The Canary Attempts Inept Edward Heath “Paedophile Information Exchange” Smear

From a certain Tom Coburg, at the left-wing website The Canary:

What is not generally known is that the government possessed a file on Heath’s interest in PIE [the Paedophile Informantion Exchange]. The file forms part of the notorious 114 ‘missing’ files on child sex abuse. That list can now be seen in full and provides an insight into the range of alleged child sex abuse cases the authorities were aware of.

Heath’s entry on the list is number 77. The metadata (heading) for the file shows his interest in PIE and that the file is “presumed destroyed”:

…Heath reportedly attended several PIE meetings at Westminster, though the precise nature of his interest in that organisation is unknown.

Is Coburg a complete idiot, or does he just think his readers are? This is all so stupid that’s tempting to dismiss it as unworthy of attention (much like this comparable item from a far-left source), but given the Canary‘s prominence as an alleged source of information (apparently it’s a “top-100 UK news website”) there ought to be some corrective.

The list is an annex to the 2014 Wanless-Whittam review, which was tasked with reviewing how the Home Office had handled allegations of child sex abuse during the 1970s to 1990s, and which published its findings in 2014. On the 114 “missing” files, the review found (square brackets in original):

Based on titles alone, 18 are files started specifically in relation to an individual Parliamentary Question [2 year retention], and 67 are files about a specific piece of correspondence, almost always written by an MP on behalf of a constituent [2 year retention]… But destruction after 2 years for all such files was the practice so, in that sense, they are not missing.

These files are marked “PQ/MC” in the list, meaning “Parliamentary Question” or “Minister’s Case”. Others are categorised in terms such as “Policy” or “Research”. The Heath item is a Minister’s Case file, and it is “presumed destroyed” because that would have been in line with retention practices.

There is absolutely no reason to suppose that the document would have exposed Heath as being involved with or showing sympathy for PIE, much less that it was destroyed to prevent this becoming known. Instead, the item would have been a piece of routine correspondence relating to Heath’s duties as a Member of Parliament, apparently in 1985. The date is significant: PIE was abolished in that year, following some high-profile trials of members for sex offences, and so the subject would have been current.

Several other MPs (and the Archbishop of York) are also listed as having written something about PIE, and numerous MPs as having authored documents that relate to child sex abuse more generally. It is beyond witless to interpret this as demonstrative of “the range of alleged child sex abuse cases the authorities were aware of”, and implicitly as a suspect list.

But what of the claim that Heath “reportedly attended several PIE meetings at Westminster”? There is just one third-hand source for this: a journalist named Don Hale, who says that a dossier on VIP child sex abuse was given to him by the Labour MP Barbara Castle in the 1980s, but that it was seized by police before he could make use of it. Hale first recalled its existence in July 2014, when he said that it named the late politicians Keith Joseph and Rhodes Boyson. He added Leon Brittan’s name shortly after Brittan’s death in January 2015, and then Heath in August 2015, just after the police probe into Heath was announced.

This is the most tenuous hearsay: someone supposedly provided Castle with “minutes” of the meetings, but these are not now available for verification. Moreover, she does not appear to have mentioned her supposed “dossier” anywhere and there is nothing in her archive or in records held by her former special adviser Jack Straw (who says he has no recollection of her mentioning it to him, contrary to a claim made by Hale). We only have Hale’s word that it ever existed, and his manner of disclosure has been opportunistic. Hale’s stories appeared during a climate in which any unsubstantiated claim about “VIP abuse” would generate headlines in tabloids and broadsheets. Further, PIE activists are still living, and they would have no reason to deny Heath’s involvement – yet Tom O’Carroll mocked the claim on his blog.

And when exactly were there “PIE meetings at Westminster”? Surely, with all the negative coverage of PIE in the 1980s, such meetings would have received some attention, even without the attendance of a former Prime Minister? This claim has perhaps grown from a boast by a former chairman of PIE who worked as an electrical contractor inside the Home Office – he was apparently given an office but very few duties, and as such was able to devote most of his working day, and the office resources at his disposal, to discreetly running the group. Another source for the rumour may have been PIE’s notorious affiliation with the National Council for Civil Liberties in the 1970s, given that NCCL leaders later became Labour Party MPs.

Wiltshire Police has just spent £1.5 million trawling for allegations against Heath, and the Summary Closure Report into its “Operation Conifer” (discussed here) includes the intrusive detail that “two witnesses, who have not disclosed abuse, provided evidence that he was sexually active with consenting adults during parts of his life.” Had there been any association with PIE, we can be very sure that Chief Constable Mike Veale would have made it central to his justification for the investigation. Yet PIE is not mentioned anywhere.

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.

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.

The Daily Mirror and Edward Heath’s “1961” Rape Accuser

From the Daily Mirror, August 2015:

Sir Edward Heath child abuse claims: Alleged victim ‘was raped by ex PM when he was just 12’

The alleged victim, now 64, says the sexual assault took place in an exclusive Mayfair flat in 1961 when Heath was a Tory MP.

