A former Surrey Comet news editor may have been handed a fake D-notice preventing him from reporting on the alleged Westminster paedophile ring working out of Elm Guest House in Barnes.

Hilton Tims, husband of the Comet’s features editor June Sampson, made national headlines this week when he said the paper had been gagged by the Government of the early 1980s over the scandal.

But the Government department that handles the D-notice system has denied such an order was ever made – and suggested whatever was sent to the Comet could have been a fake “as a means of applying pressure”.

Elm Guest House, which has since closed and been converted into flats, is at the centre of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Fernbridge, which is investigating claims of sexual abuse and grooming of children by Government ministers, MPs and senior police officers in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

This month the Met said a new inquiry had begun into the guest house after one victim claimed he saw three boys murdered, including one allegedly strangled by a Conservative MP during a sex game.

Mr Tims, 82, was the paper’s news editor between 1980 and 1988, and told the Observer newspaper on Sunday that one of his reporters was given a D-notice in 1984 after being tipped off about the guest home. 

Your Local Guardian: Hilton Tims

Former Surrey  Comet news editor Hilton Tims said the paper was gagged over Elm Guest House in the 1980s

However, Andrew Vallance, secretary at the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee which runs the D-notice system, said: “If your editor thought he was being served with a D-notice – he was not.

“He might have been served with something from the police or the judiciary, but it certainly was not a D-notice of any type to do with a child abuse cover-up.

Your Local Guardian:

Today's Surrey Comet leads with the fake D-notice story

“It is possible that somebody might have presented something that purported to be a D-notice as a means of applying pressure.

“That is quite possible, but whatever it was it was not a valid D-notice.

“We have gone through all our files and we have found absolutely no indication or any mention of D-notices being issued to anyone on the subject of child abuse or anything related to child abuse.”

David Wilson, the Surrey Comet editor at the time said: "When Reid International (forerunner of Newsquest) bought the Surrey Comet in 1994 they showed no interest in keeping anything. 

"But for the likes of June Sampson everything would have gone in the skip.  My office at the time?  The exact spot where my office was, subsequently became the lingerie department of Marks and Spencer in Church Street and at present, I believe, is now part of the men's department."

Mr Vallance has said there were only eight D-notices issued in 1984.

But the service are also facing questions about a possible cover-up after official documents relating to gagging orders in the 1980s were said to be destroyed.

North Kingston MP Zac Goldsmith said last week: “I have zero doubt that grotesque things happened at Elm Guest House and other parts of London at the hands of depraved and powerful people, and those things were systematically covered up.”