‘I feel sick, it could have been me’
A MAN says he had a “lucky escape” from a priest jailed for abusing and humiliating boys for his sexual pleasure.
The 36-year-old voiced his disgust at learning Jonathan Graves – his former priest and someone he respected and admired – had been jailed for abusing two boys aged 12 and 13.
The man was 12 himself at the time the children were being abused andlived near the vicarage which he visited regularly.
In the eyes of his congregation, Graves was a “fun priest” who was “great” with children, operating an open-door policy at his vicarage in Culver Close, Eastbourne.
But in secret he was abusing his position as a Church of England vicar for St Luke’s in Stone Cross to prey on the two children.
The 60-year-old was given a 12-year prison term at Brighton Crown Court on Monday after being found guilty of 12 offences of historic sexual abuse and child cruelty dating back to the 1980s.
The man who come forward to speak to The Argus said he first met Graves as a teenager when the vicar went into Shinewater Primary School, adding: “The children loved him, he was funny.
“He was the type of person to walk along and then pretend to fall over his feet and everyone would laugh. I knew him for about two years. He would let me and my stepbrother play in the garden even if he was in the house. He had football nets there.
“I always saw children around, even sometimes late at night which I never thought odd at the time.”
The court was told “blissfully unaware” parents, who had gone to Graves for support at a time of need, entrusted him with the care of their children.
In return, Graves subjected them to “vile behaviour”, a “string of secret masochistic rituals made out to be games” by plying them with alcohol, and tying them up with belts, scarves, chains, and padlocks while they were naked.
He whipped them with wet towels, canes and riding crops, before getting them to reciprocate, pushed their heads in the toilet, urinating on them, making them take cold showers and lick toothpaste from between his toes.
Judge David Rennie branded Graves, of Jervis Avenue, Eastbourne, manipulative and twisted, treating his victims as “play things” to satisfy “perverted sexual desires” and his “overwhelming need” to humiliate and punish to become aroused.
The 36-year-old man, who still lives in Eastbourne, believes he unwittingly came into contact with Graves’ victims when at the vicarage.
He said: “[Graves] knew I was good with computers and when his wasn’t working I was called around in the evening to take a look. I remember a boy being there. I did not question it at the time. Now it would seem odd but back then it didn’t. He was trusted and admired.”
His relationship with Graves grew as he “latched on” to older men in the absence of a father figure, visiting the property around ten times in two years.
He said: “He supported me when my great-nan died. It was the first death I had experienced. He hugged me and told me everything would be OK.
“He took me out for dinner, just the two of us, twice. Nothing he did or said ever made me feel uncomfortable or suspect him of being capable of this. He never touched me. It is scary to think this could have been me. I was the same age, I also came to him for support.
“I grew up and moved to the other side of town not long after that so maybe that was a lucky escape. It is shocking to know what he did to those boys. I am disgusted, sickened by it and I am just so disappointed in him. You thought he was a man of the cloth because he wanted to be there for the community but actually he was just using his position to target victims.”
WHY DID THE AUTHORITIES NOT ACT ANY SOONER?
JONATHAN Graves is the third and final priest to be jailed as part of Sussex Police’s investigation into historic sexual abuse by Diocese of Chichester clergy.
Operation Perry was launched after Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss looked into Graves’ case of in 2010 as part of a review for the diocese looking at complaints raised against priests.
Police were sent the confidential report in 2011 and officers launched the investigation into Graves, and fellow priests Robert Coles – who also worked in Eastbourne and Horsham – and Gordon Rideout.
After nearly seven years, all three have been prosecuted, jailed and put on the sex offenders’ register for life after abusing children while practising as priests in Sussex.
While police said none of their offending was linked, Coles and Graves were certainly close friends.
Graves was always described as a prominent community figure who would regularly dine and socialise with the great and good of Eastbourne with everyone from senior police chiefs to politicians as regular members of his congregation.
Detective Inspector Jon Gross has been the senior investigating officer in the case, taking over from the now-retired DI Jez Prior.