The Mirror can reveal for the first time specific details the alleged victim has made in statements to his legal team which are due to be passed to police.

The man, who worked as a rent boy throughout his adolescence and was in his later life convicted of child sex crimes, claims he kept his secret bottled up until this year.

…The man has told his legal team Heath also had full penetrative sex with him that night.

The Daily Mirror, October 2017:

Former Prime Minister Ted Heath’s accuser is a convicted paedophile and habitual liar

A man at the centre of child sex abuse claims against former PM Ted Heath is a convicted paedophile and habitual liar, the Mirror can reveal.

The alleged victim, in his 60s, is serving a long jail sentence over a catalogue of abuse against a teenage boy.

His claims that, aged 11, he was a victim of the Tory leader are understood to be a centrepiece of the controversial Conifer report, which cost £1.5million and took two years to compile.

The first item was written by Russell Myers, and he was the co-author of the second. The accuser is obviously the same person, notwithstanding the inconsistency over his exact age (1), and this is clearly the same “1961” accuser whose claims are among those which Wiltshire Police say they would have interviewed Heath over. As the Wiltshire Police Operation Conifer Summary Closure Report (discussed here) puts it, in tabulated form:

Offence Date Span: 1961

Date Reported: April 2015

Location of Offences: MPS [i.e. Metropolitan Police Service]

Summary of Disclosures: Sir Edward Heath allegedly raped and indecently assaulted a male, aged 11 years, during a paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling.

Wiltshire Police say they would have interviewed Heath because there was no “undermining evidence”, even though biographical sources show that Heath did not move into his Mayfair flat until 1963 – a crucial point that Simon Jenkins drew attention to in a Guardian opinion piece two days after the first Mirror report (2).

The 2015 Mirror article failed to make clear that the accuser is currently in prison, and it is difficult to believe that the paper was unaware that he was a “habitual liar” until now. The earlier report also misrepresented the accuser’s contact with police: rather than his statements being “due to be passed to police”, the Summary Report shows that they already had been reported in April 2015. This was also made clear in a statement that was published by the Metropolitan Police following the Mirror article’s publication:

Following an article in today’s Daily Mirror, 4 August, which details an allegation of rape (“Ted Heath Scandal: Claims of sex with boy, 12”) the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has received a number of specific media enquiries about this matter.

In April 2015 an allegation of rape was made to the MPS. An officer from Operation Fairbank interviewed the complainant that same month and obtained a full account. Support services were offered. However, after a full assessment of the allegation there were no lines of enquiry that could proportionately be pursued by the MPS.

This has now been noted by the Telegraph, although there’s a misleading suggestion that the matter had been investigated and then “dropped”, rather than “assessed” but not pursued (there is a difference). The article also has some further details:

The allegation was made by a serial child sex abuser while he languished in jail on remand.

In a previous child sex abuse case, the accuser had blamed his offending on witnessing people being killed in conflict zones. He made no mention of being a victim of Heath. He has also been described as an “habitual liar”.

The element of “languishing” here is probably just a meaningless cliché, but the fact that the accuser was on remand is particularly significant, as it means that he had a motive to concoct mitigating circumstances for his behaviour ahead of a trial (3). April 2015 was before the other allegations against Heath were in the media (4), but Operation Midland and Operation Fairbank were providing newspapers and websites with a never-ending stream of sensational allegations about “VIP sex abuse”.

The Telegraph further adds:

Wiltshire Police, in the press conference on Thursday, said it wasn’t aware that any of the ‘victims’ had been interviewed in newspapers. On Friday, the force denied it had misled the press[,] because the man’s account had been outlined in prison letters.

The Mirror‘s 2015 article was published just hours after Sean Memory had stood outside Heath’s former home and appealed for “victims” to come forward. Presumably, the Mirror already had the information it needed for its story, but had previously decided it was too outlandish or distasteful to run – perhaps it had even been largely written in April and then spiked, which would explain the outdated detail about information being “due to be passed to police” when this had in fact already happened.

Memory’s announcement changed the climate, and shortly thereafter it was revealed that five police forces were investigating claims about Heath. Thus the floodgates opened. The Mirror followed up its “1961 rape” story with the completely unsubstantiated and implausible headline “‘Eleven boys went on Edward Heath’s yacht but I counted only 10 who left his boat’ claims mum” (also picked up by Mail Online), and then a with bogus piece on “Edward Heath’s secret Jersey hideaway at centre of child sex abuse probe”, which ludicrously suggested that Heath had spent six months “in the early 70s” living on Jersey and spending time in the local pub while convalescing from an operation  – somewhat difficult to envisage given that he was Prime Minister at the time.

