Magic Circle Man
In “My First Lawyer” I told of how my first experience of the legal profession had been less than positive. Around about the same time that I was becoming disenchanted with the Bruce law firm the engineering business I had formed started to take off and as it became bigger and more profitable my Edinburgh based accountant, Sandy McGregor pressed me to buy a house.
Coming from a working class background where everyone lived in council houses I had never considered this before and was quite happy living in my little council house in Bernard Shaw Street Dunfermline. However McGregor explained to me that home owning afforded me the opportunity to use my earnings in the most tax efficient manner and was an opportunity not to be missed.
The problem of finding a new lawyer was solved when I met an old school friend, Robin (Bob) McCormack in my local pub. Bob, a painter and decorator to trade had done well for himself and owned his own painting and decorating company which carried out contracting works for major house building companies and local authorities in Central Scotland including the Lothians.
As with my own work as a sub-contractor in the engineering industry Bob’s contracts often ended up in disputes about money or quantities/quality and he told me his problems in this regard were now a thing of the past because he had found an Edinburgh lawyer whose boast was that he was “guaranteed to win any case he took on” because of his connections in the right places.
Bob gave me his lawyer’s business card in the name of one Arthur C. (Colin) Tucker of Messrs, Burnett, Walker, Lindesay & Rae, W.S. Stafford Street, Edinburgh.
I never had the opportunity to judge Bob’s claim that my new lawyer was the bee’s knees as the first and only task I gave to my new lawyers was the straightforward legal work in connection with the purchase of my first house at 109 Victoria Terrace Dunfermline. This should have been a simple task and it appeared to be so with a mortgage deposit of 10% in place and a bank loan for the balance with security against an insurance policy, but at the last minute Burnett Walker advised me that there was, temporarily, a small shortfall in the monies and so they had arranged a high interest bridging loan of a few thousand pounds, which, I was told would only be required for a week or two at the most.
I thought this development odd, but gave my consent to avoid an eleventh hour delay in the house which my wife and I had fallen in love with and in November 1983 (just over four years after forming my company) we had the keys of our first home.
The short-term bridging loan that Burnett Walker had arranged was something that I had accepted as being a lucrative perk of the job for them. However the general impression I had of the firm during my visits to their office was that they were very lackadaisical. I met various members of the firm in my short time with them and it seemed as if every time I wrote or visited the firm a different member of staff dealt with me and it was as if every day was the day before the Christmas holidays-or the day after the Christmas party. So it did concern me that while I had to travel to Edinburgh and sign consent papers to put this loan in place there was nothing similar for ending it.
With this negative impression niggling away at me I wrote to them twice to raise my concerns with regard to the ending of the bridging loan. Burnett Walker responded in writing to both of my letters reassuring me that everything had been taken care of by them. So it was something of a shock to me when over a year later I received a letter from them demanding over two thousand pounds for the bridging loan that was still in place.
Getting the demand letter is something that is etched in my mind as I did not normally open letters to my home, but on this occasion, a Saturday morning, I was leaving for work when the post arrived. I briefly scanned the letter and tossed it into the bedroom where my wife was enjoying a long lie. As I opened my car door I heard the shrieks of my wife as she digested the fact that we had been hit with a bill that was almost as much as the deposit on the house!
I was less worried than my wife about the bill from Burnett Walker and promptly wrote to them pointing out the well documented facts of the matter. I accepted that I had agreed to pay the high interest for a few weeks but not for any longer period. However they maintained they wanted payment for the extended period; something that was obviously their fault. After some correspondence and dialogue with various people from that company I was asked to attend an out of hours meeting with the senior partner Ian MacFarlane Walker.
If confidence can be measured it could be said that mine was pretty thin. I put this down to my state schooling and though I had travelled the world and made my way in life without the benefit of wealth or the privilege of private education I did not have the assurance of those who were “to the manor born”. So when I went for a showdown meeting in the West End of Edinburgh with the senior partner of a top law firm I was prepared to stand my ground but nevertheless apprehensive.
The meeting with Ian Walker in his office on a Saturday when no one else was working is also etched in my memory. The walls of his office were lined with leather bound legal books and he sat behind his vast desk in a high backed Oxblood leather chair with brass studding. He was well dressed and distinguished looking man. Privilege personified, he articulately told me in his posh accent how I would have to pay not some, but all of the amount billed. I was nervous but psyched up for this and was just as positive in telling him flatly that as the fault lay with his firm and he would get “Fuck All” from me.
