A child abuse victim last night apologised to former Tory Party treasurer Lord McAlpine after confirming that he was not the man responsible for abusing him as a teenager.
SIn a statement quoted by the BBC, Mr Messham said: “After seeing a picture in the past hour of the individual concerned, this (is) not the person I identified by photograph presented to me by the police in the early 1990s, who told me the man in the photograph was Lord McAlpine.
“I want to offer my sincere and humble apologies to him and his family.”
Earlier, Lord McAlpine broke cover to issue a vehement public denial of the “wholly false and seriously defamatory” claims.
He has been the subject of intense speculation and innuendo since Mr Messham first said he had been abused by a senior Conservative from the Thatcher era.
Representatives of the peer said solicitors were preparing writs with a view to taking legal action against “all media who have defamed Lord McAlpine’s reputation”.
In his statement, Lord McAlpine said he had visited Wrexham “only once”, and that that had been in the company of an agent from Conservative Central Office. They visited a relative of Lord McAlpine’s and did not stay overnight, he said.
“I have never been to the children’s home in Wrexham, nor have I ever visited any children’s home, reform school or any other institution of a similar nature,” Lord McAlpine said.
“I have never stayed in a hotel in or near Wrexham, I did not own a Rolls-Royce, have never had a ‘Gold card’ or ‘Harrods card’ and never wear aftershave, all of which have been alleged.
“I did not sexually abuse Mr Messham or any other residents of the children’s home in Wrexham.”
Lord McAlpine said he had been defamed by “ill- or uninformed commentators” on the internet and “by innuendo” in the written and broadcast media.
A “substantial number of people” would have “reasonably inferred” that the allegations in the media had referred to him.
“Even though these allegations made of me by implication in the broadcast and print media, and made directly about me on the internet, are wholly false and seriously defamatory, I can no longer expect the broadcast and print media to maintain their policy of defaming me only by innuendo,” he said.
“My name and the allegations are for all practical purposes linked and in the public domain and I cannot rewind the clock.
“I therefore have decided that in order to mitigate, if only to some small extent, the damage to my reputation I must publicly tackle these slurs and set the record straight.”
His intervention came as the Guardian became the first newspaper to name him, saying he was the victim of mistaken identity. The paper quoted Wrexham councillor Keith Gregory, himself a victim of abuse at the Bryn Estyn, saying that he did not believe Lord McAlpine was involved in the scandal.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who has warned that the fevered speculation risked turning into a “witch-hunt”, said the issue highlighted his concerns about how paedophilia claims were reported.
“We must get to the bottom of the allegations that have been made. In doing so, all organisations, all politicians, have to be very careful they do not bandy about allegations and names without thinking about the consequences,” he said.
Lord McAlpine’s solicitor, Andrew Reid, said the peer had decided to speak out after presenter Philip Schofield tried to pass a list of alleged paedophiles to Mr Cameron live on ITV1’s This Morning. The names on the list were briefly caught on camera.
“It becomes a media frenzy and there comes a point at which he has got no choice but to come out and put his case,” he told the BBC.
He attacked BBC2’s Newsnight programme which last week broadcast Mr Messham’s allegations without stating to whom they referred.
The BBC said in a statement that Newsnight broadcast its investigation because it was in the public interest to highlight alleged failures in a child abuse inquiry and it was now up to to the official inquiry to dig deeper.
The Government has instigated two more abuse-related reviews since the Newsnight broadcast.
Conservative MP Rob Wilson has now written to the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, asking him to explain what steps it had taken to establish the true identity of Mr Messham’s abuser.