Edward Heath Sex Abuse Allegations: Media Circus Continues

Today’s Mail on Sunday front-page splash by the paper’s political editor Simon Walters brings on a sense of déjà vu:

Sex abuse probe WILL investigate Ted Heath over paedophile claims: Public inquiry set to look at explosive report by Chief Constable who says allegations against the ex-PM are ‘120 per cent’ genuine

The controversial investigation into allegations that Sir Edward Heath was a paedophile has been dramatically widened, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Officials at Britain’s biggest ever public inquiry confirmed that they are to study the findings of an explosive police report into claims that the former Prime Minister was a child abuser.

A spokesman for the IICSA told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘In the context of the Westminster investigation, the inquiry will be interested to see and consider the outcome of Wiltshire Police’s investigation into allegations against Sir Edward Heath.’

This apparent revelation comes just five months after the Daily Mail reported that

Wiltshire Police has already briefed the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and has pledged to pass on a confidential report on Operation Conifer when it is wound up in June

…and a whole month since Walters wrote that

The police chief in charge of an investigation into paedophile claims concerning former Prime Minister Edward Heath is to send his findings to the woman leading the national child sex-abuse inquiry.

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Mike Veale has already had talks with the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), chaired by Professor Alexis Jay.

Given this background, it is difficult to see why the bland quote from someone at the IICSA – a quote that merely confirms the earlier reports – is being treated like some shocking revelation requiring the word “WILL” in block capitals, other than to provide a yet another sensationalising headline on the subject. There was never any likelihood that inquiry WOULDN’T look at the material.

However, “see and consider” does not mean the same thing as “investigate”, and the Press Association has a longer version of the same quote that puts a different light on its significance (emphasis added):

A spokesman for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said: “In the context of the Westminster investigation, the inquiry will be interested to see and consider the outcome of Wiltshire police’s investigation into allegations against Sir Edward Heath.

“The inquiry’s remit is institutional failure to protect children and the inquiry is unlikely to need to examine whether allegations of abuse made against any particular parliamentarian are true during the course of its work.

“Its job is to examine institutional failures in connection with allegations made, and this will include considering the adequacy and propriety of law enforcement investigations.”

That’s an odd sort of “probe”, and it completely undermines Walters’s claim that Heath will be “investigated” by the IICSA. Given that quote was “told The Mail on Sunday last night”, how is it that Walters has used less of it than the PA?

The Mail on Sunday article goes on to rehash coverage of allegations against Heath; thus we’re told that

A paedophile dossier compiled by Labour peer Baroness Castle, a member of Harold Wilson’s Labour Government in the 1970s, said Sir Edward offered young boys trips on his yacht. In a separate incident, one man claimed Sir Edward picked him up in the 1960s when he was a 12-year-old hitchhiking in Kent and lured him to his Mayfair flat.

Heath’s yachts (there were several of them over the years) were small racing vessels which required a crew and lacked private space; it has been said that groups of children were given the opportunity to take a spin on them, but whether or not this is true it hardly amounts to an “incident”.

And there is no evidence that Barbara Castle’s dossier ever existed – nothing has been found in her archive, and we only have the word of a journalist named Don Hale, who says that Castle gave it to him in the 1980s but that it was seized by police before he could make use of it. For some reason, Hale didn’t mention this publicly until July 2014, when he said that it named the late politicians Keith Joseph and Rhodes Boyson. A few days after Leon Brittan’s death in January 2015 Hale said that Brittan had also featured in the document, but he didn’t mention Heath until August 2015, just after the police probe was announced.

According to Hale, the document proved that Heath “was present at more than half a dozen Westminster meetings of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange”. Given the exceptionally sensational nature of such a disclosure, why didn’t Hale mention this a whole year before? And why does Walters gloss over this particular claim in his own report? (1) Hale also claims that Castle told him she had discussed the matter with her former special adviser Jack Straw, but he says he has no records or recollection of such a thing.

I previously wrote about abuse allegations against Heath here (including the “hitchhiker” story) and here, and about claims he was an orgiastic Satanist here. Whatever information Wiltshire Police may have gathered, the material in the public domain does not appear to hold up to scrutiny.

Walters’s article is followed by a short op-ed by rent-a-quote right-wing Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, who suggests that criticism of the investigation is “the Establishment” seeking to “shelve” investigations into historic VIP abuse (2).

However, Walters and Bridgen appear to both be completely oblivious to a concern that was raised in the April 2017 Daily Mail article, which was written by a crime correspondent (Rebecca Camber) rather than a politics hack. This was that

 senior officers will seek to bury their report on the late politician by dumping it on the national child abuse inquiry.


[C]ritics fear that the report, which is expected to conclude that there is not enough evidence to prosecute anyone for any offence, will be swallowed up in the avalanche of evidence being examined by the child abuse inquiry which means it could take years before the truth emerges.

Critics do not want the Wiltshire Police findings to be “shelved”; rather, they want everything out in the open so that we can all see for ourselves the basis for the investigation and make our own informed judgement about it. Instead, though, it looks like the public will get to see only a very partial summary, perhaps supplemented with some strategic leaking for the benefit of Wiltshire Police’s reputation.


(1)  In December 2016 the right-wing anti-Islam activist Stephen Gash suggested on Twitter that there was actually a “video showing Ted Heath talking at PIE” online somewhere, although he had unfortunately lost the link to it. He was assured that “someone on here” must have the link, although it doesn’t seem to have surfaced yet.

(2) It is perhaps worth noting that Heath was the Prime Minister who took Britain into the European Common Market, while Bridgen is a Eurosceptic. Bridgen is also a critic of the BBC, and so his op-ed also weaves in the detail that

For decades, rumours about Jimmy Savile were dismissed by institutions such as the BBC, terrified about the impact of negative publicity on their reputation.