Investigation Finds Chief Constable Mike Veale Gave “Inaccurate Account” of How He Broke Phone

(Updated and amended a couple of times)

From the Independent Office for Police Conduct (and widely reported elsewhere):

An Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation has found that Cleveland Chief Constable Mike Veale has a case to answer for alleged misconduct for providing and maintaining an inaccurate account of how damage to his work mobile phone was caused while heading up Wiltshire Police.

We found that Mr Veale had a case to answer in respect of his explanation to colleagues that the phone had been dropped in a golf club car park and inadvertently run over by a vehicle. Mr Veale subsequently explained to our investigators that the damage was in fact caused when he swung a club at his golf bag in frustration after playing a poor shot.

We began an investigation in January this year after anonymous allegations were received that Chief Constable Veale deliberately damaged his mobile phone to hide contact with various parties over Wiltshire Police’s investigation into Sir Edward Heath (Operation Conifer).

It was previously reported in January that Veale, who has now moved on from Wiltshire to Cleveland, was under investigation for breaking a phone. He has now been put on an “ongoing programme of professional development”, during which it will be explained to the chief constable that police officers ought not to tell lies.

The IPOC press release also links to the full report, which has further details:

On 23 November 2017, the IOPC received an anonymous typed letter dated 25 October 2017. This letter alleged that Chief Constable Veale and a Conservative MP had collaborated in leaking information about Operation Conifer, an investigation into alleged child abuse by Sir Edward Heath, in an attempt to boost public opinion of Chief Constable Veale.

The letter alleged that Chief Constable Veale had spoken directly to one journalist on a number of occasions, and had told the MP that “he was going to cover his tracks by destroying his phone so records of contact between him and [name redacted] could not be traced.”

The journalist mentioned here was very probably Simon Walters, the Mail on Sunday’s political editor; during Operation Conifer, Walters ran a number of articles on the subject, the most sensational being “Police Chief: Heath Was a Paedophile“, which famously introduced the suggestion – attributed to “a source” – that Veale believed the claims against Heath were “120% genuine”. Veale always denied having expressed an opinion about Heath’s guilt or leaking, but when the police investigation ended in fiasco without having discovered anything of substance he went to Walters to give his first interview, despite his former complaints that he had been misrepresented. (1)

The IPOC report includes the detail that Assistant Chief Constable Paul Mills recalled that “on the morning of 23 September 2017, the force media team made him aware that there had been a significant leak of information from the Operation Conifer report”; Mills attempted to contact Veale about it, but was unable to do so until Veale emailed him the next day with his false account of how his phone had been run over by a car. We are also told by the IPOC that Veale had told investigators “that during the game [of golf] he received several calls about an article that was due to be published in the Sunday Times the following day, which was highly personal and questioned his integrity and the integrity of Operation Conifer”. I wrote about this Sunday Times article at the time; it drew attention to links between Veale and a conspiracy theorist named Robert Green, but it was derived from an exchange that Green had published on his own website rather than a “leak”.

Oddly, IPOC makes no mention of another article that was published on the same day: “Police: If Ted Heath Was Alive Today We’d Quiz him under Caution on Child Abuse Claims” (discussed here), once again from Simon Walters at the Mail on Sunday. The article cited “Whitehall sources”, and it looks much more like it was based on a “significant leak from the Operation Conifer report” than the Sunday Times article. Yet this article is not mentioned anywhere in the IPOC report.

The whole thing is a bit of a mystery. Whoever sent the letter knew that Veale had broken his phone, but if the sender’s purpose was malicious (as Veale maintains) it seems remarkably good luck for this person that it turned out that Veale had told a lie to explain the damage – which just happened to have occurred the day before leaks from within Operation Conifer provided the basis for new story in the Mail on Sunday (whereas the IPOC report instead focuses on the Sunday Times article).

On the other hand, though, if the damage was inflicted “accidentally on purpose” by hitting his golf bag in front of witnesses, why then afterwards resort to a different story to explain what had happened? And there is corroboration that Veale sought out data recovery, which is not consistent with wanting to “cover tracks” – although there is slippage in the IPOC report between one witness saying “he asked her to try to arrange the recovery of all of the data stored on the phone”, and an IT consultant who says Veale “asked him to recover some information that was stored on the device”.