He said: “We started with what information there might be in police systems already and found the first two cases would be worthy of further investigation. We pulled a team of people together, some were seconded to work on it full time and others were part time alongside other work. We first set out to look again at Gordon Rideout, then Robert Coles and then Jonathan Graves. We found Graves had potential for further investigation but needed more work.”
The team made the first arrest in March 2012 and another in December 2013. DI Gross said as news of the arrests spread and were reported on, it prompted more victims to come forward. But the team faced challenges because the allegations of abuse were so historic.
He said: “The victims were having to reach back right into the 1960s. There were no forensics. In these cases sometimes locations no longer exist.
“We focused on the victims’ statements and looked back at who they may have disclosed certain bits of information to at the time. As we went along we found many of the statements corroborated each other and there were similarities and patterns in what victims said.
“Throughout, the Diocese of Chichester supported us. Without their information we would not have been able to do this.”
He said the NSPCC also stepped in to help offer support for victims who had to face years of waiting for the court cases to conclude because the investigations were historic and complex.
Part of the challenge in that situation is to keep the victims’ faith that there will be a conclusion. He praised officers’ “passion and compassion” to keep the momentum over such a period of time, adding: “It is difficult because at some points they were waiting 18 months to give evidence.
“There were officers going above and beyond their duty to support victims, taking phone calls on evenings and weekends.”
He said while victims were pleased with Graves’ sentence it was a mixture of emotions because, as Judge David Rennie described it, his “final betrayal” was to force the victims to go through the “torture” of reliving their abuse in court.
DI Gross added: “Operation Perry is complete but unfortunately I’m sure we will see similar cases. Sussex Police has specialised officers that can deal with that. This is not exclusive to the Church, we see these crimes in all walks of life – teachers, Scout leaders.”
Despite the sentences, some remain concerned the authorities could have acted sooner.
Police had been approached about Graves in 2005 but DI Gross said a conviction would not have been possible at that time because officers did not have the evidence which was made available to his team. He said Operation Perry allowed the police to gather evidence on a bigger scale, against more people, and secure harsher sentences.
In the case of Coles, the court heard he confessed to the then Bishop of Lewes, the Reverend Wallace Benn, that he had sexually abused children but the information was never passed to police.
He was taken to court again when a victim, then in his fifties, came forward after reading press reports of Coles’ first prosecution.
All this abuse took place at the vicarage where he lived in Foredown Drive. The abuse took place when the boy and his family had visited and stayed overnight.
The Argus understands the Diocese of Chichester was warned as far back as 1997 about Graves’ abuse. When approached for a comment, the diocese did not respond.
Sussex Police said the Church co-operated fully with the investigation and now has robust safeguarding procedures.
The Argus invited the diocese to talk more about its new improved policy but no one responded.
Police: If Ted Heath was alive today we’d quiz him under caution on child abuse claims
- Operation Conifer inquiry into Edward Heath will be made public on October 5
- Findings will reveal about 40 people made paedophile claims against Sir Edward
- Chief Constable Mike Veale’s report will say seven of which are ‘credible’ claims
- Sir Edward died in 2005 aged 89 – if alive today he’d be interviewed under caution, says the MoS
Child sexual abuse claims made against Sir Edward Heath by seven of his alleged victims are serious enough that police would have questioned him under caution if he were still alive.
That is the astonishing verdict of a controversial two-year investigation into the former Tory Prime Minister, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The explosive findings of the Operation Conifer inquiry into Sir Edward, led by Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale, will be made public on October 5. It is believed the findings will reveal that about 40 people made paedophile claims against Sir Edward, who died in 2005 aged 89, covering five decades.
Explosive findings of the Operation Conifer inquiry into Sir Edward, led by Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale, will be made public on October 5. It is believed the findings will reveal that about 40 people made paedophile claims against Sir Edward, who died in 2005 aged 89, covering five decades
According to Whitehall sources, Mr Veale’s report will say seven of the alleged victims are ‘credible’ and describe the same pattern of behaviour by their ‘abuser’.
