Analysis Breaking News

‘Just friends’;’occasional’ sex’; ‘not every week’; ‘frequently’. ‘Humiliation!!’ – Webbe accuser’s explosive texts kept back by Met

Michelle Merritt’s explicit chats with Claudia Webbe’s then-partner expose contradictions and ‘lies’ in sworn statements by MP’s accuser – and reveal jokes about ‘humiliating’ rival

A huge number of messages downloaded from the mobile phone of the accuser of MP Claudia Webbe were not revealed to Webbe or her legal team by the Metropolitan Police before her trial last year – and the explosive texts, emails and WhatsApp messages reveal not only an ongoing sexual relationship between Michelle Merrit and Webbe’s partner Lester Thomas, but also its concealment by Merritt in her sworn statements in the case.

In addition, the messages show Merritt joking about humiliating Webbe and talking about options for leaking details about her to the press – and complaining to Thomas that his relationship with Webbe sometimes made him unavailable for sex. The content and potential significance of the new disclosures has been largely downplayed and in some cases almost entirely neutered in reports of the appeal in the ‘mainstream’ media.

Webbe was convicted by a magistrates’ court last year in a prosecution that was widely misreported by the ‘mainstream’ media – and the content of the messages is not only highly relevant to the case, but appear extremely helpful to her defence, yet their existence was only revealed in March, when the police finally disclosed them six months after the original conviction.

The appeal court judge placed reporting restrictions on the new evidence until today. Cross-examining Merritt, Webbe’s barrister Helen Law pointed out that in her original, very calm-sounding complaint to police and in her sworn statements subsequently, Merritt told police that she had had a relationship with Lester Thomas in the distant past, but that now they were ‘just’ friends and that,

I’m not interested in that guy at all.

Merritt responded that they were ‘friends who have sex occasionally’, but as Ms Law continued to probe about what ‘occasionally’ meant, Merritt at first replied ‘Not every week’ – but soon after admitted that they had sex ‘frequently’ and had continued to do so after the supposed threats from Webbe.

Messages included:

  • arrangements to meet for sex, including exhortations to ‘come get me’ and to be quick because she was horny
  • explicit discussions of sex acts to be performed
  • sex toy discussions and purchases
  • mockery of Webbe’s supposed sexual naivety
  • arrangements to meet during lockdown
  • complaints that Thomas was ‘whipped’ by Webbe and limitations on Merritt’s sex life with him imposed by his relationship with the MP

And the court heard that when the police informed Merritt that they had downloaded her phone contents, she responded with dismay, telling a detective that she was ‘worried about cross-examination and being called a liar’. Merritt responded that she had never denied having sex with Thomas and claimed that she had not mentioned it because she had not been asked.

The court also heard that Merritt did not mention anything in the original magistrate’s trial about her sexual relationship with Thomas even though, when detectives told her they had been downloaded, she told them that she thought they had already been used there. Merritt claimed she had informed police about her sexual relationship with Thomas, in a telephone call some time after she had signed a witness statement saying they were just friends. However, she told the court that the police never asked her about the matter again.

The ‘just friends’ story continued to be maintained throughout the magistrates’ court prosecution and no records of the relationship were amended during the first trial.

Webbe’s barrister put it to Merritt that she had used the story of being just friends and the relationship being in the distant past because it would make Claudia Webbe look more ‘unhinged’ to the police than if she was rightly jealous or suspicious. Merritt denied this, claiming it was because nobody had asked – to which Ms Law asked in response why then Merritt had volunteered the story that the relationship was old history and she had no interest in Thomas at all, when that had not been asked either.

The ‘victim statement’

The court also heard that Merritt had exaggerated a ‘victim statement’ appended to her original witness statement against the MP, claiming that one of the impacts of the alleged threats was that they stopped her ‘friendship’ with Lester Thomas.

But the messages revealed that, far from any cessation in the ongoing sexual relationship, she and Thomas continued to exchange sexual messages and meet for sex long after her complaint to police. These messages included discussion of the use of a ‘couples’ sex toy’ in a public setting.

