Mail on Sunday Carries Claims about Edward Heath Investigation that Go Beyond Official Findings

The latest Mail on Sunday has two articles about Wiltshire Police’s investigation into child-sex allegations against former Prime Minister Edward Heath, both of which contain claims that go beyond the official findings of the force’s Operation Conifer Summary Report. Both pieces are by the paper’s political editor Simon Walters, who wrote several articles during the investigation based on strategic leaks, and who last week provided a flattering interview with Chief Constable Mike Veale. Each claim is discussed in turn below.

“Tell-tale signs”

One of the two new articles is mainly concerned with the “1961” accuser, and I discussed the piece here. That report also contained a claim from a “well-placed source”:

‘Wiltshire Police fully expected to discover the Heath claims were nonsense, and that if there was any evidence, it would be well hidden.

‘They were as surprised as anyone to find the evidence was there with telltale patterns of behaviour, but no one had really looked for it…’

This goes far beyond what is claimed in the Summary Report. There is no reference there to “telltale patterns of behaviour”, and we can only speculate as to what the phrase is supposed to mean. The police inferring guilt through the special discernment of signs (perhaps with the assistance of an “expert” of some sort) is troubling, and reminiscent of the methodology of witch-hunts.

“Other police forces have a lot to answer for”

The same “source” continues:

‘If, as they believe, some of the allegations are true, other police forces who failed to act in the past will have a lot to answer for.’

“They” here refers to Wiltshire Police, although the Operation Conifer Summary Report states that “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.”

There does not appear to be any basis for the claim that other forces ever acted negligently or corruptly in relation to old complaints – the Summary Report in fact appears to suggest the exact opposite, stating that

contact was made with other relevant UK law enforcement agencies to establish whether they held any relevant material relating to non-recent sexual abuse allegations against Sir Edward Heath. This did not identify any new lines of enquiry.

Media reports from 2015 refer to the existence of two old complaints. One was allegedly made on Jersey by a woman named Linda Corby, who told the Mirror that she went to police “in the early 1970s” after seeing 11 children going aboard Heath’s yacht, but only ten disembark. However, Operation Conifer found no substantiating evidence of children being allowed on Heath’s small racing vessel, let alone reports of a missing child. Further, there isn’t even any evidence of Heath visiting Jersey at all during “the early 1970s”, which was while he was Prime Minister. (1)

The other report concerns former Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll of the Metropolitan Police, who told the Guardian (as discussed here) that he had interviewed a woman in 2001 who said that “she had been abused as a child by a group of people, including Heath on multiple occasions”. Driscoll said that “my guess is it was not followed up properly, but I don’t know”.

It seems likely that this 2001 accuser previously made a complaint to Wiltshire Police in 1989 – the Summary Report notes that Heath was “referenced” in a 1989 complaint by “four victims against family members and other unknown members of the military”. In that instance, Heath’s name was not included in details that were passed to the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to 1989, but in any case “the CPS decided that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute in relation to the other matters”. (2)

Although the Summary Report files this under “Enquiries with the Military” rather than “Enquiries about Ritual Abuse”, details about Operation Conifer disclosed by Richard Hoskins (discussed here and here) strongly indicate that the 1989 allegation related to allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse. This is a subject about which Driscoll claims to have expertise.

“Evidence was of a high quality and in many cases corroborated”

Walters’s article is supplemented with a second piece, which carries quotes from two of the four “independent scrutineers” who were given access to Operation Conifer documents during the investigation. One of these is a Salisbury pharmacist named Perdeep Tanday, who was supposedly chosen as a representative of “the public”. According to Tanday:

‘…I believe the majority were 100 per cent genuine and convincing. The evidence was of a high quality and in many cases corroborated.’

…’Unlike those criticising Mr Veale, I know the facts. 

The evidence was gathered by detectives with decades of experience of investigating rape, murder and other serious crimes. I trust them.’

Again, this goes much further than Operation Conifer. Out of 40 allegations, the police said that they found “undermining evidence” in all but seven cases, and there is nothing in the Summary Report about cases having been positively “corroborated”. Tanday’s quote, however, does confirm that he has a strong predisposition to regard the police uncritically, based on a preconceived impression of “decades of experience”. If the evidence is strong, his “trust” ought to be superfluous.

Heath “a risk to children”

The other quoted scrutineer is Elly Hanson, who provides Walters’s lead-in:

One of Britain’s leading experts on child sex abuse who took part in the investigation into paedophile claims against Sir Edward Heath has said she would not trust him with children were he alive today.

Dr Elly Hanson, a clinical psychologist who specialises in abuse and trauma, said her opinion was based on secret evidence obtained by police concerning Sir Edward’s alleged crimes.

…Dr Hanson told The Mail on Sunday: ‘On the balance of probabilities and based on the information I have seen, if I was asked to decide if Sir Edward should have access to children I would say he would not meet the modern safeguarding threshold to protect them from risk.’

Hanson goes on to complain that “some appear to think we are not entitled to have… discussion about Sir Edward Heath”, by which she appears to mean that there should not be critical comment about the investigation. It is unclear what exactly is meant by a “modern safeguarding threshold”, but anyone who has ever been suspended from working with children due to protocols relating to an allegation will be alarmed at the implication of “no smoke without fire”.

