From Simon Jenkins in the Guardian:
That’s it then. Sir Edward Heath was a paedophile. It has been on the news for four days, so it must be true. They might just be allegations, but we know there is “no smoke without fire”. The chap was a “confirmed bachelor”, nudge, nudge. They are always a bit fishy, these lonely sorts.
Let us look at the claims in more detail.
The “1961” allegation
…As far as Heath is concerned, there appear to be only two firm allegations. One comes from a man who says he was raped by Heath in 1961 in a flat in Park Lane full of sailing paraphernalia. (Heath had no such flat and was not a sailor then, according to his biographer, John Campbell.)
The accusation was a sensational front-page Sunday Mirror splash at the weekend. The accuser claims he was picked up by Heath while hitch-hiking to London aged twelve. The man recalls “a very posh place” where there were “photos of yachts on the walls” and “an orchestra’s conductor’s baton”, which (perhaps too handily) are evidence of Heath’s famous hobbies and thus mean that we can discount the possibility of mistaken identity. The man says he realised with whom he had spent the night several years later, when he saw a photograph in a newspaper (an old photo from 1951). The Mirror report refers to “Mayfair” rather than Jenkins’s “Park Lane”; the two designations, when used in a general way, are virtually synonymous.
When I first consulted Campbell’s biography (via Google Books), I thought that Jenkins had been mistaken: page 72 states that Heath had indeed moved to Albany, known as “Mayfair’s most exclusive mansion”, in 1961. However, pages 136 to 137 show that this is an error or typo, and the correct date was 1963. Up until this point he had been living in a “cupboard” flat in Petty France, which is south of St James’s Park. Campbell explains that Heath acquired a seven-year lease for his Albany apartment, lasting up to 1970.
The 1963 date is also confirmed by Heath’s own autobiography (referring to the resignation of Macmillan: “It was at this time that I moved out of the small flat in Petty France that I had inhabited since the early 1950s”) and Margaret Laing’s 1973 biography.
Yet this incorrect 1961 date just happens to be pivotal to the new allegation. It is possible that the journalist, rather than the alleged victim, has extrapolated from “a very posh place” to Mayfair, based on the error/typo, but the Petty France address – described as “tiny” by Campbell and as “little more than digs” – doesn’t seem to fit the bill.
Campbell’s biography also confirms, as Jenkins notes, that Heath took up sailing only in 1966, although he had had an interest in the sea since boyhood.
The 1990s “brothel” allegation
Jenkins also refers to the second allegation:
The other is from an anonymous former policeman in Wiltshire who alleged that a Myra Forde had, in the mid-1990s, threatened to expose Heath as a paedophile if she was prosecuted for running a brothel. She denied the whole story on Wednesday, which perhaps explains why Wiltshire’s police and prosecutor say they were never told of the threat, although they nevertheless held a press conference outside Heath’s former home in Salisbury last weekend.
The story was that plans for a trial were dropped in 1992 because Forde had threatened to “expose” Heath. However, it now transpires that the real reason was because two witnesses failed to give evidence, although Wiltshire police are now looking into whether there was “witness tampering” (a belated change of emphasis which is unimpressive given that the first version of the story came from one its own officers, and even if true does not mean that the case had anything to do with Heath). Forde did apparently claim to know something about Heath and rent boys, although she was convicted three years later without mentioning the matter. A report of her trial from 1995 refers to underage girls, but not boys.
[UPDATE (May 2016): According to a new report:
An investigation has found no evidence a case against a brothel madam was dropped because she threatened to make allegations against Sir Edward Heath.
…The IPCC [Independent Police Complaints Commission] found the case was halted when witnesses refused to give evidence.
It was also deemed unclear whether the comment about Sir Edward had even been made.]
There are also some other allegations about Heath in the media.
(a) Abuse and murder on the yacht
The claim here is that Heath 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. There were cases of child abuse at the home, and a lawyer representing victims 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.”
This seems to be saying that the lack of any evidence is itself a sign of something sinister going on.
