Edward Heath: police delayed Conifer report to avoid overshadowing Tory conference
• Chief constable Mike Veale sends ‘dynamite’ confidential report to home secretary Amber Rudd
• Officers would next interview Sir Edward Heath under caution if he were still alive
• Wiltshire Police defied pressure from establishment figures and media to drop Operation Conifer
Byline Investigations Unit
By Mark Watts
Police delayed publishing a report on their investigation into Sir Edward Heath over child sexual abuse to avoid overshadowing the Conservative party conference.
Mike Veale, chief constable of Wiltshire Police, has sent a full, confidential report detailing evidence that Heath was an active paedophile while he was prime minister to Amber Rudd, home secretary, in the past fortnight.
Officers on the investigation believe that Ted Heath would have to go on trial if he were still alive. One source said: “I have seen successful prosecutions on a lot less than Mike Veale has already got.”
Veale was planning to publish a summary report on ‘Operation Conifer’, the two-year investigation into Heath, at the end of next week.
When he realised that the Conservative conference was next weekend, he decided to delay publication by a week.
Wiltshire Police announced on Thursday that the summary report would be published on October 5, the day after the Conservative conference closes with a speech from the prime minister, Theresa May.
A second source close to Veale said: “When Conifer does come out, I think that it will be dynamite.”
Both sources say that Veale is personally convinced, on the strength of Operation Conifer, that Heath was a paedophile.
The second source said: “The evidence speaks for itself.”
But they stress that it is not for the police to express a view on Heath’s guilt in their report.
The report says that, were Heath alive, detectives would next interview him under caution, with a view to sending a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging decisions.
It stresses that it would be for a jury to decide whether he was guilty.
Wiltshire Police, which has come under intense pressure from establishment figures and media to drop the investigation, is planning to hold a lengthy press conference to mark the publication of the summary report.
The full report will also go to the inquiry into child sexual abuse.
Officers on Operation Conifer see the report as a “game-changer” on the issue of “VIP paedophiles”.
It is understood that more than 30 witnesses, who police regard as credible and independent of each other, testified to child sexual abuse by Heath. Several have told me that they are satisfied with how officers investigated their cases.
Wiltshire Police brought in retired officers to help with the investigation because of its huge scale.
Operation Conifer, which was due to conclude in June, was extended because 14 more people who claimed to have been sexually abused by Heath as boys had come forward. Officers expect that publication of the summary report will prompt even more witnesses to come forward.
Veale believes that the investigation raises “national security” concerns – historically and currently.
Evidence that Heath was a compromised prime minister would raise obvious issues about national security.
But Veale is also concerned about those who helped cover up for him and remain vulnerable to being compromised.
Veale also believes that there has been a desperate attempt to continue the cover-up in the face of Operation Conifer, to stop his investigation and to have him sacked.
The second source said: “They are trying to shut him up. But they will not be able to keep a lid on this.”
“He is completely determined. Even if he is going to lose his career over it, he is going to do it.”
He added: “Mike Veale is a hero for taking this on and doing the job properly.”
Veale was taken aback by repeated attempts to interfere with a police operation. Critics have gone so far as to question his mental health.
In an especially sinister twist, officers on Operation Conifer reported that they had been threatened, resulting in some leaving the investigation.
Veale had not taken part in any discussion about Sir Richard Henriques, the retired judge, "reviewing" Operation Conifer's report before the proposal was floated in the Press.
He refused to accept any judge to “review” the report. The only role for a judge, he told colleagues, would be to examine why there had been such a cover-up.
However, Wiltshire Police arranged for an “external audit” of Operation Conifer by officers from outside the constabulary. Veale regards the investigation as thorough and robust.