Chester Police Complete Sex Abuse Investigation into Victor Whitsey, Former Bishop of Chester

From the website of Chester Police (emphasis in original):

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey said:  “Cheshire Constabulary has published a report into the findings of an investigation into allegations of non-recent sexual abuse made against a former Bishop of Chester.  Operation Coverage focused on allegations made against the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey, which date back to the 1970s and 1980s.  They relate to 13 victims (5 male and 8 female).

“Allegations of this nature are taken extremely seriously.  The police have a duty to carry out a proportionate investigation into all allegations of sexual abuse – even if the alleged offences took place many years ago and the person being accused has since died.

“Following a thorough investigation and taking into account all of the information available, it has been established that, if Bishop Whitsey were alive today, as part of the investigation process he would have been spoken to by police.  This would have been in order to outline the details of the allegations made and to provide him with an opportunity to offer an account of events.

“It is important to remember that this is not an indication of guilt – this is a key part of the investigation process and this happens regularly as part of a case to obtain an account whether this leads to further action or not.  It is not the role of the police to judge whether someone is guilty or innocent.

It is contradictory to refer to “victims” while denying “an indication of guilt” (I’m assuming we can discount the possibility of mistaken identity), but the word is used here in accordance with national policing guidelines; the recent Operation Conifer Summary Report into allegations against Edward Heath followed the same practice.

However, it is important to note the general principle in the last paragraph above: when it was recently announced that Wiltshire Police would have interviewed Heath under caution over child-sex abuse allegations, it was erroneously inferred by many to mean that there was a strong case to answer. This was also the impression created when Sussex Police said last year that they would have arrested Bishop George Bell following an allegation that the Diocese of Chichester had investigated, were not for the fact that Bell had died in 1958. In fact, though, any superficially plausible allegation might lead to such an interview, with the threat of arrest if the invitation is declined, and as such it seems unwise that the police keep placing such an emphasis on this detail in their hypothetical conclusions.

In this instance, however, the Archbishop of York and the current Bishop of Chester have issued a joint statement in which they state that the investigation into Whitsey has been “comprehensive”, and in which they apologise “to those individuals who have come forward to share their account of abuse”.

Although I know of an instance where a church apology was issued based on one person’s allegation against a deceased vicar ahead of any investigation (either internally or by police), in this case it is reasonable to assume that the apology follows the careful consideration of credible testimony. The dead cannot defend themselves from false allegations, and in law the accused is innocent until proven guilty, but that does not mean that there can never be circumstances in which someone is exposed as a criminal after their death, or at least reasonably suspected. I prefer to avoid the rhetoric of “belief” or “disbelief” in such matters, but see no reason to treat testimony such as this with scepticism.

According to the Summary Report, the police’s enquiries with the Church of England found no archival information “that supports or undermines the disclosures made by the witnesses within this investigation.” However:

Through the enquiries conducted with the Church, it is clear that those who reported abuse had previously disclosed details of their allegations to the Church…  It has been established that [victim] (M2) reported the abuse they alleged to representatives of the clergy the day after the alleged abuse occurred (1981) and… was able to provide the police with letters they had received from the Church appertaining to the events surrounding the alleged abuse. 

Further:

It has been established that (M3) reported the alleged abuse to representatives of the clergy in 1992 and between the years of 2000-2002. On both occasions, due to their wishes, no further action was taken by the Church. 

This was alluded to in a statement written by Richard Scorer that appeared on the website of Slater and Gordon last month, although the page is not currently available. Scorer wrote:

A lengthy and careful police investigation has revealed that Victor Whitsey, the former Anglican Bishop of Chester, was almost certainly a prolific abuser of children.

…It appears that the police investigation has revealed that others in the Church may have been aware of Whitsey’s involvement in child abuse whilst he was still working as a Bishop. It is understood that the Church of England may shortly be announcing an independent review into the case.

Despite this, though, no-one has been arrested for anything, and so we must again wonder about the wisdom of police spending their energies on matters where a suspect is deceased and cannot be brought to trial – particularly when allegations are decades old. Although the police of course have special legal powers to gather evidence, there must come a point where these kinds of allegations about public figures are more properly the domain of historians and journalists.

The Summary Report includes a justification:

Whilst there cannot be a criminal justice outcome in respect of Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey this does not detract from the obligation for the police to conduct an investigation into alleged criminal conduct and the force is committed to conducting a thorough yet proportionate search for the truth to:

– Ensure that, as far as possible, the facts are established
– Expose culpable and discreditable conduct and bring it to public notice if in the public interest
– Dispel unjustified suspicion of deliberate wrongdoing
– Correct dangerous practices and procedures
– Safeguard and protect individuals

One wonders about a police mission to “expose culpable and discreditable conduct” when “it is not the role of the police to judge whether someone is guilty or innocent”. However, it is worth imagining how the crimes of the elderly Bishop Peter Ball might never have been exposed had he not been (un)lucky enough to live into old age and the police had declined any interest in a dead man.

But the decision as to whether something “proportionate” or not is subjective, and this list of aims seem ambitious when contrasted the modest outcome, which is simply that Whitsey would have been interviewed had he not died 30 years ago.

Mail on Sunday Carries Claims about Edward Heath Investigation that Go Beyond Official Findings

The latest Mail on Sunday has two articles about Wiltshire Police’s investigation into child-sex allegations against former Prime Minister Edward Heath, both of which contain claims that go beyond the official findings of the force’s Operation Conifer Summary Report. Both pieces are by the paper’s political editor Simon Walters, who wrote several articles during the investigation based on strategic leaks, and who last week provided a flattering interview with Chief Constable Mike Veale. Each claim is discussed in turn below.

“Tell-tale signs”

One of the two new articles is mainly concerned with the “1961” accuser, and I discussed the piece here. That report also contained a claim from a “well-placed source”:

‘Wiltshire Police fully expected to discover the Heath claims were nonsense, and that if there was any evidence, it would be well hidden.

‘They were as surprised as anyone to find the evidence was there with telltale patterns of behaviour, but no one had really looked for it…’

This goes far beyond what is claimed in the Summary Report. There is no reference there to “telltale patterns of behaviour”, and we can only speculate as to what the phrase is supposed to mean. The police inferring guilt through the special discernment of signs (perhaps with the assistance of an “expert” of some sort) is troubling, and reminiscent of the methodology of witch-hunts.

“Other police forces have a lot to answer for”

The same “source” continues:

‘If, as they believe, some of the allegations are true, other police forces who failed to act in the past will have a lot to answer for.’

“They” here refers to Wiltshire Police, although the Operation Conifer Summary Report states that “the role of the police in a criminal investigation is not to reach a conclusion as to the likely guilt or innocence of a person who is the subject of allegations.”

There does not appear to be any basis for the claim that other forces ever acted negligently or corruptly in relation to old complaints – the Summary Report in fact appears to suggest the exact opposite, stating that

contact was made with other relevant UK law enforcement agencies to establish whether they held any relevant material relating to non-recent sexual abuse allegations against Sir Edward Heath. This did not identify any new lines of enquiry.

Media reports from 2015 refer to the existence of two old complaints. One was allegedly made on Jersey by a woman named Linda Corby, who told the Mirror that she went to police “in the early 1970s” after seeing 11 children going aboard Heath’s yacht, but only ten disembark. However, Operation Conifer found no substantiating evidence of children being allowed on Heath’s small racing vessel, let alone reports of a missing child. Further, there isn’t even any evidence of Heath visiting Jersey at all during “the early 1970s”, which was while he was Prime Minister. (1)

The other report concerns former Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll of the Metropolitan Police, who told the Guardian (as discussed here) that he had interviewed a woman in 2001 who said that “she had been abused as a child by a group of people, including Heath on multiple occasions”. Driscoll said that “my guess is it was not followed up properly, but I don’t know”.