UPDATE (14 October): The Daily Telegraph (followed by the Daily Mail) has now reported that the accuser’s own family believe that he made the whole thing up. They also say that they were never contacted by police, which is remarkable given that the 2015 Mirror report included a claim by the accuser that he had told his mother in 1965. However, this isn’t just a police dereliction: clearly, no-one one in the media sought his relatives out either. In August 2015, even the Telegraph was happy simply to re-write the Mirror rather than dig deeper.

(H/T to Bandini in the comments for the juxtaposition of the two Mirror articles)


1. The first Mirror article says he was 12 years old in August 1961, but 64 in August 2015. This is impossible – 64 years prior to 2015 takes us back to 1951. Even if we assume that he was very close to turning 65, that only takes us back to 1950. Thus he couldn’t have been 12 in 1961 – he would have been eleven at most, which is consistent with the Summary Report.

However, there is now a complication in that the Telegraph says he is now 68. I think this must be an error. If he was 64 in spring or summer 2015, then by autumn 2017 he is either 66 or 67 at most.

2. Jenkins refers to John Campbell’s biography of Heath. There is in fact one reference to Heath moving to Mayfair in 1961 (on page 72), but this is contradicted by a later reference to 1963 (on page 136). The second date is to be preferred, because it is consistent with other sources, including Margaret Laing’s 1973 biography and Heath’s own autobiography  – referring to the resignation of Macmillan in October 1963, Heath wrote: “It was at this time that I moved out of the small flat in Petty France that I had inhabited since the early 1950s”. This “small flat” could not have been mistaken by a visitor for his later residence, which was on a much larger scale.

Further, Heath adds that he had been on the waiting list for Albany for 13 years, and that he was able to move in following the death of the writer Clifford Bax. Bax died in November 1962; presumably there would have been a transitional period of some months before the flat would have been ready for a new occupant (h/t to a reader for that detail).

3. It is worth noting that the Telegraph‘s details about the accuser’s character and possible motive for lying would not have been taken into account by Operation Conifer – the Summary Report makes it very clear that “undermining evidence” refers specifically to contradictions and physical impossibilities rather than contexts that undermine credibility in a general way.

4. Heath was however accused of Satanism in 1998 in a book by David Icke, although his account included the supernatural element of Heath turning into a giant reptile. Then, in early 2013, the conspiracy theorist Michael Shrimpton claimed in a radio interview that Heath would murder children and have them thrown over the side of his yacht.

Edward Heath: Operation Conifer and the Ritual Abuse Information Network & Support

In a comment to this blog and in a letter published on a conspiracy website, Robert Green has confirmed that his “regular contact” with Chief Constable Mike Veale into allegations of child sex abuse against former Prime Minister Edward Heath pertained to information that has its origins with Joan Coleman of RAINS, the Ritual Abuse Information Network & Support. Green’s contact with Veale came to wider attention last week, when the Sunday Times noted that Veale had emailed Green with the message “As ever thank you Robert”.

We can also infer Green’s allegation was derived from the notorious “Helen G.” document, in which dozens of public figures ranging from comedians to politicians are accused of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). Green writes:

For the record, I was merely acting as a messenger in relaying details to Chief Constable Veale regarding information passed on to me by the eminent specialist into sexual abuse, Dr Joan Coleman. Five witnesses, all totally independent of each other, had provided, years ago, evidence of being sexually assaulted by Heath and all had referred to the same highly unusual feature about Heath common to all five cases. Hence the credibility of the evidence of witnesses as described by the Chief Constable.

I had absolutely no personal contact with any of these witnesses, nor do I know of their identities. As Dr Coleman is very elderly, I was entrusted with this information over seven years ago. Included also was evidence against Jimmy Savile, well before the Daily Mail or any other mainstream publication had the courage to expose this notorious paedophile.

Here is that “highly unusual feature”, from the “Helen G.” document:

Ted Heath. Former Prime Minister. Homosexual but not exclusively, where children are concerned. He has been mentioned by at least 5 SRAS, none of whom know each other. Several have described long finger nails. Am told that he wore false claws added to his nails, with which he clawed his child victims. He died in 2005. The cult held their own funeral on 31st July – 1st August 2005.

The “false claws” claim is probably a way to explain away the fact that photos of Heath do not substantiate the “long finger nails”. There is no information about how this supposed information was elicited from the “5 SRAS”, but it seems likely that therapy was involved. SAFF (the Sub-culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation) notes:

Working for years behind the scenes to promote the idea of child abusing Cults and Satanists RAINS members and associated therapists  built up a tranche of  ‘victims’  from the pool of recidivist mentally ill. They spent a long time working on the narrative of SRA and defining their victims’ experiences with scant checks to avoid the confabulation of  previously ‘unremembered’  satanic experiences. 

One popular method they used was to allow patients to lie down go into reverie and ‘reverse remember’ their past… These ‘Recovered Memories’ (most of which were half fact, half fiction) were blithely accepted as whole real memories nevertheless.    

