Ex-spook admits giving ‘big, big’ names to sex dossier MP

Written By: Andrew Rosthorn
Published: February 4, 2015 Last modified: October 25, 2016

A former British spy admits passing names of ‘sexual deviants’ to Geoffrey Dickens, the MP who compiled ‘dossiers of secret shame’ for Margaret Thatcher’s home secretary Leon Brittan.

The list included the leader of the Commons in Thatcher’s first cabinet, arts minister Norman St John-Stevas.

Tony Holland, now a wealthy Australian stock market investor, spied for MI6 in South Africa in 1969 when he worked as an engineer on the design of the Rössing opencast uranium mine, being constructed in the Namibian desert for the international firm RTZ with South African and Iranian finance.

At his son’s home in Melbourne yesterday, Holland, 79, said:

Around April 1982 I gave a list of names to Geoff Dickens when we met by accident in a first class coach on a two-hour train journey from Yorkshire to London. He was wearing a fancy waistcoat and he looked like a spiv. We were both big fellows at the time.

I had serious legal problems with the West Yorkshire police. My former paymasters in the intelligence services had stage-managed my release from an English prison for a new life in Australia – but I was desperate to clear my name.

I offered to help Dickens with his head hunting of ‘high level deviants’ if he would help me with my own problems. I then told him how we had spied on Norman St John-Stevas and his friend Lord Robin Maugham, with their young boyfriends and guardsmen in both London and Brighton. Sex with men under 21 was still illegal in those days.

The trouble with Dickens was that as far as he was concerned all gay men were paedophiles. He saw no difference.

We joked about ‘shirt lifters’ and ‘babba stabbers’ and laughed about their life style. I related a story to him about Oscar Wilde and told him Wilde’s wife had changed her name to Holland, but they were gladly no relation to me. He laughed and I laughed with him as he tried to say the word ‘pedophile’, emphasizing the ‘ped’, which for some reason he couldn’t say properly.

John Anthony Holland had been a long-term freelance ‘asset’ for the secret services.

Working in South Africa for Fraser and Chalmers, an engineering subsidiary of the British firm Mitchell Cotts, he reported to MI6 in London on a meeting he attended in Johannesburg between mine engineers and the charismatic Israeli defence minister Moshe Dayan.

Moshe Dayan had signed a clandestine trade agreement under which South Africa ensured supplies of uranium oxide for the Israeli atom bomb project at Dimona.

Rössing became the world’s third-largest opencast uranium mine, lying in a desert that was controlled unlawfully by South Africa and therefore beyond the supervision of international inspectors. It became the source of un-monitored supplies of uranium oxide ‘yellowcake’ for rogue nations seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

In an unpublished memoir, now being handled by Nick Hudson, the Australian publisher of the notorious book Spycatcher, Tony Holland wrote:

Dayan wasn’t wearing his eye patch, and there was a gouged eye underneath.

We were told that if anyone recognised him and asked what he was doing in Johannesburg, we were to say that he was there for an operation on the eye.

They weren’t supposed to be developing their own bomb, but we helped them by turning a blind eye.

Norman St John-Stevas on screen at the moment of Thatcher's General Election victory in 1979

Norman St John-Stevas on screen at the moment of Thatcher’s General Election victory in 1979

Holland says he helped to fit miniature television cameras in the ceiling lights of houses in London and Brighton during a black operation to spy on the relationship between an openly bisexual Tory peer, the author Robin Maugham, and Norman St John-Stevas, the colourful Tory MP for Chelmsford who famously described his prime minister as ‘The Leaderene’.

The names on Holland’s list were, he says, simply ‘potential blackmail risks’. The surveillance in defence of government security had not been intended to lead to criminal prosecutions.


He says he was unaware that Geoffrey Dickens, a former heavyweight boxer from London, elected as the Conservative MP for Huddersfield West, had become obsessed with witchcraft, satanic ritual child abuse and homosexuality.

Dickens compiled at least seven so-called ‘dossiers’ before he died in 1995.

