Tory whips were told about sexual assault and cocaine abuse allegations against a Conservative MP two weeks ago – but waited until the allegations were leaked to the press before suspending him.
David Warburton, 56, was suspended by the Conservative Party on the weekend after a picture of him sitting alongside what is claimed to be lines of cocaine emerged – as he stands accused of inappropriately touching three women.
Party whips told two of Mr Warburton’s alleged victims, women who worked in the MP for Somerset & Frome’s office, to take their complaints through the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, according to The Times.
The Tory party whips learnt about the two alleged victims through another staff member weeks ago, but did not kick Mr Warburton out of the Conservative Party until the claims were published by The Sunday Times.
One female staffer alleges that he coerced her into visiting his taxpayer-funded flat with him in Westminster, where he proceeded to kiss and grope her, according to The Times.
Tory whips were told about sexual assault and cocaine abuse allegations against David Warburton two weeks ago – but waited until the allegations were leaked to the press before suspending the MP for Somerset & Frome
David Warburton, 56, has been accused of sexually assaulting three women – two of whom worked in his office. According to The Times, Tory whips learnt about his female staffers’ allegations a fortnight ago, but did not kick him out of the party until his scandal became public on the weekend
She alleges that Mr Warburton touched her bottom and thigh in separate incidents.
A second staffer alleges that Mr Warburton had caressed her and physically stopped her from escaping his flat, even using physical force to direct her to his bedroom.
Meanwhile, a third woman – the only one of the three complainants not to be employed by Mr Warburton – said he came over to her home while drunk, snorted ‘line after line after line’ of cocaine and then stripped.
While naked, Mr Warburton is alleged to have got into bed with the complainant and groped her – later sending apologetic texts, saying ‘promise I won’t remove my clothes again’.
In the same text in which Mr Warburton is said to have apologised, he went on to detail his plans to get more cocaine as he had a day off from his duties in parliament, according to The Times.
Despite the gravity of the scandal in which Mr Warburton has found himself embroiled, his wife was said to still be standing by him – according to her brother.
Mr Warburton told friends he had been through ‘sheer hell’ as he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital suffering from severe shock and stress.
Mr Warburton’s wife of 20 years, Harriet, 52, was said to be fully backing her husband, who denies all wrongdoing.
David Warburton’s wife of 20 years, Harriet, 52, was said to be fully backing her husband, who denies accusations of abusing the cocaine and inappropriately touching three women
The Conservative Party suspended David Warburton at the weekend after a picture of him sitting alongside what is claimed to be lines of cocaine emerged
Her brother Jonathan Baker-Bates said: ‘Absolutely, they’re standing by each other at the moment … They’ve always been a very happy couple for as long as I’ve known them. Harriet is obviously affected herself … I think she is obviously finding it hard.
‘I got a call from my sister last night. That’s the first time I’ve heard of it. She seems to be surprised by it as much as anyone else. Her line is as his – he’s not done anything wrong and these things have explanations.’
Mr Warburton’s father-in-law was equally shocked.
Merrick Baker-Bates, 82, the former deputy high commissioner to Malaysia and British consul general in Los Angeles, said: ‘When I saw the paper this morning I thought it was an April Fool joke.’
Mr Warburton and his wife live with their two teenage children in a six-bedroom detached house in the village of Baltonsborough, near Glastonbury, which they bought last year for £1.3million.
PR professional Mrs Warburton, the cousin of former Cabinet secretary Lord Butler, confirmed her husband’s hospital admission, said to be a private facility, but refused to comment herself. She is also her husband’s publicly funded personal assistant and communications officer.
Her brother, 55, from north London, said he saw Mr Warburton only a few weeks ago and he ‘seemed to be normal David’.
‘David’s a nice guy. It came as a shock to all of us. I would imagine he has good reasons for why he is saying he is denying it,’ he added.
Mr Warburton, who has had the Tory whip withdrawn, has said he plans to launch a robust defence to counter the allegations.
When asked about the photograph supposedly showing the MP posing next to white powder, Mr Baker-Bates said: ‘As far as I know, that behaviour is out of character and the wider allegations appear out of character.
‘He was always very conscious that he is an MP so it is surprising in that context,’ he said.
Mr Warburton with then Prime Minister Theresa May at the Bath and West Show in 2017
He also questioned whether the allegations could be part of a ‘fix-up’ following claims that the MP might have been the victim of a sting by a foreign power. He said: ‘It does seem to have a lot of ingredients of something.’
MI5 chiefs warned this year that hostile countries could target MPs. But Whitehall sources suggested there was no malign state involvement in this instance.
Nevertheless, officials have referred the case to MI6 out of an abundance of caution, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Mr Warburton is now being investigated by Parliament’s new ‘#MeToo’ harassment watchdog, the Independent Complaints Grievance Scheme.
He also allegedly failed to declare a £100,000 loan in 2017 from a Russian businessman.
London-based Roman Joukovski, 52, whom the MP has since repaid, was named in High Court papers last year as a defendant in an alleged cryptocurrency fraud. The case appears to have been settled and was closed in January.