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Rinkagate: The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Thorpe Paperback – 17 Jul 1997
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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.
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The principal author of Rinkagate is Simon Freeman, his collaborator is Barrie Penrose. It is difficult to properly understand the circumstances that led to and surrounded the trial of Thorpe without going into a great deal of detail about the life of Thorpe, of Norman Josiffe, later known as Norman Scott and the other principal characters in the story. At times it goes down by roads that appear unnecessary, but the tale of Jeremy Thorpe’s trial does need a knowledge of the broader picture to discover how tatty the English establishment is. A worthwhile read as the Jeremy Thorpe trial will live on for many years as an illustration of how the people at the top look after their own.
In his informative and well crafted book Simon Freeman charts the rise and fall of a gifted political actor whose never still ambition was unable to triumph over human frailty. Freeman describes in thorough detail Thorpe's ill judged friendship with a disturbed groom who was to be overwhelmed by the fixation that this high profile politician was to blame for many of his subsequent misfortunes. Rightly the author does not spare his subject and a reader is soon aware that although Thorpe possessed the natural charisma to win many friends he would quickly abandon even the most loyal if circumstances so demanded.
Freeman draws the reader's attention to two important matters. The one sided view in favour of Thorpe and his co-defendants adopted by the trial judge at the expense of the prosecution witnesses has been well documented but the author also emphasises the point that the money hungry adventurer tasked to frighten or murder Scott was in possession of live rounds well capable of terminating the life of both a human being and a large dog. Scott's mental state has always been the subject of conjecture and his reaction to the death of his great dane was extreme. It is certainly within the bounds of possibility that this obsessive animal lover might have felt compelled to take the bullet. History would have then been very different.
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