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.

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