The MP, meanwhile, is almost certainly Andrew Bridgen, who was bizarrely described by Veale as a “stakeholder” in the investigation. Bridgen was given advance access to the Operation Conifer report, which he commended to be media before the public were allowed to see it for themselves, and his involvement perhaps explains why a crime investigation was being channelled to the Mail on Sunday via a political hack (as suggested by Private Eye magazine last year – issue 1454, p. 10). Characteristically, Bridgen has now provided a media quote for the Daily Mail, stating:

‘This investigation, based on spurious and vexatious allegations carried out at huge cost to the taxpayer, has been nothing more than an attempt to smear the reputation of an honest policeman.’

However, Bridgen did not make any reference to the alleged conversation mentioned in the anonymous letter that led to the IPOC investigation. Bridgen’s statement here is hard to take given the huge sums that were wasted in Veale’s crusade to find evidence that Heath – who died in 2005 – was a child-sex abuser.

On the same day as Veale’s interview with Walters at the end of Operation Conifer, Veale also chose to be interviewed by Mark Watts, formerly of Exaro News. This was an odd decision, given how Watts had heavily promoted the discredited “Operation Midland” complainant. Watts’s explanation for the investigation into the broken phone is that this is “the establishment” taking “revenge” for Operation Conifer, although he covers both bases by referring to the story of Veale talking to the MP: “If true, who could have been listening in to a chief constable’s private comms?”

Meanwhile, self-described “police whistleblower” Jon Wedger has said on social media that he has today spoken with Veale, and that he (Wedger) believes that the investigation indicates “the vile paedophilic cover ups at the heart of the British establishment.” Wedger, who has previously been promoted by the Daily Express, maintains some mainstream links while being fully immersed in an “alternative media” conspiracy milieu that has seen him discussing Satanic Ritual Abuse with Bill Maloney and speaking at the International Tribunal for Natural Justice.

Footnote

1. The Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, Barry Coppinger, has issued a statement expressing his support for Veale. It includes a detail about the second aspect of the letter:

A second part of the referral, concerning allegations Mr Veale had disclosed confidential information relating to ‘Operation Conifer’, was returned to the Wiltshire PCC in January to deal with in any manner he deemed appropriate, which was to take no further action.

Despite a recent report that chief constables have disparaged PCCs as “not that bright” and “absolutely bleeding hopeless”, the impression one gets is that they are usually compliant and do not in fact hold chief constables to account.

28 Responses

  1. He’s already been a Chief Constable twice, but has now been put onto an “ongoing programme of professional development”? Whither does the ongoing professional career of a Chief Constable go on, when it is thus programmed to develop further? Chief Constable of a bigger police force, I suppose.

    Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I’d have thought taking this senior bent copper down a peg or two was better for discipline than training him up to equip him to rise even higher than the dizzy heights to which he has already risen, by all accounts.

  2. “And there is corroboration that Veale sought out data recovery [from the broken ‘phone], which is not consistent with wanting to “cover tracks”.”

    Perhaps – though we might also posit that by asking for the data to be recovered Veale WAS covering his tracks? He was hardly going to implore the boffins to erase everything… that conspiricism is catching!

    As Veale “had arranged for the smashed pieces [pieces?!?] to be examined by external consultants to ensure that no data was lost” I’m wondering what iron the maniac was wielding. A very big 1 by the sound of it…

    But despite this act of attacking his bag with a club being quite deliberate (if this is really what took place, of course) the destruction of the iPhone is described as an “accident” by the report’s authors; it’s not a definition I recognise to be honest. ‘Inadvertent’, maybe. But not an accident.

    P.S. What rotten golfing etiquette! From taking multiple ‘phone calls during a round to going haywire on the fairway like some sort of plaid clad Captain Caveman… bet he didn’t even replace the divots.

  3. Tweets that age badly:

    “Two local politicians in Cleveland try to halt hiring of Mike Veale as its new chief constable. Why would they object to a chief officer with such proven integrity?”

    Mark ‘Exaro’ Watts, January 2018.
    https://twitter.com/MarkWatts_1/status/958304490557452288

  4. Was Simon at the Mail on Sunday the recipient of the leaks? Remembering one extremely sycophantic interview with Veale, he and Veale were certainly having a love-in.

