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.

26 Responses

  1. Regarding the 11-year-old’s story, we have here a perfect example of how a morally bankrupt media will exploit any and every one for an explosive story:

    1) Russell Myers, The Mirror in 2015:
    “Sir Edward Heath child abuse claims: Alleged victim ‘was raped by ex PM when he was just 12′”

    2) Russell Myers, The Mirror, yesterday:
    “Former Prime Minister Ted Heath’s accuser is a convicted paedophile and habitual liar”

    They really do turn my stomach. Still, great scoop, eh?

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/former-prime-minister-ted-heaths-11295461

    • I had a distinct impression, from some of the reported remarks that providing more details about any of the “would have been questioned” allegation-complaints might make identification of the complainants likely, that some of those persons were likely convicted sex offenders themselves.

  2. For over 2 years, Operation Conifer has investigated gossip and innuendo about The Rt Hon Sir Edward Heath that has been kicked around the internet and in the public bars of the United Kingdom for many years. In giving an air of credibility to this gossip, Chief Constables Simon Bailey and Mike Veale have become the Ena Sharples and Hilda Ogden of British Policing.

    Unlike most commentators, police detectives on Operation Conifer, “victims and survivors”. I actually met Sir Edward Heath. I first met him over 50 years ago. I did not like him, his political views, his “vision” for our country or his personal “style” He did not like me.

    2. However, not withstanding Wiltshire Police’s Operation Conifer’s investigation and Chief Constable Veale’s personal opinions, Sir Edward was not a paedophile.

    3. Operation Conifer was initiated in August 2015 after a retired Wiltshire Police detective claimed to the IPCC that a cover up took place during the trial of a brothel owner who it was alleged had threatened to name Heath as a paedophile . Wiltshire Police set up Operation Marble and then Operation Conifer to investigate. The IPCC declared the initial allegation was untrue.

    4. However, before the IPCC’s decision had been reached, Supt Sean Memory – the then head of the Operation – in a deliberately staged event, stood in front of Heath’s former Salisbury home to urge “victims and survivors” of Heath to come forward and that they would be “believed and supported”.On 25th August 2015, I was the first to criticise that irrational and stupid action and called for the Superintendent to resign. It has taken Veale over 2 years to agree with me and admit his error. Memory stood down as head of the Operation but has not resigned.

    5. This mistake opened the doors to the fantasists on the internet, the followers of the absurd David Icke and the critics of Sir Edward politically and personally to assert allegations which were unprovable Even the extravagant and misplaced resources of Wiltshire Police, pretentiously claiming to speak for the whole police force in the U K, could not determine Sir Edward’s culpability or liability.Why? Because he was dead. He could not answer his accusers,

    6. Unlike myself under Operation Midland, Sir Edward’s voice is silent. Veale should not determine in its absence what he would do without revealing his bias and prejudice.Natural justice is apparently no bar to our police forces.This inquiry has always been more about the position of British policing than a genuine impartial investigation of Sir Edward which was obviously impossible a matter for historians not police grandees.
    Wiltshire Police and Operation Hydrant held a meeting on 25th August 2015 – coincidentally the same day as my Press Conference at St Ermin’s Hotel in London to confront the Metropolitan Police – to agree that Sir Edward Heath “may” have faced interview under caution had he been alive. This is at the start of their investigation not a carefully crafted stance as a result of “evidence” but a pre-arranged destination point in their malicious and reckless investigation.

    7. Operation Conifer is, infact, less about Sir Edward Heath than a huge Public Relations exercise to cover up the errors of senior police officers nationwide to cover up the failed “believe the victim” strategy so accurately criticised by Sir Richard Henriques in his October 2016 Report.

    8. Veale’s recent admission that he has used “stakeholders” in a PR sense in the conduct of Operation Conifer, the odd M.P. here or there who might be helpful flies in the face of what we expect in terms of confidentiality and objectivity from a British Police force. What does Veale mean by “stakeholders” ? It beggars belief that Veale then refuses point blank to say who the stakeholders are. It is not transparent. Tom Watson was a “stakeholder” in Operation Vincente concerning Lord Brittan and “Jane”. I did not receive a full answer from the MPS as to who were “stakeholders” in Operation Midland. Also who else were “stakeholders” under Operation Conifer ? For transparency we should be told.It is beyond belief and in direct conflict with Veale’s Open Letter of December 2016 warning of consequences for releasing information about the investigation into the public arena during a live investigation. Veale, for PR reasons, has done what he told everyone else not to do. He is a hypocrite operating in plain sight and flouting his own rules of investigation. Is he above the law? He should resign on this ground alone.

