Newsnight investigations chief quits over false abuse claim

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THE editor of an investigative unit that worked on the Newsnight programme which broadcast allegations wrongly linking a senior Tory to child abuse has resigned from his post.

Iain Overton confirmed he had quit as editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) in the wake of its involvement in the programme.

Overton had tweeted before the start of the Newsnight programme that it would feature an item the BIJ had worked on, about a “senior political figure” who was a paedophile.

His message – “If it all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile” – was retweeted 1,574 times.

Although the programme did not name the politician, it led to speculation on the internet, wrongly implicating former Tory treasurer Lord McAlpine.

The BIJ, a not-for profit organisation, issued a statement saying the Newsnight story had been “strictly contrary to the fundamental principles and standards of the bureau”.

The statement, from chairman James Lee, issued on behalf of the trustees, said: “Iain Overton has resigned his appointment as editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Deputy editor Rachel Oldroyd will assume responsibilities for editorial control of the bureau. An appointment of an interim editor is likely to be announced in the near term.”

The statement added: “An inquiry to establish the role of the bureau in the story is in urgent progress. An interim report will be issued as soon as possible.

“Trustees reaffirm the bureau’s commitment to fact-based, non-sensational investigation in the public interest.”