Amid allegations of a high-level cover-up of sex offenders in the Thatcher years, Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale and author of a book alleging child sex abuse by the former MP for Rochdale Cyril Smith, claimed in 2014 that Sir Edward Garnier MP, a former Tory solicitor general, had tried to stop him naming Lord Brittan in a parliamentary committee:

I’d never spoken to him before in my life but he blocked my way and ushered me to one side. He said: ‘I hear you’re about to challenge Lord Brittan about when he knew about child sex abuse. It wouldn’t be a wise move. It was all put to bed a long time ago.’ He warned me I could even be responsible for his death.

After Danczuk went ahead and alleged in the Commons that Leon Brittan had seen a ‘bundle’ of papers describing paedophile activity at Westminster, Lord Brittan stated that he passed Dickens’s 40-page dossier to Home Office officials for an investigation and that Dickens had later thanked him for his help.


Sir Edward Garnier, a QC who has prosecuted paedophiles, told the Leicester Mercury later:

Simon Danczuk’s remarks are beneath contempt as he ought to know. He describes an encounter. It was a conversation. I spoke to him and he knows why. Anyone who thinks my attitude on paedophilia is lukewarm is very much mistaken. Simon Danczuk’s values are all wrong.

Lord Brittan died on January 21.

One of the ‘deviants’ listed in Geoffrey Dickens’s first dossier was the senior diplomat Sir Peter Hayman. Tony Holland now believes that it was Sir Peter who ‘stage-managed’ Holland’s release from an English prison by making a personal intervention at the Court of Appeal in 1982.

Geoffrey Dickens had used the protection of parliamentary privilege to ask the Attorney-General on March 17, 1981, why Sir Peter Hayman had not been prosecuted after the accidental discovery by police that Sir Peter had been member 330 of the Paedophile Information Exchange.

Sir Peter’s obscene diaries and descriptions of sexual fantasies had been found in a rented flat in Notting Hill Gate and used in the prosecution of the chairman of PIE, Tom O’Carroll, who was jailed for two years.

Sir Peter, a wartime army officer, had been director-general of the British Information Services in New York and served as High Commissioner in Canada.

But judging by his cold war government service in Belgrade, Malta, Baghdad and NATO headquarters in Brussels, it was obvious that he had been, and probably still was, a senior member of the British Secret Service – MI6.

In the crisis triggered by the East German government’s construction of the Berlin Wall, Sir Peter had been appointed deputy commandant of the British military government in West Berlin. In 1964 he had been back in London as Deputy Under Secretary of State with responsibility for the United Nations and Eastern Europe. He was married with two children.


On March 19, 1981, Sir Michael Havers QC, the Attormey-General, replied to Geoffrey Dickens’s question:

In 1978 a packet containing obscene literature and written material was found in a London bus. The subsequent police investigation revealed a correspondence of an obscene nature between Sir Peter Hayman and a number of other persons. Altogether a total of seven men and two women were named as possible defendants in the report submitted by the Metropolitan Police to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Director advised against prosecuting any of the nine persons either under section 11 of the Post Office Act 1953 or for any other offence. Among the considerations he took into account were the factors that the correspondence had been contained in sealed envelopes passing between adult individuals in a non-commercial context and that none of the material was unsolicited.

Subsequently the Metropolitan Police submitted a further report which revealed that one of the nine, not Sir Peter Hayman, was also carrying on a correspondence with a tenth person. The police investigation showed that the two shared an obsession about the systematic killing by sexual torture of young people and children. In view of the extreme nature of the material they had sent each other, the Director of Public Prosecutions decided to prosecute them for conspiring to contravene section 11 of the 1953 Act. There is no evidence that Sir Peter Hayman has ever sent or received material of this kind through the post.

It has been suggested that Sir Peter Hayman was considered as a possible defendant following the police investigation into the conduct of the Paedophile Information Exchange which led to the recent trial at the Central Criminal Court for conspiracy to corrupt public morals. That prosecution was against persons alleged to have been involved in the management or organisation of PIE. Although Sir Peter Hayman had subscribed to PIE, that is not an offence and there is no evidence that he was ever involved in the management. At the recent trial, whilst there were general references to members of PIE, including, though not by name, Sir Peter Hayman, there was no reference to any material produced by him or found in his possession.

I am in agreement with the Director of Public Prosecutions’ advice not to prosecute Sir Peter Hayman and the other persons with whom he had carried on an obscene correspondence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions and I remain determined that, where the evidence justifies it, prosecutions will be brought in cases involving sexual acts with children or offences under the Protection of Children Act 1978—indecent photographs of children.