    9. I know Operation Conifer has not been a transparent and honest investigation. Veale has accepted full responsibility for errors in his investigation. He should now accept the consequences.

    10. 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.

    11. 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.

    12. 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.

    13. Indeed Supt Memory sought to change the view of their “expert” when their expert’s considered opinion of “Nick”s allegations tallied with Sir Richard Henriques, rather than their own. An investigation into Operation Conifer for malfeasance in public office is long overdue.

    14. Operation Conifer could not and has not proved anything. It has been a £2 million investigation into the sexuality or asexuality of a former Prime Minister. A carefully crafted witch hunt, an extirpation used as a cover for certain elements of National Policing to continue their campaign to promote their social campaign to “always believe the victim” in allegations of child sexual abuse. Remember it was started not by a complainant, certainly not by an alleged “victim or survivor” but by a retired policeman who was spreading unfounded gossip. The only finding of fact in all of this is that that retired policeman was wrong.
    .

    15. In conclusion, the National Police Force – the police establishment wanted a “political” Head or trophy to underpin their “believe the victim” policy. They were denied mine under Operation Midland, they have rejected the independent view of Sir Richard Henriques so for their trophy they attempt to ruin the reputation of a man who cannot answer back with a partial and incomplete investigation.

    16. This would not have happened if Sir Edward was alive.

    17. In history, the tarnish of this smear will stick to the cap badges of the police involved far longer than to Sir Edward Heath’s reputation.

    • Re point 14 above, Op Conifer may have been kickstarted by an ex-copper but let’s not forget the role that this occasional Mirror columnist, Exaro confidant and political grandstander had already played:

      “The Labour MP Tom Watson said: “I received information in 2012 concerning allegations of child abuse carried out by Edward Heath and a separate
      claim concerning Heath was made to me subsequently. I passed them both to the police, who have confirmed to me that at least one of those allegations is being investigated and taken seriously.””

      (Exaro seemed to have several ex-coppers at their disposal to help move things along, when needed…)

      Who knows, Watson may have even been a ‘stakeholder’ in Conifer, given his known interference in previous related-cases?

  3. There is much evidence available proving police from various areas of Britain, have spent some four years deliberately ignoring expert witnesses and victims of germalists Mark Watts and Sonia Poulton, and chose instead to collude with Sonia Poulton’s “Team Outlaw’’ gang of stalkers, blackmailers, gun-toters hackers, con men and con women, in trying to silence those who had disproven the timelines of convicted stalker James Rhoyden Jones of Wrexham and “Nick”.

    Several timelines have long been available to police which had already proven some complainants of child abuse were lying in regard to having been in establishments where some VIPs were allegedly abusing, raping and sacrificing children.

    During the past four years, several warrants were issued to make false arrests, based solely on Sonia Poulton’s “Team Outlaw” regularly telephoning police and other authorities to make wholly incredible, false and defamatory allegations against people such as Darren Laverty, Simon Just and others.

    Mark Watts’ only commendable deed during the past five years, was to name Sonia Poulton as the “unnamed journalist” this year, after she had specified to him that her name be kept a mystery until after Darren Laverty’s trial.

    Thankfully, senior CPS saved Mr. Laverty from going to trial at the 11th hour, after juniors had failed to note Sonia Poulton and her witnesses have a long history of being dangerously obsessed and compulsive, threatening violence, and making death threats.

    Quite how this could have been ignored by so many police officers, is a mystery known only to the police it was reported to, and those police now currently under investigation for failing to properly investigate, and ignoring how dangerous Sonia Poulton and Team Outlaw are.

    Documents lodged with lawyers prove the police failed every one of Sonia Poulton and Team Outlaw’s victims. The cost to all those victims is immeasurable at present, however it will be nigh impossible to calculate the price Mark Watts’ stable will pay in the long term for the media exploitation they have strangely been enjoying until now.

    https://theneedleblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/23/spurious-allegations-made-by-esther-baker-and-sonia-poulton-are-dropped/

    • North Wales may be at the centre of YOUR thrilling universe, but anyone else’d be forgiven for wondering what in the blazes any of the above has to do with the article under discussion.

