NORMAN SCOTT: I thought I must kill Jeremy Thorpe – then myself

I was wild, irrational and saw only one way out of this mess: I must kill Jeremy Thorpe – then myself, writes victim NORMAN SCOTT, who kept his silence for 50 years

In the first extract from his compelling new book in yesterday’s Daily Mail, Norman Scott told the horrifying story of how, aged just 21, vulnerable and mentally unstable, he was raped by the Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe after appealing to him for help. 

Today, in the second extract, he explains how, in the belief that the powerful politician would help him recover his lost National Insurance cards, he reluctantly agreed to continue having sex with him. 

It was a decision that would have nightmarish consequences… 

In 1974, my life became like the plot of a dystopian thriller. Alarming things had started to happen, inexplicable events that had me rushing to my doctor for tranquillisers. 

I was living in a remote bungalow on Exmoor. First, someone telephoned the local social security office, pretending to be the Conservative MP Michael Heseltine, to ask where I lived.

Fortunately, the officer who took the call suspected it was from an impostor. It was: when the real Michael Heseltine was contacted, he denied all knowledge of it.

Then, for no apparent reason, helicopters started circling above the bungalow. This went on for some time until, one day, I saw a helicopter land nearby.

I watched as two burly men – one wearing a rally jacket and the other a shiny mohair suit – came walking across the fields to the bungalow. By then, I was so rattled that I’d drawn the curtains and crouched against the front door.

Norman Scott explains how in the belief that the powerful politician Jeremy Thorpe would help him recover his lost National Insurance cards, he reluctantly agreed to continue having sex with him

They thumped on it, shouting my name. After that, they moved off towards the stables before returning to pound on the door again. Eventually they gave up and left.

Another time, as I was driving down a lane in my Morris 1100, the brakes failed. Luckily, I was able to come to a halt in a hedge. When the local garage investigated, they discovered the brake cables had been cut. At best, someone was trying to hurt me. At worst, he wanted me dead.

Terrified, I decided to leave Exmoor and move in with some friends, Janet and Chris, in Barnstaple. In my spare time, I’d go for walks with Janet’s dog Rinka, a Great Dane. Her gentle nature and huge size comforted me.

A few months later, however, I was on my own, walking back from a pub, when I heard a man shout my name. Suddenly another man appeared and the next thing I knew, they were beating me up. They broke my teeth and I was so badly battered that I had to be taken to hospital.

I had no doubt who was behind all these threatening events. Jeremy Thorpe, the much esteemed leader of the Liberal Party, was sending me a spine-chilling message: shut up, or else… As I recounted in the Daily Mail yesterday, I’d gone to Jeremy for help in 1961 after a suicide attempt landed me in a psychiatric hospital. I’d met him just a few months before that, when he came to visit my employer, a three-day eventer called Van.

I was just 21, and he was 11 years older. The total extent of our conversation had been for less than a minute, while I was grooming a horse. Bizarrely, Jeremy had given me his card and asked me to call if I ran into problems.

Delusional from the prescription drugs I was taking at the time, I’d eventually gone to find Jeremy at the House of Commons. He’d then taken me back to his mother’s flat and brutally raped me.

Importantly, however, he’d offered to look after me and promised to get my National Insurance cards back from Van – without which I couldn’t legally take a job.

Why didn’t I run away? I loathed the sex, not least because I’d only ever had girlfriends. But I was mentally vulnerable, I had no money, no work and nowhere to go.

‘I want to keep you safe. I’ll see you this evening,’ said Jeremy, the day after he raped me. That night, he took me to the Reform Club. The place was full of elderly and middle-aged men, all with an aura of authority. I had a strong sense that they were looking down their noses at me.

When we’d finished our meal, Lord Reith, the dour former director-general of the BBC, came over to join us for a glass of port. He and Jeremy began talking about some Treasury matter, about which I knew nothing. I sat quietly, looking around the room, until Lord Reith said: ‘Our young friend doesn’t seem very interested. Perhaps he should give his opinion.’

Jeremy jumped in quickly: ‘Oh, this is my ward. He lives in the country and wouldn’t have any opinion.’ This was the first time he described me, dismissively, as his ward – a lie he repeated many times.