‘Humiliation’ and ‘banter’

Merritt agreed with Law’s suggestion that when she had allegedly received anonymous calls from Webbe, she had told police she was very distressed. However, messages between Merritt and a friend the morning after the calls, when she had asked her friend to call a number and her friend reported Webbe had answered, showed her joking with a friend and ‘crying with laughter’ about it. Merritt also told her friend that ‘Lester was here sorting me out’, which she admitted meant have sex with her. Merritt claimed all this was just banter and didn’t mean she was not scared.

And another message revealed by the new disclosures showed Merritt having a discussion with another friend about how she hoped her accusations against Webbe would turn out. After listing a number of potential outcomes, Merritt wrote:


A reverse obsession

Merritt and the prosecution have claimed that Claudia Webbe was obsessed with Michelle Merritt, but the defence suggested that the evidence showed the reverse was in fact the case and Merritt was demonstrably seeking out information about Webbe on the Internet. Messages from the new disclosure showed Merritt:

  • demanding of Lester Thomas how he met Webbe, ‘and be honest!’
  • messaging another friend with a link about Webbe with a comment ‘So he’s [Thomas] seeing Claudia Webbe’
  • sent a link to at least one other friend about Webbe
  • asked Thomas to explain his intentions regarding Claudia Webbe
  • told a friend Thomas would ‘keep’ Webbe because of her name-dropping value
  • was ‘stood up’ by Thomas on a number of occasions in favour of accompanying Webbe to events connected to her job as an MP
  • had sought agreement with Thomas about what lies to tell if she was questioned about her relationship with him

Merritt claimed on the stand, where she was allowed to give evidence from behind a curtain, that she had ‘berated’ Lester Thomas about his treatment of Claudia Webbe. Yet she agreed that where messages showed the pair mocking Webbe she had initiated the exchanges.

‘I’ll leak to the press’

In the one call on record between Merritt and Webbe – a call that was made to Webbe by Merritt and that Merritt recorded – Merritt can be heard threatening to leak the recording of the call to the media. Merritt responded that she never intended to carry out this threat, but the messages showed her discussing with friends how much she might get paid and how to go about it.

When her friend Sophie suggested she sell the story to the press, Merritt responded:

Great minds, I’m contemplating it.

And when Sophie described the issue as a ‘minimum £10k story’, Merritt replied:

Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind.

Further messages showed Merritt asking whether Sophie knew any reporters, but the idea was ultimately abandoned two days later because Merritt expressed concern that the press would start digging into her and her family – but that she had prepared a ‘whole report’ for police in which she ‘totally told them that she scared me:

‘Yes but newspapers will not protect me, they want a story’.

‘That’s true… they will dig into your past’.

‘Exactly’. ‘It’s not worth it… totally a fun thought’…

‘She’s a psycho… you can rub that in when the police come round’.

‘I wrote a whole report… I totally told them that she scared me’.

‘Withheld number’

A recording of Merritt’s initial late night phone call to the police, claiming Webbe had called, was played to the court. In it, Ms Merritt was asked by police to provide a number she could be reached on, because her own number was showing withheld. She did not provide an explanation for calling the police from a withheld number and, when the police operator offered to have an officer with her within the hour, Merritt opted instead for an appointment the following day. Webbe’s barrister suggested that this showed a lack of genuine fear.

The case continues to be misreported or skewed in much of the ‘mainstream’ coverage. The Met were not called in court to explain why the messages were not disclosed before the first trial. Instead, a statement from the Met was taken into evidence but not read out during the hearing.

The case continues tomorrow. Labour, led by former Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, has made clear it wants to remove Webbe as the MP for Leicester East, which she now serves as an independent MP.

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  1. “A huge number of messages downloaded from the mobile phone of the accuser of MP Claudia Webbe were not revealed to Webbe or her legal team by the Metropolitan Police before her trial last year”

    “The court heard Ms Merritt’s phone had been examined by police since the trial, revealing sexual messages between her and Lester Thomas.”

    1. “A huge number of messages downloaded from the mobile phone of the accuser of MP Claudia Webbe were not revealed to Webbe or her legal team by the Metropolitan Police before her trial last year – and the explosive texts, emails and WhatsApp messages reveal not only an ongoing sexual relationship between Michelle Merritt and Webbe’s partner Lester Thomas, but also its concealment by Merritt in her sworn statements in the case.”

      If you can’t understand that, take some time off and brush-up on your English Comprehension.

