A Sussex pensioner has been arrested as part of a major police investigation into an alleged VIP paedophile ring with political links.

The man, named locally as 70-year-old John Stingemore, was in custody last night.

Operation Fernbridge officers from the Metropolitan Police swooped on Stingemore’s home in St Leonards on Monday morning and arrested him.

Stingemore, who is understood to have lived in Bexhill and then St Leonards since 2002, is believed to be a former deputy head of Grafton Close children’s home in Barnes, south London, which is at the centre of the abuse allegations.

Operation Fernbridge was launched after MP Tom Watson raised concerns in Parliament.

‘Clear intelligence’

Speaking in October last year, Mr Watson said that evidence used to convict Peter Righton, a former consultant to the National Children’s Bureau, of importing child pornography in 1992 contained “clear intelligence” of a sex abuse gang at both the children’s home and the Elm Guest House, also in Barnes, in the 1980s.

The Labour MP said: “The leads were not followed up, but if the file still exists I want to ensure that the Metropolitan Police secure the evidence, re-examine it and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10.”

Mr Watson alleged that a member of the group had boasted about links with a senior aide to a former Prime Minister.

Grafton Close shut more than 20 years ago and police have said that the abuse claims are historic and not linked with the current occupants of Elm Guest House, now flats.

Council-run home

Allegations over Elm Guest House first emerged at a 1990 inquest into the suicide of its manager Carole Kasir.

Child protection campaigners said at the hearing that in 1988 she told them boys from Richmond Council-run Grafton Close had been taken to the guesthouse and abused.

Commander Peter Spindler from the Metropolitan Police confirmed yesterday that an East Sussex man was in custody on suspicion of historic child abuse allegations.

Sussex Police said they were aware of the arrest but not involved.

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