Back at my small rented room in Chelsea, I didn’t even think of resisting him; sex, it seemed, was something I’d have to endure in return for his friendship and help. That evening set the pattern for our encounters. When Jeremy finished work, he’d drive to my building and toot the horn on his car. I’d throw down the keys, he’d let himself in and then have sex with me.

Jeremy Thorpe, Liberal Party leader, and his bride – formerly Caroline Allpass – after their wedding at Lambeth Palace, London

I never initiated it and he never asked if I minded. He was undoubtedly fond of me – and, at a time when gay sex was still illegal, I was clearly a safer option than casual pick-ups. He also knew that, in me, he’d found someone so damaged, so wretchedly in need of affection, that I’d put up with his abuse.

At times, he’d seem caring and I could almost convince myself I loved him, as long as I blocked out the sex. Sitting in the gallery at the Commons, I’d feel proud to be the friend of such a charismatic MP.

Only much later did I understand that Jeremy was a Jekyll and Hyde character. I was on the receiving end of affection and manipulation, of rare tenderness and frequent abuse – a very unhealthy combination. 

Weeks turned into months. I helped with constituency work, door-to-door canvassing and delivering leaflets for the Liberal Party. I assumed Jeremy would be paying the all-important ‘stamp’ on my National Insurance cards but whenever I asked for them back, he’d just say the matter was in hand.

Later, he helped find me a job as a groom with a rich family in Somerset, where he’d visit as often as he could. During one encounter, something in me just snapped.

I demanded my cards back – my employer had been asking for them – and said I wanted to finish with him. ‘I don’t want this any more,’ I said. ‘I can’t bear it.’

Jeremy’s face turned to stone. ‘I’ve got the Home Secretary and the Director of Public Prosecutions on my side,’ he said, a cold saturnine smile on his face. ‘You can’t hurt me.’ Although I wasn’t sure what he meant, I felt terribly shaken.

My job came to an end. I found another one, at a local riding stable, but without my cards I couldn’t continue to work there. Slowly, I spiralled down into clinical depression, at one point trying to slash my wrists. 

Why did I return to Jeremy? It was the cursed cards again – I’d called him about them yet again, and he invited me to town for dinner. As I was too weak to fight off his advances, our sexual relationship resumed.

Hugh Grant playing Jeremy Thorpe in BBC One’s A Very English Scandal Jeremy Thorpe

The only difference now was that I often stayed in Jeremy’s flat near Whitehall, to which he’d bring men – usually sailors – back for the night. His appetite for risk-taking was immense. Whenever he asked me to make up a threesome with some hulking sailor, I’d leave the flat. 

One evening, it was raining so I asked to borrow Jeremy’s overcoat, then headed out for a walk. Later, as I was strolling back through the rain, a car began following me. I heard the window winding down, then Jeremy’s voice trying to entice me into the car. Not satisfied with his pick-up, he’d gone out in search of another – and hadn’t recognised me in his overcoat.

The weeks dragged by. I find it hard to believe what I did next, but I was out of my mind. I was a young, broken person, highly medicated and miserable. In my wild, irrational state, I could see only one way out of this awful mess: I must kill Jeremy and then do away with myself. In my deluded state, I rang a friend to tell her what I was going to do – and she called the police. 

I was taken to Canon Row police station, where I told the officers all about Jeremy. The police, probably concluding I was completely mad, kept saying I had no evidence – so I showed them a bundle of letters from him, including one where he called me ‘Bunnies’ and another in which he called me ‘my angel’ and said all he wanted was to share a farm in Devon with me.

After reading these, the officers’ manner changed; they were finally taking me seriously. But all they said was that I was free to go.

I later discovered that they passed the matter up to MI5, but absolutely nothing was done.

By 1965, I was living in Ireland, jobless again and in a bad mental state, yet Jeremy was still blocking all my attempts to get my cards back. In despair, I wrote to his mother, Ursula, who was a justice of the peace.

‘For a long time, I believe, it was to ensure I stayed with him. Then after we broke up, they provided a ploy to lure me back. And after that, I think he just kept them out of spite. Perhaps his inherent meanness also played a part. He just didn’t want to pay up,’ writes Mr Scott (above)

In the letter, I was frank about my sexual relationship with her son, which I was convinced she was already aware of and asked for her help with retrieving my cards.

