Police and crime commissioner quit after allegedly sending explicit photo
PUBLISHED: 01:05 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:00 18 December 2019
©2014 Terry Harris Photography
A nine-day exchange of increasingly personal messages on Facebook with someone he hardly knew led to the resignation of police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite.
Conservative Mr Ablewhite, 47, quit suddenly from his £85,000-a-year elected post in November. He later resigned as a district councillor.
At the time the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it had started an investigation "following a referral about a public complaint into the conduct of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire".
This newspaper can today reveal that the complaint accused Mr Ablewhite of sending suggestive Facebook messages and an explicit photo to a 50-year old vulnerable woman.
The woman, who we are not naming, reported the exchange to Cambridgeshire police at the end of that month.
Within hours of Sarah* filing her complaint, she was visited by two detectives and interviewed for seven hours.
Detectives asked her to give them access to her Facebook, mobile phone and Kindle. More interviews were to follow once Cambridgeshire police handed over a report to the IOPC.
An IOPC spokesman said: "Our investigation into allegations of criminal offences against Mr Ablewhite is ongoing.
"At the conclusion of our investigation we will make a decision whether to make a referral to the Crown Prosecution Service.
"Decisions as to whether Mr Ablewhite will face charges will be a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service."
There have been no arrest or charges.
The spokesman indicated that the investigation is not expected to be complete until the middle to end of February.
Both the alleged victim, and a friend who is supporting her, were allegedly asked not to speak to anyone - even their closest friends - about the inquiry now underway into Mr Ablewhite's alleged conduct.
But both said they had decided to speak out for the first time because of a lack of support and information following Mr Ablewhite's resignation in November.
"It felt like the police's attitude was, 'there, there you'll be all right'," said Sarah.
"The impression I got from them was, ok you brought this to our attention, and we're working on it but toddle off and do your own thing. It's just messed my life up.
"If I could flick a switch and go back in time, I would not report it."
The story began when Sarah joined a small group touring police headquarters at Huntingdon. She and her friend had spoken with Mr Ablewhite on Facebook ahead of the visit.
Sarah, 50, has faced mental health issues over the years. She is candid about her well-being, suffering also from panic attacks and depression.
Outwardly, however, she is bubbly, and in recent months has begun a university course.
Sarah claimed that the messages with Mr Ablewhite began soon after she had arrived home from the police headquarters visit.
"I'd found him to be a nice chap. I did think during the tour he was gravitating towards me although I didn't think anything of it," she said.
"When I got home, I got a message from Jason asking if I had nice time."
Over the coming days the messages got more frequent.
One early message from Mr Ablewhite allegedly told Sarah it "seems wrong chatting to you with just a towel on, better not let it slip".
Sarah said: "I started getting alarm bells ringing, so it was another reason to screenshot the messages."
She said: "I messaged back 'bloody hell, put some clothes on. I'm blushing."
"Aren't you meant to be respectable, met the Queen and that?"
He replied: "lol in public"
As the conversation moved from routine chit chat to more suggestive messages, Sarah said: "I wasn't comfortable and not sure what I would do if got worse, but I knew I had to take screenshots of them.
"He said he spent much of his time behaving impeccably."
But matters moved rapidly after Mr Ablewhite allegedly told her "I try not to be inappropriate - it's not as if I have sent you a picture of my xxxx"
Sarah replied: "Well just be thankful for small mercies - I think you did offer one earlier."
She alleged he then sent the photo.
Sarah claimed the photo was the final straw and she said that after that last night of messaging she knew she wouldn't be able to cope.
Just nine days after that first meeting, he messaged her: "Can you forgive me?"
Sarah claims the offending picture had been sent twice and he asked what she was going to do about it.
Sarah said the night he sent the offensive photo: "I cried my eyes out. I had a shower, threw up and felt violated.
"It has interfered with my mind, interfered with my home, memories of that day out at police headquarters."
On the day she blocked him on Facebook, Sarah decided to report the incident to Cambridgeshire police.
She tried to find out what victim support was available but because of it being a case involving Cambridgeshire police, they could not access the local victim support hubs.
Her friend, who is supporting her, said: "The IOPC told us that support for us was paramount."
But Sarah said: "There have been lots of silences, lots of nothings"
A spokesman for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire confirmed the investigation was a matter for the IOPC but they would be examining the complaints of not being able to access counselling and support services.
Mr Ablewhite has been contacted for comment but had not replied at the time of going to press.
* Name changed to protect identity