I previously noted the “Helen G.” document here, as a possible source for new “historic” allegations against celebrities, and again last month, when it was revealed that it had been cited in a supposedly academic presentation on “The Satanist Cult of Ted Heath”. The document was apparently compiled in 2007 (and it is perhaps worth noting in passing that Jimmy Savile’s name does not in fact appear in it).

Veale’s “As ever thank you Robert” email may have been the polite humouring of a crank, but there is good reason to believe that at one time the SRA claims against Heath were being taken very seriously. RAINS would also have been commended to Veale by retired Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll, who has a long-standing association with the group: Driscoll recently told the Guardian that he had been been in contact with the investigation.

The Operation Conifer Summary Report (discussed by me in general here) says that:

During the course of the investigation six victims made disclosures that included allegations that Sir Edward Heath was involved in satanic or ritual abuse… Two of the alleged victims of ritual abuse died before Operation Conifer commenced. They had made disclosures of alleged ritual abuse where it was alleged that Sir Edward Heath was a perpetrator. There was limited opportunity to investigate those disclosures further.

It’s not clear from this whether there were six or eight accusers – “two of the alleged victims… died” implies two of the six, but if they died “before Operation Conifer commenced” then they cannot have made their claims “during the course of the investigation”. We cannot know if police traced any of Green’s “five witnesses”, or whether the supposed “disclosures” instead came from other sources, but his five plus “Lucy X” comes to six overall. In any case, though:

Following investigation, no further corroborative evidence was found to support the disclosures that Sir Edward Heath was involved in ritual abuse.

The allegations did not make it into the group for which Wiltshire Police say they would have interviewed Heath under caution – this is despite the fact that there is no indication of positive “undermining evidence”. According to the Report, “undermining evidence” relates to physical impossibilities, inconsistencies and contradictions; this means that a claim would not be dismissed just because there is no evidence for it, even if the claims-maker lacks credibility or the claim itself is extravagant.

It thus looks like the police simply baulked at the idea of making themselves a laughingstock by confirming that they would have interviewed Heath on such a subject.


In his statement, Green rails that he was imprisoned as part of a conspiracy rather than because he had harassed people, and he accuses a particular journalist of writing critically about SRA because she herself is a Satanist. He also writes that “I had been nominated by a senior Westminster parliamentarian to receive the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize”.

Among those agreeing that Green has been traduced by disobliging media references is none other than Belinda McKenzie, who formerly supported Green in his “Hollie Grieg” campaigning – Hoaxtead Research notes that she has posted on the subject to Facebook, including an old photo of herself with Green. These days, McKenzie is known for promoting the “Hampstead” Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax; she is David Shayler’s former landlady, and according to researcher Paul Stott she is “the primary funder of the UK and Ireland 9/11 Truth Movement”. She was also formerly involved with support for the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI, aka MEK – blogged here).

Edward Heath: Some Notes on the Denouement

No Satanic Grocer

Exclusive: Harvey Proctor says he was “misled” by Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale – see footnote

From the website of Wiltshire Police:

Operation Conifer was a national investigation, led by Wiltshire Police on behalf of the National Police Service, into allegations of non-recent child abuse made against the late Sir Edward Heath.

…The disclosed offences spanned from 1956 to 1992, and each was alleged to have occurred whilst Sir Edward Heath was a publicly elected member of parliament.

In the case of seven individual disclosures, if Sir Edward Heath had been alive today, it has been concluded that he would have been interviewed under caution in order to obtain his account in relation to the allegations made against him.

No inference of guilt should be drawn by the decision to interview under caution….

In the case of 19 individual disclosures, it has been concluded that there is undermining information available, such that the threshold to interview under caution would not be met.

In the case of three disclosures, the persons reporting alleged abuse have subsequently concluded that they were genuinely mistaken in naming Sir Edward Heath as the perpetrator.

In the case of ten disclosures, the alleged abuse was reported by a third party, and in the case of another three; the victim reported the alleged abuse anonymously. In the case of these respective disclosures no findings have been concluded.

The announcement and the force’s Summary Closure Report have been widely reported and discussed in the media; details were leaked in advance, and the report itself was published yesterday. Nevertheless, there are a few points that I think it is worth highlighting.

First, the above uses the word “victim” to mean “complainant”, and “disclosure” to mean “allegation”. This is grossly unfair, and it is a practice that is specifically advised against by the Henriques review of Operation Midland. How can there not be an “inference of guilt” when such terms are used? It seems to me that there are of course many circumstances where it would be pedantic and in bad taste to actively avoid using the term “victim”, but that this is problematic where the victim accuses a particular person or where it remains to be established that a crime has indeed occurred. However, the Summary Closure Report states that its usages are in line with “current national guidance” on policing.