Having delivered my bombshell I fully expected a strong response from a man who I assumed would be well used to adversarial jousting, but surprisingly he simply stood up, shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of resignation and stared into space in a detached and preoccupied manner. It was as if I were not there. I was embarrassed and mumbled some more conciliatory remarks about this being an unfortunate incident, but he was in another world. I took his silence and obvious detachment as my cue to leave the room with some relief that a meeting I had dreaded had ended with me apparently winning my argument without demur.
The fall out with Burnett Walker made it necessary for me to consult another firm of lawyers and I plumped for a local firm of solicitors of good standing who I still do business with to this day. Macbeth Currie of Dunfermline were now my third law firm and in early 1985 I handed over my house purchase correspondence to Maria Maguire a partner with that company and told her of my meeting with Ian McFarlane Walker.LINK Miss Maguire agreed with my position and told me not to worry and leave the matter with her, which I did.
I never had any more trouble with Burnett Walker and got on with running my engineering business which at that time was engaged in various projects including construction work on Exxon Chemical’s Mossmorran site, and it was some years later while walking with a lawyer across Charlotte Square, Edinburgh on my way to a meeting in connection with that project that he broke the news to me that Ian McFarlane Walker had taken his own life. LINK
My shock at hearing this news was quickly overtaken by guilt and I blurted out to the lawyer that my refusal to pay Walker his bill may have contributed to the suicide. My lawyer friend burst out laughing and told me that it was common knowledge among the legal fraternity in Edinburgh that Walker had embezzled millions from clients and this was used to finance property development in Thailand, and my account was a drop in the ocean in the affairs of that firm. This news put my few thousand pounds into context, eased my conscience and vindicated my judgement that the affairs of the law firm of Burnett and Walker were a shambles.
I now took a passing interest in the case of Ian McFarlane Walker and his firm was soon in the news when the Law Society of Scotland launched an investigation into their activities. LINK
From subsequent press reports when Old Fettesian, Colin Tucker – now living in the Mansion House London – was charged with embezzlement from Burnett Walker clients, it transpired that Ian Walker was living a double life. The respectable family man and businessman I met was in fact a closet homosexual who with his lover and colleague Colin Tucker was stealing millions from clients, and when the impending revelation of his theft was about to come to light he took his life by hanging himself in his garage. LINK
I was later to learn that Colin Tucker was charged with theft from the clients of the law firm that represented me, but with the assistance of a key player in the Edinburgh legal scene, solicitor David Blair-Wilson, LINK he was acquitted.
Blair Wilson was one of many Edinburgh lawyers who were in the news at this time as the so called ‘gay judges & rent boys scandal‘ was breaking. LINK
Perhaps the most high profile event at this time was the resignation of Lord Dervaird in 1989. The whole of the media was buzzing with these stories but I did not associate Ian McFarlane Walker or Colin Tucker with these stories at the time, though it turned out they were pivotal in these events.
Having sex with children is a serious offence against the law, and in the late 1980’s having homosexual sex with anyone under the age of 21 was an offence. So when it was suggested in the press that there was serious concern that a select group of people nicknamed the “Magic Circle” because of their knowledge of criminality in this regard among judges were able to threaten blackmailing them in order to gain court verdicts in their favour Tam Dalyell, MP demanded a police investigation. LINK
An investigation was ordered by the Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, Sir William Sutherland who tasked Detective Chief Inspector Roger Orr and a team including his brother Detective Sergeant Charlie Orr to carry it out. The inquiry and resulting Orr Report were kept secret and securely locked up in the Fettes Police HQ. That is until July 19 1992 when the Fettes, Police HQ in Edinburgh was sensationally burgled in what came to be known as ‘Fettesgate‘ and the Orr Report along with other top secret papers were stolen! LINK
The Fettes burglar was eventually identified as a homosexual criminal called Derek William Donaldson who first sold the report to a newspaper and then offered immunity from prosecution to the burglar on condition that they return the report, an offer, when accepted, the highly embarrassed Edinburgh police force were happy to accept. LINK
Once the terms of the Orr Report was in the public domain the press ran with details of its findings, which revealed disquiet among the police force and a belief that in 5 cases there was reason to believe that persons of positions of influence in the judiciary, Crown Office, and legal establishment, linked by common homosexual relationships were perverting the course of justice in having court cases or potential offences decided in their favour. LINK
The first of the 5 cases the Orr Report dealt with concerned Colin Tucker and the firm of Burnett Walker. Tucker featured in another case together with Gordon May which was abandoned at the High Court in Dunfermline (which I look down on as I type) after the intervention of the Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie who had been telephoned in London by the Advocate Depute prosecuting the case, Alastair Campbell, who then withdrew the charges against Tucker. This action led to the resignation of Isabel Clark the assistant Depute who was concerned that prior to the withdrawal of charges the trial judge, Lord Milligan, the Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser, and the Advocate Depute, Alastair Campbell, had all discussed the case.
