Two year journey nears end of the road

Fake news or fact

An invitation from a well-known police whistleblower to look into what he claimed was serious police and council wrongdoing in the famous old East Lancashire mill town of Oldham first came in or around October, 2019, writes Neil Wilby. 

Peter Jackson, a retired detective chief inspector popularly known as ‘Jacko’, and I, had worked successfully together exposing stark failings within the senior ranks of Greater Manchester Police long before the penny finally dropped at the Home Office and the force was placed in ‘Special Measures’ in December, 2020. Notably with this widely read and shared Neil Wilby Media article (read in full here) upon which we collaborated closely. Along with three other ex-GMP cops, Margaret Oliver (better known as “Maggie”) , Scott Winters and Paul Bailey. 

For some months I resisted the repeated calls to arms in Oldham: Councils and councillors were not my core focus, either as an investigative journalist or police complaints advocate, and, at first blush, there didn’t seem a great deal beyond the perception that GMP was rubbish in every other aspect and area of their operations, so there must be something wrong in the District’s Q Division if one was prepared to look hard enough.

Jacko was being fed information about alleged Oldham misdemeanours, mainly centred around Labour politicians, police and agency partners covering up child sex abuse in the Borough in return for Asian block votes at local and general elections, by a well known Tameside-based conspiracy theorist, Raja Miah, who came with a considerable amount of his own baggage: Dark mutterings about large sums of public money apparently laundered through charities and consultancy companies between 2002 and  2012 – and a free schools enterprise that Miah founded, and ran as chief executive, had made national headlines and been raised in Parliament over the disappearance of yet more £millions and a catalogue of very serious operational and safeguarding failings (read more here). 

By the time I returned from a six months sojourn in Catalunya, Spain, in July, 2020, Jacko and his associates had, eventually, persuaded me to take a further look into what might be going on in Oldham.

The following month Pete, Maggie, myself and another retired police officer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had a lengthy and, despite the central subject matter, convivial meeting in Manchester city centre.

By this time, I had already decided that there was little or no substance to any of the allegations that Raja Miah had made: he was unreliable, untrustworthy and given to telling outrageous lies, particularly about evidence and ‘dossiers’ he claimed to hold and a fictitious network of well-placed ‘sources’.

Maggie was emphatic, also, that she would have nothing whatsoever to do with him, or his allegations, not only because of Miah’s antecedents (she was quite forceful about that) but because two experts in child sexual exploitation (CSE) investigations had been appointed, seven months earlier, to carry out an Assurance Review into the allegations that he was making on social media. Those experts were Malcolm Newsam MBE and Gary Ridgway, both of whom Maggie knew well and trusted to get to the truth, or otherwise, of the extent of ‘cover-up’, if any, of CSE in Oldham. 

So, my own investigations turned through 180 degrees and Raja Miah became, to a significant extent, its focus. How could one man, aided by a relatively small group of criminals, thugs, perverts, deluded cranks and elderly misfits, terrorise an entire Metropolitan Borough Council, the second largest police force in England and anyone who dare speak out about his violent fantasies of murder, mayhem, Asian Cartels, gangsters, mobsters and Pakistani goons?

It came with stark warnings attached: ‘He’s a shameless bully’, ‘He will destroy you’, ‘No one has ever stood up to him and come out best’. But an attritional 40 year rugby career, from schoolboy star to war-weary veteran, had come with similar warnings most Saturdays and some Wednesdays. 

Pete Jackson, to his eternal shame and at a high cost to his own credibility, stuck with Miah and became an integral, indeed leading, part of the deeply offensive and highly abusive group attached to him whom, appositely, self-style as The Rabble (or Raja’s Rabble). We, unsurprisingly, parted company in acrimonious circumstances over that continued association.

Today is an anniversary of sorts, the first Oldham article was published on Neil Wilby Media two years ago. Headlined, If Only, Madam Mayor (read in full here), it told the story of a campaign of horrendous abuse waged by Miah and The Rabble against the then Deputy Leader of Oldham Council, Arooj Shah.

It was also a brutal exposé of just part of the persistent, mendacious lying by Raja Miah and, labelling him as such, meant the gloves were well and truly off. The daily torrent of the most appalling ad hominem abuse started against its author and has persisted ever since (read more here).

Another article the following month, headlined Get The White Vote Angry (read in full here) was a lengthy, forensic, paragraph by paragraph take down of the Miah CSE allegations as they stood at that time (they constantly shift ground as one after another falls away through lack of substance or evidence).

This acclaimed piece of journalism, of course, enraged Raja and his Rabble even further but instead of answering or challenging the evidence so carefully set out in the article their focus was on discrediting the person who wrote it. Often in the most bizarre or perverse ways imaginable.

But the Get The White Vote Angry article was the product of hundreds of hours of research, and interviews with key stakeholders, and has not only stood the test of time, it foretold, very largely, what Newsam and Ridgway were to say about the Miah CSE ‘cover-up’ allegations when the Assurance Review finally reported publicly in June, 2022: There was simply no evidence to back up his claims. 

Along the way, Raja Miah has desperately avoided a public debate with another of his nemeses, local community champion and well known property lawyer, Tahir Mushtaq. Local charities would have benefited, thanks to two very generous sponsors, to the tune of £2,000 if Miah had simply turned up (read more here). The coward, however, prefers the heavily curated environment of his own social media platforms where any dissenting voices, however mildly questions are presented, are quickly piled upon by The Rabble and then blocked out.

‘The Malicious Beggar’ (or simply ‘The Beggar’), as he is now widely known on social media and elsewhere, has also steadfastly refused to answer two tranches of questions put to him by me (read here and here) that utterly destroy what little credibility remains around him and The Rabble. He is a busted flush and, moreover, he knows it. Reduced to scrabbling around and robbing the vulnerable, disabled, mentally ill, elderly and delusional of their State benefits – and claiming to be living his luxury lifestyle on £500 per month (read more here).

So, what of the future for Neil Wilby and his reporting of matters pertaining to Oldham? Would it be sensible to simply walk away from what is, very arguably, the best journalistic network of professional contacts in the Borough and, very likely the Greater Manchester Region? Many of whom have become firm friends and/or trusted allies.

There is also a genuine affinity that has developed with a multi-faceted and often undersold Oldham, and its earthy citizens; not least in providing a counterbalance to the constant rubbishing of the town by a man who has shamelessly milked many millions of pounds from it and scarpered off to a neighbouring Borough in 2004 as soon as he could afford to. 

The plan, at present, is, for an old man not in the best of health, to cover significant news stories that involve the Oldham Council or GMP’s Q Division and provide coverage of the local elections in May, 2023 in the much the same way as reported in the past two municipal years. 

After that, it may well be that semi-retirement and warmer climes beckon, but I know of very few who walk away completely from investigative journalism. If it is in your blood, like a cancer, it is virtually untreatable. 

Page last updated Tuesday 18th October, 2022 at 1725hrs

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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