Ted Heath po­lice chief: Now probe ‘cover-up’ in West­min­ster


The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By SI­MON WAL­TERS

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, exCabi­net 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.

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.

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 soulsearch­ing 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? 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.’

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

‘If there is noth­ing to hide, open the doors’

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.’

BACK AT HIS DESK: Mike Veale last week – he spent two years in­ves­ti­gat­ing abuse claims against for­mer PM Ted Heath, top right

EX­POSÉ: Three of our re­ports on Op­er­a­tion Conifer, the Wilt­shire Po­lice in­quiry into Sir Ed­ward, who died in 2005 In Fe­bru­ary (far left), we re­ported how Mr Veale was cer­tain the claims against Heath were se­ri­ous. Cen­tre: Last month, we re­vealed that the In­quiry into Child Sex Abuse had ex­tended its scope to look at the al­le­ga­tions. Left: Our story last week on the Op­er­a­tion Conifer re­port

RID­DLE: Heath’s al­lies said the fact he didn’t drive helped prove his in­no­cence – but in fact he owned this Rover

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