The litany of legal discrepancies involving the great and good in the Scottish legal establishment was such that the Westminster Parliament became involved and the Prime Minister, John Major ordered the Lord Advocate to hold an inquiry. Her Majesty’s Advocate, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, appointed two senior members of the legal profession to hold an inquiry into the allegations of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in Scotland which the secret Orr Report had concluded existed.
So it was that William Austin Nimmo-Smith, QC and James D Friel, Regional Procurator Fiscal of North Strathclyde began their inquiry which would conclude in a report to the Honourable the House of Commons. The terms of reference for this enquiry were unusual in that they were not in accordance with any statute.
So Nimmo-Smith, aided by his junior partner Friel could take evidence from whomsoever they wished but they had no power to order anyone to give evidence. However before the members of the Westminster Parliament could hear a synopsis of the findings of the report read out to them, and before the House of Commons could vote on whether or not the report be published the findings of Nimmo-Smith were published in the Sun newspaper for the world to see!
The headline: “FETTES THIEF CONS GAY JUDGES PROBE QC” caused a sensation, partly because the man who, posing as a reporter and armed with a tape recorder had spent several hours in Nimmo Smith’s home was none other than the gay con man, Derek William Donaldson who had burgled the Fettes police HQ and stolen top secret files on the “Magic Circle”. LINK
Given how easily a man who the Inquiry chairman didn’t know from Adam had been given a full run-down of the findings of a report that was yet to be given to the Prime Minister, it was hardly surprising when the following morning The Scottish Sun published a further article entitled: “NIMMO THE DIMMO” LINK .
There was little surprise when it was reported that a distressed Nimmo-Smith had sought psychiatric treatment at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital following his public humiliation. One MP – now First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond – agreed with the Sun that the story was in the public interest, as its claims undermined the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Inquiry. LINK
The Scottish establishment however rallied to the aid of Nimmo-Smith and his fellow Old-Etonian the editor of The Scotsman newspaper Magnus Linklater wrote a strong condemnation of The Scottish Sun’s unethical use of information obtained by deception from the crooked Donaldson.
The Scottish Sun however was not about to take lectures on journalism from Nimmo-Smith’s establishment chums, who might well wish to close ranks on a scandal that showed up the Scottish legal system in the worst possible light, and they defended their position strongly in a hard hitting Editorial piece entitled: “Never mind the quality“. LINK
Politicians of all parties including the man whose actions had set off the Orr inquiry which predicated the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Inquiry, Tam Dalyell MP believed that the Sun had acted in the public interest and their article was of such significance that it should be placed in the library of the House of Commons. The Solicitor General for Scotland, Sir Nicholas Fairbairn QC, stated that the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Inquiry should be scrapped and a new “Magic Circle” inquiry be set up.
However it came as no surprise when some months later on 26th January 1993 “The Report on an Inquiry into an Allegation of a Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice in Scotland” was published, revealing what Derek Donaldson had already told the Sun, namely, that Nimmo-Smith and Friel had found there was no evidence to support allegations that a “Magic Circle” operated within the Scottish legal establishment. The establishment circled the wagons and backed the report on a vote in Westminster. LINK
In essence the Nimmo-Smith Friel Report found all the lawyers linked to the Magic Circle clique innocent of any wrongdoing and all of the policemen who investigated this affair guilty of homophobia. Oh, and all the rent boys and others who supported the Orr findings were liars and crooks. The two group’s powers of recall were also found, in turn, by Nimmo-Smith/Friel to be perfect among the lawyers, and wanting among the others.