A Government source said an ‘interview under caution’ is, in effect, the strongest action that Mr Veale could recommend with regard to Sir Edward.
After an ‘interview with caution’ police would send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, which would decide whether to prosecute. ‘It was never the task of Operation Conifer to decide whether Sir Edward was guilty, and clearly there was never any question of recommending prosecution in this case,’ a Government source said.
An ‘interview under caution’ usually takes place at a police station with the consent of the accused. If they refuse to attend, they can be arrested.
Mr Veale’s report will say testimonies by around a dozen more ‘victims’ cannot be relied on because they may have been ‘damaged’ by their experiences; a further dozen involve so called ‘third party’ allegations, where people have come forward to describe the alleged abuse of others.
A number of claims have been dismissed as bogus or fantasy.
Mr Veale has faced fierce criticism from senior Tories and mandarins who worked for Heath when he was in power in the 1970s.
They have accused police of wasting £2 million of public money on the inquiry, claiming the allegations are ‘fantasy’. Others said it would have been impossible for Sir Edward to commit such crimes when for much of his career he was accompanied by police protection. Only last week, former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Macdonald said Mr Veale’s investigation was a ‘tragi-comedy of incompetence’.
According to Whitehall sources, Mr Veale’s report will say seven of the alleged victims are ‘credible’ and describe the same pattern of behaviour by their ‘abuser’
But Mr Veale received a major boost yesterday as two fellow senior police chiefs, who are thought to have been briefed on progress by Operation Conifer, fired a warning shot at his powerful detractors.
Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey, who supervises all UK historic child sex investigations, and Durham Chief Constable Mike Barton, who supervises national police operations, cautioned against attempts to ‘undermine’ Mr Veale.
In a statement to the MoS they stressed police must be able to investigate ‘without fear or favour’, adding: ‘They should be able to carry out investigations with complete independence without commentary which threatens to undermine the process.
‘While we await the findings of the Sir Edward Heath inquiry, it would be wrong to speculate on its content or the actions of individuals who have conducted the investigation.’
It was vital that police were given the funds ‘to conduct what can be complex and time-consuming inquiries’, they added.
The Mail on Sunday can also disclose that earlier this year a review of Mr Veale’s inquiry was undertaken by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, which ruled it was ‘reasonable and proportionate’.
A Government source said an ‘interview under caution’ is, in effect, the strongest action that Mr Veale could recommend with regard to Sir Edward
In another apparent vote of confidence in Mr Veale, Home Secretary Amber Rudd last week signed off a £1.1 million payment to help fund the investigation into Sir Edward – a blow to Tory MPs who wanted her to refuse to pay. Significantly, she signed off the payment shortly after receiving a summary of Mr Veale’s findings.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse also said it would study Mr Veale’s findings after being briefed on his report.
Mr Veale’s view that allegations against Sir Edward would be serious enough to justify interrogation under caution were he alive is likely to spark a major row and calls for him to resign by some Tories convinced Sir Edward is innocent. A similar investigation into claims of a Westminster child sex ring involving 1980s Home Secretary Leon Brittan and others, by the Metropolitan Police – Operation Midland – collapsed last year after it was revealed the key claims were made by a fantasist. But there have also been allegations of an Establishment cover-up.
Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, who has staunchly defended ‘courageous and honest’ Mr Veale, said: ‘Having set up the inquiry it would have been appalling if the Government had refused to pay for it.
‘Mr Veale must be allowed to present his findings free of abuse or intimidation, and that includes my fellow Conservative MPs. Just because Operation Midland was a failure does not mean Operation Conifer should be ignored.
‘There are powerful forces in the Establishment that always want to cover things up.’
This newspaper revealed in February that Mr Veale believed some of the claims concerning Sir Edward were ‘120 per cent’ genuine.
Abuse victims ‘need specialist help’
THE States should be prepared to fund specialist psychological help for people who suffered abuse while in care in Jersey, a clinical psychologist has said.