For some reason, Walters was unable to find space in his article to include the detail that Hanson was also shown “information” about Operation Conifer as a paid adviser to the inquiry. This was noted by in a piece by Daily Mail crime correspondent Rebecca Camber in April, and presented as evidence that the inquiry was a “farce”. Hanson and Wiltshire Police denied any conflict of interest.

Hanson was paid to provide an assessment relating to “two individuals”, and it seems likely that these were Satanic Ritual Abuse accusers. As I noted at the time, Hanson’s specialisms include “Dissociative Identity Disorder”, a diagnosis that often involves the “recovery” of supposedly repressed memories of childhood abuse, and we know that the main SRA accuser underwent recovered memory therapy in Canada. In March 2017 Hanson gave a presentation at a conference alongside Peter Garsden, a firm believer in the “sacrifice of children” by “secret societies” (as discussed here) and three members of the Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support (RAINS, discussed further in relation to Operation Conifer here).

Further, as recently noted by Matthew Scott, in 2016 Hanson also spoke at an exhibition on child abuse called the “Wall of Silence” (discussed here). The “Wall of Silence” seems to be a worthy project, but its integrity has been undermined due to its close association with Operation Midland’s infamous false accuser “Nick”. Nick claimed that Heath saved from him being castrated by Harvey Proctor during a paedophile orgy, and it was recently reported in the Telegraph that he also claimed to have been abused by Heath on “a sailing boat moored at a marina in Southampton” (3).

UPDATE (March 2021): In 2021 Hanson brought a libel action against the Mail on Sunday, which the paper chose to settle. Her legal representative is quoted in Press Gazette:

“Contrary to what the article alleged, Dr Hanson had not organised the [Wall of Silence] event, did not know Beech would be attending when she accepted an invitation to speak, and, Dr Hanson believes, learned that fact either shortly before or on the day…

“She met Beech at the event, speaking briefly with him in person for the first – and only – time that day for a couple of minutes…”


“Dr Hanson did not in fact express a prejudicial view about Sir Edward Heath prior to joining the Operation Conifer scrutiny panel, as the article also alleged…”

UPDATE (22 October 2017): “important idiosyncratic corroborating” evidence

Walters has followed up with a short article concerning comment from a third scrutineer, Danny Friedman QC:

Officers found ‘important idiosyncratic corroborating’ evidence against the former Tory Premier which was ‘clearly not the product of collusion’ in cases spanning nearly 50 years and across Britain.

Danny Friedman QC saw secret evidence obtained by police investigating Sir Edward, who died in 2005. 

…They had studied ‘similarities in accounts to rule out the risk of collusion between complainants and to spot mutually corroborating idiosyncratic details that were important, precisely because they were not the product of prior collusion.’

This is more measured than Tanday’s comments, but again one wonders why such a claim never made it into the Operation Conifer report. However, it’s impossible to judge how significant this “idiosyncratic corroborating” evidence may be, or whether we should share police confidence that there has not been collusion.


1. Mark Watts recently produced a photograph of Heath with a boy in boat that he said “is understood to have been taken in Jersey in 1972”. In fact, it shows Heath in France with his godson in 1965.

2. Articles in the Daily Mail (which takes a very different line from the Mail on Sunday) have stated that Heath’s name was added much later to old SRA allegations first made in 1989; I shared this working assumption, but given the references to 1989 in the Summary Report I’m now doubtful that this is correct.

3. According to the Telegraph report:

A source close to the investigation said police initially took the complaint seriously because Nick described seeing a cooking stove on board Morning Cloud, which tilted when the vessel bobbed around on the water.

But after crew members, who sailed with Sir Edward, were interviewed by detectives, the allegation was discounted.

Those who sailed in Sir Edward’s racing team were quick to point out that tilting cooking stoves were found on virtually all sailing yachts and so did not provide conclusive evidence that Nick was ever aboard Morning Cloud.

Presumably, “the investigation” here means Operation Conifer, based on Nick’s testimony to the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland during 2014 and 2015.

One such tilting stove can be seen in a short YouTube documentary about the 2008 restoration of Morning Cloud II, the boat that Heath owned between 1971 and 1973. The video, made by TheKnowledgeZone (TKZ), is called Morning Cloud II Rebuild, and it was uploaded to YouTube in two parts (with the descriptive title “No Opposition, she’s a beautiful boat”) in June 2008. The stove appears in Part 2 at 5min 40s.

Admittedly, the tilting action can only be observed with very close viewing, and it should be noted that Nick’s claims appear to relate to a later period than 1973 – and Heath owned three further boats called Morning Cloud over the next ten years. However, it is reasonable to wonder whether Nick watched this documentary as research ahead of making his statement to police. And it is also reasonable to wonder whether Wiltshire Police and the Metropolitan Police were aware of its existence.

UPDATE 2019: “Nick” has now been revealed to be a man named Carl Beech. His allegations have been comprehensively exposed as lies, and he has been found guilty of perverting the course of justice and fraud. He was also found to be in possession of a collection of child-abuse images, and to have used a hidden camera to film the teenage friend of his son using a toilet. For more, see here.

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