Mail on Sunday Reveals Details of Edward Heath Child Sex Abuse Allegations

Also: Questions about briefing given to Andrew Bridgen MP

Less than a week before Wiltshire Police finally publishes its summary report into allegations of child sex abuse against former Prime Minister Edward Heath, the Mail on Sunday has now given an overview of what the report will say:

  • 42 claims of child sex abuse[,] includ[ing] at least one rape of an underage boy. Most alleged victims were boys aged 11 to 15;
  • Some were rent boys or from ‘low-life’ backgrounds. Others were boys he encountered elsewhere. Nine of the 42 claims were already on police files, in some cases for decades, but had been dismissed;
  • Allegations date from the mid- 1950s when he was Chief Whip to the 1990s when he was in his 70s;
  • Places where alleged crimes occurred are generally referred to as ‘public places’. At least one is said to have happened in a hotel.  Two allegations were made by ‘senior professionals’.

…The inquiry was told by a retired Wiltshire policeman that plans to prosecute an individual in the 1990s were dropped when the person threatened to claim in court that they had procured rent boys for Sir Edward.

Last week (as I discussed here), the same paper said that “sources” had confirmed that Heath would have been interviewed under caution on seven of the counts; this was treated as a particularly sensational detail, although in terms of evidence it means very little in itself.

The Sunday Telegraph has reported this as there being “seven allegations which Wiltshire police have been unable to disprove”. This is an overstatement – in fact, only six allegations appear to have been rejected outright. According to the MoS, the allegations were placed into various categories:

1. Seven ‘victims’ whose accounts would warrant interviewing him under caution, including the alleged rape of a boy.

2. Sixteen ‘vulnerable’ cases whose accounts fall just short of similar action due to an ‘element of undermining evidence’, including fading memory.

3. Ten cases including ‘third parties’ – complainants who said others had been abused by Sir Edward but not themselves. When police tracked down the alleged victims in these cases they gave the same account, but named other individuals as being the person who had been abused. It is thought that they wanted to expose Sir Edward without admitting he had assaulted them. It includes people who are married with children and want to put the matter behind them but felt compelled to act as well.

4. Six cases including one individual who is to be prosecuted over three bogus claims. Three others withdrew complaints.

5. Three complaints were made anonymously.

It’s not clear why this list includes speculative commentary about the motives of the Category 3 complainants, especially when the two “senior professionals” may have been passing along testimony rather than speaking as direct witnesses (see below).

The Sunday Times, meanwhile, takes a middle path, stating that “only seven were deemed ‘credible’ or gave accounts that could not be disproved”. Of course, it is possible that someone who is credible may nevertheless make a false or mistaken allegation, just as someone who lacks credibility may have true testimony. The general basis for the investigation will probably never be comprehensively proven or debunked.

The Mail on Sunday could have done a better job at linking its material to previous reports on the subject: one of the former “rent boys” is probably the “1961 accuser” (whom I discussed here), while the 1990s “dropped trial” claim is very definitely the Myra Forde “brothel” allegation (which I discussed here).

One of the “senior professionals” seems to have been the retired detective chief inspector Clive Driscoll, who recently told the Guardian that he had been contacted by Wiltshire Police. Driscoll says that he dealt with a female complainant in 2001 – this was probably “Lucy X”, who more recently alleged that she was abused by Heath in the context of Satanic Ritual Abuse. The MoS made a big splash with the SRA allegations last November, but they have now disappeared from view – even though they very likely formed the basis for two arrests last year that were eventually dropped.

So how is it that the Mail on Sunday has been given advance access? It seems completely at odds with Chief Constable Mike Veale’s supposedly principled refusal to make any public statement in advance of the report, and his various exhortations to the media and the public not to speculate. The Sunday Telegraph article explains:

Wiltshire’s chief constable is facing calls for an inquiry by the police watchdog over why he showed a confidential report into Sir Edward Heath to a Conservative MP in a constituency 120 miles away.

Mike Veale, who is overseeing the £1.5 million investigation into allegations Heath was a paedophile, is accused of handing the report to Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire.

Some details said to be contained in the report were subsequently leaked to newspapers.

Mr Bridgen is understood to have met a number of journalists for off-the-record briefings. One newspaper reported he had seen an early draft.

This was noted in last week’s Sunday Times, although the detail was overshadowed by the report’s emphasis on Veale’s contact with a conspiracy theorist who has served time in prison for harassment related to his activism. The matter was raised formally by James Gray MP; according to the paper:

In his response, Mr Veale did not deny the report had been shown to an MP but said officers had met with a “number of trusted stakeholders”.

Mr Veale wrote: “This investigation has been subject to significant public scrutiny, speculation and unhelpful commentary which on occasions I believe has been with a motivation to undermine the professionalism and integrity of Wiltshire police.

“In order for the report to be balanced, fair, measured and accurate, colleagues have engaged with a number of trusted stakeholders and we will continue to do so until this report is published.”

It is not clear, though, why Bridgen would be such a “stakeholder”, or even what the term means in this context. The impression is that Veale has been strategically leaking details for reputational purposes.

Bridgen is an all-purpose rent-a-quote MP (1); it is therefore something of a surprise that the report does not include a comment from the man himself, but ends with the sentence:

The Sunday Telegraph has contacted Mr Bridgen for comment.


(1) In recent weeks he has opined publicly that is “totally inappropriate” for the National Trust to be promoting gay rights; that he has “no idea” why John Lewis is selling children’s clothes as gender neutral; that police have “more important things to investigate” than a car being accidentally splashed with water from a watering can; and that “people will be shocked” by the proportion of National Lottery grants that go to Scotland. Etc, etc.