DEC 3rd 2016
Police investigating claims that Sir Edward Heath sexually abused children are looking into allegations made by 15 different people.
The news comes as one of the former Prime Minister’s armed protection officers said he could not have carried out any abuse because he was watched around the clock by police.
Officers are said to be describing the complainants as “victims” in private, with sources claiming that the allegations are regarded as credible.
Wiltshire police chief Mike Veale has defended the investigation into Heath, who died in 2005, against critics who have said it is a “witch-hunt”, adding: “I will not be buckling under pressure to not investigate or to conclude the investigation prematurely.”
However, Peter Cracknell, a firearms specialist who spent 29-years with Wiltshire Police, said Sir Edward would not have had the opportunity to abuse youngsters because security around him was so tight.
Mr Cracknell, who worked at the former Prime Minister’s Salisbury home, Arundells, between 1985 and 1990, said the long running police investigation into claims he was a paedophile who took part in satanic abuse was “ludicrous”.
Operation Conifer was launched by Wiltshire Police in August 2015, when the force’s head of crime, Superintendent Sean Memory, made a televised appeal outside Arundells, asking for ‘victims’ of Sir Edward to come forward.
Police hoped that by filming the appeal outside Arundells they might jog the memory of anyone who had been abused there.
Former British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath on his yacht.
But Mr Cracknell said for abuse to have taken place at the property there would have had to have been huge conspiracy, involving scores of highly respected and professional police officers.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: “From the moment he moved into Arundells in 1985 right up until his death in 2005, Sir Edward was afforded 24 hour a day protection by Wiltshire Police and prior to that by the Met. He never went anywhere without a police officer. If he left Arundells even just to go a couple of hundred yards up the road, he would have a police protection officer with him. I never once saw anything to suggest there was any possible evidence against the man and to suggest there was, is to suggest the scores of police officers who guarded him around the clock for years, were in on it.”
Mr Cracknell said in the 20-years Sir Edward, who was considered an IRA target, lived at Arundells, dozens of police would have been employed in the dedicated armed protection unit, which vetted every single visitor to the house.
He said: “I don’t know of a single person in the team who looked after Sir Edward who would have hesitated for a moment in blowing the whistle if they thought there was something connected to child abuse going on.”
Operation Conifer has already cost in excess of £700,000 and two people have been arrested and bailed as part of the investigation. SOURCE
DEC 2nd 2016
An inquiry into child sex abuse claims involving ex-Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath is exploring a “significant number” of lines, police say.
Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Mike Veale has defended Operation Conifer, insisting it is not a “fishing trip or witch-hunt”.
He said officers had received “allegations spanning a significant number of individuals”.
It emerged last month that two people had been arrested and bailed.
Former Conservative prime minister Sir Edward died at his home in Salisbury in July 2005, aged 89.
In an open letter, Mr Veale said he would not be “buckling under pressure to not investigate or to conclude the investigation prematurely”.
He said he wanted to “set the record straight” amid press reports the inquiry was floundering.
The chief constable described Sir Edward as an “extremely prominent, influential and high profile person. The decision to undertake this incredibly complex and challenging investigation was not taken lightly particularly knowing, or at least expecting, that we would be placed under intense scrutiny,” he said.
Mr Veale also confirmed reports that satanic ritual sex abuse was a feature of the investigation, although he said it was a small part and did not relate to Sir Edward.
He added that it was “important to ask the question, if the force had received allegations of non-recent child abuse against a former prime minister and done nothing, what would the reaction have been? Within the national context of the independent inquiry of exploring allegations of institutional failures in the past, Wiltshire Police was duty bound to record these allegations and launch an impartial and thorough investigation.”
Operation Conifer began in 2015 after claims against Sir Edward were raised in an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Information from a retired officer had sparked concerns that Wiltshire Police had deliberately caused a criminal prosecution against a suspected brothel keeper to fail in 1994.
Earlier this year the IPCC said it had found no evidence that the case was dropped because the woman threatened to make allegations against Sir Edward.
But Wiltshire Police has said Operation Conifer is also investigating a number of separate allegations made by persons who came forward. It said the inquiry additionally aims to safeguard children and vulnerable adults who may be at risk of abuse today.
The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation has said it is confident the former prime minister will be cleared of any wrongdoing. BBC News
2nd Dec 2016
A chief constable has defended his force’s handling of child sex allegations against former prime minister Sir Edward Heath.
Mike Veale, who leads Wiltshire Police, wrote an open letter to the public to “set the record straight” about the investigation.
Police vowed to continue their investigation into allegations of child sex abuse by the late Sir Edward in May after several people responded to an appeal for information.