    I admit to being confused as to how smashing his phone would destroy any evidence however. Surely, the phone being on a company (police server, everything – text messages and email wise- would be retrievable anyway. When police forces used Blackberries, a condition of use was that all devices had to be wiped of all data every night for security reasons. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t still the case. Regardless, whilst I’m not sure I buy the accidental damage with golf club line, Veale surely knew that smashing his phone would hide very little?

    On the subject of Bridgen, on the one hand he acknowledges the quality – or otherwise- of the allegations against Heath, and on the other appears to imply the investigation was all about smearing Veale from the outset. Bizarre.
    “Yesterday Mr Bridgen, who has always backed Mr Veale, said: ‘This investigation, based on spurious and vexatious allegations carried out at huge cost to the taxpayer, has been nothing more than an attempt to smear the reputation of an honest policeman.’”
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6174427/Police-chief-smashed-phone-golf-club-criticism-child-abuse-probe.html

  5. The circumstances of the phone smash were his knowledge of the Sunday Times article about to appear – that’s why he was stressed and playing poor golf and hit the golf bag in a moment of rage. Then he made up an elaborate false story through ’embarassment’.
    Is it not possible that he deliberately smashed the phone, but then realised this might incriminate him because he would have to turn it in? So instead he privately arranged for the ?partial data transfer, and the deletion of all the original data. He maintained and riffed on his carpark story (‘witnesses’)until knobbled. We have no idea what is true when he’s a self-admitted liar.

    • The more I think about this tale the less credence I give it, though I’d put money on ‘deliberate destruction of ‘phone in a moment of rage’ rather than ‘attempt to destroy DATA’… but who knows?

      As his iPhone seems to have exploded into “pieces” – despite being protected by what was undoubtedly a top-of-the-range bag – I’m wondering if Apple shouldn’t be looking into the matter as Veale may well have stumbled upon a serious design fault that necesitates the instant recall of millions of devices prone to splintering into bits, spewing molten lithium over one and all.

      I’m not sure whether it’d be covered by FoI and can’t really summon the energy to find out, but I’d love to see some photos of the wreckage of this fragile device, had any been taken during the data recovery process/investigation.

      • Seems the .’smithereens’ was one of his more fanciful lies. In fact the screen was smashed and the hand set bent at the sides. Not sure we know what happened to the handset once Veale had had ?some data transferred and the original wiped off. Presumably the hulk was given back to Veale. Void.
        I’ve posted a query to my PCC in Wiltshire. You can see it on Twitter @mscjervis

      • Re the wreckage, the IT contractor Mr D “returned it to Vodaphone” having retrieved & wiped the data. Not sure what Vodafone will have made of that…

        Although Mad Mike rejected having ever uttered the phrase “smashed to smithereens” as being “not the type of language [he] would use”, elsewhere he “arranged for the smashed pieces to be examined by external consultants to ensure that no data was lost” which might suggest that a) it really took a pounding and/or b) Mike is a moron who thinks that shards of glass can be used as a memory storage device.

        The bent back can be seen being produced by a nutter with a big hammer here:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tn3LUNCQPY

        P.S. I enjoyed this from the report:
        “I remember that having played golf, I went into the clubhouse and had a few beers with my friends. Once I returned home…”

        Designated driver, Mike, or do CCs get chaperoned hither and thither, all part of the ‘package’ that includes an unlimited supply of expensive executive stress-relieving toys from Apple?

  6. Leaving aside all of this, I am still probably less critical of Veale than most people on here. Bearing in mind that he is not responsible for the type of people that tend to support him on social media, what would you guys have expected him to do when he received complaints about Heath? Just ignore them? Well, given that Heath is dead, that might at one time have been a realistic course of action, but we are living in the ‘post-Savile’ era.

    • The current criticism of Veale can be detached from the Heath fiasco he led & still be valid. So far as I’m concerned a CC lying about the circumstances around the destruction of a ‘phone (or anything else) is significantly serious enough to be punished severely; it’s just not on from someone in his position.

      (The actual ‘lashing out’, if that is really what happened, is understandable and worthy of a line or two in a local newspaper’s gossip column, nothing more… had he replaced the item out of his own pocket rather than leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill for his wanton destruction, of course.)