It seems likely that this 2001 accuser previously made a complaint to Wiltshire Police in 1989 – the Summary Report notes that Heath was “referenced” in a 1989 complaint by “four victims against family members and other unknown members of the military”. In that instance, Heath’s name was not included in details that were passed to the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to 1989, but in any case “the CPS decided that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute in relation to the other matters”. (2)

Although the Summary Report files this under “Enquiries with the Military” rather than “Enquiries about Ritual Abuse”, details about Operation Conifer disclosed by Richard Hoskins (discussed here and here) strongly indicate that the 1989 allegation related to allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse. This is a subject about which Driscoll claims to have expertise.

“Evidence was of a high quality and in many cases corroborated”

Walters’s article is supplemented with a second piece, which carries quotes from two of the four “independent scrutineers” who were given access to Operation Conifer documents during the investigation. One of these is a Salisbury pharmacist named Perdeep Tanday, who was supposedly chosen as a representative of “the public”. According to Tanday:

‘…I believe the majority were 100 per cent genuine and convincing. The evidence was of a high quality and in many cases corroborated.’

…’Unlike those criticising Mr Veale, I know the facts. 

The evidence was gathered by detectives with decades of experience of investigating rape, murder and other serious crimes. I trust them.’

Again, this goes much further than Operation Conifer. Out of 40 allegations, the police said that they found “undermining evidence” in all but seven cases, and there is nothing in the Summary Report about cases having been positively “corroborated”. Tanday’s quote, however, does confirm that he has a strong predisposition to regard the police uncritically, based on a preconceived impression of “decades of experience”. If the evidence is strong, his “trust” ought to be superfluous.

Heath “a risk to children”

The other quoted scrutineer is Elly Hanson, who provides Walters’s lead-in:

One of Britain’s leading experts on child sex abuse who took part in the investigation into paedophile claims against Sir Edward Heath has said she would not trust him with children were he alive today.

Dr Elly Hanson, a clinical psychologist who specialises in abuse and trauma, said her opinion was based on secret evidence obtained by police concerning Sir Edward’s alleged crimes.

…Dr Hanson told The Mail on Sunday: ‘On the balance of probabilities and based on the information I have seen, if I was asked to decide if Sir Edward should have access to children I would say he would not meet the modern safeguarding threshold to protect them from risk.’

Hanson goes on to complain that “some appear to think we are not entitled to have… discussion about Sir Edward Heath”, by which she appears to mean that there should not be critical comment about the investigation. It is unclear what exactly is meant by a “modern safeguarding threshold”, but anyone who has ever been suspended from working with children due to protocols relating to an allegation will be alarmed at the implication of “no smoke without fire”.

For some reason, Walters was unable to find space in his article to include the detail that Hanson was also shown “information” about Operation Conifer as a paid adviser to the inquiry. This was noted by in a piece by Daily Mail crime correspondent Rebecca Camber in April, and presented as evidence that the inquiry was a “farce”. Hanson and Wiltshire Police denied any conflict of interest, although there was no explanation as to why this face-value impression was incorrect.

Hanson was paid to provide an assessment relating to “two individuals”, and it seems likely that these were Satanic Ritual Abuse accusers. As I noted at the time, Hanson’s specialisms include “Dissociative Identity Disorder”, a diagnosis that often involves the “recovery” of supposedly repressed memories of childhood abuse, and we know that the main SRA accuser underwent recovered memory therapy in Canada.

I would be surprised if Hanson would have warned about the very real possibility of therapists introducing false memories, or even that a complainant might simply lie about having a “recovered memory”. In March 2017 she gave a presentation at a conference alongside Peter Garsden, a firm believer in the “sacrifce of children” by “secret societies” (as discussed here) and three members of the Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support (RAINS, discussed further in relation to Operation Conifer here).

Further, as recently noted by Matthew Scott, in 2016 Hanson also spoke at an exhibition on child abuse called the “Wall of Silence” (discussed here). The “Wall of Silence” seems to be a worthy project, but its integrity has been undermined due to its close association with Operation Midland’s infamous false accuser “Nick”. Nick claimed that Heath saved from him being castrated by Harvey Proctor during a paedophile orgy, and it was recently reported in the Telegraph that he also claimed to have been abused by Heath on “a sailing boat moored at a marina in Southampton”.

Footnotes

1. Mark Watts recently produced a photograph of Heath with a boy in boat that he said “is understood to have been taken in Jersey in 1972”. In fact, it shows Heath in France with his godson in 1965.

2. Articles in the Daily Mail (which takes a very different line from the Mail on Sunday) have stated that Heath’s name was added much later to old SRA allegations first made in 1989; I shared this working assumption, but given the references to 1989 in the Summary Report I’m now doubtful that this is correct.

Edward Heath: Mail on Sunday Clashes With Daily Telegraph On Investigation of “1961” Accuser

From political editor Simon Walters at the Mail on Sunday:

A key criticism levelled at the police chief under fire for the paedophile investigation into Sir Edward Heath was exposed as false today.

Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale has been condemned for including the alleged rape of an 11-year-old boy by Sir Edward in 1961 among seven cases he said would warrant questioning the former Prime Minister under caution were he alive today.

Critics said Mr Veale had blundered because Scotland Yard ‘investigated’ the case in 2015 and ‘dropped’ it.

In fact, Scotland Yard did NOT investigate the claim because they secretly introduced a policy ‘not to prove or disprove’ child sex allegations against dead people, The Mail on Sunday can disclose. 

Walters has written several articles about Operation Conifer in recent months; it appears that he was given special access to leaks in return for positive coverage, and his closeness to the investigation was confirmed with a softball interview with Veale that appeared in the paper last week (discussed here).

The above article was clearly written in direct response to an article by Robert Mendick and Martin Evans that appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 6 October. The two authors wrote:

The Wiltshire Police inquiry into Sir Edward Heath has been plunged into disarray after it emerged the most serious allegation was brought by a jailed paedophile and dropped by Scotland Yard two years ago.

…The £1.5 million inquiry concluded Heath – had he been alive – would have been interviewed over an allegation that he raped an 11-year-old boy more than 55 years ago…

But The Telegraph can disclose that the rape claim was investigated by the Metropolitan Police as long ago as April 2015 and dropped.

The article goes on to quote a Metropolitan Police statement from August 2015 that was issued in response to the accuser’s account as published in the Daily Mirror (discussed here) (1). According to the statement:

…after a full assessment of the allegation there were no lines of enquiry that could proportionately be pursued by the MPS.

I criticised the Telegraph report on 8 October for the “misleading suggestion” that this implies that the matter had been investigated in 2015. It seemed self-evident that the police had simply looked over the complaint and decided that there was nothing to be done, due to the fact that Heath had been dead for a decade.

However, it is mysterious as to why Walters feels the need to refer to a “secretly introduced” policy. He explains what he means further into the Mail on Sunday article:

In a statement to The Mail on Sunday, a Scotland Yard spokesperson said the rules state: ‘The purpose is not to prove or disprove the offence reported.’

Instead, the main aim is to find out if the suspect was linked to other abusers and prevent any ‘current risk to children’.

It adds: ‘A full and detailed criminal investigation may not be required to achieve this.’