Second, it should be noted that the only criterion for deciding which allegations meet the bar for an interview under caution is the presence or absence of “undermining evidence”. As the report explains, the force considered:

Whether the account could physically have taken place as reported.

Whether there were inconsistencies in relation to the timing or location of the alleged offending.

Whether there was the existence of third party material that contradicted the account given.

Whether there was available witness evidence that contradicted the disclosure made by the victim.

Thus it is not the case that the seven allegations which police insist would have merited an interview are necessarily the most serious, or that there is positive corroborative evidence that amounts to a case to answer: it is simply that there is no obvious flaw in the complainant’s account. Further, the above criteria indicate that “undermining evidence” does not include any general assessment of character or credibility – a claim would not have dismissed just because it came from someone with a history of dishonesty or delusions, for instance.

In February it was claimed that Veale had privately expressed the opinion that he is confident “120%” that Heath was a paedophile, but this is not reflected in the Report – indeed, the Report explicitly cautions against making such a conclusion.

The seven allegations identified “where Sir Edward Heath would have been interviewed under caution to gain an account” relate to incidents that range from 1961 to 1992. One allegation pertains to the supposed rape of an 11-year-old in “a paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling”; three to opportunistic indecent assaults of children in public places (a ten-year-old, a 15-year-old, and someone who was between ten and 12 years old); one to three indecent assaults of a 15-year-old during “paid sexual encounters”; one to an opportunistic indecent assault of an adult male; and one to the indecent assault of an adult male who had withdrawn consent from a paid sexual encounter.

Information about the other allegations is limited (I discussed various media reports here), but the report says that it found no evidence of Satanic Ritual Abuse, or of child abuse or murder pertaining to Heath’s yacht. There are no records “of children disappearing in the specific circumstances alleged”, either. Further, there is no evidence that police missed previous opportunities to investigate Heath – an SRA complainant mentioned Heath in 1989 (this must have been “Lucy X”, previously discussed here), but her allegations against others were not pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service. The report also discusses Heath’s sexuality – there is no reference to any past police caution or warning for “cruising for gay sex” in the 1950s, which was a rumour that appeared in the Daily Mirror in 2015.

That same Mirror article focused on an allegation that Heath had raped a 12-year-old in 1961 – the details are consistent with the “paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling” allegation, aside from the fact that the police give the boy’s age as 11 years old. However, the Mirror seems to have got its sums wrong: it says that the accuser was 64 years old in mid-August 2015, which means that he must have been born in either 1950 or 1951.

If this inference is correct, then it is surprising that the police did not identify “undermining evidence” in this case – Simon Jenkins noted in 2015 that the accuser says he went to Heath’s home in Mayfair in 1961, when in fact Heath did not live there until 1963 (as I discussed here).

Speaking last night on Newsnight, the former MP Harvey Proctor asked whether the police would have arrested Heath had he declined a voluntary interview (1); a further question, it seems to me, would be whether the police would have passed the allegations on to the CPS had Heath given a “no comment” interview. Despite news articles based on leaked information last week, the report makes clear that an interview under caution does not necessarily mean that a referral to the CPS must follow. Declining to answer questions may give the impression of having something to hide, but in cases where the police present no evidence that needs to be refuted, a suspect’s active cooperation may only drag things out and provide information that assists a false accuser in building a case. (2)

Operation Conifer has been justified in terms of demonstrating that there was no “cover up”. It seems to have achieved that, but at a cost – a shadow has been cast over Heath’s name that may never be resolved one way or the other, while conspiracy theorists will use the outcome to continue to promote the most extravagant allegations.


1. Proctor was invited onto the show as a former suspect in Operation Midland, along with Richard Hoskins and a representative from NAPAC. Hoskins explained that Operation Midland’s files had been given to him to assess as part of Operation Midland – this was despite an assurance from Chief Constable Veale to Proctor that he was not under investigation as part of Operation Conifer. This assurance, then, was misleading, as Proctor explains in a comment left on this blog yesterday.

2. The comedian Jim Davidson says in his book No Further Action that when he provided evidence that disproved an “Operation Yewtree” allegation against him, the complainant simply said that she had misremembered some details and amended her complaint.

Also, despite Wiltshire Police’s assurance that it “follow[ed] the evidence, whether it supports or negates the allegations”, the purpose of a police investigation is to build a case against a suspect. I refer here to a paper by Dr Michael Naughton of the Innocence Project, titled “How the Presumption of Innocence Renders the Innocent Vulnerable to Wrongful Convictions” (Irish Journal of Legal Studies 2 (1): 40-54):

[A]nalyses of recent successful appeals demonstrate how normal and acceptable methods of police investigations fundamentally undermine the [Presumption of Innocence] at the initial and most crucial stage of the criminal justice process when information is being gathered and cases are being constructed and can lead to wrongful convictions. This is because the role of police investigations in an adversarial system is not to find evidence that suspects of crime are innocent but, rather, to treat situations that they are called to as potential crime scenes and seek evidence that incriminates suspects for alleged criminal offences to pass to the Crown Prosecution Service (C.P.S.) to supply a criminal charge.