Tina Baker worked at the General Hospital from 1991 to 2004 and set up a service for people who had been sexually abused.
She says that, as far as she is aware, the specialist ‘integrated approach’ she developed during that time is no longer available.
Ms Baker, who is now retired, is concerned that the publicity surrounding the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry will have caused considerable distress to those who suffered abuse as children, some of whom came forward to give evidence.
‘This brings it all back, like a scab that is weeping again, and it needs someone to help it to heal,’ she said. ‘These people have suffered enough and they deserve the help.
‘It needs to be someone qualified, who knows all the therapies and who has the time to give – not a counsellor or hypnotherapist or a counselling psychologist, but a clinical psychologist, particularly for the more severe cases where there is concern about an overlap of psychiatric conditions.
‘It needs someone who has done this work before, even if they have to come from England.’
Susan Devlin, managing director for community and social services, said that since 2008 a full-time psychologist post had been in place to help those affected while living in Haut de la Garenne, with monthly clinical supervision and consultation for psychologists provided by the Tavistock Centre for Trauma.
She added that immediately following the publication of the care inquiry report in July, a 24-hour helpline had been set up offering telephone, email and face-to-face support. Ms Devlin said that ‘significant investment’ had already been made through the Mental Health Strategy, such as the Jersey Recovery College and Jersey Talking Therapies while two primary mental health workers had been assigned to schools and funding given to the local NSPCC programme working with child survivors of sexual abuse.
She added: ‘Our services will be part of the changes needed, as outlined in the recommendations of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry report. Additional resources will be considered as part of these recommendations.’
Cliff Richard’s agony: ‘I’ve been hurt so much by false sex abuse claims I just don’t think I’ll ever recover’
The trauma hit him so hard he has been forced to rethink every area of his life – including the showbiz career that has spanned seven decades and won him millions of devoted fans
Sir Cliff Richard has told how his life, health and career were ripped apart in two years of hell as he battled false historical sex claims.
The singer revealed he barely slept the whole time he faced the public accusations, and that he will never fully recover from the ordeal .
The trauma hit him so hard he has been forced to rethink every area of his life – including the showbiz career that has spanned seven decades and won him millions of devoted fans.
The 76-year-old said: “It was a disastrous time emotionally, so traumatic I don’t think I slept more than two hours at a time for two years.
“It hurt me so much I don’t think I can ever recover personally. I’m living my life again and it’s all in my past – but when I think of what I tried to build up in my career, I know it’s been damaged in places I won’t ever go back to.”
SIR CLIFF REFLECTS ON HIS ‘TWO YEARS FROM HELL’
Hinting that he might even start to think about retirement, he said: “I’m still touring, my music still sells, and next month I’ll be 77.
“I’m not quite ready to hang up my guitar but after nearly 60 years in the music business, I’ve been giving some thought to where, one day, I might want to end up.”
For now, Sir Cliff has decided to sell his beloved 300-year-old farmhouse and surrounding vineyard in Portugal, where for 23 years he has plotted and celebrated the highlights of his career and hosted friends including Cilla Black.
His official reason for downsizing is that the estate is now too big for him to manage. He said: “I want to live fully with what I’ve got left.”
But shutting the door on the £6.4million property at Quinta do Moinho on the Algarve could go some way to helping erase the painful memories of the past few years.
Because it was there that he watched on TV with millions around the world as the BBC showed aerial footage of detectives raiding his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.
It followed an allegation the previous year that the star had sexually assaulted a child at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium in 1985 – claims he always denied.
He was never arrested and in June last year prosecutors said he would face no charges.
But for two years he was plagued by claims that tore his world apart.
The singer wrote in the Sunday Times: “It was here that I had the most terrible time of my life, but it was also here that I had the most beautiful time when it all ended.
“This place was such a haven for me. It didn’t change the despair, but I would rather have been despairing here than anywhere else.”
Despite rebuilding his life with the help of his devoted friends and fans, he fears it will never be the same again.
