A Note on an Edward Heath Accuser

From the Surrey Mirror, last month (1):

An anguished pensioner who says he was repeatedly raped, beaten and humiliated at a children’s home now being investigated by the police is still tortured by the horrific memories six decades later.

James Reeves has been scarred by the abuse he says he endured during his time at Beechholme, the former Banstead “children’s village”, when he was just six years old.

…The pained pensioner is taking comfort from the current investigation by Surrey Police into alleged historic child abuse at Beechholme, where he claims there was “humiliation and violence all the time”.

Another Surrey Mirror article noted similar testimony from Graeme Sergeant, who runs a survivors’ group.

The article about Reeves also explains what happened after he left the care system:

Desperate to escape the care system which he feared so much, James began life on the streets at the age of 14.

To survive the teenager was forced to engage in sex work across London, preyed upon, he says, by exploitative older men.

…He eventually managed to work jobs driving mini-cabs and taxis, and took steps toward a normal life with his first marriage in 1973.

Without commenting in too much detail while a police investigation is under way, it certainly appears that Reeves’s life has been blighted by abuse and exploitation. We can only hope that he at least gets some justice in his latter years.

However, it cannot be ignored that Reeves is also a prolific accuser of VIPs and celebrities; on Twitter, he claims to have encountered various household names while engaging in sex work in London in the 1960s, and he also extrapolates allegations from details in news reports.

In particular, he claims that Edward Heath was known as “Uncle Eddie” to underage rent-boys on Hampstead Heath, and he has given an account to Wiltshire Police, which has been investigating historic sex abuse allegations against the former prime minister.

This involvement in a matter of public interest is why, reluctantly, I am obliged to write a little more about a man who is clearly vulnerable: Reeves is a significant figure in a social media milieu that promotes allegations against Heath and others (often with a sense of glee), and his engagement with Wiltshire Police (including a Twitter exchange with Chief Constable Mike Veale) raises concerns about how a major police inquiry has been conducted.

The main point is that his accounts of VIP abuse are not just extensive (Frank Carson and David Frost are also accused, along with people still living), but that they have grown over time. For example, here are some innocuous comments he made about the former Labour leader Michael Foot in 2015:

michael foot regular walker on hampstead heath? [link]

saw michael foot on hampstead heath too he was walking his dog [link]

i often saw michael foot mp walking his dog on hamstead heath,nothing wrong with that,yet heath sex abusing boys on the heath.UPROAR,WHY? [link]

In response to a query about whether Foot is “implicated” in child abuse, he responded “not sure so far he hasnt”.

Now, however, he writes:

i saw edward heath,and michael foot,at southend green one night [Link] they were together [Link]

Southend Green on the edge of Hampstead Heath in north London has a reputation for gay cruising; the gent’s toilets in particular is “infamous” – Joe Orton used the facility, and it was where George Michael was arrested in 2008.

Reeves’s statement may be slightly ambiguous, but he followed up by RTing a reply from someone else, that “may they rot in the bowels of hell the lot of them”. Thus we can be confident that Reeves wants us to infer that Edward Heath and Michael Foot were out cottaging together on Hampstead Heath, and in particular seeking to exploit underage sex workers. It is an astonishing claim – both men were already famous at the time, and they espoused very different politics. There is no indication that they socialised.

Tellingly, despite Reeves’s social media following, his supporters have not chosen to denounce Foot. Instead, the allegation has been passed over, and when I referred to the Tweets one of his associates asked me to provide “evidence” that Reeves had made such a claim. Well, the links are above.

His supporters, though, have stated that they in general believe whatever Reeves says, and they express the view that it is a moral imperative for anyone “decent” to do likewise; and given Reeves’s account of Beechholme, it is natural to want to be sympathetic.

However, the claim that Edward Heath and Michael Foot were roaming Hampstead Heath in the 1960s together looking for rent-boys is fantastical, and the way it has been introduced highly problematic. His claims against other VIPs are similarly either implausible or so vague as to be impossible to assess.

People can believe what they like; but that does not make factual difficulties disappear.

UPDATE: I’ve been reminded that Reeves very specifically claimed that:

heath,had a flat in the barbican london,where,underage,rent boys stayed,in the flat ,at nights,heath was a,a kerb craller,picking up boys [Link] heath had a flat in the barbican,where rent boys and runaways from care slept there,heath sex abused those boys,regulary [Link]

Heath did not in fact have a flat at the Barbican, and there were no residents there until 1968, when Reeves was in his 20s.

Reeves also states that “heath picked up boys from jackstraws castle public house,car park,i witnessed it i was in the car park”.  The original Jack Straw’s Castle pub was destroyed in the Second World War; a new pub was built on the site in 1964, although it was made to look older (it superficially appears Victorian). Reeves would have been 18 years old at that time.

Footnote

(1) The Surrey Mirror website since been reorganised as Get Surrey. The story quoted above, though, has not been carried across to the new site.