The Inside Story of How a ‘Bogus’ Letter Roiled Britain

Local officials knew about the dispute and had discredited key claims in the letter

In 2013, before the Trojan Horse letter appeared, the Birmingham City Council commissioned its own investigation into the dispute at Adderley. In the report, investigators concluded that the Adderley assistants’ resignation letters had been “falsified,” adding that “in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to conclude that Mrs. Darr may have been involved in the fabrication of the resignation letters.”

This report contradicted key claims later made in the Trojan Horse letter, specifically that there was a plot to oust the head teacher at Adderley. The Council’s investigators did not find a plot against Mrs. Darr. In the report, they speculate she may have been the one plotting to oust her colleagues — and, crucially, using phony letters to do it.

The secretary for education had been told the letter was “bogus” — before it went public

Mr. Reed and Mr. Syed obtained meeting minutes showing that Michael Gove, the secretary of state for education, was told in a private meeting that the counterterrorism police had determined that the letter was “bogus.”

“There is a serious credibility gap regarding the document,” a representative for the Birmingham City Council wrote in a briefing note shared with Mr. Gove. “The document contains serious factual inaccuracies and, in a number of areas, contradictions.”

The briefing note said auditors had come to “a clear view that there was no basis” to a number of allegations in the letter. Nonetheless, Mr. Gove went on to cite the letter as a reason for sweeping intervention in Birmingham schools and changes to national education policy. He also addressed Parliament about the letter, claiming it represented a legitimate threat.

The authorities still used the letter’s debunked claims as evidence of an Islamist plot

In 2013, nearly one year after the dispute at Adderley Primary School began, two of Mrs. Darr’s close colleagues stepped forward and claimed to have witnessed Mrs. Darr open the resignation letters. Mr. Reed and Mr. Syed found no mention of these witnesses before this moment.

The belated witness statements cast doubt on the Council’s report that had pointed the finger at Mrs. Darr for potential forgery of the letters. The Council later retracted the report and provided legal defense for Mrs. Darr’s school. (The Council later threatened to get an injunction against Mr. Reed and Mr. Syed barring them from using the report in the series.)

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