He said: “Some people will always believe there’s no smoke without fire – to which I can only reply with something someone wrote to me: ‘Haven’t they heard of smoke machines?’”
Sir Cliff has since taken legal action against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police over coverage of the raid, which had prompted claims that officers tipped off TV bosses as they were moving in on the star.
A scathing independent report later criticised the agreement between police and the BBC, and said it “certainly interfered with [Sir Cliff’s] privacy and may well have caused unnecessary distress”.
The singer is thought to be still negotiating with the BBC over a settlement.
In November last year he called for a change in the law to protect those falsely accused of sexual assault. As he promoted his 102nd album, Just Fabulous Rock & Roll, he told Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans the names of those accused should not be revealed before they are charged.
He said: “You shouldn’t name the person because you might find there’s no evidence. In fact, in this case there was no evidence.
“So two years later I’m free, I’m innocent, but my name was smeared everywhere and everybody knew about it.
“If I was never mentioned until I was charged, there’d be nothing to talk about.
“Yes, an accusation has to be taken seriously, but it doesn’t have to be believed immediately.”
Away from the claims, Cliff’s career continues and he remains as popular as ever.
He is expected to announce plans for celebrations next year to mark 60 years in showbusiness since his 1958 debut hit, Move It.
The anniversary celebrations are highly likely to involve his band The Shadows.
At the end of last year he said: “The fans ask if me and The Shadows are going to get back together and we have decided ‘Yes we will.’” He joked: “We are going to celebrate our 100 years together.”
In all the band – including Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, both 75, and Brian Bennett, 76, are credited with 64 hit singles in the UK starting in 1958 when they were known as The Drifters.
At the weekend the first pictures from Sir Cliff’s 39th calender were revealed at the weekend, showing him looking remarkably toned and tanned in a short-sleeved shirt knotted at the waist.
It is sure to be a hit with fans, who have bought more than 1.5million of his calendars over four decades.
THE BELL SOCIETY
“THE EXCULPATION OF BISHOP BELL”
The Lychgate – Ifield Village – Wednesday October 11 2017 – 2pm to 5pm
4 Draft Resolutions
Resolution 1: Restoring the name “George Bell House” in Chichester
Resolution 2: Withdrawing Booklet “Chichester Cathedral – Society and Faith” from the Cathedral Bookshop
Resolution 3: Updating The Bell Petition to mark the passing of the 10th Duke of Richmond [Petition signatory]
Resolution 4: Publishing The Bell Chronology to mark Bishop Bell’s 59th Anniversary [October 3]
“Having acted so unjustly and unfairly towards Bishop George Bell in the recent past, it is hoped the Church will now be anxious to uphold English law [which states anyone who is not found guilty is thereafter presumed innocent], and act accordingly.
“There is very little doubt ‘Carol’ was abused as a child by a cleric within the Diocese of Chichester; but there is great doubt – and always has been – it was Bishop Bell. The findings of the Carlile Review give credence to those doubts”
~ Richard W. Symonds. The Bell Society
October 9 2017 – “Church of England’s handling of allegations against Bishop Bell ‘flawed and unfair’” – The Justice Gap – Jon Robins
For more information on this News Release, please contact:
Richard W. Symonds
The Bell Society
2 Lychgate Cottages
Ifield Street, Ifield Village
Crawley, West Sussex
Tel: 07540 309592 (Text only – Very deaf)
Sex abuse probe WILL investigate Ted Heath over paedophile claims: Public inquiry set to look at explosive report by Chief Constable who says allegations against the ex-PM are ‘120 per cent’ genuine
- Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will look at theoutcome of Operation Conifer, a inquiry into Heath by Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale
- His confidential report is due to be published in the next few weeks
- The developments came as one Tory MP warned his party not to try to stop Mr Veale from publishing his findings
- Findings of Operation Conifer support claims that Sir Edward’s alleged crimes were reported to police years ago but buried by the Establishment
The controversial investigation into allegations that Sir Edward Heath was a paedophile has been dramatically widened, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Officials at Britain’s biggest ever public inquiry confirmed that they are to study the findings of an explosive police report into claims that the former Prime Minister was a child abuser.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – set up to investigate claims that a Westminster paedophile ring was covered up by the Establishment – will now look at the outcome of Operation Conifer, a two-year inquiry into Heath led by Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale. His confidential report is due to be published in the next few weeks.
