Ted Heath police chief calls for a new inquiry into a Westminster child-sex ring ‘covered up’ by the Establishment
- Wiltshire Police chief Mike Veale was formally accused of leading a ‘witch hunt’
- Back at his desk in Devizes he called for an inquiry into ‘sinister’ claims
- He attacked idea sex abuse of ‘rent boys’ was less serious than abuse of wealthy
Mike Veale has spent two years being assailed by the Establishment over his investigation into paedophile allegations against Sir Edward Heath.
The Wiltshire Chief Constable has had to bite his lip as mandarins, ex-Cabinet Ministers, Tory MPs, peers, members of the judiciary and media moguls lambasted his controversial Operation Conifer.
He was accused of being ‘stupid’, leading a ‘witch-hunt’, and told he would be forced to resign the moment it saw the light of day.
The police chief has called for an investigation into claims of a child-sex ring being covered up by the establishment
Well, it did on Thursday – and 24 hours later he was back at his desk at Wiltshire Police HQ in Devizes.
In his first major interview since the release of a report which said seven child abuse allegations against Sir Edward – including the rape of an 11-year-old boy – would warrant questioning the former Prime Minister under caution were he still alive, Mr Veale:
- Called for a new inquiry to ‘lance the boil’ of ‘sinister’ claims that a Westminster child-sex ring was covered up by the Establishment;
- Said he could have spent ‘two or three’ more years investigating Sir Edward if his officers had been allowed to dig deeper;
- Attacked ‘sickening’ suggestions that the sexual abuse of ‘rent boys’ and those ravaged by drugs or alcohol was less serious than cases involving ‘wealthy people from Middle England’.
Married Mr Veale, tall and with a rugby wing-forward’s build, is not an obvious candidate for membership of the Establishment.
Mike Veale was dismissed as stupid when he headed the investigation into crimes alleged to have been committed by the former prime minister
The 51-year-old’s accent retains the soft burr of his Somerset childhood; he left Midsomer Norton secondary school aged 16 and spent ten years on the beat.
‘I’m a down-to-earth guy, my social circle is not wine bars and gin and tonics,’ he says, smiling, before adding: ‘But I’m a bit more astute than a dogged old cop.’ Just in case you think he is a yokel in a uniform, which he isn’t.
He says a ‘relentless campaign by the Establishment’ to undermine him over the Heath inquiry caused him ‘the most stress and soul-searching I’ve had in 30 years. There were some dark days’.
His features, as fair and fresh as a cider apple, strain as he grapples with his tormentor – that ‘inanimate object’, as he calls the Establishment.
‘It can be quite sinister. I was told early on in Conifer, “You’ll lose your job, the Establishment will get you”. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe in Martians. I used to think, “What are these people on about?” ’
Asked if the Heath inquiry had changed his mind, Mr Veale replies in a flash: ‘Yes.’
Is he really suggesting allegations of a wider Westminster paedophile ring – dismissed as fantasy after a separate inquiry into ex-Home Secretary Leon Brittan and others collapsed – could be true? Each word of his reply is delivered as carefully and as slowly as a PC stalking a burglar.
‘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?
Mike Veale attacked the idea that sex abuse of rent boys is less serious than that of wealthy people from Middle England
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.’
Mike Veale said he could have spent ‘two or three’ more years investigating Sir Edward if his officers had been allowed to dig deeper
Frustratingly, he won’t say more, citing the confidentiality of his inquiry. But it has the ring of a job application, not to join the Establishment, rather to expose it.
Far from going on a ‘fishing operation’ against Sir Edward, as some have said, Mr Veale suggests he barely touched the surface.
‘The reason it is not a witch-hunt is because it could have gone on two or three years longer.’
Police investigated only victims who came forward, instead of seeking them out as they normally would.
Mr Veale’s inability to give details of each case or any corroboration to protect anonymity played into the hands of those who said the accusations against Sir Edward were flimsy.
But claims that Mr Veale was not thorough are unfair. He ordered regular independent scrutiny checks. He even copied the BBC TV series New Tricks, starring Dennis Waterman and Amanda Redman, about retired cops who investigate unsolved crimes. His team of 24 officers included eight hard-nosed retired detectives.
The old-fashioned country boy air about Mr Veale, whose black shoes gleam like a guardsman’s, is matched by a progressive policing more akin to Notting Hill than Midsomer Norton. ‘The old CID attitude to rape was sometimes “blame the woman”. That changed.
‘It’s the same with child sex abuse. Victims must be able to trust police.’
Nothing riles him more than the insinuation that allegations made by former rent boys should be treated with scepticism because of their background.
‘It rolls off people’s tongues that it’s somehow all right because it’s a rent boy,’ he fires back.
‘The rent boy is just a kid. My son is 14. I’d be mortified if he was trivialised like that.’
He rages at the notion that allegations from ‘people ravaged by drugs or alcohol have little credibility but if it’s from a Middle England or wealthy background it must be true’.
He says that he ‘nearly went through the TV’ in fury when a bulletin suggested ‘police should spend more time investigating allegations by genuine victims’.
He says: ‘The inference that unless they’re from Middle England then they’re not genuine sickened me.
‘I don’t give a monkey’s what background victims are from or what position in society they hold.
‘We treated them all with respect and dignity.’
At last… a policeman who isn’t just a political pawn: MAGGIE OLIVER says Ted Heath police chief gave a textbook demonstration of how forces should be free from political interference
It’s not often that I have a good word to say about police chiefs. Greater Manchester Police bosses forced me out of a job I loved and top brass everywhere are usually too busy doing the bidding of politicians.
But there are still a few who aren’t political pawns. One is Mike Veale, the inspirational Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police.
Mr Veale has given a textbook demonstration of how the police should be free from political interference and able to investigate crimes without fear or favour.
‘Mr Veale has given a textbook demonstration of how the police should be free from political interference,’ writes Maggie Oliver, who exposed the Rochdale grooming ring
He has been subjected to fierce Establishment criticism for investigating sex abuse claims against former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.
Lesser police chiefs would have dropped the investigation by now, but not Mr Veale. He’s doing exactly what police chiefs should be doing – investigating serious complaints and not being deterred by the fact his force could arrive at a very inconvenient truth.
All too often, the threat of uncovering something politicians don’t want the public to know stops investigations in their tracks.
I know because it happened to me. As a detective for Greater Manchester Police, I spent years working on murders, rapes and child protection issues, helping eventually bring the Rochdale grooming gang to justice.
Maggie Oliver writes it was reasonable to investigate allegations from the time of Ted Heath, whose whip Tim Fortescue said he could never cover up a scandal involving small boys
In 2004, I went to bosses and warned them that large numbers of Asian men were violently abusing white girls.
Even though I had strong evidence that would lead to convictions, the investigation was closed down. The police did not want to go there.
They were worried about damaging ‘community cohesion’. And the more I pushed for justice, the more I came under attack from bosses.
My chief constable said I was ‘too emotionally involved’. I was bullied, isolated and I eventually collapsed at work in a sergeant’s office due to severe stress.
I had no choice but to resign in order to speak out publicly and expose the truth. As a chief constable, Mr Veale is harder to silence and he is right to stand his ground.
Tim Fortescue, a Whip in Heath’s Government in the 1970s, boasted he could cover up a ‘scandal involving small boys’.
So there are very reasonable grounds to investigate allegations from this time.
I wish there were more like Mr Veale. When we return to a culture where police can follow the evidence without being petrified of the political consequences, we’ll all be better off for it.
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.