, 47, Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, and Sylvain Mollier, 45, a local cyclist, were shot dead in a car park on a remote road, close to Annecy, in the French Alps. The family was on a camping holiday nearby.

Their daughter Zainab, seven, was shot and pistol whipped but their other daughter, Zeena, four, survived. Both are now being cared for in Britain by relatives.

However questions were raised last night by British experts over the conduct of the inquiry, including whether the crime scene had been properly examined and whether the couple’s two children were being used properly as witnesses.

It is now know that the investigators have concluded the gun involved was a Luger P08 gun, which fires highly distinctive 7.65mm calibre bullets and has a capacity of eight rounds.

Given that there were around 25 bullets fired, and the prosecutor confirmed that only one gun was used, the investigators think that the gunman may have used three magazines.

The origins of the gun will be of huge interest to investigators.

Chevaline, where the murders took place, is just 40 miles from the Swiss city of Geneva. The Luger P08 was standard issue for the Swiss army between 1900 and 1945.

Tens of thousands of weapons and ammunition were handed out to all men of military age, who were ordered to store it in their homes. The Swiss army has always been a conscript force made up of all men of fighting age.

The ammunition, which is 21 mm long, is now rare and is used with very few other weapons. The bullets for the Luger P08 are also all marked with their date of manufacture.

Philip Boyce, an internationally recognised UK firearms expert, said: “The ammunition would either have been stored in a dry place since the 1940s or would have to be specially purchased, and therefore would be easily traced. Most Lugers fire 9mm rounds.

“This sort of weapon, because of the non-standard ammunition, would be quite unusual.”

Last week, Eric Maillaud, the prosecutor for Annecy, confirmed that the weapon was a semi-automatic, firing 7.65mm ammunition. But he refused to go into detail about the type of gun, leading to claims that it was a Skorpion, a Czech-made machine pistol developed in the 1950s for use by security and special forces.

The prosecutor also refused repeatedly to discuss the specifics, but The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the lethal shots were fired at close range - probably less than three feet away.

The significant development comes as questions were beginning to emerge about the inquiry into the multiple murders.

When local gendarmes arrived they had — as protocol dictated — “frozen” the scene, not touching the car or the corpses, until the forensic specialists arrived from Paris. This meant that the al-Hilli’s four-year-old daughter Zeena endured eight hours cowering beneath the legs of her dead mother before she was found.

Local officials were forced to wait until the Institute for Criminal Investigations for the National Gendarmerie arrived from their base in a Paris suburb.

Rivalries between the gendarmes and the police, a separate force, appear to have prevented them from calling in expertise from the National Institute for Scientific Policing, based near Lyon, only a 90 minute drive away - because that is a police rather than gendarme division.

In Britain detectives and forensic teams would have immediately gone to work, rather than “freezing” the scene.

“From the senior investigators point of view, the crime scene provides the best opportunity for evidence,” said retired Detective Superintendent Robert Bridgestock, who led 26 murder inquiries during a 30 year career at West Yorkshire Police.

“You would order a meticulous examination of the vehicle and the surrounding area. You would seal it off until such time as you had secure every scrap of evidence.

“More often than not there will be something, however small, or insignificant it may seem, that will lead you to him.”

There has also been surprise at the speed with which the forensic examination of the scene ended. Although the day after the murder, the area was still cordoned off, there was no visible tent erected to protect the crime scene from the elements - something that would be standard in Britain, and the family’s burgundy BMW was removed within 24 hours of the shooting.

There was also surprise that on Friday afternoon — 48 hours after the crime had taken place, the road up to the murder scene was reopened.

Tyre marks still visible showed the car reversed at speed, and television pictures showed bloodied pebbles and discarded bullet casings. Broken glass was left on the gravel — whether from this crime or a previous incident — and an ancient car radio, its wires yanked out, was still lying on the bank.

Whether the police performed a detailed “fingertip” search, on their hands and knees in the ravine and across the area, is not known.

Mr Bridgestock said: “It would be unusual to leave anything behind at the crime scene. British officers would remove and retain everything even if it appeared insignificant.”

Seven-year-old Zainab, who was shot and pistol-whipped in the attack, suffering a fractured skull, returned to England on Friday after telling authorities that she had seen “a nasty man”.

Zainaib’s life was saved by British cyclist Brett Martin, a retired RAF pilot, who found her in front of the car and administered first aid before leaving the scene to call emergency services. Her younger sister, although unharmed, has been dismissed as a witness and will not be questioned further. The French investigators insist she saw nothing.

Mr Bridgestock said British detectives would have taken a different approach. He said: “The fact is they are the only living witnesses who were there when the attack took place. It takes time and patience, but they would have seen and heard things no one else could and may provide the vital clue that leads you to the killer.”

French prosecutor Eric Maillaud, who is leading the investigation, said last week that three lines of inquiry were being followed and them as a family conflict over money; Saad al-Hilli’s sensitive work as an aeronautic engineer; and his “Iraqi origins”.

However Mr Bridgestock said: “It is easy for an inquiry to get sidetracked. To follow one theory at the expense of others. It is always a danger and you have to keep an open mind and follow the evidence. You must focus of what the crime scene is telling you. Follow the physical evidence and the witness statements. It is too easy to focus on, for example, one victim. There are four people dead and the target could be any one of them or it could be a random attack and they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Despite the questions French authorities are resolute that they will solve it.

“We’re determined to crack this,” said one senior French investigator.

“The focus may have shifted to Britain, but the French are set on solving it themselves. We want to see this through.”