The controversial investigation into allegations that Sir Edward Heath was a paedophile has been dramatically widened, The Mail on Sunday can reveal
A spokesman for the IICSA told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘In the context of the Westminster investigation, the inquiry will be interested to see and consider the outcome of Wiltshire Police’s investigation into allegations against Sir Edward Heath.’
It is believed to be the first time the inquiry has referred specifically to the Heath investigation.
The statement follows a little-noticed change on the IICSA website on August 30 that the scope of its Westminster inquiry is to be widened to take account of ‘recent police investigations’.
The amendment did not refer to Operation Conifer, but The Mail on Sunday has been told that it was linked to the imminent conclusion of Mr Veale’s probe.
The website added the IICSA would be ‘reviewing, collating and aggregating the work of previous investigations, some of which may not be in the public domain’.
The Mail on Sunday revealed earlier this year how Mr Veale defied pressure to call off his investigations because he believed some claims were ‘120 per cent genuine’.
The developments came as one Tory MP warned his party not to try to stop Mr Veale from publishing his findings.
Several Conservative politicians have called Operation Conifer, which has cost £1.5 million, a waste of time and public money. They say it is pointless because Sir Edward died 12 years ago and could never be prosecuted.
But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said Mr Veale had been wrongly vilified and there were ‘powerful voices who would like to silence Operation Conifer’.
Mr Veale was a ‘courageous and honest’ policeman and ‘must be allowed to complete his investigation, free of abuse, intimidation or pressure,’ Mr Bridgen writes in today’s Mail on Sunday. There should be no cover-up, regardless of any embarrassment to the Conservatives – or anyone else.
In February, this newspaper reported that more than 30 people had come forward to Wiltshire Police with allegations of sexual abuse by Sir Edward. The alleged victims were said to have given ‘strikingly similar’ accounts of incidents, even though the individuals were not known to each other.
According to some sources, the findings of Operation Conifer support claims that Sir Edward’s alleged crimes were reported to police years ago but buried by the Establishment.
Inquiry One: Wiltshire police probe
Wiltshire Police have been investigating child abuse claims against Sir Edward Heath for the past two years. Led by Chief Constable Mike Veale Operation Conifer has cost taxpayers £1.5 million so far and will finish in the next six weeks.
Led by Chief Constable Mike Veale Operation Conifer has cost taxpayers £1.5 million so far and will finish in the next six weeks
At one stage there were 20 people working on the case: six detectives, a PC and 13 civilian staff. They have interviewed Heath’s former friends, staff and sailing companions, fellow politicians and civil servants, and even examined his papers in Oxford’s Bodleian Library.
A panel of experts was brought in to provide independent oversight of Operation Conifer following claims that it was a witch-hunt, and a waste of money given that Heath is dead and so cannot be prosecuted. Two people were arrested and questioned following claims made as part of Operation Conifer but in April they were told they faced no further action.
After the investigation is closed, a summary will be published, while a fuller report will be handed to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse to consider as part of its investigation into an alleged VIP paedophile ring in Westminster.
Inquiry Two: VIP sex ring report
The public inquiry into historic child abuse was set up by David Cameron in July 2014 after growing pressure from MPs and campaigners who feared the Establishment had covered up sex crimes by public figures.
Professor Alexis Jay became the fourth chairman last summer but immediately faced a fresh crisis as counsel to the inquiry, Ben Emmerson, was suspended and then resigned
But the inquiry struggled to get off the ground as the first two chairmen, Baroness Butler-Sloss and Dame Fiona Woolf, were forced to quit over perceived conflicts of interest.