There are no surprises here, and the fact that Walters regards it as a revelation highlights why it would probably have been better for a crime and policing hack to have covered the story for the Mail on Sunday rather than a reporter whose long career has been in political journalism.

Ordinarily, a dead suspect will not be investigated for a crime for the obvious reason that a corpse cannot be brought to trial (as the law currently stands, at least); and it is not the police’s job to pronounce on guilt ahead of a trial (or inquest), even if they feel they have very strong evidence. This is even made clear in Wiltshire Police’s Operation Conifer Summary Report, which Walters has presumably recently read:

The role of the police in a criminal investigation is not to reach a conclusion as to the likely guilt or innocence of a person who is the subject of allegations. Accordingly, the findings in this report neither state whether Sir Edward Heath was guilty of any criminal offences nor comment on the prospect of a successful prosecution had Sir Edward Heath been alive. This is for three fundamental reasons:

Firstly, Sir Edward Heath has not had the opportunity to be interviewed by the police and to respond to the criminal allegations that have been made against him.

Secondly, it is national policy set by the Director of Public Prosecutions that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will not make a decision as to whether or not the threshold to charge is reached in cases where the suspect is deceased.

Thirdly, only a criminal court can make findings in relation to whether a person charged with offences is guilty or not guilty of those offences.

I previously discussed the CPS policy here.

The Daily Telegraph was on stronger ground when Mendick and Evans tracked down relatives of the 1961 accuser – a bit of legwork that was a refreshing advance on the parade of easy quotes from “sources”, police and associates of Heath that has characterised much of the reporting on the subject. According to their article on this:

A serial paedophile, who accused Sir Edward Heath of raping him, fabricated the allegation, according to his family – but police made no attempt to contact them.

The complainant’s brother, who was ten at the time, said: “He never said anything about being abused by a famous person. You couldn’t hide something like that. If police had asked me about this, I would have told them it didn’t happen.”

The paedophile’s sister, who was five, said: “He is a born liar. I am absolutely shocked the police have wasted public money investigating his claims. If they had bothered to come to me I would have told them not to waste their time.”

…Neither sibling recalls any event in 1961 that would suggest their brother had been abducted and raped. It was never raised in the family.

This certainly appears to highlight a failure in the Operation Conifer investigation. The Telegraph could even have gone further – the 2015 Daily Mirror article included the detail that the accuser claimed to have told his mother about Heath in 1965, meaning that contacting relatives ought to have been a particular priority. Another reason for scepticism about the 1961 accuser is that he places Heath living in Mayfair in 1961, when Heath did not move there until 1963 (a point raised by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian in 2015, but oddly ignored since [2]). It seems to me that these are the “key criticisms” (to use Walters’s term), despite Mendick and Evans’s florid and clichéd reference to the inquiry being “plunged into disarray” by reporters finally noticing and “disclosing” a two-year-old statement from the Met.

The fact that the accuser is himself child-sex abuser has been been available since mid-2015, although Mendick and Evans suggest this has just “emerged” – the Mirror stated at the time that the accuser was “in his later life convicted of child sex crimes”. Yet when “Daily Telegraph Reporter” rehashed the Mirror report in August 2015, this detail was actually omitted by the broadsheet, and the unnamed author wrote that “the Metropolitan Police declined to comment”. The article was probably published a few hours ahead of the police statement (both appeared on 4 August), but the paper could have followed up its initial report, and the phrase “declined to comment” rather than “did not respond to a request for comment” heavily implied a positive “no comment” response to a query. Why was there no interest in pursuing these points until so much later?

Footnotes

1. The Mirror‘s chronology creates some confusion: the paper wrote that the accuser’s allegations were about to be handed to police, when in fact this had happened several months previously. The obvious explanation for this is that the report was prepared in April, but only published in August in response to Wiltshire Police’s public appeal for “victims” of Heath to come forward.

2. Jenkins refers to John Campbell’s biography of Heath. There is in fact one reference to Heath moving to Mayfair in 1961 (on page 72), but this is contradicted by a later reference to 1963 (on page 136). The second date is to be preferred, because it is consistent with other sources, including Margaret Laing’s 1973 biography and Heath’s own autobiography.

Edward Heath: Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday Clash on Chief Constable Mike Veale

From the Daily Mail:

False claims of provincial police chief obsessed with proving Ted Heath was a paedophile: Mike Veale has spent £1.4million and failed to come up with a shred of evidence, says GUY ADAMS

The article quotes “a police source” who describes Veale as an inexperienced “provincial carrot cruncher” and the Operation Conifer police investigation into the deceased former Prime Minister as a “shambles” presided over by “coppers whose priorities are usually stopping speeding motorists on the A303”.

This is in sharp contrast with last week’s Mail on Sunday, which carried a softball interview with Veale by political editor Simon Walters (discussed here) and a companion op-ed by former Detective Constable Maggie Oliver that praised Veale as having “given a textbook demonstration of how the police should be free from political interference and able to investigate crimes without fear or favour.”

Adams is an all-purpose Daily Mail attack dog, and his article doubtless reflects rivalry between the two sister-papers. However, it is not simply the case that one paper is credulous while the other is sceptical: in 2014, Adams wrote up Don Hale’s claims about a supposed dossier on VIP sex abuse compiled by Barbara Castle as if Hale’s unevidenced assertions were fact, and he retained confidence in Hale even after Hale added Edward Heath to his tall tale the following year. Further, while the Daily Mail wrote about a “stench” around allegations against Greville Janner, David Rose later expressed scepticism about an “Establishment cover up” in the Mail on Sunday (discussed here).

Veale’s “false claims” highlighted by the new headline refer to how Veale responded after details about some accusers had appeared in the media in November 2016:

Some, a newspaper had just claimed, were oddballs propagating an obviously fake conspiracy theory that the former PM belonged to a paedophile network behind satanic orgies at which small children were stabbed to death in rural churches.

That newspaper – curiously unnamed by Adams – was in fact the Mail on Sunday, and the story provided a front-page splash for Home Affairs correspondent Martin Beckford:

Sir Edward Heath accuser is a ‘satanic sex fantasist’: Police warned by OWN expert that ritual abuse claims are false – including how the former PM ‘went to candlelit forest for paedophile parties’

I discussed this story here. There is some implicit criticism the headline and story which is absent in later Mail on Sunday articles on Operation Conifer, which were all instead written by Walters. It is perhaps significant here that whereas Beckford’s article was based on a whistleblowing disclosure from an expert consulted by the police (Richard/Rachel Hoskins), Walters instead received a stream of leaks (e.g. here and here) from “sources” and “friends” of Veale – most likely, these were facilitated by Andrew Bridgen MP, who has been vocal in his support for Veale and who was given advance access to the Operation Conifer Summary Report. (1)

The same November 2016 report also referred to “Nick”, the anonymous complainant who had prompted the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland allegations into alleged VIP child sex abuse and murder; this investigation was still current in August 2015, when Operation Conifer first got underway, but it was about to come under serious critical scrutiny (see here, here and here) and by March 2016 it had collapsed in ignominy. Veale pressed on despite this outcome, and regardless of the scathing Henriques Review that followed.

Adams writes:

The video, which remains online, began with Veale saying he wanted to ‘set the record straight’ about Heath and ‘ensure that the current facts are entirely and unequivocally clear about this case’.

…’Fact!’ he said. ‘As part of Operation Conifer we have not spoken to the witness known as Nick.’

‘Fact!’ he continued. ‘Recent media coverage… referred to satanic ritual sexual abuse. Let me be clear: this part of the investigation is only one small element of the overall inquiry and does not relate to Sir Edward Heath.’