A more outlandish variation of the Jersey story is that Heath would sometimes murder the children and dump their bodies over the side of his yacht. One woman on Jersey, named Linda Corby, claims that in “the early 1970s” (which would have been while Heath was Prime Minister) she on one occasion counted eleven children go onto Heath’s yacht but only ten return. She says that she went to police, who told her that they had been told “not to investigate”. One wonders how the ten survivors were persuaded not to say anything, or even to warn their peers not to go on the boat on later occasions. It seems not unreasonable to suppose that Corby simply miscounted. Corby is herself a mother, which allowed the Daily Mail to produce a misleading headline implying that a mother had reported that her own child was missing.
More generally, it is unexplained how Heath was able to dispose of children in this way without anyone filing missing person reports, or dead children washing up ashore, or members of Heath’s crew or security entourage blabbing. According to The Times, based on information from Heath’s navigator David Arnold: “Morning Cloud was a racing vessel, needed at least three people to crew her and had no private space.”
(b) Sex parties in London
The source here is “Nick”, Exaro‘s star witness in its stories about “VIP abuse”. Nick (a pseudonym) claims to have been raped by VIPs including Leon Brittan at Dolphin Square, and even to have witnessed three child-murders. He also claims to have been abused by Jimmy Savile and Lord Greville Janner. “Nick” says he was raped by Heath “at several venues”, although it’s not clear if these supposedly include Dolphin Square. Again, it is difficult to imagine a group of paedophiles, who depend on tight secrecy for their activities, welcoming an ex-Prime Minister into their midst.
[UPDATE: Later in August it emerged that Nick’s allegations included the claim that Harvey Proctor had been persuaded not to castrate him at a sex party due to Heath’s intervention. More detail here.]
(c) Jimmy Savile’s nephew
Two days after the 1961 allegations were published, the Evening Standard had a follow-up:
Jimmy Savile’s nephew today claimed that a male friend was abused by Sir Edward Heath.
Guy Marsden said the friend was just 14 at the time and the alleged sex attack on him happened at a party in London during the Seventies.
…Mr Marsden, 61, said he and three friends aged 13 to 16 were ferried across London from flat to flat, where sexual abuse took place.
…The roofer, from Leeds, added: “The four of us would arrive at these parties together, then my friend would disappear. I didn’t think much of it at the time, though I knew it was weird.
“He later told us that Ted Heath was an abuser but that he didn’t know who he was at the time. He said it was a year after the abuse took place that he was watching TV and recognised him.”
It’s odd that Marsden failed to mention this amazing relevation in 2014, when he gave a strange account of encountering his uncle among paedophiles in 1968. According to the story as published in the Daily Mail, Marsden and some friends had decided to run away to London, where they were picked up to two men and taken to their flat. By chance, Savile appeared several days later, “with a group of young children and a vicar in tow”:
Guy, thinking his uncle had been asked to find him by his family, was horrified. ‘I thought that me Uncle Jimmy had caught me there,’ he says.
…’These people would pick people up from train stations, as in younger people,’ he explains. ‘We’d then go to their houses.
‘And then the ones higher up the chain would come to these houses to see who they’d picked up to take them elsewhere to do whatever they were going to do with them.’
Because his uncle was Jimmy Savile, Guy thinks word quickly spread that this was one child not to be touched.
Marsden claims that he didn’t understand what was going on at the time, although surely he would have twigged at some point and the new article makes it clear he was told explicitly by a friend that he had suffered abuse.
But what is even odder is that Marsden had only praise for his uncle following his death in 2011. The Daily Mirror ran a piece on how Savile’s money would be going to charity, which included the following:
Nephew Guy Marsden, 57, from Leeds, said: “We don’t think there will be anything in Uncle Jimmy’s will for us. It would be very nice if there was but our family rule was you get what you’ve worked for.
“When we were growing up it was made very clear you didn’t ask Uncle Jimmy for anything, especially not money.