Wiltshire Police was itself under investigation for possible misconduct over claims that it shelved a prosecution over threats to identify the former Prime Minister.
But the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found no evidence of wrongdoing and concluded that the trial in question was stopped because witnesses refused to testify.
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The IPCC investigated claims by a retired senior officer that Wiltshire Police deliberately caused a criminal prosecution to fail in 1994 after the defendant – a brothel owner – threatened to tell the press she supplied Sir Edward with underage boys for sex if the trial went ahead.
In the public letter released on Friday, Mr Veale said: “When I took on this investigation I knew it would attract intense scrutiny. I also recognised it could potentially damage confidence in Wiltshire Police.”
He described the former Conservative prime minister, who died at home in Salisbury in July 2005 aged 89, as an “extremely prominent, influential and high profile person. The decision to undertake this incredibly complex and challenging investigation was not taken lightly particularly knowing, or at least expecting, that we would be placed under intense scrutiny,” he said.
The police probe, named Operation Conifer, began in 2015 after claims against Sir Edward surfaced.
Mr Veale said: “Over the last few weeks particularly, there has been much speculation about this case. Whilst it is not commonplace for us to comment on a live ongoing criminal investigation I really am very concerned and profoundly disappointed about the impact of this speculation on the public’s confidence in the police, the potential prejudicial impact upon a live criminal investigation, not to mention the confidence of persons who have come forward with information.”
He described the investigation as “complex and multi-stranded” but added: “This is not a ‘fishing trip’ or ‘witch-hunt’ – both of these terms have been unfairly levelled at us. The legal role of the police service is to, on behalf of the public, impartially investigate allegations without fear or favour, and go where the evidence takes us. I take my responsibilities of operational independence, which is the bedrock of British policing, very seriously indeed. Therefore I will remain operationally independent and will not be influenced by inappropriate and unacceptable pressure from people who don’t know the detail of this case.
“I will not be buckling under pressure to not investigate or to conclude the investigation prematurely.”
Mr Veale said investigators had not spoken to the man known as Nick who features in Operation Midland – the Met Police probe into an alleged Westminster paedophile ring.
Last weekend The Mail On Sunday reported the contents of a leaked confidential report into Operation Conifer, which referred to satanic ritual sex abuse.
“Let me be clear, this part of the investigation is only one small element of the overall inquiry and does not relate to Sir Edward Heath,” Mr Veale said.
“It is also very important for me to reiterate that the report forms part of a live ongoing criminal investigation, so the disclosure of this information is something which we take very seriously.”
Earlier this month two people were arrested and bailed by detectives working on Operation Conifer.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission launched a probe into alleged historical corruption after information from a retired officer raised concerns that Wiltshire Police deliberately caused a criminal prosecution to fail 22 years ago.
Earlier this year the probe found no evidence that a prosecution against a brothel keeper was dropped because of threats to allege publicly that Sir Edward had been involved in sexual offences.
Wiltshire’s police and crime commissioner Angus Macpherson said: “The chief constable and I both take very seriously the duty to investigate fully and fairly all allegations or complaints that are received by the force. Once the police have conducted the investigation to a conclusion, there must be an alternative avenue to assess the credibility of any evidence that has been gathered.” The Independent
Wiltshire chief constable says significant number of people have disclosed claims of historical abuse against ex-prime minister
Friday 2 December 2016 17.35 GMT
The chief constable of the force investigating claims that Sir Edward Heath sexually abused children has vowed not to buckle under “unacceptable” media pressure, insisting the investigation into the late prime minister is not a “fishing trip” or a “witch-hunt”.
A “significant number of individuals have disclosed allegations of abuse”, the Wiltshire police chief, Mike Veale, said on Friday in an extraordinary 1,600-word statement that sought to rebuff media criticism and keep the 15-month investigation on track.
The Guardian understands that at least 15 people have made allegations to the police around the country claiming Heath, who died in 2005, was involved in the sexual abuse of children.
Multiple sources say the Wiltshire-led Operation Conifer remains live and the claims are regarded by police as credible, with inquiries continuing into whether they can be shown to be true or disproved. Police are describing the complainants as “victims” in private.
One police source said the fact police were continuing the investigation demonstrated the belief in the credibility of the complaints. “If we did not believe that, we would have shut the investigation down. The fact is we are continuing.”
Police have taken advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, and a senior officer from Wiltshire has been moved into a role with full-time oversight of the inquiry into Heath and others.
Veale’s three-page statement, rare during the middle of a high-profile investigation, came after months of attacks in the media on Operation Conifer, which began in August 2015.