I lost interest in the goings on with my old lawyers until recently when stories began drifting back from Thailand telling of the goings on of a group known as the Gay McMafia led by Colin Tucker’s old pal Gordon May. This was interesting because at the time the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report also concluded that those involved in the Magic Circle rumours and Thailand were strangers. The Report stated in this regard: “The part of Orr’s report which relates to the case against May and Tucker refers to Tucker’s homosexuality, states that May is a practising homosexual, and alleges that May was involved in the running of an hotel and nightclub in Thailand. According to the report this place “is openly engaged in providing services for homosexuals particularly in the procurement of young male prostitutes or rent boys for the sexual gratification of visitors. The complex is thought to have been frequented by several persons popular on the Edinburgh gay scene, including the gay element of the legal fraternity.” We are in possession of no evidence which would support this latter allegation.”
I have never been to Thailand in my life but I know a regular visitor to the country-a truthful man of integrity-who told me that in the 1980’s/90’s he was on a flight from Scotland to Thailand which was forced by bad weather to land at a military base and according to him the passengers were terrified that the emergency would attract the attention of the press as half of the Scottish legal establishment were on the plane. High jinks in Thailand were the order of the day when the High Court was in recess apparently.
Now this anecdotal evidence, given voluntarily, in passing and doesn’t mean a thing, but there are other pointers that suggest to me that maybe just maybe there was something to the rumours of ill gotten gains by a crooked clique of Scots being invested in Thailand.
In October 2003, a fine piece of investigative journalism was published in the The Glasgow Sunday Herald by their Investigations Editor, award-winning journalist Neil McKay.
The alluring if somewhat lurid title: “THE STRANGE TALE OF TRANSVESTITES, CROOKED COPS, A MUTILATED BODY AND TWO SCOTS KNOWN AS THE GAY McMAFIA”. detailed how Gordon May -Tucker’s old partner- was involved in a Thai gay-sex tourist hotel murder/scandal. LINK
More recently another key player in the Magic Circle affair died in Thailand. Edinburgh’s Martin Frutin contradicted the allegations of the rent boys and his evidence was accepted by Nimmo Smith. Frutin was subsequently convicted of gay porn offences, fled Scotland and took up residence in Thailand where he became a prominent member of the local Masonic Lodge, Pattaya West Winds, as well as the gay scene. His death was reported recently as “Flamboyant Scot On Yard Child Sex Abuse Watch List Dies In Thailand“. LINK
Despite the fact that Foreign Travel Orders were introduced in 2007 to stop paedophiles visiting countries plagued by child sex tourism, such as Cambodia, Thailand and India, Frutin was able to travel between Scotland and Thailand freely. This highlights the failure of the Scottish Courts to grant a single order banning travel by paedophiles, a sad fact highlighted by the Daily Express. LINK
The latest development is the clearing by a Thai court (judgement included in article entitled “Lock, stock and two smoking boyz“, link below) of the investigative journalist Andrew Drummond who faced jail after writing articles that dealt with Gordon May, and among other things, his trial in the Teague Homes case at Dunfermline where he was-with co-defendant Colin Tucker-sensationally cleared of embezzlement. Something dealt with in detail in the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report. However a Thai court came to different conclusions regarding the £243,438.00 embezzled from Teague about which they said: “However, the income of Teague Homes Co., Ltd. was spent to open of the biggest gay sex bar in Asia. The Court saw that it presented the fact of the case. Such article was just information which is public information.” LINK
After being cleared by the court it was reported how Andrew Drummond then petitioned the Thai Prime Minister to have the two “Magic Circle” Scots, James Lumsden and Gordon May investigated over the death of their business partner, Iain Macdonald from Inverness. LINK
Now it may be just coincidence that some of those who featured in the Magic Circle affair did end up in the very situations that the rumours suggested, but then again maybe the rumours were true? Then again maybe Nimmo Smith and Freil were right in their report and maybe those cleared were non-homosexual and innocents who were never in Thailand then but only acquired this status after being cleared.
Conclusions. I am ashamed to admit that I gave Burnett Walker my business because they were seen to be winners, with connections in high places. Fortunately I came away unscathed from my brush with Ian McFarlane Walker and Colin Tucker. In fact I was a winner in that I never had to pay the fortnight’s interest on the bridging loan which I was due and which I was prepared to pay. But others weren’t so lucky.