      1. George – The timelines of the discovery and disclosure of this evidence obviously have significance, to claim otherwise would be just silly.

    2. The BBC story is wrong, unsurprisingly, and ignores part of the evidence in the trial. It was clear from various pieces of testimony, as well as the fact that Merritt was repeatedly asked by the defence barrister why she hadn’t changed her story when she knew her phone had been downloaded, that the evidence was in police possession before the original trial…

      1. “The BBC story is wrong ……… the evidence was in police possession before the original trial…”
        We wait with bated breath for the apology from a certain party.

      2. goldbach – If you are referring to me then regardless of the outcome I have not said anything that I need to apologise for.

      3. SW – It is undeniable that numerous news outlets have all reported that the police/prosecution have clearly stated to the court that Merritt’s phone wasn’t examined until after the original court case. Are you really claiming that all these reports are inaccurate?

      4. SteveH

        That the police, through gross negligence or even dishonesty, did not examine the phone until after the trial is entirely believable. It’s speculation on my part, but informed speculation, that it happened in the end because the defence applied for and got a court order requiring it, not because they suddenly had an attack of conscience.

        What is clear from Merrit’s statement that she assumed the messages were part of the evidence in the Magistrates Court trial is that the police had the phone at the time, and therefore breached their disclosure obligations by not examining it and passing this information to the defence before the Magistrates Court trial.

      5. Ultraviolet – As I understand it from the many reports that I have read it was matters that arose in the original trial that along with Webbe’s appeal prompted the police to examine Merritt’s phone. Maybe they didn’t see a need to examine the phone earlier and were also taking into consideration the various campaigns that the invasion of ‘victims’ privacy via fishing exercises without any reasonable cause was both abusive and unwarranted.
        Regardless of the original justification for not examining her phone and that Webbe’s defence team had apparently dropped the ball on this then surely it is a good thing that someone in the Met took the decision once they had just cause to examine Merritt’s phone and to fulfil their obligation to disclose this evidence to Claudia’s defence team.

      6. Steve,

        Two points in reply. You talk about having read numerous reports. They almost certainly all came from one single press association report on the case, so their similarity is unsurprising. This report is interesting because it is a direct report from someone who was actually there. I am also well aware from long experience that press reporting on legal matters is often, I might even say usually, inaccurate, or at the very least incomplete.

        Secondly, you’re entitled to your view of the police, but no, I do not give them any credit whatsoever for belatedly addressing their unlawful actions that may have seen an innocent woman convicted and her life and career ruined.

  2. I thought there was more to this story. I wonder if the charge of perjury could put to Webbe’s accusers or wasting police time? Let’s hope we find out the answers to these questions soon.

    1. Looking at the information in the article,both perjury and perverting the course of justice could be under consideration here.

      Perverting the course of justice in order to get someone convicted of a criminal offence is almost certain to result in an immediate custodial sentence measured in years rather than months.

      Draft guidance on sentencing is currently out for consultation:

      This would be high culpability and category 1 harm. The suggested starting point for that is 4 years.

  3. Only the Socialists saw straight through the lies and this left lead attack on Claudia, we Socialists are proud yet again we stood on the honest side of history. Well done our Claudia Webbe, you will win back everything this vile collective called the Labour Party took away from you my friend… Clapping for our brilliant Skwawkbox…

  4. I hope that the original case is thrown out of Court
    without delay and the “victim” reprimanded. From
    what skwawkie reported the victim was not
    harassed. In contrast – Web had her life

    It seems though that Starmer is STILL intent on
    throwing her out even though the appeal is
    not finished.

    1. Yes Holby Starmer is intent on keeping her out – Claudia is a Socialist and therefore unwelcome in Starmers Labour. This case saved Starmer the bother of branding her an ” antisemite” ( like all the other Socialists he has expelled) but she is out and win or lose she’ll stay out.

    1. Toffee – …and what in your opinion have I said that I need to apologise for? Please be precise and please resist the temptation to make stuff up again.

      1. It’s not my fault you’re too much of a numpty to realise for yourself what you ought to apologise for. (See what I’ve done there, major malfunction?)

        Even after its more-or-less been spelled out for you by others.

        But then again, you have zero self awareness, and waltz around thinking your shit don’t stink.

