Ted Heath inquiry police chief quits Wiltshire to head up Cleveland force

first_imgThe police chief who led the controversial investigation into child sex abuse allegations against Sir Edward Heath is to head up another force after Wiltshire Police failed to renew his contract.Mike Veale, who spent two years and £1.5 million investigating the former Prime Minister, who died in 2005 aged 89, announced that he was set to become Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, which has been mired in controversy in recent years.He had recently insisted he was committed to Wiltshire but Angus Macpherson, the force’s Police and Crime Commissioner was said to have become increasingly frustrated with the criticism levelled at the force over Operation Conifer.He had come under increasing pressure to approve a judge-led inquiry into the investigation – a move Mr Veale had blocked – amid claims that its findings were uncorroborated and failed to justify the time and expense it was afforded.Lord Armstrong, Heath’s principal private secretary when Prime Minister, described the move to Cleveland as “extraordinary.”He told the Telegraph: “I am quite surprised that chief constable Mike Veale has moved. I dare say he is glad to be leaving Wiltshire. It seems rather strange another force should take him on given the criticism he has had but one doesn’t know what Cleveland wants.” Mr Macpherson thanked Mr Veale for his commitment to the force over the last 13 years.”I know this has not been an easy decision for Mike to make, but that on a personal level he feels it is the right time for him and his family to make the next move in his policing career,” he added. Health’s godson, Lincoln Seligman, suggested that Mr Veale had “unfinished business” in Wiltshire and vowed to to continue the fight for justice.“He cannot expect to turn his back on the situation he has left,” he said. “We fully expect the Wiltshire Police Commissioner to request what he himself has said is needed, namely a judge led review of all the evidence produced by Mr Veale’s now discredited Operation Conifer.”James Gray, a local Wiltshire MP who has been critical of Mr Veale over Operation Conifer and the “waste” of taxpayers money that shredded Heath’s reputation, said: ”I wish Chief Constable Veale well in Cleveland and I wish Cleveland well in having Mike Veale.”Mr Veale, who has 33 years service and commands a salary of around £150,000, is said to have applied for at least one other job and was keen to get out of Wiltshire amid a clamour from critics that he should resign.Barry Coppinger, Cleveland police and crime commissioner, said Mr Veale had “faced extremely difficult and complex policing challenges and has never shied away from taking tough decisions in the best interests of justice.” Former Prime Minister Edward HeathCredit:Peter J Jordan/PA Barry Coppinger, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland Credit:Heathcliff O’Malley He said he had put forward “an exciting and compelling vision” for the future of policing in the region, adding that his appointment would have to be confirmed by the force’s police and crime panel which meets on January 23. Show more Mr Veale said it had been a “very difficult decision” but that he felt the time was right for a new challenge.It is understood that contract negotiations with Mr Macpherson were ongoing when he decided to make the move.Wiltshire Police launched Operation Conifer in August 2015 with a public appeal for “victims” to come forward in a televised press conference outside Heath’s Salisbury home, Arundells.The investigation concluded in October that he would be questioned under caution if he were still alive over seven alleged offences. Lord Armstrong said the job switch should now make it easier to secure an independent inquiry into Operation Conifer, which Mr Heath’s supporters believe is vital to clear his name. Barry Coppinger, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland Former Prime Minister Edward Heath But it stressed “no inference of guilt can be drawn from the decision to interview under caution” and also accepts that other than the allegations themselves, there is no other evidence available to corroborate the claims.Reports claimed Mr Veale was “120 per cent” certain that Heath abused children over many years.But he has come under intense criticism, not least because Heath has been dead for more than a decade and therefore cannot defend himself.Lord Macdonald,  the country’s former chief prosecutor, writing in the Telegraph last year, said Veale had presided over a over a “tragi-comedy of incompetence” as he called on Wiltshire Police to “own up” to running an expensive inquiry based on “the most obvious and transparent fantasy”. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more