“The main thing he gave us was his time. If anyone was poorly in hospital or in bother then Uncle Jimmy would be there for them.”
(d) Supposed association with the Paedophile Information Exchange
The Sunday People (which publishes online under the banner of the Mirror) has further reported that Heath
…was present at more than half a dozen Westminster meetings of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange.
…A dossier of files compiled by former Labour minister Baroness Castle showed Heath was present at Westminster meetings with paedophile rights campaigners from the PIE group.
Heath is said to have attended at least a quarter of the 30 or so monthly or bi-weekly meetings.
His name is said to have appeared on minutes of the private gatherings, also apparently attended by other MPs, along with scoutmasters and headteachers.
But the Castle files have been missing since the mid 1980s.
That “Heath is said” qualification comes very late in an article that begins by trumpeting Heath’s involvement with PIE as being an established fact that the paper has “revealed”.
The co-author of the Sunday People article is Don Hale, a journalist who claims that Castle gave him the dossier in the 1980s but that it had been seized by police before he could make use of it. For some reason, Hale never referred to this incident until July 2014, when his supposed memory of it formed the basis for a Daily Mail article on “the paedophile lobby’s influence in Westminster” during the 1980s. Hale claimed that “16 MPs” appeared in Castle’s dossier, and that “Tory minister Sir Rhodes Boyson, a well-known enthusiast for corporal punishment, and Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph” were mentioned “multiple times”.
A few days after Leon Brittan’s death in January 2015, Hale further alleged that Brittan had been a significant figure in the dossier. This was “revealed” in an article written by Hale for the Mirror, which also included new direct quotes attributed to Castle (who died in 2002) about how Brittan was “a powerful man with many secrets”. The article failed to make clear that the whole thing was based on Hale’s unsubstantiated memories (discussed by me further here).
Why didn’t Hale mention Ted Heath in July 2014? As a former prime minister, Heath’s name would have been a bigger scoop than Boyson or Joseph or Brittan. Yet Hale only remembered Heath in August 2015, around the same time as other stories about Heath were appearing in the media. How can anyone have confidence in such a manner of disclosure?
It seems quite firmly established that some individuals in the past got away with child abuse due to their status; and recent convictions for historical offences seem to me to be sound (although I regard as repellent Mark Williams-Thomas’ demagogic posture that to raise reasonable doubts is to be a “child abuse supporter”). However, many historical allegations against VIPs and celebrities will forever be impossible to prove or disprove: there are few references to specific dates for which a suspect may have an alibi, and extensive media coverage now makes it very difficult to confirm that allegations from multiple sources are not cross-contaminated. Further, with so many accusers unnamed, it is impossible to make any assessment as to their character.
As such, conspiracy theories flourish – including, of course, the unfalsifiable suggestion that the conspiracy is so vast that any evidence that exonerates a suspect must have been concocted. Rumours about Heath and others have been promoted by conspiracy theorists for years, and the new stories are a boon to David Icke – a man who claims that Heath was actually a giant reptile. Also being cited with enthusiasm on Twitter is the disgraced Michael Shrimpton, who I previously discussed here.
In June, a rally of abuse “victims and survivors” was held opposite Downing Street. It was organised by “campaigners Chris Wittwear and Chris Tuck”, the latter of whom has met Theresa May and is a member of the Victims and Survivors’ Consultative Panel of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. She appears to be a hard-working campaigner for those whose lives have been blighted by abuse; yet she gave a platform to a conspiracy theorist named Bill Maloney.
A video of the event shows Maloney claiming that recent work to remove asbestos from Parliament is cover for scrubbing DNA evidence of abuse, and he suggested that the invasion of Iraq was to do with Saddam Hussain’s knowledge of UK VIP child abuse. He also accused several public figures (which is why I’m not linking to the video), and he claimed that Jimmy Savile was a Satanist. Tuck described this alarming rant as “brilliant” – perhaps she was just being polite, but such an endorsement, it seems to me, is highly troubling given her position.
(Some details have been amended and expanded)
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