Adams notes that the Summary Report (discussed here) actually refers to six Satanic Ritual Abuse accusers (as I discussed here), and he adds that:

In fact, in the past two years Wiltshire police have devoted significant resources to pursuing the case of ‘Nick’, reviewing a number of statements made by him to other forces.

This does not contradict Veale’s assurance that “we have not spoken to the witness known as Nick”, but it does suggest that he was misleadingly downplaying interest in Nick. Adams thus asks:

[W]hy did Mike Veale, the chief constable behind one of the most high-profile police investigations in British history, seek to solve a PR crisis by issuing a statement so transparently inaccurate?

It is impossible to be sure, as Wiltshire Police say they will ‘not be making further comment’.

So we are left to speculate. Did Veale deliberately say something untrue (making him a liar)? Or did he make the false claim by accident (making him incompetent)? Or is there some other explanation?

One person who thinks that Veale lied is Harvey Proctor, who had been an Operation Midland suspect. After the November 2016 Mail on Sunday article, Proctor contacted Veale, as he has explained in a comment left on this blog:

…A week before Chef Constable Veale published his Open Letter concerning Operation Conifer on 2nd December 2016. I wrote to him asking for his assurance that I was not part of his enquiries. I had had enough of Operation Midland’s madness. He reassured me that I was not. My letter of complaint to Veale obviously gave him the idea to issue his Open Letter in rebuttal because his force carefully arranged for me to receive his reply to me AFTER the publication of his P R initiative. It was a stunt. It was deliberate discourtesy and a P R tactic which I have become accustomed to from certain police forces in the last 3 years.

 However, I am more concerned that a Chief Constable should have deliberately misled and lied to me.It was deceitful. I now understand that three months earlier Wiltshire Police had passed statements under Operation Midland made by “Nick”, the only declarant of abuse against me and Sir Edward and others to an “expert”. These statements, involving 3 murders of children and their sexual abuse and torture, WERE reviewed by Wiltshire Police. This review included “Nick’s” claim that I did not castrate “Nick” because of Sir Edward’s ministrations. When “Nick’s” statements were passed to an expert to examine, the expert was told by retired Police Supt Taylor that they were a central part of Operation Conifer’s investigations.

As such, in any impartial and balanced investigation, I should have been interviewed by Operation Conifer detectives. Why was I not interviewed? Because they knew from the closure of Operation Midland 6 months earlier that there was not a shred of truth in these allegations. But without chance of seeing my rebuttal to these statements against Sir Edward and myself, they have stained the rest of their investigations. Why was I not interviewed? Because I was ALIVE and my evidence would have provided balance and insight into their total inquiry.. They ran a mile from that. Similarly there have been others, in an impartial enquiry, who should have been interviewed but who were not. Stigma was more important to the Wiltshire Police than Fact…

Read the whole comment here.

Footnote

(1) Mark Watts, who has perhaps done more than anyone to promote uncritical and sensationalising stories about “VIP sex abuse”, now writes that:

The Mail on Sunday performed a hand-brake turn on the story last February when it realised that Operation Conifer had assessed several of its witnesses as credible.

However, although this heavily implies a strategic leak, he also quotes Veale as complaining that Operation Conifer had been a subject of headlines for over two years despite “not one operational detail” being “in the public domain”.

The Canary Attempts Inept Edward Heath “Paedophile Information Exchange” Smear

From a certain Tom Coburg, at the left-wing website The Canary:

What is not generally known is that the government possessed a file on Heath’s interest in PIE [the Paedophile Informantion Exchange]. The file forms part of the notorious 114 ‘missing’ files on child sex abuse. That list can now be seen in full and provides an insight into the range of alleged child sex abuse cases the authorities were aware of.

Heath’s entry on the list is number 77. The metadata (heading) for the file shows his interest in PIE and that the file is “presumed destroyed”:

…Heath reportedly attended several PIE meetings at Westminster, though the precise nature of his interest in that organisation is unknown.

Is Coburg a complete idiot, or does he just think his readers are? This is all so stupid that’s tempting to dismiss it as unworthy of attention (much like this comparable item from a far-left source), but given the Canary‘s prominence as an alleged source of information (apparently it’s a “top-100 UK news website”) there ought to be some corrective.

The list is an annex to the 2014 Wanless-Whittam review, which was tasked with reviewing how the Home Office had handled allegations of child sex abuse during the 1970s to 1990s, and which published its findings in 2014. On the 114 “missing” files, the review found (square brackets in original):

Based on titles alone, 18 are files started specifically in relation to an individual Parliamentary Question [2 year retention], and 67 are files about a specific piece of correspondence, almost always written by an MP on behalf of a constituent [2 year retention]… But destruction after 2 years for all such files was the practice so, in that sense, they are not missing.

These files are marked “PQ/MC” in the list, meaning “Parliamentary Question” or “Minister’s Case”. Others are categorised in terms such as “Policy” or “Research”. The Heath item is a Minister’s Case file, and it is “presumed destroyed” because that would have been in line with retention practices.

There is absolutely no reason to suppose that the document would have exposed Heath as being involved with or showing sympathy for PIE, much less that it was destroyed to prevent this becoming known. Instead, the item would have been a piece of routine correspondence relating to Heath’s duties as a Member of Parliament, apparently in 1985. The date is significant: PIE was abolished in that year, following some high-profile trials of members for sex offences, and so the subject would have been current.

Several other MPs (and the Archbishop of York) are also listed as having written something about PIE, and numerous MPs as having authored documents that relate to child sex abuse more generally. It is beyond witless to interpret this as demonstrative of “the range of alleged child sex abuse cases the authorities were aware of”, and implicitly as a suspect list.

But what of the claim that Heath “reportedly attended several PIE meetings at Westminster”? There is just one third-hand source for this: a journalist named Don Hale, who says that a dossier on VIP child sex abuse was given to him by the Labour MP Barbara Castle in the 1980s, but that it was seized by police before he could make use of it. Hale first recalled its existence in July 2014, when he said that it named the late politicians Keith Joseph and Rhodes Boyson. He added Leon Brittan’s name shortly after Brittan’s death in January 2015, and then Heath in August 2015, just after the police probe into Heath was announced.

This is the most tenuous hearsay: someone supposedly provided Castle with “minutes” of the meetings, but these are not now available for verification and there does not appear to have been any attempt to confirm from anyone else that Castle (who died in 2002) indeed ever held such a dossier – certainly, she does not appear to have mentioned it anywhere. We only have Hale’s word that it ever existed, and his manner of disclosure has been opportunistic. Hale’s stories appeared during a climate in which any unsubstantiated claim about “VIP abuse” would generate headlines in tabloids and broadsheets. Further, PIE activists are still living, and they would have no reason to deny Heath’s involvement – yet Tom O’Carroll mocked the claim on his blog.

And when exactly were there “PIE meetings at Westminster”? Surely, with all the negative coverage of PIE in the 1980s, such meetings would have received some attention, even without the attendance of a former Prime Minister? This claim has perhaps grown from a boast by a former chairman of PIE who worked as an electrical contractor inside the Home Office – he was apparently given an office but very few duties, and as such was able to devote most of his working day, and the office resources at his disposal, to discreetly running the group. Another source for the rumour may have been PIE’s notorious affiliation with the National Council for Civil Liberties in the 1970s, given that NCCL leaders later became Labour Party MPs.

Wiltshire Police has just spent £1.5 million trawling for allegations against Heath, and the Summary Closure Report into its “Operation Conifer” (discussed here) includes the intrusive detail that “two witnesses, who have not disclosed abuse, provided evidence that he was sexually active with consenting adults during parts of his life.” Had there been any association with PIE, we can be very sure that Chief Constable Mike Veale would have made it central to his justification for the investigation. Yet PIE is not mentioned anywhere.