I met one such person, Mrs Maureen Henderson a few years ago in Edinburgh who had her life ruined by this clique. Maureen was robbed of the proceeds of the sale of her mother’s home by Ian McFarlane Walker. Not only robbed she was left homeless by this vile betrayal of trust and though she complained to the Law Society of Scotland they found their member Walker to be purer than the driven snow. This was before his fall from grace when he was still protected by those in positions of power.
Maureen was so incensed by her treatment at the hands of crooked lawyers that she raised a public petition to highlight her plight and joined the group Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers (SACL) which protests every month outside the Scottish Parliament and that is where I met her.
Maureen’s submissions to the Justice 1 Committee of the Scottish Parliament did not meet with any success as the MSPs were reassured by the Law Society’s absolution of Ian McFarlane Walker. LINK
Maureen’s case struck a chord with me because I realised that if I had fallen out with Ian McFarlane Walker or Colin Tucker, when they were in their prime – before their affairs got so out of hand that they were legal pariahs – I could have ended up in court and been subjected to the same justice that Maureen got. Like her I might have lost my house. There, but for the grace of God, etc.
I should make it clear that I am not against anyone because of their sexual orientation, social status, race, or religion but I am opposed to cliques of whatever sort as I am a firm believer in fairness and meritocracy.
One good thing that came out of my brush with the Magic Circle was that I developed a healthy scepticism of those who make up our professional classes and especially those who appear to be pillars of the establishment. This stood me in good stead when I later came to be involved in a corrupted commercial arbitration involving BP Chemicals. More on this in my next chapter.
Latest News! The list of all those who were exonerated by the Nimmo-Smith/Frail inquiry into the Magic Circle Affair and then went on to behave in the manner that their police accusers suggested, is long.
The latest miscreant is a man who might be said to have been the most influential of all the players in this sorry saga, the late Robert Henderson QC. Henderson was the man with ‘Tucker’s List’ and as such he had all the power; charges against him being dropped was one of the five cases that caused Tam Dalyell, MP to push for an investigation, which led to the inquiry. A whole chapter of Nimmo-Smith’s report deals with Henderson and concludes: “Nothing to see here now move along!”
Now his daughter has courageously spoken out about her father with tales of how he raped her as a child and allowed his fellow member of the Faculty of Advocates and also a fellow extraordinary member of The Speculative Society of Edinburgh, Nicholas Fairbairn, QC, to do the same. LINK
As if that weren’t bad enough there is more LINK But, we were told, there was no ‘magic circle’.
It wouldn’t be right to end this piece without giving an update on my, or one of my magic circle lawyers. The man first introduced to me all those years ago by Bob MacCormack who soon fled to London to work for the Lord Mayor is still there! Working as the Fiona Woolf, The Lord Mayor’s Butler.
Well at least he was there a few years ago when he gave this interview: LINK
Fiona and Colin had quite a lot in common, both being lawyers, of the same vintage (4 years) and coming from Edinburgh, but they never got round to talking about the Magic Circle affair, this much we know from The Lord Mayor who issued a statement (c/w link to the Nimmo-Smith/Freil Report) to that effect, at the same time as she clarified her social relationship with Leon Brittan.
She stated: “I can confirm that I have never discussed this issue with the individual [Tucker] and was unaware of the individual’s prior history until the matter was recently brought to my attention.”
This came about after Woolf was appointed to chair a parliamentary inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. A position she resigned from shortly after making this statement and before her duties began.
The mind boggles as to what Tucker’s memoir on “What The Butler Saw” might reveal.
He might also go back to the Magic Circle affair and the alleged dastardly goings on at the Laughing Duck pub that led to the infamous “Tucker’s List“.
Oh! It now turns out that Arthur Colin Tucker was a director of the firm that owned the Laughing Duck!
Coincidentally Paul Burrell the ex-butler to Diana sold some private letters by auction recently and one detailed how he opened a pub called the Laughing Duck in Edinburgh as well as making reference to Charles’ little willie is misbehaving. LINK
And just to round off the story of my first lawyer Tucker was in partnership in Laughing Duck Inns with David Ben-Aryeah, a one-time member of the Israeli Army and, some believe, a Mossad agent. LINK
Scots lawyers a dull lot? Certainly not in my experience.