Chief Constable Mike Veale Launches PR Offensive in Wake of Edward Heath Report

Wiltshire Police’s Operation Conifer Summary Closure Report (discussed here) on allegations of child sex abuse against former Prime Minister Edward Heath has proven to be underwhelming: after burning through £1.5 million in just over two years, seven allegations were identified as lacking “undermining evidence”, meaning that police would have wanted to interview Heath about them. And even some of these are now coming under critical scrutiny: there are strong reasons to doubt the credibility of the 1961 rape accuser, and a protection officer has said that the 1992 indecent assault allegation is impossible.

That officer is among a number of witnesses who say that they their testimony was not sought, while it has come to light that the investigation gratefully received information from Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy theorists and spent time poring over documentation from the Metropolitan Police’s eventually discredited Operation Midland.

The investigation also spent £14,000 on public relations, and the weekend saw a PR offensive in the form of two interviews in which Wiltshire’s Chief Constable Mike Veale spoke to sympathetic journalists: one interview was with Simon Walters, the Mail on Sunday‘s political editor; and the other was with Mark Watts, formerly of Exaro News and now notorious for his coverage of Operation Midland and his advocacy for the bogus complainant known as Nick [UPDATE 2019: Nick can now be named as Carl Beech, and his claims have been found to have been fraudulent. More details here].

The names are significant, as both journalists previously wrote articles based on “sources” who were apparently leaking information from inside the investigation. Walters was the author of the February splash which claimed that Veale believes the allegations against Heath to be “120 per cent” genuine; Veale afterwards complained about this and in due course told the Telegraph that “at no time have I confidentially or publicly, directly or indirectly stated my opinion of the guilt or innocence of Sir Edward Heath”. However, the old Mail on Sunday headline “Police Chief: Heath Was a Paedophile” is now republished as an illustration to accompany a friendly interview conducted by the very man who attributed this view to him!

The Mail on Sunday article comes with a sensational headline:

Ted Heath police chief calls for a new inquiry into a Westminster child-sex ring ‘covered up’ by the Establishment

…’If any, if even one bit of this [Conifer] is true, what did the Government know, the Civil Service, the security services? Those questions need to be answered.’

Surely, though, it’s all hearsay?

He won’t have it and points to the recent decision by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) to extend its scope to include claims of an Establishment cover-up – significantly, after they learned of the Conifer findings.

Highly laudable, says Mr Veale, but so far IICSA has done zilch about actually investigating it.

‘It needs someone to look into the potential for cover-up or a conspiracy.

‘In the last two years I’ve spoken to people who genuinely believe… there are too many people making too many assertions… around the Establishment.

‘Compelling, intelligent people who have moved me.

‘The boil needs to be lanced one way or another. If there is nothing to hide, open the doors.’

Veale also suggests that the investigation into Heath “could have gone on two or three years longer”. And two or three years more after that, I don’t doubt.

The article introduces Veale as being “assailed by the Establishment” and as having been subjected to a “relentless campaign” by the Establishment, described as his “tormentor”. Presumably, this is a reference to criticisms by Lord Macdonald and Lord Armstrong, who called for a public inquiry into the investigation in April. This was hardly a “relentless campaign”, and their concerns were perfectly reasonable given the context.

However, in his interview with Watts, Veale’s insinuations about Establishment pressure take the form of another individual: none other than the Labour politician Keith Vaz:

Wiltshire Police chief constable Mike Veale slated Labour MP Keith Vaz for attempting to interfere with his force’s investigation into Sir Edward Heath.

In an exclusive interview with me, Veale branded as “highly inappropriate” Vaz’s intervention in ‘Operation Conifer’, Wiltshire Police’s two-year national investigation into allegations against the former prime minister of child sexual abuse.

Vaz wrote, as chairman of the House of Commons home affairs committee, to Veale to demand to know why he was investigating Ted Heath.

This seems to me to be something of a non-story, although it also formed the basis for a Sunday Mirror article. Vaz’s question did not amount to “interference”, and one would like to know if there is any form of critical scrutiny to which Veale believes he should be accountable.

Vaz was involved in a sex scandal involving adult male prostitutes last year; the commentary that followed included disobliging references to his support for Greville Janner in 1991 and to a completed police investigation regarding historic child sex offences. Watts – and presumably Veale – thus know that bringing Vaz into the story will generate an air of intrigue and scandal.

It should also be noted that Vaz has long been involved in a bitter feud with Andrew Bridgen MP, who has been described as an Operation Conifer “stakeholder” by Veale. Extraordinarily, Bridgen was given advance access to the Summary Report, and it seems likely that he was the direct conduit for media leaks. The latest Private Eye magazine (1454, p. 10) draws attention to Bridgen’s constant praise for Veale, and suggests that the association is why details about Operation Conifer were being published by Westminster-based political hacks.

Bridgen provided a quote for a third story that appeared over the weekend, in the Express. This revealed that Veale is himself under disciplinary investigation over comments  given at a leadership talk regarding man with Down’s syndrome:

In his speech, Mr Veale, who gives motivational talks across the country, said that he had presented the man with a Wiltshire Police tie as a special memento and had positioned himself behind him to help him put it on.

He added that the visitor, on seeing his reflection in the mirror, had beamed with pride and “grew six inches as a man”.

Apparently, a senior officer present made a complaint about this. However:

…Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who has publicly supported Mr Veale, said yesterday the allegation was a “desperate ploy” to discredit him and his work.

He said: “I find the timing of this ludicrous claim to be highly suspicious and part of a dirty tricks campaign that attempted to undermine Mr Veale in the run-up to the Operation Conifer report.”

I suppose we will have to wait and see if any “undermining evidence” emerges.

2 Responses

  1. The Express piece comes from the dreadful James Fielding – possibly the worst professional scribbler in the known universe – who even manages to misspell his own name on this occasion.

    Previous triumphs include the Valerie Sinason two-week spread wherein Jimmy Savile “chanted “Hail Satan” in Latin as other paedophile devil worshippers joined in” and on another occasion “one of the devil worshippers sneered: “You definitely fixed this one, Jim!””

    (‘Sir Jim’, surely?)

    Fielding’s long association with Chris Fay & Bill Baloney also produced some corkers, especially when they all exploited poor old A.Ash for a good laugh & easy money.
    A bullshit story not even Watts would touch? Call Fielding!

    The idea of Mike Veale as some sort of motivational speaker is hilarious – perhaps they meant ‘proportional speaker’? No, that doesn’t work either…

    The complaint – which I doubt exists anywhere in the real world – is absurd but IF true suggests that it won’t be long before looking at someone comes to be classified as a crime:

    “The officer, from a different force, said that Mr Veale should not have stood behind the man so closely and that it was a form of abuse.”

    (Veale is alleged to have made a joke which also seems highly unlikely.)

  2. […] in due course ingratiate himself with Mike Veale, the former Chief Constable responsible for the Operation Conifer fiasco (Wedger claims to be in contact with Veale, but nothing in the public domain shows that Veale has […]

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