A ‘SECRET’ file from Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet office: PREM19/588 – SECURITY. Allegations against former public [word missing] of unnatural sexual proclivities; security aspects 1980 Oct 27 – 1981 Mar 20 has now been tracked down from the National Archives in Kew by Dr Chris Murphy, lecturer in Intelligence Studies at Salford University.

This file, now released to the Home Office Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, includes a handwritten briefing note for the Attorney-General marked ‘line to take’:

A full investigation has been carried out and has revealed nothing to suggest that security has been prejudiced.

After working as a well-paid freelance ‘asset’ for both MI6 and MI5 in Britain, Africa, Iran, Venezuela, Poland and Saudi Arabia, with a home in London and a wife, Mina, and child, Tony Holland bought a weekend cottage near his home town of Bradford. Using his own capital, he entered a property developing partnership with local solicitors:

The income tax people had been investigating our partnership for some months when, in January 1981, Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was arrested and the solictors, my partners became involved in his defence. I told a journalist, Malcolm Hoddy, that the Inland Revenue had been investigating the partnership and I had got myself tangled up with the West Yorkshire police at a very sensitive time. They all knew that Sir Michael Havers was likely to be prosecuting the Ripper personally. Havers would have known about me through the tax investigation into me and my partners.

Sir Michael prosecuted Peter Sutcliffe in a two-week trial at the Old Bailey in May 1981.

On Saturday, March 21, 1981, two days after Sir Michael replied to Geoffrey Dickens’s parliamentary question about Sir Peter Hayman, and one day after the security service report went to Margaret Thatcher, Tony Holland went to Bradford Magistrates Court to stand surety for a ‘slow learning’ 18-year old man called Melvyn Hodgson who had lived next door to Holland’s mother for 18 years.

During Melvyn’s appearance the magistrate said that there were five other charges out against him, including theft of a TV, for which he would require a surety. This was a bit of a shock, but I had come this far so I said I would stand £250 surety for him, and that I would take him to a solicitor on Monday to sort matters out. A solicitor friend Desmond Joyce was in court, and I asked him to check out the case and be ready to see Melvyn on Monday morning.

The following Monday I took Melvyn down to Desmond Joyce . He had done his homework, and produced Melvyn’s criminal record. It was not what I had expected at all. There was a string of nasty ones, threatening behaviour, criminal damage, theft and so on. I felt very let down. No one had given me any hint that he had a record like this, and I did not want to be going surety for a delinquent. So I went off to the police to tell them that I had decided to withdraw the surety.

Holland says he was then arrested and held in custody for two days by two West Yorkshire police detectives who eventually charged him with receiving a stolen refrigerator. Three days after this questionable arrest, he appeared before a magistrate.

The magistrate asked why I had been held so long on so trivial a charge and not granted police bail. The policemen said that they were concerned that I would tamper with the witnesses, and wanted to interview them before I could. The magistrate accepted this, but when he heard that I had no police record, he immediately released me on my own surety.

Holland immediately asked for help from his handler at MI6. He has named the MI6 agent handler who put him touch a solicitor in Leeds.

As a servant of the Crown, I had committed God knows how many crimes, from breaking and entering through to other more serious crimes; but here was this same Crown charging me with receiving a second hand fridge, worth 50 quid new. It was a mixture of farce and nightmare. But it was for real. It threatened my business, my career, my friendships and my family. The good side was that I had a defence team recommended to me by the Firm, and the knowledge that a couple of well-directed questions would discredit the main Crown witness.

He was jailed at Bradford Crown Court in November 1981 for receiving a fridge and stolen plumbing materials worth a hundred pounds. Despite having no criminal record he was sentenced to a total of 36 months imprisonment on three charges. For 34 years he has been trying to fight the conviction.

On December 6, 1981, in Rudgate Prison near Wetherby, now HMP Wealstun, two senior police officers from the West Yorkshire Police came to visit him. A detective superintendent ‘came to the point straight away’:

He had come to offer me a deal: withdraw the complaints and leave the country and all would be forgotten. My appeal would not be opposed, and they would organise my entry into Australia or Canada with a clean police record. (They seemed to know that I had been to both countries.) If I refused, they would make sure that the Fraud Squad got on to me and would not let me go until I was ruined.

