The Mystery of Mike Veale’s Delayed Gross Misconduct Inquiry

From the Press Association:

‘Stonewalling’ claim as misconduct inquiry delayed into former police boss

A Home Office minister has been accused of “stonewalling” in response to frustrations surrounding a delayed gross misconduct inquiry into a former chief constable. Lord Sharpe of Epsom was tackled over the investigation into Mike Veale which is yet to start despite being announced in August 2021.

Veale was Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police during Operation Conifer, an expensive investigation into whether former Prime Minister Edward Heath, who had died a decade before in 2005, had committed sexual offences. No evidence was found, but Heath’s reputation was tarnished by sensationalising leaks to the Mail on Sunday. Those leaks were very likely channelled through Andrew Bridgen MP, who although always a buffoon was not at that time publicly associated with the belligerent conspiracy theorising that he has embraced since being disgraced in court. Veale went on to become Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, although he didn’t last long and Bridgen then recommended him as an advisor to Rupert Matthews, the UFO-enthusiast Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire; Veale soon afterwards resigned from that role due to negative media coverage. (1)

Delays over Veale’s misconduct inquiry have been lamented for months; on 6 February BBC News ran a piece headlined “Probe into ex Cleveland chief constable Mike Veale should be ‘speeded up'”, which was followed on 21 March with “Mike Veale: Ex-Wiltshire police chief ‘not taken to task’” from the Salisbury Journal. According to the latter,

In cryptic remarks, Tory frontbencher Lord Sharpe of Epsom told peers there were reasons for the postponement, but he was unable to reveal what they were.

Lord Sharpe was responding to a question from Lord Debben (better-known as John Gummer), but the fuller exchange was initiated by Lord Lexden (Alistair B. Cooke), the official historian of the Conservative Party.

The matter also features in the latest issue of Private Eye magazine (1599, p. 13, “Called to Ordure” column). The magazine compares Lord Lexden to a “mild-mannered detective quietly persisting until he nabs his villain”, and describes him variously as “mouselike” and as having “tradmark Monsieur Poirot courtesy”. It also quotes his contribution to a Lords debate on 3 May on restoring public confidence in the police, where he stated

It is unconscionable that one of the Crown’s First Ministers should pass into history with even a faint suspicion of wrongdoing because no one in authority today will do anything to help wipe it out… For me personally, Operation Conifer showed how hard it had become in Britain today to feel full confidence in our police.

Operation Conifer was distinct from the Metropolitan Police’s disastrous Operation Midland, but there were overlaps and it is reasonable to judge that the Met’s pursuit of sensational allegations against “VIPs” set an example. Shortly after the end of Operation Conifer, one of Veale’s first media interviews was with none other than Mark Watts of Exaro, the alternative media outfit that first brought Carl Beech to police attention. However, it seems that these overlaps are now being used to explain away details specific to Operation Conifer. Here’s Lord Sharpe in the same debate:

On Operation Conifer, I really have heard what my noble friends in particular have said on this matter. One thing that I feel I must say is that, even though the accusations laid against some of the people who were investigated turned out to be those of a fantasist, that fantasist was given political cover and there was political pressure involved here; we should not forget that fact.

As noted in Private Eye, this is a reference to Tom Watson MP, who advocated on behalf of Beech and other accusers and liaised with the Metropolitan Police. However, it’s not clear that his influence extended into Wiltshire.


1. One person who claims to have had contact with both Andrew Bridgen and Mike Veale is retired police officer turned anti-Satanic Ritual Abuse obsessive Jon Wedger, although he’s the only source for this (see here for Bridgen and here for Veale).