Conservative Party probe background to death of Wisbech political activist found dead near Bedfordshire rail station

Elliott Johnson

Elliott Johnson - Credit: Archant

A week ago last Sunday his father drove from their family home in Wisbech to drop his politically active, politically consumed son Elliott Johnson, 21, at Peterborough rail station.

It had been a brief weekend visit; enough time though to take in a family wedding at Kettering but Ray Johnson spotted nothing unusual other than to suspect that his son was having “a few issues at work”.

Elliott headed back to London.

Two days later Mr Johnson got the call every parent dreads but hopes will never happen- his son was dead.

Within hours Elliott’s apparent suicide – on a railway line in Bedfordshire- began to fuel speculation that by last night had thrown Elliott’s Conservative Party paymasters into turmoil.

“It seems Elliott was caught up in a web of intrigue – I would go so far as to call it a snake pit,” said Mr Johnson, the day after attending the opening of his son’s inquest.

Letters left by Elliott, now with the coroner but copied and handed to the family, remain confidential but Mr Johnson is hopeful an investigation will help his family understand, and come to terms, with his son’s death.

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The investigation is with the British Transport Police but Mr Johnson believes that “if something unlawful happened, then the Metropolitan Police will get involved”.

Last night the Conservative Party was at the centre of a growing storm to discover what prompted the death of a young man believed by many, including NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay and Wisbech Conservative Association chairman Steve Tierney, to be heading towards a promising political career.

At the inquest the first public indications of the troubled mind of Elliott were given in a brief statement that referred to “certain allegations with the possibility of bullying before Mr Johnson died”. His family, initially traumatised by the claims and not used to being the centre of media attention, want those claims fully tested.

Mr Johnson said: “We want to know long the Conservative Party had concerns and why nothing was done to keep young people safe.” His comment was an indirect response to allegations, now surfacing, of a culture of bullying within the party and where others had made complaints.

Elliott landed, after graduating this year, what his father termed his son’s “dream job” as political editor of the campaign group Conservative Way Forward.

But while the Nottingham University graduate got to grips with the post this summer he, seemingly, felt pressurised by some within both the organisation and within the party.

Mr Johnson said he had discovered that within two months of landing the job – and taking a six month lease on a flat at Tooting- the role was made redundant. Elliott was given a part time role as a social media consultant but not within sufficient pay, the family now fear, to continue to pay his rent.

Last Monday night Elliott went to a political meeting at Portcullis House in Westminster to join the throng of Conservative Party workers and officials considering the ‘Corbyn effect’.

On the way home Elliott spoke briefly a colleague – and the following morning left Tooting and headed to Sandy in Bedfordshire. He died soon after arriving at the station.

His death has left behind a political party – publicly “deeply saddened” by Elliott’s death- in the grip of an ongoing investigation into allegations of bullying.

Elliott himself is thought to have made complaints, others too have confirmed they made complaints and last month an investigation had begun.

Wisbech district and county councillor Samantha Hoy knew him well and had worked alongside him for many years – including a spell when Elliott was chairman of the Wisbech Youth Council.

She has been on the phone to officials at national level to try and understand what had been happening to Elliott. She confirmed reports that some of those at the centre of the allegations had been told not to attend the annual party conference and that an inquiry was under way.

“This has knocked me for six,” she said. “Someone needs to get to the bottom of it.”