The inquiry then chose New Zealand judge Dame Lowell Goddard to take over, but she too quit after a year in charge.
Professor Alexis Jay became the fourth chairman last summer but immediately faced a fresh crisis as counsel to the inquiry, Ben Emmerson, was suspended and then resigned.
Several other lawyers left and a series of survivors’ groups severed their links over their concerns about the inquiry’s leadership, scope and lack of progress.
The inquiry finally held its first public hearing in February this year after spending some £20 million, but it could last as long as a decade and cost more than £100 million.
Some of those who said he abused them are believed to have told police they went on to commit sexual abuse themselves as a result.
Operation Conifer was set up in 2015 in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, but Mr Veale came under pressure to abandon it last year after separate claims of a paedophile ring at Westminster involving the late former Home Secretary Lord Brittan and ex-Defence chief Lord Bramall were found to be groundless.
The claims investigated by Wiltshire Police, understood to date from the 1960s to 1990s, are not linked to the discredited evidence of the man known as ‘Nick’, who made the false claims against Lord Brittan and Lord Bramall. The Met has now apologised and paid a reported £100,000 compensation.
Allegations that Sir Edward was involved in satanic orgies have been dismissed as fantasy by one expert asked to review the case.
Several senior politicians have dismissed allegations against Heath as absurd and unfounded. Former Tory Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind complained Sir Edward’s reputation was being ‘besmirched’.
Former Cabinet Secretary Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, who was Sir Edward’s private secretary in No 10, criticised the inquiry in a letter to The Times last week, saying the allegations were ‘totally uncharacteristic and unlikely.’
Lord Armstrong referred to unspecified ‘concerns about the conduct of the inquiry’ and called for ‘an independent review of the investigation by a retired judge’.
And Wiltshire Tory MP James Gray said: ‘I do not believe the allegations against Sir Edward. If Mr Veale fails to justify his inquiry, he will be in serious difficulties.’
Sir Edward’s sexuality has been the source of speculation for decades. Some believed he was gay, others said he was asexual. At one point, he was being investigated by five police forces: the Met, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Kent and Jersey.
The claims, some of which were proved false, include alleged links to a convicted brothel keeper known as Madam Ling-Ling.
A paedophile dossier compiled by Labour peer Baroness Castle, a member of Harold Wilson’s Labour Government in the 1970s, said Sir Edward offered young boys trips on his yacht. In a separate incident, one man claimed Sir Edward picked him up in the 1960s when he was a 12-year-old hitchhiking in Kent and lured him to his Mayfair flat.
A IICSA spokesman declined to say if the change in its official stance, as detailed on the website, was to enable it to consider the findings of Mr Veale’s report.
Wiltshire Police said it had not yet sent its findings to the national inquiry, but expected to do so within the next six weeks.
- REPORTING TEAM: Simon Walters, Glen Owen, Martin Beckford and Brendan Carlin
Thirty alleged victims and an inquiry mired in controversy
By Martin Beckford
The police investigation into Sir Edward Heath was controversial from the very beginning.
Superintendent Sean Memory stood outside the gates of Arundells, the late PM’s home in Salisbury, to declare in a televised statement that ‘anyone who believes they may have been a victim’ should come forward.
Wiltshire Police has since acknowledged this was inappropriate, while Supt Memory is now on sick leave and being investigated for misconduct over an unrelated matter.
FLASHBACK: How The Mail on Sunday has reported the probe
The original claim under investigation was that the trial of a brothel keeper had once collapsed because she threatened to reveal how she procured boys for Heath.
But the Independent Police Complaints Commission watchdog later said there was no evidence of a cover-up.
More than a dozen people came forward to make allegations against Heath, who died in 2005 and who had been widely regarded as ‘completely asexual’ by friends.
Detectives were accused of going on a ‘fishing expedition’ by interviewing former Downing Street staff, Heath’s yacht crew and even the editor of Private Eye magazine, which had published jokes about ‘Sailor Heath’.
The most contentious allegation, however, was that Heath was linked to a network of paedophiles who held satanic orgies and stabbed children in churches.