      “… a long history of being dangerously obsessed and compulsive, threatening violence, and making death threats…”

      Indeed! Slope off, you evidenced crank.

      • I thought it quite an interesting read !.
        There does seem to be an extraordinary cross pollination in all these allegations that prove to be either false, fanciful or impossible to prove and the same cast of characters seem to crop up regularly.
        And I think Sue makes very valid points about police behaviour in all of these sensational cases and it really worries me to think they are seemingly either dangerously incompetent or deliberately mendacious.

        This is highlighted by the fact nearly 40 years ago a relative of mine was falsely accused of sexual assault but the police who investigated approached the matter in an entirely different manner and eventually had the accuser admitting that his claim was false and that it was a classic case of a blackmail attempt. The outcome today may have been far different.

      • Since your paranoid post, I have been furnished with a list of Team Outlaw names who repeatedly made false accusations to police and other authorities across Britain.

        Several gang members conspired to have someone’s driving licence revoked by contacting the DVLA to falsely allege a person was an alcoholic seen driving whilst drunk. There is documented evidence to this effect which police have been made aware of.

        Death threats were left on answering machines and police listened to them. It is unclear whether the persons involved in the above crimes have been arrested yet. One of those making death threats is said to have been ordered off twitter quite recently by other Team Outlaw gang members due to one of his sock puppets being a liability after ‘threatening and intimidating four more women’.

        Since registering your disbelief above, I will keep you informed. There must be a lot of money involved in VIP child abuse stories, if people are prepared to make death threats, must there not?

      • Please don’t keep me informed of anything as I’m resolutely not interested in your ‘documents’, ‘timelines’, ‘documented evidence’, ‘intelligence’, stories of recorded death-threats or hearsay gossip with which you’ve rather grandly been “furnished”; I sincerely doubt that the police will be salivating at the prospect of having their time wasted with it either.

        No, you’d be far better off “lodging” all this somewhere far, far closer to home. For safe keeping.
        https://secretofbrynestyn.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/twitter_threats.png?w=500&h=579

    • @Eric You are correct regarding the ”extraordinary cross pollination in all these allegations that prove to be either false, fanciful or impossible to prove and the same cast of characters seem to crop up regularly.”

      The same cast of characters have spent five years cross-pollinating and thereby contaminating each others evidence at every turn. Each time a fresh testimony appears, it is laced with the most lurid allegations from every testimony which went before it.

      The original and genuine complainants on social media have been left feeling hopeless and disillusioned by those playing the fame game with germalists. And being a Lord or an MP, or any other prominent person has never been so perilous.

      Soft targets such as Harvey Proctor, deserve respect for coming out in public to challenge those seeking to destroy them. The police could have prevented a lot of what we are seeing today, by acting on intelligence given to them over the past five years. The evidence of police cosying up to germalists and criminals in an effort to save their own bacon is staggering to see in print.

      *Please note: ‘save their own bacon’ is a figure of speech and nothing to do with pigs. I have respect for the police in general, but none for police who tell lies and repeat false allegations to avoid doing the job they swore an oath to do.*

  4. @ Bandini. North Wales? Paranoid much? I merely mentioned Wrexham in regard to convicted stalker, James Rhoyden Jones of Sonia Poulton’s Team Outlaw, who made false allegations about the late Sir Peter Morrison, Conservative MP for Chester, and other VIPs.

    You are the ‘crank’, if you can only see a tree instead of the woods.

    James Rhoyden Jones, “Nick” and the germalists who indulged and actively encouraged delusions and false allegations, are one of the primary reasons police are failing to conduct their investigations without prejudice, fear or favour.

    You are not unaware of police leaks to germalists in regard to police investigations, as you mention Exaro and Mirror in your post. Read Harvey Proctor’s post above, to gain understanding of the pressure brought upon police by germalists and their stable of fantasists when releasing information into the public domain.

    • Howsabout this then for a “stable of fantasists […] releasing information into the public domain” – all from yer beloved blog?