      But I’d see Veale more as a symptom (of policing gone mad) than the cause, and he might justifiably wonder why on earth he is getting so much stick when, for example, ‘The Lord Hogan-Howe QPM’ has slithered off with an enormous pension pot to a ‘retirement’ of lucrative consulting, advising, and lauding/lording. ‘Baron Hogan-Howe’…

      https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/police-chief-who-froze-out-press-takes-a-job-in-pr-xgxd52w8b

      But regarding his pals on social media – come on, TDF!

    • So no-one wants to attempt to answer my question above “what would you guys have expected him to do when he received complaints about Heath? “

      • “We don’t waste time & money investigating the dead – not even those who have spent a mere decade in the ground.”

        Certainly not ‘doing a Cliff’ – standing outside Heath’s home & begging the mentally deranged to come forward (which of course they did).

        (And then rounding up the fraudulent fuckers of Exaro with their ‘Jimmy Savile’s nephew suddenly remembers that Jimmy Savile attended ‘paedo sex parties’ with Ted Heath because he got nowt in Jimmy’s will honest guv it’s all true’ bullshit stories & practicing his feared-throughout-the-land swing on their empty heads, hollow hearts & diseased bodies – some proper old fashioned coppering no less! Followed by “a few beers” at the 19th, the tossing of his badge into a manmade sort-of-lake, and dramatically driving off the edge of a bunker in an electric buggy at 3.5mph to be consumed by lithium fire as his fragile replacement ‘phone explodes once again.)

      • Bandini, ok.

        So what’s driving it all?

  7. Bandini – the hammer test was very interesting. Could a single blow from a golf club accidentally hitting a phone in the side pocket of the bag achieve the same?
    Possible; but probable?

    • Margaret, the day before this story hit I was, once again, trying to return to life my girlfriend’s mid-market mobile – successfully I’m pleased to say (and it now belongs to me & replaces a more downmarket ‘phone which had also been repaired with the help of YouTube videos and the like).

      They are all incredibly well made these days, real miracles of minituarized engineering, ‘gorilla glass’ & metal chassis – even those with a plaggy back. Veale’s vandalism a ‘lucky strike’ on a par with a hole in one in terms of probability…

      One thing of note from the video: the ‘phone is on a perfectly flat surface whilst receiving the hammering that produces the Veale-esque bent back; our ace coppers thought that in Veale’s case the bent back was evidence of his ‘phone NOT being on a flat surface when the damage was done…

      • Isn’t that counter physics? (not that I’m an expert on this) I mean a golf bag flexibility would tend to preclude bent back while the flat surface resistance tend towards? Bent back certainly worked with hammer man on flat surface – with a lot of effort!

      • I’m no expert either, and I don’t suppose Mr D is, but…

        “The screen on Mr Veale’s iPhone was cracked/smashed, and there was damage to the metal back. It had a curved appearance which in my opinion was consistent with extreme pressure being applied to it. It looked as if it had not been on a perfectly flat surface when it was damaged. It was completely unusable.”

        Later on the report’s writers seem convinced by this:

        “Mr D also confirmed that the phone screen was smashed, and that the phone was curved in a way that suggested it had not been on a perfectly flat surface when it was damaged. In this respect, his account indirectly supports Chief Constable Veale’s explanation of how the damage occurred.”

        If Veale doesn’t follow Baron Hogwash into the Lords he could make a fore!tune revealing the secrets of a swing so powerful that quarks were quite possibly produced.

  8. Astonishing article:

    https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/16889294.police-chief-faced-hate-campaign-from-the-establishment/

    Meanwhile, two of his social media pals come together in an idiotic orgy of swivel-eyed nutterdom:

    https://twitter.com/wedger_jon/status/1042806427440619520

    • Astonishing to you, maybe. I think that the anonymous complaint could well meet his prediction that he would be subject to ‘vexatious complaints’. I am surprised that making anonymous complaints of this type is even permitted, frankly. I could understand a rationale for anonymous complaints if a citizen was been threatened by a senior police officer, or had evidence that a senior police officer was involved in something very serious like terrorist activity or drug trafficking or something of that type, but this complaint was really quite trivial in the grand scheme of things.