Chief Constable Mike Veale Launches PR Offensive in Wake of Edward Heath Report

Wiltshire Police’s Operation Conifer Summary Closure Report (discussed here) on allegations of child sex abuse against former Prime Minister Edward Heath has proven to be underwhelming: after burning through £1.5 million in just over two years, seven allegations were identified as lacking “undermining evidence”, meaning that police would have wanted to interview Heath about them. And even some of these are now coming under critical scrutiny: there are strong reasons to doubt the credibility of the 1961 rape accuser, and a protection officer has said that the 1992 indecent assault allegation is impossible.

That officer is among a number of witnesses who say that they their testimony was not sought, while it has come to light that the investigation gratefully received information from Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy theorists and spent time poring over documentation from the Metropolitan Police’s eventually discredited Operation Midland.

The investigation also spent £14,000 on public relations, and the weekend saw a PR offensive in the form of two interviews in which Wiltshire’s Chief Constable Mike Veale spoke to sympathetic journalists: one interview was with Simon Walters, the Mail on Sunday‘s political editor; and the other was with Mark Watts, formerly of Exaro News and now notorious for his coverage of Operation Midland and his advocacy for the bogus complainant known as Nick.

The names are significant, as both journalists previously wrote articles based on “sources” who were apparently leaking information from inside the investigation. Walters was the author of the February splash which claimed that Veale believes the allegations against Heath to be “120 per cent” genuine; Veale afterwards complained about this and in due course told the Telegraph that “at no time have I confidentially or publicly, directly or indirectly stated my opinion of the guilt or innocence of Sir Edward Heath”. However, the old Mail on Sunday headline “Police Chief: Heath Was a Paedophile” is now republished as an illustration to accompany a friendly interview conducted by the very man who attributed this view to him!

The Mail on Sunday article comes with a sensational headline:

Ted Heath police chief calls for a new inquiry into a Westminster child-sex ring ‘covered up’ by the Establishment

…’If any, if even one bit of this [Conifer] is true, what did the Government know, the Civil Service, the security services? Those questions need to be answered.’

Surely, though, it’s all hearsay?

He won’t have it and points to the recent decision by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) to extend its scope to include claims of an Establishment cover-up – significantly, after they learned of the Conifer findings.

Highly laudable, says Mr Veale, but so far IICSA has done zilch about actually investigating it.

‘It needs someone to look into the potential for cover-up or a conspiracy.

‘In the last two years I’ve spoken to people who genuinely believe… there are too many people making too many assertions… around the Establishment.

‘Compelling, intelligent people who have moved me.

‘The boil needs to be lanced one way or another. If there is nothing to hide, open the doors.’

Veale also suggests that the investigation into Heath “could have gone on two or three years longer”. And two or three years more after that, I don’t doubt.

The article introduces Veale as being “assailed by the Establishment” and as having been subjected to a “relentless campaign” by the Establishment, described as his “tormentor”. Presumably, this is a reference to criticisms by Lord Macdonald and Lord Armstrong, who called for a public inquiry into the investigation in April. This was hardly a “relentless campaign”, and their concerns were perfectly reasonable given the context.

However, in his interview with Watts, Veale’s insinuations about Establishment pressure take the form of another individual: none other than the Labour politician Keith Vaz:

Wiltshire Police chief constable Mike Veale slated Labour MP Keith Vaz for attempting to interfere with his force’s investigation into Sir Edward Heath.

In an exclusive interview with me, Veale branded as “highly inappropriate” Vaz’s intervention in ‘Operation Conifer’, Wiltshire Police’s two-year national investigation into allegations against the former prime minister of child sexual abuse.

Vaz wrote, as chairman of the House of Commons home affairs committee, to Veale to demand to know why he was investigating Ted Heath.

This seems to me to be something of a non-story, although it also formed the basis for a Sunday Mirror article. Vaz’s question did not amount to “interference”, and one would like to know if there is any form of critical scrutiny to which Veale believes he should be accountable.

Vaz was involved in a sex scandal involving adult male prostitutes last year; the commentary that followed included disobliging references to his support for Greville Janner in 1991 and to a completed police investigation regarding historic child sex offences. Watts – and presumably Veale – thus know that bringing Vaz into the story will generate an air of intrigue and scandal.

It should also be noted that Vaz has long been involved in a bitter feud with Andrew Bridgen MP, who has been described as an Operation Conifer “stakeholder” by Veale. Extraordinarily, Bridgen was given advance access to the Summary Report, and it seems likely that he was the direct conduit for media leaks. The latest Private Eye magazine (1454, p. 10) draws attention to Bridgen’s constant praise for Veale, and suggests that the association is why details about Operation Conifer were being published by Westminster-based political hacks.

Bridgen provided a quote for a third story that appeared over the weekend, in the Express. This revealed that Veale is himself under disciplinary investigation over comments  given at a leadership talk regarding man with Down’s syndrome:

In his speech, Mr Veale, who gives motivational talks across the country, said that he had presented the man with a Wiltshire Police tie as a special memento and had positioned himself behind him to help him put it on.

He added that the visitor, on seeing his reflection in the mirror, had beamed with pride and “grew six inches as a man”.

Apparently, a senior officer present made a complaint about this. However:

…Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who has publicly supported Mr Veale, said yesterday the allegation was a “desperate ploy” to discredit him and his work.

He said: “I find the timing of this ludicrous claim to be highly suspicious and part of a dirty tricks campaign that attempted to undermine Mr Veale in the run-up to the Operation Conifer report.”

I suppose we will have to wait and see if any “undermining evidence” emerges.

The Daily Mirror and Edward Heath’s “1961” Rape Accuser

From the Daily Mirror, August 2015:

Sir Edward Heath child abuse claims: Alleged victim ‘was raped by ex PM when he was just 12’

The alleged victim, now 64, says the sexual assault took place in an exclusive Mayfair flat in 1961 when Heath was a Tory MP.

The Mirror can reveal for the first time specific details the alleged victim has made in statements to his legal team which are due to be passed to police.

The man, who worked as a rent boy throughout his adolescence and was in his later life convicted of child sex crimes, claims he kept his secret bottled up until this year.

…The man has told his legal team Heath also had full penetrative sex with him that night.

The Daily Mirror, October 2017:

Former Prime Minister Ted Heath’s accuser is a convicted paedophile and habitual liar

A man at the centre of child sex abuse claims against former PM Ted Heath is a convicted paedophile and habitual liar, the Mirror can reveal.

The alleged victim, in his 60s, is serving a long jail sentence over a catalogue of abuse against a teenage boy.

His claims that, aged 11, he was a victim of the Tory leader are understood to be a centrepiece of the controversial Conifer report, which cost £1.5million and took two years to compile.

The first item was written by Russell Myers, and he was the co-author of the second. The accuser is obviously the same person, notwithstanding the inconsistency over his exact age (1), and this is clearly the same “1961” accuser whose claims are among those which Wiltshire Police say they would have interviewed Heath over. As the Wiltshire Police Operation Conifer Summary Closure Report (discussed here) puts it, in tabulated form:

Offence Date Span: 1961

Date Reported: April 2015

Location of Offences: MPS [i.e. Metropolitan Police Service]

Summary of Disclosures: Sir Edward Heath allegedly raped and indecently assaulted a male, aged 11 years, during a paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling.

