Britain's most senior police officer has defended the investigation of alleged murders and child sex abuse by an Establishment paedophile ring as "a very thorough and professional inquiry".
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe backed Operation Midland in the wake of an acknowledgement by Scotland Yard that a detective who described a complainant's claims as "credible and true" had "suggested we were pre-empting the outcome of the investigation".
Sir Bernard also rejected claims by former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor - who said he was the victim of a "homosexual witch hunt" after twice being questioned by detectives - that police are preparing an "exit strategy" to end the controversial inquiry.
Speaking to London radio station LBC, Sir Bernard said detectives would have been rightly criticised if they had not taken allegations of three murders seriously and said people should not focus on "the use of one word, in one interview".
He said: "I think they have carried out a very thorough and professional inquiry which they are in the middle of and you are saying 'why are you still carrying it on?'. But for that one word then I think it has been a very good inquiry."
He said claims that Midland would close were "not accurate", adding: "We will do whatever we need to do to get to the bottom of this, it has taken a while to get this far but the trouble with these inquiries is often the victims and the witnesses don't have total recall of the information or the detail of the offence, and clearly we have struggled at times to corroborate, with such a passage of time, some of the things that have been said."
When the inquiry was launched, Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald said officers who had spoken to an alleged victim, known by the pseudonym "Nick", thought his account was "credible and true".
In Monday's statement Scotland Yard defended its work, saying: "Whilst we start from a position of believing the witness, our stance then is to investigate without fear or favour, in a thorough, professional and impartial fashion, and to go where the evidence takes us without prejudging the truth of the allegations. That is exactly what has happened in this case."
Operation Midland includes allegations of sexual abuse but it is "and remains" a murder investigation, the statement said.
Last month Mr Proctor, who represented Basildon in Essex from 1979 to 1983 and Billericay from 1983 to 1987, told a packed press conference that former prime minister Sir Edward Heath and ex-home secretary Leon Brittan had been named among his "alleged co-conspirators".
He criticised Sir Bernard's comments today, saying that Mr McDonald's words had not been "off the cuff".
Mr Proctor said: "It was a very slow and deliberate statement and it was made after Scotland Yard threw their own press conference."
He added: "I'm not sure that the police commissioner should be in the media treating it like a quiz show, allocating marks of quality and ranking to his inquiries."