A Very English Scandal: What happened next?

Here's what became of Jeremy Thorpe, Norman Scott and Peter Bessell AFTER the trial

Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal

Has A Very English Scandal left you desperate to know more about the real people behind the BBC drama, and what happened to them after the famous Thorpe trial at the Old Bailey in 1979? Of course it has.

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Russell T Davies’ A Very English Scandal is adapted from the “non-fiction novel” by John Preston and tells the true story of the 1970s Thorpe affair, in which former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe was accused of conspiring to murder his alleged former lover Norman Scott.

Here’s what happened to each of the main players in the years after the court case:


What happened to Jeremy Thorpe after the trial?

Jeremy Thorpe and Hugh Grant

After the verdict, Thorpe’s reputation was irreparably damaged. Having lost his seat in the May 1979 general election before the trial began and alienated his old colleagues, his political career was over. Other avenues were also closed; when he was chosen as director of Amnesty International’s British arm in 1982, there was such an outcry that he soon withdrew. His long campaign to secure himself a peerage also came to nothing. In the mid-1980s he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which progressively robbed him of the power of speech, though he did publish a memoir in 1999, In My Own Time. He died in 2014 at 85, outliving his wife Marion by just a few months.


What happened to Norman Scott after the trial?

Norman Scott and Ben Whishaw, Getty and BBC Pictures, SL

Originally known as Norman Josiffe, Scott, now 78, lives in an old farmhouse on Dartmoor in Devon, with an extensive collection of horses, 11 dogs, chickens and assorted birds. He has a boyfriend of the past two decades, who is an artist.


What happened to Jeremy’s wife Marion Thorpe?

Monica Dolan plays Jeremy Thorpe's second wife Marion Thorpe in A Very English Scandal

The Austrian concert pianist Marion Stein married Jeremy Thorpe in March 1973 and stood by him. When Thorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, she nursed him with devotion. They lived together in London until her death in 2014, aged 87.


What happened to Jeremy’s son Rupert Thorpe?

Rupert Thorpe, son of Jeremy Thorpe in 2014

Thorpe’s only child, born in 1969. His mother was Thorpe’s first wife, Caroline Allpass, who was killed in a car crash when Rupert was only a year old. He became a photographer, and later joined the picture desk at The Sun. In 2003 he was one of four paparazzi accused of crashing Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas’s wedding. He has since moved to Los Angeles to photograph celebrities and news stories such as Hurricane Katrina. He remained close to his father.


What happened to Peter Bessell?

Peter Bessell in 1979, Getty, TL

Jeremy Thorpe’s confidant and right-hand man testified against his old friend and colleague. By then he was already suffering from emphysema. He and his wife Diane moved to Oceanside, California, where he took an interest in local politics and campaigned against sand erosion. He also self-published a book about the scandal, called Cover-Up: the Jeremy Thorpe Affair. He died in 1985 at the age of 64.


What happened to Andrew Newton?

Blake Harrison plays Andrew Newton in A Very English Scandal

The airline pilot allegedly agreed to kill Scott for £10,000, after drinking 16 pints. Nicknamed “Chickenbrain”, he only managed to shoot his intended victim’s dog, a Great Dane named Rinka. After testifying for the prosecution at Thorpe’s trial, he changed his name to Hann Redwin. He resurfaced in the news in 1993 when his girlfriend fell 900ft to her death in a climbing accident in the Alps. Redwin was cleared of all blame.


What happened to the judge Sir Joseph Cantley?

Sir Joseph Cantley in 1955, Getty, TL

The Honourable Sir Joseph Donaldson Cantley was so little-known outside the legal world when he was selected to preside over the trial of Jeremy Thorpe that none of the news agencies had a picture of him on file. The court case changed all that. His pro-Thorpe summing-up made him notorious and inspired the Peter Cook parody, “Entirely a Matter for You”. Cantley retired from the bench in 1985.


What happened to the barrister George Carman?

December 1971: George Alfred Carman (1929 - 2001) on his appointment as a QC. (Getty, TL)

The trial was the making of barrister George Carman (later a libel lawyer) and brought him a long line of high-profile clients, including Ken Dodd and Robert Maxwell. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999 and died two years later. After his death, his three ex-wives claimed he physically and emotionally abused them (claims his partner and grandson passionately denied).


What happened to Jeremy Thorpe’s co-defendant David Holmes?

Paul Hilton plays David Holmes in A Very English Scandal

Assistant treasurer of the Liberal Party, best man at Thorpe’s first wedding — and sometime lover — Holmes stood trial alongside him. Two years later, he fell foul of the anti-gay laws of the time and was arrested for “importuning for an immoral purpose” — approaching men for sex — and was pilloried in the tabloids.

He ended up managing a roller-disco in north London. John Le Mesurier and George Deakin Not to be mistaken for the actor who played Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army, this Le Mesurier was a carpet salesman from south Wales who was accused of calling in fruit-machine salesman George Deakin to help recruit Andrew Newton. They, too, stood trial, but little is known of what happened to them afterwards. 

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This article was originally published on 3 June 2018

Read on for more on the real history of A Very English Scandal


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