The lurid claims were dismissed as fantasy by an expert in ritual abuse cases. Dr Rachel Hoskins concluded they were false memories unearthed in therapy.
She was also alarmed to discover that detectives were studying the discredited statements made by a man known only as ‘Nick’, who had falsely accused military chiefs and MPs, including Heath, of being part of a murderous VIP sex ring. After The Mail on Sunday revealed the astonishing allegations, Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale strongly defended his investigation, declaring in a rare open letter: ‘This is not a “fishing trip” or “witch-hunt”.’
Earlier this year this newspaper told how Mr Veale is convinced the claims against Heath are ‘120 per cent’ genuine.
The number of alleged victims to come forward has risen to more than 30 and some of their accounts are ‘strikingly similar’.
Because Heath is dead and so cannot stand trial, his guilt or innocence can never be proven, and so the controversy over the accusations will likely continue long after Operation Conifer finishes its work.
My party may not like it, but there must not be a cover-up, says Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire
I was greatly concerned when I read a letter in the Times on Friday concerning the police inquiry into claims of historic child sexual abuse by former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.
The letter from Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, who was Sir Edward’s Downing Street private secretary, criticises Operation Conifer, led by Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale.
It refers to unspecified ‘concerns about [its] conduct’ and calls for ‘an independent review of the investigation by a retired judge’. In my view this is both unjustified and improper.
Lord Armstrong, who went on to become Cabinet Secretary, has made no secret of the fact that he thinks Sir Edward is innocent. He has described the allegations as ‘totally uncharacteristic and unlikely’.
With all due to respect to Lord Armstrong, I believe he would be well advised not to interfere.
He is not the only one who has criticised Mr Veale: he has been vilified by sections of the media and some of my fellow Conservative MPs.
My message to them is: Leave Mr Veale to do his job.
The timing of Lord Armstrong’s intervention is no coincidence. Mr Veale has indicated that he intends to publish a summary of the findings of Operation Conifer shortly. It would be wholly wrong if the Establishment had any part in this investigation.
It is natural that some will be sceptical about the investigation into Sir Edward. A separate inquiry by the Metropolitan Police, called Operation Midland, collapsed last year after the main allegations were found to be groundless.
For decades, rumours about Jimmy Savile were dismissed by institutions such as the BBC, terrified about the impact of negative publicity on their reputation
Mr Veale declined calls to abandon his inquiry on the grounds that he believed the allegations concerning Sir Edward deserved to be taken seriously, on their own merit.
I congratulate him for doing so. I believe he is an honest, courageous and diligent police officer who deserves the chance to complete his investigation and announce his findings in public.
There are powerful voices who would like to silence Operation Conifer. My own party will be severely embarrassed if it transpires the claims against Sir Edward were true. But that is no reason for covering it up.
We have been here before. For decades, rumours about Jimmy Savile were dismissed by institutions such as the BBC, terrified about the impact of negative publicity on their reputation. It seems we have not learned our lesson. Sometimes the unthinkable does occur, and our knee-jerk reaction should not be to put a lid on it.
A brief period followed during which the chastened forces looked into historic allegations of abuse. But the process was tainted by a few bad apples who spotted the chance to revel in the limelight – and possibly make some money in the process.
But that should not be used by the Establishment as an excuse to shelve the entire process.
For all the problems associated with investigating these historic allegations, we have learned the hard way the perils of sweeping them under the carpet.
If we assume that all accusers are fantasists, we compound the distress of genuine victims who have carried their burden in secret for years.
As an MP, I have taken a close interest in trying to help these victims – the powerless against the powerful, battling to be heard when the weight of the state is lined up against them.
That is why Chief Constable Veale must be allowed to complete his investigation, free of intimidation of any sort.
Referring to the inquiry, set up when she was Home Secretary, Theresa May said last week: ‘If we turn a blind eye to this abuse, as has happened too much in the past, more crimes will be committed and more children will be suffering in silence.’
The Prime Minister is right.