Alistair McAlpine, who was treasurer and deputy chairman of Britain's Conservative Party under former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, yesterday denied internet rumours that he had been part of a paedophile ring.
"Ill or uninformed commentators have been using blogs and other internet media outlets to accuse me," McAlpine said, talking of a "media frenzy". He said he "must publicly tackle these slurs and set the record straight".
McAlpine, who held the post of Tory treasurer from 1975 to 1990, issued the statement three days after Home Secretary Theresa May announced plans to examine whether allegations of sexual abuse at a children's home in north Wales in the 1970s and '80s were properly handled.
That review was prompted by Steve Messham, a victim of abuse at the Bryn Estyn home who alleged involvement by a senior Tory party figure in an interview with BBC television's Newsnight programme last week. He said he was "sold" to men for sexual abuse at a nearby hotel. The BBC did not name the political figure.
"I have every sympathy for Mr Messham and for the many other young people who were sexually abused when they were residents of the children's home in Wrexham," McAlpine said.
"I do not suggest that Mr Messham is malicious in making the allegations of sexual abuse about me," he said. "If he does think I am the man who abused him … I can only suggest that he is mistaken and that he has identified the wrong person."
McAlpine said he had only been to Wrexham once, on Conservative Party business. "I have never been to the children's home in Wrexham, nor have I ever visited … any other institution of a similar nature."
McAlpine said he was reserving the right to take legal action against "those who have defamed me".