Wiltshire Police say they would have interviewed Heath because there was no “undermining evidence”, even though biographical sources show that Heath did not move into his Mayfair flat until 1963 – a crucial point that Simon Jenkins drew attention to in a Guardian opinion piece two days after the first Mirror report (2).

The 2015 Mirror article failed to make clear that the accuser is currently in prison, and it is difficult to believe that the paper was unaware that he was a “habitual liar” until now. The earlier report also misrepresented the accuser’s contact with police: rather than his statements being “due to be passed to police”, the Summary Report shows that they already had been reported in April 2015. This was also made clear in a statement that was published by the Metropolitan Police following the Mirror article’s publication:

Following an article in today’s Daily Mirror, 4 August, which details an allegation of rape (“Ted Heath Scandal: Claims of sex with boy, 12”) the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has received a number of specific media enquiries about this matter.

In April 2015 an allegation of rape was made to the MPS. An officer from Operation Fairbank interviewed the complainant that same month and obtained a full account. Support services were offered. However, after a full assessment of the allegation there were no lines of enquiry that could proportionately be pursued by the MPS.

This has now been noted by the Telegraph, although there’s a misleading suggestion that the matter had been investigated and then “dropped”, rather than “assessed” but not pursued (there is a difference). The article also has some further details:

The allegation was made by a serial child sex abuser while he languished in jail on remand.

In a previous child sex abuse case, the accuser had blamed his offending on witnessing people being killed in conflict zones. He made no mention of being a victim of Heath. He has also been described as an “habitual liar”.

The element of “languishing” here is probably just a meaningless cliché, but the fact that the accuser was on remand is particularly significant, as it means that he had a motive to concoct mitigating circumstances for his behaviour ahead of a trial (3). April 2015 was before the other allegations against Heath were in the media (4), but Operation Midland and Operation Fairbank were providing newspapers and websites with a never-ending stream of sensational allegations about “VIP sex abuse”.

The Telegraph further adds:

Wiltshire Police, in the press conference on Thursday, said it wasn’t aware that any of the ‘victims’ had been interviewed in newspapers. On Friday, the force denied it had misled the press[,] because the man’s account had been outlined in prison letters.

The Mirror‘s 2015 article was published just hours after Sean Memory had stood outside Heath’s former home and appealed for “victims” to come forward. Presumably, the Mirror already had the information it needed for its story, but had previously decided it was too outlandish or distasteful to run – perhaps it had even been largely written in April and then spiked, which would explain the outdated detail about information being “due to be passed to police” when this had in fact already happened.

Memory’s announcement changed the climate, and shortly thereafter it was revealed that five police forces were investigating claims about Heath. Thus the floodgates opened. The Mirror followed up its “1961 rape” story with the completely unsubstantiated and implausible headline “‘Eleven boys went on Edward Heath’s yacht but I counted only 10 who left his boat’ claims mum” (also picked up by Mail Online), and then a with bogus piece on “Edward Heath’s secret Jersey hideaway at centre of child sex abuse probe”, which ludicrously suggested that Heath had spent six months “in the early 70s” living on Jersey and spending time in the local pub while convalescing from an operation  – somewhat difficult to envisage given that he was Prime Minister at the time.

UPDATE (14 October): The Daily Telegraph (followed by the Daily Mail) has now reported that the accuser’s own family believe that he made the whole thing up. They also say that they were never contacted by police, which is remarkable given that the 2015 Mirror report included a claim by the accuser that he had told his mother in 1965. However, this isn’t just a police dereliction: clearly, no-one one in the media sought his relatives out either. In August 2015, even the Telegraph was happy simply to re-write the Mirror rather than dig deeper.

(H/T to Bandini in the comments for the juxtaposition of the two Mirror articles)

Footnotes

1. The first Mirror article says he was 12 years old in August 1961, but 64 in August 2015. This is impossible – 64 years prior to 2015 takes us back to 1951. Even if we assume that he was very close to turning 65, that only takes us back to 1950. Thus he couldn’t have been 12 in 1961 – he would have been eleven at most, which is consistent with the Summary Report.

However, there is now a complication in that the Telegraph says he is now 68. I think this must be an error. If he was 64 in spring or summer 2015, then by autumn 2017 he is either 66 or 67 at most.

2. Jenkins refers to John Campbell’s biography of Heath. There is in fact one reference to Heath moving to Mayfair in 1961 (on page 72), but this is contradicted by a later reference to 1963 (on page 136). The second date is to be preferred, because it is consistent with other sources, including Margaret Laing’s 1973 biography and Heath’s own autobiography  – referring to the resignation of Macmillan in October 1963, Heath wrote: “It was at this time that I moved out of the small flat in Petty France that I had inhabited since the early 1950s”. This “small flat” could not have been mistaken by a visitor for his later residence, which was on a much larger scale.

Further, Heath adds that he had been on the waiting list for Albany for 13 years, and that he was able to move in following the death of the writer Clifford Bax. Bax died in November 1962; presumably there would have been a transitional period of some months before the flat would have been ready for a new occupant (h/t to a reader for that detail).

3. It is worth noting that the Telegraph‘s details about the accuser’s character and possible motive for lying would not have been taken into account by Operation Conifer – the Summary Report makes it very clear that “undermining evidence” refers specifically to contradictions and physical impossibilities rather than contexts that undermine credibility in a general way.

4. Heath was however accused of Satanism in 1998 in a book by David Icke, although his account included the supernatural element of Heath turning into a giant reptile. Then, in early 2013, the conspiracy theorist Michael Shrimpton claimed in a radio interview that Heath would murder children and have them thrown over the side of his yacht.

Edward Heath: Operation Conifer and the Ritual Abuse Information Network & Support

In a comment to this blog and in a letter published on a conspiracy website, Robert Green has confirmed that his “regular contact” with Chief Constable Mike Veale into allegations of child sex abuse against former Prime Minister Edward Heath pertained to information that has its origins with Joan Coleman of RAINS, the Ritual Abuse Information Network & Support. Green’s contact with Veale came to wider attention last week, when the Sunday Times noted that Veale had emailed Green with the message “As ever thank you Robert”.

We can also infer Green’s allegation was derived from the notorious “Helen G.” document, in which dozens of public figures ranging from comedians to politicians are accused of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). Green writes:

For the record, I was merely acting as a messenger in relaying details to Chief Constable Veale regarding information passed on to me by the eminent specialist into sexual abuse, Dr Joan Coleman. Five witnesses, all totally independent of each other, had provided, years ago, evidence of being sexually assaulted by Heath and all had referred to the same highly unusual feature about Heath common to all five cases. Hence the credibility of the evidence of witnesses as described by the Chief Constable.

I had absolutely no personal contact with any of these witnesses, nor do I know of their identities. As Dr Coleman is very elderly, I was entrusted with this information over seven years ago. Included also was evidence against Jimmy Savile, well before the Daily Mail or any other mainstream publication had the courage to expose this notorious paedophile.

Here is that “highly unusual feature”, from the “Helen G.” document:

Ted Heath. Former Prime Minister. Homosexual but not exclusively, where children are concerned. He has been mentioned by at least 5 SRAS, none of whom know each other. Several have described long finger nails. Am told that he wore false claws added to his nails, with which he clawed his child victims. He died in 2005. The cult held their own funeral on 31st July – 1st August 2005.