I was utterly fixated on them, because I wanted to return to England and get a job. Yes, I could have claimed I’d lost them and got new ones but I would have lost all my accrued benefits – including entitlements to a pension and unemployment pay. So why did Jeremy hold on to them? 

For a long time, I believe, it was to ensure I stayed with him. Then after we broke up, they provided a ploy to lure me back. And after that, I think he just kept them out of spite. Perhaps his inherent meanness also played a part. He just didn’t want to pay up.

I heard nothing back from Ursula, and my mental health continued to deteriorate. Then, one day, a man called Peter Bessell asked me to have breakfast with him at a Dublin hotel. I’d never met him, though his name was vaguely familiar.

Mr Bessell had reddish hair and a deeply lined face. He told me how appalling it was for me to have written to Mrs Thorpe. As a result, he said, the Home Secretary had issued an extradition order to bring me back.

It was only when Mr Bessell mentioned he was a Liberal MP that I realised he must be part of some cover-up, instigated by Jeremy. Needless to say, there was no extradition order.

Jeremy Thorpe is pictured. Norman Scott writes: ‘Jeremy had married a girl called Caroline Allpass, which came as a surprise. He’d once told me that having sex with a woman was like making love to a cold rice pudding’

A few days later, Mr Bessell contacted me again. He was doing what he could about my cards, he said, and in the meantime would pay me a retainer equivalent to the unemployment benefit I could have claimed with fully stamped cards. And he kept his word: every week, I received £5 (£80 now) in cash in an envelope, along with a note on House of Commons paper: ‘Here is your retainer for this week.’

Over the next few years, during which Jeremy became leader of the Liberal Party in 1967, my life took a new turn.

After doing some test shots for photographers, I’d become a male model (paid in cash) in Swinging Sixties London.

I did test-shots wearing Michael Fish’s iconic designs, and worked on shoots for various designers and clients including the Irish Wool Secretariat, Guinness, and a wonderful clothes shop called Quincy Jones in Mayfair. I went to glamorous parties, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull.

I also had lovers of both sexes and in 1969, when my then girlfriend, Sue Myers, was pregnant, I got married. Meanwhile, Jeremy had married a girl called Caroline Allpass, which came as a surprise. He’d once told me that having sex with a woman was like making love to a cold rice pudding.

As modelling jobs were too sporadic to support a family, I asked Mr Bessell once more to get my cards back from Jeremy. As usual, he said he was trying to sort things out. Feeling desperate, I called Jeremy’s wife, Caroline. Shocked when I explained who I was, she told me there was nothing she could do and abruptly hung up.

Almost 50 years on, the trial of politician Jeremy Thorpe for the attempted murder of Norman Scott remains shocking — how the suave leader of the Liberal Party sexually abused and raped a much younger, mentally ill man who he subsequently, it was alleged, tried to have murdered. (Above, Mr Scott in the 1970s)

I wonder now if that phone call suddenly made Jeremy see me in a different light: not simply as an inconvenience but as a threat to his marriage, his social standing and burgeoning political career. Indeed, that three-minute call may well have triggered his desire to get rid of me once and for all.

Much as I adored my new son Benjamin, my marriage didn’t even last a year. I became severely depressed again – at which point Mr Bessell stepped in to offer me a world cruise, plus a holiday in Florida. Suspecting something fishy was going on, I declined.

In 1971, still hoping to get my cards back, I ended up going to the House of Commons to meet the MP David Steel – who later took over as leader of the Liberals.

When I told him about my relationship with Jeremy and subsequent dealings with Mr Bessell, he said: ‘I just don’t believe you. I don’t believe this could have happened.’

I produced the letters Bessell had sent with the retainers. ‘Did I make this up?’ I asked, handing them to Steel.

I have never seen anyone turn so pale. Even his hair seemed about to go white.

Presumably he’d recognised the risk that the truth posed to Jeremy and, by extension, the Liberals.

I was invited to a meeting two days later at the House of Lords, where we were joined by Lord Byers, a Liberal peer. After I’d once again told my story, Lord Byers’s response was to call me a common blackmailer and suggest I needed medical treatment.

I was enraged. Lord Byers had been one of the dignitaries Jeremy and I dined with at the Reform Club, years before, who’d accepted Jeremy’s lies about me being his ward. But there was nothing I could do.

In the end, I moved to North Devon, working intermittently with horses. It was then that I became subject to a sinister series of events.