        And to a certain degree, you’re correct, for about the only time ever… It doesn’t.

        …It REEKS.

        Ever wondered just why every one of your posts are ridiculed by anyone & everyone else?

        You ought to apologise for drawing breath you twunt.

      2. Toffee – Thanks for confirming that you are just an empty windbag.

  5. Ahemmmm ..

    It seems that EITHER
    the police did not bother
    to examine the “victims” phone – surely
    essential in a case where there were
    allegedly abusive phone calls ?

    OR they examined it but did not disclose
    the information to the defence.

    In either case the police behaved
    incompetently (to put it mildly!)

    1. I must admit that I am confused by this. Have the police so much time on their hands that they can spend hours analysing the content of a mobile phone AFTER a case has been taken to trial and the judgment handed down? What would be the point of doing that? It strikes me as being very odd .
      Surely as the phone was avaiable before the trial the Police’s duty was to gather every bit of evidence from it that might confirm the guilt or innocence of their suspect before the case was even taken to Court.

      1. Yes. Of course, Albert. When a judgement has been handed down and a case is over, evidence is stuck away in files and left there. The analysis of the phone data would not take place after a successful prosecution. There would be no point. We need your eagle eye.

  6. The biggest surprise is, despite his attempts to ‘cloud the issue’, Steve H has, actually, stuck to the issues raised in this article, rather than tried to deflect onto something, entirely, irrelevant to the matter at hand.

    I suppose we should count that as progress – of a kind.

  7. Oh, and can I take this opportunity to wish Jeremy Corbyn a very, Happy Birthday, today!

    To – still – be right, after all these years, is very, very impressive.

    Enjoy your day, ‘youngster’! 🙂 🙂

  8. In a number of comments in recent reports, mention has been made of articles in the MSM reports. The comments have assumed that, because the MSM reports all tally, they must be correct.
    Reporting is not what it was back in the day. There have been huge staffing reductions, particularly in the print media. This has resulted in much of the reporting coming from the news wires. Consequently, for many stories, all the MSM will report the same information without any of them having had a reporter “on the spot”.
    More sources do not necessarily give any greater authority to a report.
    A recent example unconnected to recent SB reports:-
    The BBC and other media are reporting that a battle is taking place in Donetsk Oblast for control of a major road (supply route). According to Defense Politics Asia (a Singapore-based group which, though it endeavours to maintain a neutral stance, occasionally says “good news” when the Ukrainians have made some progress) reported that the Russian/DPR forces had taken a section of the road 4 days ago, and that a much longer section had been taken yesterday.
    The MSM wouldn’t have had people “on the spot”. They would have simply regurgitated a report from the newswires or direct from Ukrainian government sources.

  9. It’s worth pointing out that those who believe that a news item is being accurately reported because they see it repeated in a number of news outlets are being rather naive. The idea that each element of the press & other news media have their own representative sitting in the well of every court jotting down the proceedings is nonsense. I dare say they that may do so for more celebrated cases but much of the time court reports are written up by one or two journalist & their reports are syndicated.
    That’s why if you look at the press and media reporting on this case it is all remarkably very similar in its content and style. There is for instance very little to chose from between the BBC’s on line report and the Independent’s both often use the very same phraseology. Of all the press only the Mail seems to offer more datail than the others although it still contains the assertion that the full content of the mobile phone was only discovered after the Magistrate’s Court hearing.
    It is nonesense then to suppose that just because a number of newspapers and news outlets report the same thing then this means that a number of individual journalists have all independently witnesses those event & that their concensus of opinion consequently verifies the accuracy of what is being reported.
    Perhaps SW can confirm just how many members of the press and broadcasting media are actually sitting in the Court reporting on this case. Given the extent of the press coverage is it safe to assume that there must be a a least a few dozen? Frankly I very much doubt it.

    1. I guess you’re right. For a case of modest significance (other than for the accused) there will probably be a number of “journalists” present for only the concluding stages.

    2. Albert Swift
      They use algorithms to pick up news stories, it’s an average report in every sense of the word
      Check out BB website, see how quickly you will read a report that has no journalist behind it

  10. Hope Claudia Webbe uses her contacts within police to go through them like a dose of salts
    Is Temporary Embarrassment a former DPP thick as pig shit or bent as a nine Bob note

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