The “false claws” claim is probably a way to explain away the fact that photos of Heath do not substantiate the “long finger nails”. There is no information about how this supposed information was elicited from the “5 SRAS”, but it seems likely that therapy was involved. SAFF (the Sub-culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation) notes:

Working for years behind the scenes to promote the idea of child abusing Cults and Satanists RAINS members and associated therapists  built up a tranche of  ‘victims’  from the pool of recidivist mentally ill. They spent a long time working on the narrative of SRA and defining their victims’ experiences with scant checks to avoid the confabulation of  previously ‘unremembered’  satanic experiences. 

One popular method they used was to allow patients to lie down go into reverie and ‘reverse remember’ their past… These ‘Recovered Memories’ (most of which were half fact, half fiction) were blithely accepted as whole real memories nevertheless.    

I previously noted the “Helen G.” document here, as a possible source for new “historic” allegations against celebrities, and again last month, when it was revealed that it had been cited in a supposedly academic presentation on “The Satanist Cult of Ted Heath”. The document was apparently compiled in 2007 (and it is perhaps worth noting in passing that Jimmy Savile’s name does not in fact appear in it).

Veale’s “As ever thank you Robert” email may have been the polite humouring of a crank, but there is good reason to believe that at one time the SRA claims against Heath were being taken very seriously. RAINS would also have been commended to Veale by retired Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll, who has a long-standing association with the group: Driscoll recently told the Guardian that he had been been in contact with the investigation.

The Operation Conifer Summary Report (discussed by me in general here) says that:

During the course of the investigation six victims made disclosures that included allegations that Sir Edward Heath was involved in satanic or ritual abuse… Two of the alleged victims of ritual abuse died before Operation Conifer commenced. They had made disclosures of alleged ritual abuse where it was alleged that Sir Edward Heath was a perpetrator. There was limited opportunity to investigate those disclosures further.

It’s not clear from this whether there were six or eight accusers – “two of the alleged victims… died” implies two of the six, but if they died “before Operation Conifer commenced” then they cannot have made their claims “during the course of the investigation”. We cannot know if police traced any of Green’s “five witnesses”, or whether the supposed “disclosures” instead came from other sources, but his five plus “Lucy X” comes to six overall. In any case, though:

Following investigation, no further corroborative evidence was found to support the disclosures that Sir Edward Heath was involved in ritual abuse.

The allegations did not make it into the group for which Wiltshire Police say they would have interviewed Heath under caution – this is despite the fact that there is no indication of positive “undermining evidence”. According to the Report, “undermining evidence” relates to physical impossibilities, inconsistencies and contradictions; this means that a claim would not be dismissed just because there is no evidence for it, even if the claims-maker lacks credibility or the claim itself is extravagant.

It thus looks like the police simply baulked at the idea of making themselves a laughingstock by confirming that they would have interviewed Heath on such a subject.

Excursus

In his statement, Green rails that he was imprisoned as part of a conspiracy rather than because he had harassed people, and he accuses a particular journalist of writing critically about SRA because she herself is a Satanist. He also writes that “I had been nominated by a senior Westminster parliamentarian to receive the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize”.

Among those agreeing that Green has been traduced by disobliging media references is none other than Belinda McKenzie, who formerly supported Green in his “Hollie Grieg” campaigning – Hoaxtead Research notes that she has posted on the subject to Facebook, including an old photo of herself with Green. These days, McKenzie is known for promoting the “Hampstead” Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax; she is David Shayler’s former landlady, and according to researcher Paul Stott she is “the primary funder of the UK and Ireland 9/11 Truth Movement”. She was also formerly involved with support for the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI, aka MEK – blogged here).

Edward Heath: Some Notes on the Denouement

No Satanic Grocer

Exclusive: Harvey Proctor says he was “misled” by Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale – see footnote

From the website of Wiltshire Police:

Operation Conifer was a national investigation, led by Wiltshire Police on behalf of the National Police Service, into allegations of non-recent child abuse made against the late Sir Edward Heath.

…The disclosed offences spanned from 1956 to 1992, and each was alleged to have occurred whilst Sir Edward Heath was a publicly elected member of parliament.

In the case of seven individual disclosures, if Sir Edward Heath had been alive today, it has been concluded that he would have been interviewed under caution in order to obtain his account in relation to the allegations made against him.

No inference of guilt should be drawn by the decision to interview under caution….

In the case of 19 individual disclosures, it has been concluded that there is undermining information available, such that the threshold to interview under caution would not be met.

In the case of three disclosures, the persons reporting alleged abuse have subsequently concluded that they were genuinely mistaken in naming Sir Edward Heath as the perpetrator.

In the case of ten disclosures, the alleged abuse was reported by a third party, and in the case of another three; the victim reported the alleged abuse anonymously. In the case of these respective disclosures no findings have been concluded.

The announcement and the force’s Summary Closure Report have been widely reported and discussed in the media; details were leaked in advance, and the report itself was published yesterday. Nevertheless, there are a few points that I think it is worth highlighting.

First, the above uses the word “victim” to mean “complainant”, and “disclosure” to mean “allegation”. This is grossly unfair, and it is a practice that is specifically advised against by the Henriques review of Operation Midland. How can there not be an “inference of guilt” when such terms are used? It seems to me that there are of course many circumstances where it would be pedantic and in bad taste to actively avoid using the term “victim”, but that this is problematic where the victim accuses a particular person or where it remains to be established that a crime has indeed occurred. However, the Summary Closure Report states that its usages are in line with “current national guidance” on policing.

Second, it should be noted that the only criterion for deciding which allegations meet the bar for an interview under caution is the presence or absence of “undermining evidence”. As the report explains, the force considered:

Whether the account could physically have taken place as reported.

Whether there were inconsistencies in relation to the timing or location of the alleged offending.

Whether there was the existence of third party material that contradicted the account given.

Whether there was available witness evidence that contradicted the disclosure made by the victim.

Thus it is not the case that the seven allegations which police insist would have merited an interview are necessarily the most serious, or that there is positive corroborative evidence that amounts to a case to answer: it is simply that there is no obvious flaw in the complainant’s account. Further, the above criteria indicate that “undermining evidence” does not include any general assessment of character or credibility – a claim would not have dismissed just because it came from someone with a history of dishonesty or delusions, for instance.

In February it was claimed that Veale had privately expressed the opinion that he is confident “120%” that Heath was a paedophile, but this is not reflected in the Report – indeed, the Report explicitly cautions against making such a conclusion.

The seven allegations identified “where Sir Edward Heath would have been interviewed under caution to gain an account” relate to incidents that range from 1961 to 1992. One allegation pertains to the supposed rape of an 11-year-old in “a paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling”; three to opportunistic indecent assaults of children in public places (a ten-year-old, a 15-year-old, and someone who was between ten and 12 years old); one to three indecent assaults of a 15-year-old during “paid sexual encounters”; one to an opportunistic indecent assault of an adult male; and one to the indecent assault of an adult male who had withdrawn consent from a paid sexual encounter.

Information about the other allegations is limited (I discussed various media reports here), but the report says that it found no evidence of Satanic Ritual Abuse, or of child abuse or murder pertaining to Heath’s yacht. There are no records “of children disappearing in the specific circumstances alleged”, either. Further, there is no evidence that police missed previous opportunities to investigate Heath – an SRA complainant mentioned Heath in 1989 (this must have been “Lucy X”, previously discussed here), but her allegations against others were not pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service. The report also discusses Heath’s sexuality – there is no reference to any past police caution or warning for “cruising for gay sex” in the 1950s, which was a rumour that appeared in the Daily Mirror in 2015.

That same Mirror article focused on an allegation that Heath had raped a 12-year-old in 1961 – the details are consistent with the “paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling” allegation, aside from the fact that the police give the boy’s age as 11 years old. However, the Mirror seems to have got its sums wrong: it says that the accuser was 64 years old in mid-August 2015, which means that he must have been born in either 1950 or 1951.