“Sources” Leak More Details of Edward Heath Investigation – and a Misdescribed Photo Emerges

Photo supposedly showing Heath with a boy in Jersey in 1972 was actually Heath with his godson in France in 1965

This afternoon, Wiltshire Police will at long last officially publish a summary report of its two-year investigation into allegations of child sex abuse against the late former prime minister Edward Heath. For all this time, the force and has been urging the media and the public not to “speculate”, while leaking details to sympathetic journalists and other “stakeholders”.

The latest leaked preview has come from Mark Watts, who formerly worked for Exaro News. In 2014, Watts famously accompanied the “Westminster VIP paedophile ring” accuser “Nick” in an early visit to the Metropolitan Police, after which the force announced “Operation Midland”; alas, however, it transpired that Nick was either a fantasist or a hoaxer, and “Operation Midland” is now a byword for a police fiasco.

Watts therefore hopes that credible allegations against Heath will demonstrate the reality of “Westminster VIP child sex abuse” after all, thus rehabilitating his journalistic reputation and reviving a tabloid taste for lurid allegations that were widely publicised during 2014 and 2015, but which from the perspective of late 2017 look absurdly overblown and as dated as old 1980s newspaper clippings about Satanic Ritual Abuse.

Watts’s revelations include the following details:

…the picture above of Heath in a small sailing boat with what appears to be a teenage boy and an adult male has emerged. It is not thought to have been published before, but is understood to have been taken in Jersey in 1972, while Heath was prime minister. Its copyright owner is unknown. Anyone with information about the picture is asked to come forward.

Despite claims that Heath never drove, Operation Conifer found that he owned two cars. I can also reveal that it discovered that he had two sets of numbers plates for one of them, and can find no explanation for this irregular arrangement.

The claim that Heath “never drove” has been extrapolated from a comment made by Lord Armstrong in 2015, that in his experience of working with Heath from 1970, Heath “never drove a car himself, he always had an official driver”.  However, in February this year the Mail on Sunday published photos that showed Heath driving a car in 1975. Armstrong did not allege that Heath was unable to drive or had never owned a car in his life – and John Campbell’s 1993 biography makes it clear that Heath was indeed a driver.

Armstrong spoke off-the-cuff in a radio interview, and his words were obviously a casual recollection. Yet somehow this has been inflated into “claims”, and the mundane fact that that Heath did in fact drive is now presented as a significant rediscovery of suppressed history.

On the “two sets of numberplates” issue, just because Wiltshire Police “can find no explanation”, that does not mean that there is no explanation. I don’t claim to know what it is, but my initial guess would be that it was an counter-IRA security measure  – Heath’s home in Belgravia was famously bombed in late 1974. On Twitter, Watts writes that “Officers on Operation Conifer are well aware that people who have two number plates for a car are usually criminals”; but his reference to an “irregular arrangement” indicates that Heath’s number-plates were approved by the authorities. “Criminals”, in contrast, have false number-plates.

However, these insinuations pale beside the claim about the boat. The website Real Troll Exposure has found that the photo was actually taken in 1965 on the French Riviera, and that Watts’s “boat boy” is in fact Heath’s godson Lincoln Seligman, who is today a vocal defender of Heath’s memory. The moment is documented in a British Pathé newsreel item called “Party Heads Relax”, which has been available on YouTube since 2014.

So where did the incorrect “Jersey in 1972” provenance come from? One of the 2015 allegations was that Heath supposedly abused children from the Haut de la Garenne children’s care home in Jersey, in particular while taking them on trips aboard his yacht, the Morning Cloud. It has been established that there was abuse at the care home, particularly during the 1970s, and one lawyer told the Independent:

“There seems to have been this currency that somehow he was implicated, but it was always like pinning down a jellyfish – it was very elusive.”

Heath’s name was included in “Operation Whistle“, a police investigation into allegations of child sex abuse on the island, although no evidence was found against him. Indeed, there doesn’t even seem to have been any specific accuser or witness.

More outlandishly, a woman named Linda Corby claims that she once saw eleven children from the home go aboard Heath’s yacht, but only ten return. She then reported this to police, who told her that they had been told “not to investigate”. She complains that there is now no record of her complaint, although it seems to me that the lack of any missing child is of more significance.

Corby says that this was in the early 1970s, which was when Heath was prime minister, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Heath visited Jersey at this time. One Mirror report from 2015 carries a claim that Heath spent six months at the Waters Edge hotel in Bouley Bay “in the early 70s”  convalescing from an operation and visiting the pub next door, but this is ludicrously inconsistent with his duties running the country at that time – although journalistic standards today are such that the hack (who is probably too young to remember Heath’s time as Prime Minister) didn’t bother to check with other sources.