It was a very crazy situation. I did not want to leave England, and did not want to go to Canada or Australia. I had done nothing wrong.

My complaints against the police were true as far as I was concerned. All this added up to a good reason for telling them to bugger off.

On the other hand, I was in gaol, convicted of receiving stolen goods, my solicitor and barrister were not helping me, the warders had bashed me and broken a rib, and there was no hope of dealing with any of these problems unless I could get out of gaol.

To cut a long story short, I agreed, opting for Australia rather than Canada – papers were put in front of me for signature. Everything would now be fixed up.

Good news travels quickly within the police. On 10 December, Deputy Chief Constable Colin Sampson wrote to me in his capacity as head of Complaints Board noting that the complaints had been withdrawn.

In March 1982 Holland was taken from Wymott Prison in Lancashire to Wandsworth Prison in London for an appearance at the Court of Appeal before the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane.

I was the last to be called. The warders led me up a narrow winding staircase to a small door, opened it, and suddenly I was in the court.

It was an astonishing sight. The courtroom was magnificent, lined with rich timber panelling. The dock, where I was, was halfway along the left hand wall. Down in the body of the court were barristers. Behind them sat Mina, with no expression, I guess she was probably lost in thoughts about herself to care about anything else. But the Lords of Appeal themselves dominated the whole scene: three figures in magnificent scarlet robes and full-bottom wigs, sitting on elaborately carved thrones with crowns on top. Talk about the majesty of the law.

I looked down at Mina. She signalled that she had got the money but had not seen the barrister and I signalled that it was all OK.

Just then, a bald headed man dashed in and made for the other group of barristers of the court. He went straight up to talk to my barrister who nodded and looked up at me. The other barristers greeted him with obvious deference, but he never said a word. I still don’t know who he was. I assumed that he was something to do with my case.


Last week, when this photograph of Sir Peter Hayman appeared worldwide alongside a Sky News report that Mrs Thatcher had been in regular correspondence over what she described in a handwritten letter as the ‘Hayman matter’, Holland recognised Sir Peter as the man who had dashed into the appeal court.

He had a unique bald head and bushy eye brows and a fruity voice. Folks were being stopped from entering the appeal court. But this guy was treated like royalty. I thought he was a judge the way he was escorted in to a seat at the front, within two metres of me.

The whole thing stuck in my mind. When I saw his face again, thirty-three years later, I was gobsmacked.

Meanwhile the Lords of Appeal were getting a bit restless, and after a time the one in the middle said, ‘Well, who’s going to start?’ It seemed an odd way to open the proceedings, but my barrister stood up and said, ‘I will, if it pleases your Lordships’.

So their Lordships sat back while he read the statement he had prepared all those months before.

There was nothing new in it. When he’d finished, the judge on the right, the one who’d caused so much trouble in earlier cases, opened up. ‘But surely your client has been doing this sort of thing for years. It’s just that this is the first time he’s been caught’.

‘I cannot comment on that supposition, your Lordship,’ said my barrister and sat down again.

The judge in the middle turned to the other group of barristers.

‘Does any else wish to make any submissions?’

‘No thank you, your Lordship.’

At this point, without further discussion with his colleagues, the judge nearest to me opened a two-page document and started reading it aloud. It was the decision in the case. It found that the main prosecution witness, Melvyn Hodgson, had lied on oath, and concluded that I should be released immediately. I was flabbergasted; three Lords of Appeal had agreed with me, I had not after all put Hodgson up to thieving whilst holding a threat of removal of surety over him. The whole procedure had taken less than twenty minutes.

I went down into the dungeons again to pick up my gear.

Unfortunately for Holland, and without his knowledge, the appeal had been entered only against his sentence and not against his conviction.

We caught an early evening train to Bradford in a very sombre mood. The next day I had a phone call from Chief Inspector John Ellis, of Special Branch. He just wanted to know how things were going.

‘Fine’, I said. ‘Tell you what; I don’t think I’ll bother about Australia. I’ll stay here and take my chances.’ He was aghast. ‘You can’t do that. Let’s talk, we can’t talk over the phone, so come down to the Victoria hotel and we’ll have a chat there.’