After the episode with the men from the helicopter, I went to see the local GP, Dr Ron Gleadle. I told him all about Jeremy and he readily upped my already high dosages of tranquillisers and sleeping pills.

A few weeks later, on a February evening, Dr Gleadle knocked on the door. His voice was agitated. ‘The documents,’ he said. ‘Where is the file with all your notes from Mr Bessell and the correspondence from Mr Thorpe? There’s someone who’ll pay really good money.’

‘Is this a good idea?’ I stammered, completely taken aback.

‘It’s a very good idea.’ Gleadle spoke forcefully.

‘How much money do you want? At the moment, I think the sky’s the limit.’

I was muddle-headed from my pills and could barely speak, let alone ask for any money. But he kept demanding the letters so, as he’d been kind to me in the past, I handed them over. Then I fell into a drugged sleep.

I woke up with a muzzy head and gradually recalled what had happened. Without the letters, I realised, I had no proof that my story about the cards was true.

I rushed to the health centre and barged into Dr Gleadle’s office, demanding my letters back. ‘Too late,’ he replied, showing me paying-in slips for £2,500 (more than £32,000 today) into my bank account.

Not knowing what else to do, I spent the money. I bought a small green Morris 1100 and drinks for everyone at the local pub. It was soon after this that someone cut my brake cables.

After all the money had gone, my situation declined rapidly. I lost a job at a Barnstaple menswear shop when it closed, and – hating to be a burden to my friends – ended up homeless for six weeks.

Jeremy was now at the peak of his career and had remarried, following the death of his wife in a car accident. His second wife, Marion, was a concert pianist who’d previously been married to the Earl of Harewood, a cousin of the Queen. To my dismay, I discovered that the Thorpes had a thatched cottage just five miles away, in the village of Cobbaton.

By the summer of 1975, I’d found a haven at the Market Inn in Barnstaple, where I helped out at the bar. I also found a new GP, who was horrified by the amount of drugs Dr Gleadle had prescribed for me. (Partly through his efforts, Gleadle was later struck off.)

Then I started receiving odd phone calls. One was from a man calling himself Ian Wright. ‘I work for Pensiero Fashions in London. Can you get your a**e up here?’ he said. ‘We want you for two weeks’ modelling at £400 a week.’

It was years since I’d been on the books of a modelling agency; I said I’d think about it and call back. But when I rang the number he’d given, it was for a phone box at an Underground station. And when I checked the directory for Pensiero Fashions, there was no company of that name.

Another caller told the pub landlady he wanted to buy a camera from me. She hung up on him. A few weeks later, I was accosted by two police officers, who insisted on taking me down to the local station. They started by asking me about the payment I’d received from Dr Gleadle. Did I still have copies of the letters he’d taken, they wanted to know.

Then one of them said: ‘We need your documents or there’s somebody not a million miles from Cobbaton who won’t be sleeping easy in his bed tonight. If you don’t co-operate, I have the power to lock you away and you won’t see the light of day for 14 years.’

I was bundled into a police car and driven back to the inn so they could pick up any remaining letters. Then, as a final insult, the police flung me into a cell marked Females. Shortly after this, a man with tousled grey hair came to the cell with another officer. ‘You’ve been a very naughty boy, saying these things about a decent man,’ he said. ‘You’re lying about Jeremy Thorpe, aren’t you, you nasty little so-and-so?’

I gave a nervous laugh and exclaimed: ‘I most certainly am not lying!’ Exploding with anger, the man whacked my head against the wall, twice, then walked out. My head throbbed with pain for the rest of the night.

The next day, I was released and my letters were copied and returned to me. Before I left, one of the officers took me aside to warn me that I didn’t realise what danger I was in.

Even my solicitor, whom I’d summoned to help me, was concerned. He’d been told by the police that they feared I’d be badly hurt if I stayed in the locality – and he advised me to leave the country altogether.

I was now seriously frightened – jumpy and constantly looking over my shoulder. But never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted what would happened next… 

Adapted extract from An Accidental Icon: How I Dodged A Bullet, Spoke Truth To Power And Lived To Tell The Tale, by Norman Scott, published by Hodder & Stoughton on April 7 at £22. © Norman Scott 2022. To order a copy for £19.80, visit or call 020 3176 2937 by April 16. UK p&p free on orders over £20.

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