London: Two members of Theresa May’s panel inquiring into child sex abuse are facing calls to resign after being accused of sending threatening or insulting emails to victims who had criticised the inquiry.

Lawyers for one abuse survivor have written to the home secretary to complain of a string of unsolicited communications, including an allegedly threatening email sent two days before an official meeting that both panellists and an abuse survivor were due to attend.

The victim, who is on medication for post traumatic stress disorder, was left too anxious to attend the “listening meeting” in November. The development will be a huge embarrassment to May, who has already seen two chairs to the inquiry stand down since it was launched in July, both over conflicts of interest.

A source close to the inquiry’s secretariat admitted the emails should not have been sent, leaving the fate of the panel members in doubt. At a meeting on Friday between government officials and victims of abuse, survivors were told allegations against panel members were being examined by an unnamed QC. Survivors told officials they had “lost all confidence” in the inquiry.

Andrew Lavery, whose whistle-blowing has led to a police investigation into abuse by monks at a Catholic boarding school in Scotland, complained he was left highly distressed after receiving an email from panel member Graham Wilmer. A letter sent by Lavery’s solicitors at Leigh Day claims their client, who first had contact with Wilmer in 2013 through his charity, the Lantern Project, which offers help to abuse victims, “has received a number of unsolicited communications from Wilmer following the end of their telephone contact”.

The letter adds: “These have included repeated requests from Wilmer asking Lavery to get in contact with him. Lavery has not responded. Lavery’s key concern is raised in relation to an email which he received from Wilmer on November 5. This was sent following Lavery’s conversation on November 5 with a member of the child sex abuse inquiry secretariat about attending a meeting with the inquiry on November 6. Lavery regards the contents of the email to be threatening. Lavery is of the belief that as a panel member, Wilmer should not be contacting individual survivors in this manner.” Wilmer, who was himself abused as a child, has denied he intended the email to be threatening. His email, which has been seen by the Observer, suggests he was provoked by a social media row between a separate abuse victim and his adult son, Rory, who had sought to confront those who criticised his father’s place on the panel.

Meanwhile, Peter McKelvie, a former child protection manager whose allegations led to the launch of Operation Fernbridge police inquiry in 2012, has complained about an inappropriate email from a second panellist. After McKelvie publicly raised questions about Barbara Hearn’s appointment, she falsely accused him of posing as a female blogger who had been causing her distress. McKelvie, 65, said he would continue to call for Hearn’s resignation because of her previous employment at the National Children’s Bureau, where a leading member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, Peter Righton, worked as a consultant between 1972 and 1974. McKelvie has also highlighted a potential conflict of interest in her connections with social work managers from the Labour-controlled Islington council in north London, when there was sexual abuse in children’s homes. Hearn was appointed to the NCB in the 1990s by John Rea Price, who had been director of social services at Islington council.

— Guardian News & Media 2014