Head of police ‘handed Heath report to MP’
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