Head of po­lice ‘handed Heath re­port to MP’

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Robert Men­dick CHIEF RE­PORTER

WILT­SHIRE’S chief con­sta­ble is fac­ing calls for an in­quiry by the po­lice watch­dog over why he showed a con­fi­den­tial re­port into Sir Edward Heath to a Con­ser­va­tive MP in a con­stituency 120 miles away.

Mike Veale, who is over­see­ing the £1.5mil­lion in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions that the late former prime min­is­ter was a pae­dophile, is ac­cused of hand­ing the re­port to An­drew Brid­gen, the Con­ser­va­tive MP for North West Le­ices­ter­shire.

Some de­tails said to be con­tained in the re­port were sub­se­quently leaked to news­pa­pers. Mr Brid­gen is un­der­stood to have met a number of jour­nal­ists for off-the-record brief­ings. One news­pa­per re­ported he had seen an early draft.

Po­lice are un­der huge pres­sure to jus­tify Op­er­a­tion Conifer, the two-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Sir Edward that was launched out­side his house in Sal­is­bury with an ap­peal for “vic­tims”. It is un­der­stood Mr Brid­gen of­fered his help to Mr Veale at a time when crit­i­cism has been grow­ing.

Mr Brid­gen has been quoted in news­pa­pers de­scrib­ing Mr Veale as a “coura­geous and hon­est” po­lice­man. Mr Brid­gen has de­scribed the re­port’s find­ings “as cred­i­ble and dis­turb­ing”.

James Gray, the Con­ser­va­tive MP for North Wilt­shire, who has branded the in­quiry into Sir Edward as an “id­i­otic waste of public money”, is call­ing for an ex­pla­na­tion as to why Mr Brid­gen was shown the re­port. Mr Gray said: “You can­not have a con­fi­den­tial re­port and then leak it to An­drew Brid­gen.”

Mr Gray has writ­ten to Mr Veale and to An­gus Macpher­son, the Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sioner for Wilt­shire, query­ing the de­ci­sion. Mr Gray said: “I will con­sider re­port­ing this to the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Com­plaints Com­mis­sion if this is not prop­erly in­ves­ti­gated by Mr Macpher­son.”

In his re­sponse, Mr Veale did not deny the re­port had been shown to an MP but said of­fi­cers had met with a “number of trusted stake­hold­ers”.

Mr Veale wrote: “This in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been sub­ject to sig­nif­i­cant public scru­tiny, spec­u­la­tion and un­help­ful com­men­tary which on oc­ca­sions I be­lieve has been with a mo­ti­va­tion to un­der­mine the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and in­tegrity of Wilt­shire po­lice. In or­der for the re­port to be bal­anced and accu- rate, col­leagues have en­gaged with a number of trusted stake­hold­ers.”

The final ver­sion of a summary clo­sure re­port will be pub­lished on Thurs­day. It is ex­pected to run to about 100 pages and will con­tain as many as seven al­le­ga­tions which Wilt­shire po­lice have been un­able to dis­prove.

Those al­le­ga­tions would have mer­ited in­ter­view­ing Sir Edward un­der cau­tion, the re­port is ex­pected to say. But most of the al­le­ga­tions have been dis­missed largely be­cause they were made by fan­ta­sists or else by peo­ple with se­ri­ous men­tal health is­sues.

Crit­ics have ac­cused Wilt­shire of launch­ing a “witch hunt” against a dead man who could not de­fend his rep­u­ta­tion. One well-placed source in­side the force has told The Sun­day Tele­graph that in hind­sight the in­quiry should never have been launched.

Mul­ti­ple sources have told The Sun­day Tele­graph there is “no smok­ing gun” that proves Sir Edward abused chil­dren. The re­port will make no judg­ment on his guilt or in­no­cence.

Lord Mac­don­ald, the former Di­rec­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions, has called the in­quiry a “tragic com­edy of in­com­pe­tence”. A Wilt­shire po­lice spokesman said: “A number of dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers have been briefed on a number of dif­fer­ent is­sues. These brief­ings have been car­ried out un­der the strictest of con­fi­dence.”

Mike Veale, Wilt­shire’s chief con­sta­ble, who is over­see­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Sir Edward Heath

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