      I think that you and Margaret should state what you think and stop pussyfooting around. If you think that Veale’s accident with his phone was an attempt by him to deliberately destroy evidence, or destroy evidence that he had contacts with media, then say so.

      • I’ve already done so, TDF, up there above:

        “…though I’d put money on ‘deliberate destruction of ‘phone in a moment of rage’ rather than ‘attempt to destroy DATA’… but who knows?”

        I’m not sure if it’s even possible to destroy data anymore, what with everything being uploaded to ‘the cloud’ and what not.

        “I hope my integrity will be defined by my refusal to be bullied into ignoring claims against a high-profile public figure. I hope my integrity will be defined because I didn’t buckle under the pressure from members of the establishment or the public commentary which was inaccurate.”

        Hope away, Mike, hope away…

      • I’d agree with you about anonymous complaints. Lest we forget what fun the press had with this drivel:
        http://www.thejournal.ie/the-1998-letter-that-warned-police-about-jimmy-savile-828715-Mar2013/

      • ^ Fair enough. Cynical old moi wonders if the complainant was one of his nineteenth hole “have a few pints after a nice round of golf and compare war stories” mates.

      • Bandini, I was referring in this instance to anonymous complaints against police officers. I am not opposed to anonymous complaints in all cases. To my certain knowledge, an anonymous complainant alerted a bank’s Money Laundering Reporting Officer to fraudulent activity on a customer’s account, and when that Money Laundering Reporting Officer checked the account, the activity on it fully validated the concerns of the anonymous complainant.

    • ^ Interesting that in the quotes from Mr Veale in the Northern Echo article Bandini linked to, Mr Veale seems to take a pop at the aforementioned Sir Lord Bernard Hogan-Howe:

      “I also hope my integrity will be defined by the fact that I took the lead in this investigation and I didn’t leave it to junior members, who could have been pilloried in the press and for me that showed not only my integrity but the courage of my convictions.”

      I think I’ve commented before on this blog that Hogan-Howe was claimed to be in the running for the top job in An Garda Siochana, but seems to have failed at the last hurdle, for some unknown reason.

      https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/former-met-chief-is-new-favourite-to-take-over-as-garda-commissioner-after-rush-of-bets-36129309.html

      http://www.thejournal.ie/garda-commissioner-drew-harris-psni-4218008-Sep2018/

    • Bandini, regarding the two social media pals, Reeves’ obsession in particular strikes me as rather Jarvis-y.

      • Shite, wrong clip.

      • I haven’t watched the interview TDF as a) it’s over an hour long and b) judging by the comments no one thought to give the old timer a microphone and hence is all but inaudible.

        (The first reply to Wedger’s tweet comes from someone on “a crusade to enlighten the public about the ‘Illuminati’s’ mind control agenda, using satanic child sexual abuse resulting in D.I.D adults” who I’ve mentioned before; he is also convinced that television producers stole the idea/name for a lucratively successful series from him… at least they keep us amused.)

        On Wedger’s Facebook page Loony Harper joins in regarding Veale: “A good cop hounded by the establishment for telling the truth about child abuse.”
        Wedger replies to tell Harper that he too is “a good man” before spouting drivel about Satanic abuse (the evidence he is asked to provide to back up his claim of 30 recent prosecutions can only be sent via Messenger rather than posted for all to see) before throwing his clown hat into the circus ring and agreeing that “the McCann case stinks to high heaven”.

        Meanwhile Wedger still has not updated his most recent (?!?) holiday fundraising effort – still about to set off on that swim! – and appears not to have bothered distributing any more of the thousands donated by fools.
        I emailed the Ley Community – twice – the last time around without receiving a reply, Will their distribution balance Wedger’s books when/if it is ever made? I very much doubt it judging from Wedger’s previous “deductions” but then perhaps they don’t care as they are preparing for a “temporary closure” and “anticipate the on-site works to continue through 2019 and into 2020, and we will endeavour to keep you updated as to the likely re-opening date as the project progresses”.

        That chat that Wedger had with Veale should have been under caution.

  9. […] Barthsnotes points out, it seems likely that the journalist in question was Simon Walters of the Mail on […]

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