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A Note on Mike Veale in ITV Drama A Confession

From the Press Centre of British terrestrial broadcaster ITV (emphasis added):

A Confession

The series tells the story of how Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher, played by Martin Freeman (StartUp, The Hobbit, Sherlock, Fargo), deliberately breached police procedure and protocol to catch a killer, a decision that ultimately cost him his career and reputation…

Episode 5

Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher (Martin Freeman) is lionized in the media for leading an investigation that recovered not one, but two bodies murdered by serial killer Christopher Halliwell (Joe Absolom). But behind the scenes he is facing a disciplinary hearing at the hands of the IPCC, charged with gross misconduct.

Steve is suspended from duty with immediate effect by his superior ACC Mike Veale, for inappropriate contact with a journalist. Now facing two counts of gross-misconduct in a Public Office, Steve is left staring down the barrel knowing that one count alone would be enough for him to lose the job that he loves…

Mike Veale, of course, went on to become Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, in which capacity he ordered a huge trawling investigation into allegations that the former Prime Minister Edward Heath had been involved in the sexual abuse of children. This was despite the fact that Heath had died ten years previously, and the report that was eventually produced was underwhelming. Veale’s integrity later came under question after he was found to have lied about how he came to break his mobile phone, and his subsequent tenure as Chief Constable of Cleveland Police lasted less than a year. Veale denied leaking to the press during the Heath investigation, but the Mail on Sunday‘s political editor Simon Walters appeared to have an inside track – most likely via the buffoonish rent-a-quote MP Andrew Bridgen, who received briefings from Veale as a supposed “stakeholder”.

The narrative of A Confession overlaps with the time period of the Heath investigation, although it is not referred to in the drama. According to each episode’s intro blurb, “What follows is a dramatisation based on extensive research, interviews and published accounts”, the last of which will have included Fulcher’s memoir Catching a Serial Killer. Alas, the book has no index, but from a fairly careful browse of a paper copy and an electronic search I was unable to find any reference to Veale by name, although there is material that is critical of Wiltshire Police.

As such, there are grounds for caution, in that Veale as a character in the drama (played by Daniel Betts) perhaps primarily serves as a composite embodiment of Wiltshire Police rather than as a portrayal of the man himself. Veale is depicted unsympathetically; in the first episode he informally warns Fulcher not to have any social contact with a suspended officer who later commits suicide (“DCC Ray Hayward”, a fictional character based on DCC David Ainsworth), and at the climax he is shown delivering a press statement in the wake of Halliwell’s second conviction that fails to acknowledge Fulcher’s efforts and rejects as “sensationalism” Fulcher’s belief that Halliwell has other as yet unknown victims. Such an allegation of “sensationalism” of course must ring hollow given the Ted Heath circus that was going on during the same period.

The drama is more sympathetic towards Detective Superintendent Sean Memory (played by Owain Arthur), who is depicted as tactful and sensitive in his dealings with the families of Halliwell’s victims – Fulcher writes of his respect for Memory in his book. Unfortunately, though, he will now always be remembered as the hapless officer tasked with standing in front of Heath’s Wiltshire home and appealing for “victims” to come forward.