If this inference is correct, then it is surprising that the police did not identify “undermining evidence” in this case – Simon Jenkins noted in 2015 that the accuser says he went to Heath’s home in Mayfair in 1961, when in fact Heath did not live there until 1963 (as I discussed here).

Speaking last night on Newsnight, the former MP Harvey Proctor asked whether the police would have arrested Heath had he declined a voluntary interview (1); a further question, it seems to me, would be whether the police would have passed the allegations on to the CPS had Heath given a “no comment” interview. Despite news articles based on leaked information last week, the report makes clear that an interview under caution does not necessarily mean that a referral to the CPS must follow. Declining to answer questions may give the impression of having something to hide, but in cases where the police present no evidence that needs to be refuted, a suspect’s active cooperation may only drag things out and provide information that assists a false accuser in building a case. (2)

Operation Conifer has been justified in terms of demonstrating that there was no “cover up”. It seems to have achieved that, but at a cost – a shadow has been cast over Heath’s name that may never be resolved one way or the other, while conspiracy theorists will use the outcome to continue to promote the most extravagant allegations.

Footnotes

1. Proctor was invited onto the show as a former suspect in Operation Midland, along with Richard Hoskins and a representative from NAPAC. Hoskins explained that Operation Midland’s files had been given to him to assess as part of Operation Midland – this was despite an assurance from Chief Constable Veale to Proctor that he was not under investigation as part of Operation Conifer. This assurance, then, was misleading, as Proctor explains in a comment left on this blog yesterday.

2. The comedian Jim Davidson says in his book No Further Action that when he provided evidence that disproved an “Operation Yewtree” allegation against him, the complainant simply said that she had misremembered some details and amended her complaint.

Also, despite Wiltshire Police’s assurance that it “follow[ed] the evidence, whether it supports or negates the allegations”, the purpose of a police investigation is to build a case against a suspect. I refer here to a paper by Dr Michael Naughton of the Innocence Project, titled “How the Presumption of Innocence Renders the Innocent Vulnerable to Wrongful Convictions” (Irish Journal of Legal Studies 2 (1): 40-54):

[A]nalyses of recent successful appeals demonstrate how normal and acceptable methods of police investigations fundamentally undermine the [Presumption of Innocence] at the initial and most crucial stage of the criminal justice process when information is being gathered and cases are being constructed and can lead to wrongful convictions. This is because the role of police investigations in an adversarial system is not to find evidence that suspects of crime are innocent but, rather, to treat situations that they are called to as potential crime scenes and seek evidence that incriminates suspects for alleged criminal offences to pass to the Crown Prosecution Service (C.P.S.) to supply a criminal charge.

“Sources” Leak More Details of Edward Heath Investigation – and a Misdescribed Photo Emerges

Photo supposedly showing Heath with a boy in Jersey in 1972 was actually Heath with his godson in France in 1965

This afternoon, Wiltshire Police will at long last officially publish a summary report of its two-year investigation into allegations of child sex abuse against the late former prime minister Edward Heath. For all this time, the force and has been urging the media and the public not to “speculate”, while leaking details to sympathetic journalists and other “stakeholders”.

The latest leaked preview has come from Mark Watts, who formerly worked for Exaro News. In 2014, Watts famously accompanied the “Westminster VIP paedophile ring” accuser “Nick” in an early visit to the Metropolitan Police, after which the force announced “Operation Midland”; alas, however, it transpired that Nick was either a fantasist or a hoaxer, and “Operation Midland” is now a byword for a police fiasco.

Watts therefore hopes that credible allegations against Heath will demonstrate the reality of “Westminster VIP child sex abuse” after all, thus rehabilitating his journalistic reputation and reviving a tabloid taste for lurid allegations that were widely publicised during 2014 and 2015, but which from the perspective of late 2017 look absurdly overblown and as dated as old 1980s newspaper clippings about Satanic Ritual Abuse.

Watts’s revelations include the following details:

…the picture above of Heath in a small sailing boat with what appears to be a teenage boy and an adult male has emerged. It is not thought to have been published before, but is understood to have been taken in Jersey in 1972, while Heath was prime minister. Its copyright owner is unknown. Anyone with information about the picture is asked to come forward.

Despite claims that Heath never drove, Operation Conifer found that he owned two cars. I can also reveal that it discovered that he had two sets of numbers plates for one of them, and can find no explanation for this irregular arrangement.

The claim that Heath “never drove” has been extrapolated from a comment made by Lord Armstrong in 2015, that in his experience of working with Heath from 1970, Heath “never drove a car himself, he always had an official driver”.  However, in February this year the Mail on Sunday published photos that showed Heath driving a car in 1975. Armstrong did not allege that Heath was unable to drive or had never owned a car in his life – and John Campbell’s 1993 biography makes it clear that Heath was indeed a driver.

Armstrong spoke off-the-cuff in a radio interview, and his words were obviously a casual recollection. Yet somehow this has been inflated into “claims”, and the mundane fact that that Heath did in fact drive is now presented as a significant rediscovery of suppressed history.

On the “two sets of numberplates” issue, just because Wiltshire Police “can find no explanation”, that does not mean that there is no explanation. I don’t claim to know what it is, but my initial guess would be that it was an counter-IRA security measure  – Heath’s home in Belgravia was famously bombed in late 1974. On Twitter, Watts writes that “Officers on Operation Conifer are well aware that people who have two number plates for a car are usually criminals”; but his reference to an “irregular arrangement” indicates that Heath’s number-plates were approved by the authorities. “Criminals”, in contrast, have false number-plates.

However, these insinuations pale beside the claim about the boat. The website Real Troll Exposure has found that the photo was actually taken in 1965 on the French Riviera, and that Watts’s “boat boy” is in fact Heath’s godson Lincoln Seligman, who is today a vocal defender of Heath’s memory. The moment is documented in a British Pathé newsreel item called “Party Heads Relax”, which has been available on YouTube since 2014.

So where did the incorrect “Jersey in 1972” provenance come from? One of the 2015 allegations was that Heath supposedly abused children from the Haut de la Garenne children’s care home in Jersey, in particular while taking them on trips aboard his yacht, the Morning Cloud. It has been established that there was abuse at the care home, particularly during the 1970s, and one lawyer told the Independent:

“There seems to have been this currency that somehow he was implicated, but it was always like pinning down a jellyfish – it was very elusive.”

Heath’s name was included in “Operation Whistle“, a police investigation into allegations of child sex abuse on the island, although no evidence was found against him. Indeed, there doesn’t even seem to have been any specific accuser or witness.

More outlandishly, a woman named Linda Corby claims that she once saw eleven children from the home go aboard Heath’s yacht, but only ten return. She then reported this to police, who told her that they had been told “not to investigate”. She complains that there is now no record of her complaint, although it seems to me that the lack of any missing child is of more significance.

Corby says that this was in the early 1970s, which was when Heath was prime minister, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Heath visited Jersey at this time. One Mirror report from 2015 carries a claim that Heath spent six months at the Waters Edge hotel in Bouley Bay “in the early 70s”  convalescing from an operation and visiting the pub next door, but this is ludicrously inconsistent with his duties running the country at that time – although journalistic standards today are such that the hack (who is probably too young to remember Heath’s time as Prime Minister) didn’t bother to check with other sources.

So why has Watts now promoted bogus evidence linking Heath to Jersey in 1972? Is this a misapprehension that Wiltshire Police is also under?