The Victoria had always been my drinking place, so I knew it well. I parked, as I always had, in a spot marked as reserved. As I came in Desmond Joyce, the solicitor who acted for Hodgson greeted me. ‘Hello Tony’, he said, ‘I thought you were in prison’.
I gave him the same answer as I had to Michael. ‘Well, you can see I’m not, am I? I’m here.’

John Ellis was already at a table near the bar, in plain clothes. He came straight to the point. ‘Look, Tony. You agreed to go to Australia. You can’t back out now.’
‘Well, give me some time to think about it.’
‘We can’t do that. Your Australian residence visas run out in nine days. You’ve got to leave this week.’

At this moment the manager of the hotel came bustling up. ‘What’s your car doing in my spot?’ he asked.
‘I always park it there. You’ve never complained before.’
‘Move it or I’ll call the police.’

‘OK, call them. Let me introduce Chief Inspector John Ellis. You can call him.’ John nodded. The manager muttered a curse and sloped off.

But this tiny incident made me realise that life in Bradford was going to be different, radically different. It wasn’t going to be fun at all.
I turned back to John Ellis. ‘OK’, I said, ‘I’ll go.’

I was used by now to travelling, so there was no problem with packing in a hurry, though I had an awful lot of it, I managed to put on a good show and was able to freight most things through to Heathrow so as not to have too much to carry on the train.

More of a problem was selling off my properties. I didn’t fancy leaving them in the hands of an agent, but selling them was going to take time. I wanted to know what to do about that so I rang the police and I was able to arrange with him, that once I had re-established residency in Australia, I could come back for a few weeks and sell up.

Tony Holland says the chance encounter with Geoffrey Dickens on the train to London took place when he came back to Britain to sell his properties in April 1982.

On April 23, under the headline MI5 HAS BURGLED MY FLAT, the Daily Mail reported that Dickens telling the Commons: ‘I believe it is possible that MI5 or some other agency may have been responsible for the clumsy break-ins.’

In the general election of June 1983 Dickens won the seat of Littleborough and Saddleworth for the Conservatives after his Huddersfield seat had been abolished.

In August 1983 he handed a second dossier to Scotland Yard, announcing that eight public figures, including ‘a friend of mine’, would be named in the Commons unless the home secretary took action:

I’ve got eight names of big people, really important names, public figures, and I am going to expose them in Parliament.

Big, big names, people in positions of power, influence and responsibility

On November 25, 1983, Dickens announced delivery of a third dossier to Leon Brittan, naming ten men involved in an alleged vice ring at Buckingham Palace.

On March 18, 1986, the Speaker of the House Commons joined Norman St John-Stevas MP, Kevin McNamara MP, Edward Leigh MP, John Ryman MP and George Foulkes MP in condemning Geoffrey Dickens for abusing privilege by naming a doctor who had been accused of rape but cleared after police found insufficient evidence for a prosecution.

Tony Holland made a second fortune in Australia, where he eventually served as an official prison visitor. His close friend Bert Bailey, a former Democratic Labor member of the Upper House of the Parliament of Victoria, wrote letters urging the British authorities to re-open the case. They were supported by the Deputy Premier of Victoria, John Thwaites, now a climate change professor at Monash University.

John Thwaites [left], deputy premier of the State of Victoria supported Tony Holland's campaign to clear his name

John Thwaites [left], deputy premier of the State of Victoria supported Tony Holland’s campaign to clear his name

But despite Australian legal help, despite receiving a personal letter of apology, signed on House of Lords notepaper by Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls between 1962 and 1982, and despite being one of the very first applicants to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, Holland has never able to get his Bradford conviction declared unsafe.

Nobes to Sampson

The CCRC investigation of the case uncovered an alarming 1990 letter from West Yorkshire Police to the Home Office, but the Commission did not refer Holland’s case back to the Court of Appeal.

Lord Denning's letter to Tony Holland

Lord Denning’s letter to Tony Holland

He even discussed the case with the former Director-General of MI5, Dame Stella Rimington, when she was in Australia on a book tour.

On December 28, 1991, Melvyn Hodgson, the man whose evidence might have cleared Tony Holland, was found hanged in his cell at Armley Prison in Leeds. A question was asked in Parliament.