The widow of ex Home Secretary Leon Brittan is not someone who seeks the limelight. Lady Brittan repeatedly refused interview requests from across the media but after five years of trying, Stephen Wright finally persuaded her to break her silence about her and her late-husband’s experience at the hands of the Metropolitan Police and officers on its shambolic VIP sex abuse inquiry Operation Midland and a related botched rape inquiry. Across eight pages in the Mail and an accompanying six-part podcast series, hosted by Wright, she spoke in devastating, tearful terms of a ‘culture of cover up and flick away’ in the Met and accused senior officers of ‘lacking a moral compass’ – themes which a year later would cost Cressida Dick her job as head of Scotland Yard. The interview was full of harrowing detail of her terminally-ill husband’s ordeal over false sex and murder allegations in his last few months, including his fears about his reputation being further trashed after his death. Lady Brittan also revealed her own deeply traumatic experience when police raided their homes with unlawfully obtained search warrants just six weeks after he died and her fury at ex- Labour deputy leader Tom Watson’s shocking conduct towards her husband. The agenda-setting interview with a nervous interviewee was not only a huge scoop, but also prompted two judges to speak out about Operation Midland and also the intervention of six former Home Secretaries. Wright’s interview with Lady Brittan, and his other work on the scandal, was praised in the Houses of Parliament across the political divide.
As a consequence of the interview, and a further exclusive group interview with VIP police victims, Wright persuaded Sir Cliff Richard to grant an explosive interview in which he expressed his disgust and pain that not one police officer had been held to account over his false sex allegations ordeal. He also revealed his fears that the stress of the false allegations would kill him. Sir Cliff joined demands for Dame Cressida Dick to resign as Met chief and although these were initially ignored Wright stuck to his task and following a string of further scandals, including renewed questions over her handling of Operation Midland, Dame Cressida was finally ousted in February. Her successor has vowed to clean up the Met.
Elsewhere in the last year, Wright conducted a highly poignant interview with the now grown-up son of Rachel Nickell, who as a toddler saw her brutally stabbed to death and raped on Wimbledon 30 years ago. Alex Hanscombe revealed the true cost of witnessing her death, including the tragic rift with his grandparents (Rachel’s parents) which has added to his torment, as has the police failure to pay him and his father compensation for the fatal errors in the case. All three submissions were interviews instigated by Wright and which required the art of persuasion and patience, as well as an ability to win the confidence of the interviewees to get underneath the story in a compelling, emotive way.