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.