      ‘Elm Guest House – “Mary Moss” files’ (written by Needleblog collaborator, Chris Fay)

      [Incidentally it was one of the subjects of your obsession who informed Gojam of Fay’s shady past, something that Gojam flatly denied in his usual angry, disagreeable manner, falsely claiming that the criminal conviction referred to another individual. At the risk of pricking a dulled conscience can I suggest that here we have the seed of so much bad blood? I’m guessing that this isn’t quite complicated nor conspiratorial enough for you to believe in so let’s have some more topical folderol instead…]

      ‘Edward Heath: The Paedophile Prime Minister’

      ‘Ted Heath: The Cottaging Paedophile’

      Cracking stuff! And perhaps rather than my reading Harvey Proctor’s post “again” – although I think I managed to understand it the first time around – he, Harvey Proctor, would like to read how he was a “person of interest” after being ‘outed’ in the deliciously deranged series of ‘articles’, ‘Naming The Living: Parts 1 to infinity and back’?

      “As such Harvey Proctor is likely to be a ‘person of interest’ to the police in regards to the Operation Fernbridge paedophile investigation.”

      https://web.archive.org/web/20130204141340/http://theneedleblog.wordpress.com:80/2013/01/30/naming-the-living-part-5/

      Of course by this point the flaky nature of not only Fay but also the OTHER Needleblog collaborator & ‘guest list’ inventor/liar, Clive Godden, was known to anyone who’d listen… but the torrent of bullshit inexplicably continued.

      And you want to talk about trees and woods? Priceless!

  5. @ Mr Harvey Proctor. I am informed Tom Watson’s office was contacted during June 2015. He has yet to return the calls or acknowledge them by post. Despite his secretary taking contact details. and stating they would convey the messages as a matter of urgency, without being prompted to do so.

  6. One can only have the greatest sympathy for Harvey Proctor and the appalling treatment that has been metered out to him not just by fantasists but aided by opportunists MPs and internet “crusaders”.

    As for Mike Veale, I am appalled by his behavior and have lodged a formal complaint against him over a legal threat he issued against me.

    When his ridiculous “120%” claim surfaced I criticized him on Twitter and he messaged me that my comment was “borderline libel” and he may seek advice. It was not only a bizarre message but even I know enough about libel to know he had absolutely no case and I referred him to my solicitors if he wished to contact him but it was clearly an attempt at bullying me into silence.

    But that wasn’t the end of the matter- I kept messaging him urgently that his timeline on Twitter had attracted numerous “Satanic” nutters making all sorts of claims but even worse, one had posted the images of the unfortunate children in the ludicrous Hampstead ‘Satanic’ scandal with links to defamatory websites Not only are these children entitled to anonymity this was a breach of a High Court injunction and if anyone should fear a libel action it was Veale himself. It took nearly 3 weeks for him to finally remove the images and that simply is not just unbelievably incompetent for a Chief Constable, by allowing those images to remain for that time was yet another cruel attack upon very real child victims.

  7. Concur. Robustly…

    ”It’s also one reason why it’s vital that when people deliberately mislead the police and waste substantial time that they are not just cautioned for wasting police time but are dealt with more robustly. One person remains under active investigation for such (including allegations of attempting to pervert the course of justice)”

    https://trollexposure.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/conimidferland-report-whats-missing-part-3/

  8. @ Eric ”120%”? “borderline libel”? Was he not offered gardening leave after having this episode?

    • it was quite an odd term to use but it worried me for the reason- while I can be rude at times on twitter (and would have accepted a rebuke) I would expect a Chief Constable to understand libel laws. He sounded over-sensitive which I don’t think a man in his position should be.

      • He overreacted, and probably regrets making such a fool of himself. The level playing field nature of social media sites is not fully understood by servants with superior attitudes. He has had a lot on his plate, and must have anticipated there will be a lot more to come out of this fiasco.

        Police must be led by evidence, not the story. The way this case has been handled, will change policing for the better in years to come. Preparation is key, and it appears matters concerning this case were rushed into.

  9. Even its detractors have forgotten the oddest fact about Operation Conifer, that it was started by mistake. It was the story about Ling Ling’s brothel that started it all and even though that was disproved in five minutes, the ball had started inexorably rolling. It’s rather as if a picture of a frisbee that someone passed off as a UFO had started an investigation into whether there’s life on Mars.

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