The chief constable criticised the undue pressure on his officers and said police were under a greater duty to investigate because Heath had held the highest office in the UK.
“Sir Edward Heath was an extremely prominent, influential and high-profile person, who was arguably one of the most powerful people in the world commensurate with the publicly elected office he held. It is clear that I am expected to conduct a proportionate investigation which will result in a distinct outcome or report and the closer the suspect is to the state the greater the obligation and the more probing the investigation should be.”
Heath was prime minister from 1970-74. A world-class yachtsman in his spare time, he took Britain into what was then the European Economic Community. His time in power was beset by industrial strife, and confrontations with the then powerful trade unions plunged Britain into a three-day week.
He was elected leader of the the Conservative party in 1965 and won the 1970 election. He lost the premiership in 1974 to Labour’s Harold Wilson and lost the Conservative party leadership the following year when challenged and defeated by Margaret Thatcher, of whom he became a bitter and vocal critic. Heath, who never married, died at home in Salisbury in July 2005, aged 89.
Dr Rachel Hoskins, an expert on ritual sacrifice who has been asked by detectives to examine claims made against Heath and others as part of Operation Conifer, has been highly critical of the investigation.
Veale said: “This is not a ‘fishing trip’ or ‘witch-hunt’ – both of these terms have been unfairly levelled at us.” He cited the constitutional principle of policing being free of undue influence from the state, as he pledged the investigation would continue. I take my responsibilities of operational independence, which is the bedrock of British policing, very seriously indeed. Therefore I will remain operationally independent and will not be influenced by inappropriate and unacceptable pressure from people who don’t know the detail of this case. I will not be buckling under pressure to not investigate or to conclude the investigation prematurely.”
Veale said even though Heath was dead, detectives might be able to track down any accomplices and support any victims.
“There remains the likelihood that witnesses that can serve to corroborate or, equally as important, negate the allegations, are still alive. If abuse has occurred then it remains relevant to support those affected and seek to bring to justice any person still living who may have committed associated criminal offences. It is important to identify any vulnerable individuals who require safeguarding today.”
Several police forces across Britain have received claims about Heath. The investigation is being co-ordinated and led by police in Wiltshire, where Heath had a home in Salisbury.
Veale said a thorough inquiry could exonerate Heath and that some claims had been dropped by detectives.
The media debate about the investigation has characterised it as unfounded, but within policing the view is largely different.
Public faith in police competence around investigating historical sexual abuse claims against high-profile individuals has been rocked by the fallout from a Scotland Yard inquiry, Operation Midland, which examined claims from the 1970s and 80s.
A report earlier this month castigated police for falling for false claims made by a complainant called “Nick”. In that case, police chiefs were among the last to realise the inquiry, which wrongly targeted establishment figures, was beset by failings.
Veale said “Nick” had not been spoken to as part of the Wiltshire-led investigation. In the Met inquiry he is believed to have made claims, widely thought to be false, about Heath.
Other police investigations into historical sexual abuse claims have led to convictions. Police have also faced accusations that they have covered up or failed to investigate abuse claims against powerful people.
At the end of their investigation, Wiltshire police plan to write a report assessing whether the evidence gathered would have been sufficient to charge Heath, put him on trial, and convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt of his guilt.
Two people have been arrested as part of Operation Conifer. Police will only say the arrests are related to “child protection issues” and that the two, who have been bailed, are suspects but are not directly linked to the Heath investigation.
Wiltshire’s police and crime commissioner, Angus Macpherson, who has strategic oversight of the force, backed its right to investigate the claims and said public interest was adding to pressure on officers.
“I believe the root cause of this pressure is a legitimate concern that the reputation of a former prime minister may be tarnished without there being credible evidence of guilt,” Macpherson said. “The chief constable and I are of one mind: the police cannot act as judge and jury in their own cause. Once the police have conducted the investigation to a conclusion, there must be an alternative avenue to assess the credibility of any evidence that has been gathered.”
The Guardian understands that Det Supt Sean Memory, who was Wiltshire’s head of crime, has been moved from his post to oversee the inquiry into Heath full-time, as well as another inquiry into historical allegations which emerged during the investigation into Heath.
Wiltshire police said: “Further to a restructure of portfolios Det Supt Memory is the new head of Legacy Investigations and continues in his role as senior investigating officer for Operation Conifer.”
The CPS confirmed it had given advice to the police investigation.
In August 2015 Memory made a public appeal, controversially outside Heath’s Salisbury home, saying: “This is an appeal for victims in particular if you have been the victim of any crime from Sir Ted Heath or any historical sexual offence, or you are a witness, or you have any information about this, then please come forward.” The Guardian