So why has Watts now promoted bogus evidence linking Heath to Jersey in 1972? Is this a misapprehension that Wiltshire Police is also under?

UPDATE: Watts’s article was published on his FIOA Centre website, but he also cross-posted it to the news platform Byline, which is regulated by IMPRESS (more details on Byline in previous posts here and here). A formal complaint was made to IMPRESS by Simon Just (previously blogged here) about the boat image, and the body agreed that there had been a “significant inaccuracy” that had not been sufficiently corrected.

The complaint adjudication document can be accessed here. It includes details of Watts’s account of how he came by the image:

On 16 October 2017, the Publisher provided additional information from the Author explaining that an anonymous source had passed him the photograph and told him that it had been found in an overseas newspaper archive, captioned as having been taken in Jersey in 1972. It went on to explain that the Author had tried to discover the provenance of the photograph via a reverse-images search.

By writing that that photo “is understood to have been taken in Jersey in 1972”, Watts allowed himself a bit of wriggle room, but the phrase heavily implied some supporting evidence or authoritative source – not a random anonymous claim that was completely unsupported.

Thus IMPRESS writes:

The article inaccurately stated that the image was ‘understood’ to have been taken in Jersey in 1972 while Sir Edward Heath was prime minister when in fact this was based solely on a claim by the anonymous source who had provided the image, which was subsequently proved to be incorrect.

…. By publishing an invitation to readers to click through to a better crop of the picture, alongside inaccurate information about the date and location of the picture, having been unable to verify its provenance and taking account of the sensitive subject matter of the article, the Committee concluded that the Publisher had breached clause 1,1 of the Standards Code by not taking all reasonable steps to ensure accuracy.

….Additional information about the picture had been inserted into the body of the article after readers came forward with details of the correct location and year the photograph was taken, along with the identities of the parties pictured who were family friends of Sir Edward Heath. However, this was insufficient to correct the significant inaccuracy in the original article.

Just also complained that Watts gave the false impression “that it was the police who were seeking further information about the photograph, rather than the author of the article”. IMPRESS does not make a conclusion on this point either way, but it’s a very reasonable point; certainly, I wasn’t clear how the photo related to Operation Conifer.

IMPRESS also notes that “Byline operates as a crowdfunded platform for news and does not editorialise content published by the journalists that it partners with”.

Criminologist Defends Child Sex Abuse Expert with Attack on Concept of “False Memory”

From an opinion piece in the Guardian by Australian criminologist Michael Salter:

Attacks on the credibility of abuse survivors are not justified by research

For a quarter of a century, the concept of “false memories” has provided a scientific fig leaf for sceptics of child sexual abuse allegations.

…In fact, scientific studies find that children are far less suggestible than we have been led to believe. Brain imaging studies have identified the neurological mechanisms involved in the process of forgetting and then recalling sexual abuse as an adult.

Delayed disclosure and amnesia are now understood as normal coping mechanisms in response to abuse.

However, for those uncomfortable with the social and legal reforms required to address child sexual abuse, the idea that large numbers of allegations are the product of “false memories” remains attractive.

It is not clear what kind of “reforms” he has in mind – child sex abuse is already illegal across the developed world, and perpetrators face not only imprisonment but also social ostracism and public hostility to the point of personal endangerment. Perhaps he means that there ought to be a presumption of truthfulness for unsupported testimony that is presented as derived from recovered memories, rather than a presumption of innocence for those accused.

Salter’s thesis is that there is resistance to allegations of sex abuse because they are a “challenge to authority”:

For instance, church representatives have accused journalists of pursuing clergy abuse as part of a secular attack on Christianity.

Conservatives are suspicious that feminists and the state have exaggerated the problem of sexual abuse to expand control over the family and intimate life. Many progressives frame public concern over sexual abuse as a “moral panic” driven by unfounded anxiety over child safety.

Salter argues that psychologists who testify in court about the phenomenon of false memories have a “conflict of interest” because they are paid to do so, and he strongly implies that they act in bad faith “on behalf of men accused of sexual abuse” – as if “men accused of sexual abuse” is a disreputable category of person before we even get to a conviction. (1)

Salter’s article has been published in the context of recent doubts about the credibility of the high-profile Australian activist Dr Cathy Kezelman, both as regards her professional influence over Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and her own – to use Salter’s terms – “brave testimony” as a survivor of abuse.

Kezelman was profiled in a long article by Richard Guilliatt that was published last weekend in the Weekend Australian Magazine. Guillatt, referring to Kezelman’s book Innocence Revisited and in conversation with her sceptical brother, charts how her allegations grew under therapy – starting with a sexual assault by a doctor when she was 14, to rape by the doctor, then extensive sex abuse by her late father of which her mother was aware, to sex abuse at the hands of a murderous group:

Kezelman now remembered that her father’s sexual assaults began when she was four and included violent rapes at gunpoint; she recalled her father driving her to his mother’s house in inner Brisbane, where she remembered being ritualistically abused by a “sadistic mob” wearing hoods. In other memories, she was taken to a cave where the hooded figures dismembered a young girl on a rough stone altar.

This is obviously a supposed recollection of Satanic Ritual Abuse, and the way that her allegations escalate from the plausible into Hammer Horror extravagances closely recall a case history presented by a therapist that I discussed here.

Kezelman’s book comes with a preface by the late Professor Freda Briggs, and it has been promoted by the NSW prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC. However, her allegations are not just unsubstantiated, but vehemently contradicted by her brother and mother – although this is not something that the media has been very keen to acknowledge:

In the seven years since his sister first revealed her extraordinary survivor’s story, [Claude] Imhoff has never been approached by the media for his account. Neither has his 94-year-old mother, a Holocaust survivor who still lives in her home of nearly 50 years in Sydney.

Interestingly, Kezelman describes her own alleged experiences as her “personal Holocaust”.

Guilliatt’s profile also describes Kezelman’s involvement with an organisation called Adults Surviving Child Abuse, following the departure of Liz Mullinar:

Under Kezelman’s leadership the organisation “rebranded” itself with the help of Susan Leith-Miller, an experienced marketer, launching a telephone counselling service and devising counselling courses that attracted government funding. In one year alone ASCA’s government grants jumped from $12,859 to $405,355. As a medical doctor and a self-described survivor of paedophilia, Kezelman brought both professional and personal gravitas to her role. She enlisted Labor Senator Mark Arbib to launch ASCA’s inaugural Forget Me Knot Day in 2009, and joined the board of the Mental Health Coordinating Council of NSW, an influential body that trains public and private mental health workers.

Presumably we must not compare this $400,000 with the “financial stake” that Salter believes explodes the credibility and personal integrity of psychologists who testify in court about the possibility of false memories. (2)

Salter’s Guardian article has been criticised by the psychologist Julia Shaw on Twitter:

A pernicious article which misrepresents the scientists studying false memory. WE DO NOT COMMENT ON CREDIBILITY. [Link] False memories are not an attempt to lie. We do not assess credibility. We do not even assess whether a memory is “true” or “false”. [Link] False memory scientists say that EVERYONE can have false memories, and that there are circumstances that increase their likelihood. [Link] We understand that delayed disclosure is common. We understand that awful things happen that people report years later, for many reasons. [Link] What we say is that from time to time there is evidence that the way a memory was recalled mirrors how we know memories can be implanted. [Link] What scientists say is that SOMETIMES in SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES memories are not reliable. [Link]

In other words, an expert may talk in general terms about the conditions in which false memories may arise, but it is not their job not diagnose a particular item of testimony as being the result of a false memory. The credibility or otherwise of testimony is for others to assess.

Shaw also addresses Salter directly:

Michael, this is a pernicious article which shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what those studying false memory do. [Link] This is not constructive. Your issues are important, but be cautious w the science. Experts are not hired guns, we have a duty to the court. [Link

Shaw – author of The Memory Illusion recently appeared on a BBC London news segment about the need for greater regulation of regression therapy; the context here was the tragic case of Carol Felstead, a nurse who was made to believe that her family were satanists and that she had been raped by a government minister using a claw hammer.

It would be interesting to hear Salter’s take on the Felstead case; or, closer to home, his views on the extravagant allegations of Fiona Barnett.


(1) Salter also claims that

My research has found that many perpetrators of severe abuse deliberately traumatise children in order to take advantage of this mechanism and prevent victims from disclosing.

This clicks through to an academic article titled “Organized abuse in adulthood: Survivor and professional perspectives”. The item is paywalled at a prohibitive cost, but the abstract does not refer to this particular detail. Instead, the paper “analyses the fraught relationship between mental health and physical safety for adults subject to organized abuse”, drawing on “interviews with survivors and mental health professionals”.

(2) A companion piece by Guilliatt about criticism of the Royal Commission was published in the Australian on the same day:

Richard Bryant, director of the Westmead Trauma Stress Clinic, said the royal commission ­appeared to be advocating counselling practices that were potentially dangerous and contradicted guidelines endorsed by the ­National Health and Medical Research Council.

His concerns were echoed by several experts in psychology, including emeritus professor Don Thomson, chairman of the ethical guidelines committee of the Australian Psychological Society, and Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California Irvine, an internationally renowned memory researcher who described some of the ideas endorsed by the commission as “brain babble”.

Meanwhile, Kezelman has responded in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“My initial series of flashbacks did not occur in therapy at all, but at home with my husband witnessing them. They were terrifying and it took me some time before I could even mention them to my therapist.”

Dr Kezelman said it was “totally inaccurate” to suggest the counselling guidelines recommended “in any way that counsellors should help patients retrieve implicit memories” that were hidden from consciousness.

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.