We learned yesterday that Mike Veale, chief constable of the Cleveland Police, resigned on Friday after less than a year in the post.
The Telegraph reports that he is facing an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), following allegations by two female officers that he had engaged in “inappropriate behaviour” toward them.
Readers may remember Veale from his days as chief constable of the Wiltshire Police, notable for the shambolic Project Conifer, in which the late Sir Edward Heath and others were investigated based on allegations of Satanic sexual abuse by a woman whose memories had emerged under hypnosis. At the time, Veale distinguished himself by telling a Daily Mail reporter that the claims against Heath were “120% genuine”.
In November 2016 we wrote about the concerns expressed by Dr Richard Hoskins (then known as Rachel Hoskins), a leading criminologist and specialist in ritual sacrifice who called some of the evidence being examined by Wiltshire Police “fantastical”, and a “catalogue of fabrication”.
At that time, The Guardian wrote,
(Dr Hoskins) wrote: “I have exposed a catalogue of fabrication at the heart of two major inquiries. Worse still, Operation Conifer ploughs ahead. People remain accused of things that simply never happened. Wiltshire Police insist that not all their evidence is based on claims of ritual abuse. We will see. But those cases that are based on this pernicious fallacy must be closed immediately.” …
Hoskins said she was taking the unusual step of disclosing her findings because she was concerned the police do not want to hear what she has said and will not pass her report on to senior MPs on the home affairs select committee, or the accused.
Yesterday, Hoskins commented on Twitter,
Links to Robert Green
Almost a year after Hoskins expressed concerns about Operation Conifer, in October 2017, the Sunday Times reported that Veale had sought advice from conspiracy theorist and Hollie Greig hoax promoter Robert Green.
Mike Veale… emailed Robert Green, of Warrington, two weeks ago in response to an email Green had sent him. Veale wrote: “As ever thank you Robert.”
The words suggest the pair had communicated previously and will cast fresh doubt on the evidence that Veale’s force has gathered.
…Green is an activist closely involved with fraudulence [sic] allegations in Scotland in the so-called Hollie Greig case, in which claims that a girl with Down’s syndrome had been abused were found to be false. He was jailed for 12 months in 2012 for harassment.
At the time, the blog BarthsNotes revealed,
Mr Veale was thanking Mr Green “for an email in which he expressed his glee at the Mail on Sunday‘s front-page splash about how Operation Conifer’s findings were to be passed on to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Green’s email and Veale’s reply were published on a Hollie Greig conspiracy website”.
Green confirmed in an email to BarthsNotes that he and Veale had been in “regular contact”, and that he had been feeding Veale material about Heath gleaned from the infamous “RAINS list” compiled by Dr Joan Coleman.
On 10 October 2017, the Telegraph reported that Veale was facing calls for an inquiry over why he’d shown an early version of the Operation Conifer report to Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen:
Mike Veale, who is overseeing the £1.5 million investigation into allegations Heath 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.
Bridgen, who had previously offered his support to Veale, calling him a “courageous and honest” police officer, described the contents of the report as “credible and disturbing”.
However, James Gray, Conservative MP for North Wiltshire, who had previously referred to Operation Conifer as an “idiotic waste of public money”, called for an explanation of the leak to Bridgen. For his part, Veale did not deny that Bridgen had seen the draft report, but said it had been shown to “a number of trusted stakeholders”.
The final report of Operation Conifer drew the conclusion that, had Heath been alive, he could have faced interview under caution regarding seven allegations.
Veale said at the time, “The report does not draw any conclusions as to the likely guilt or innocence of Sir Edward Heath. I am satisfied there are compelling and obvious reasons to investigate allegations made against Sir Edward Heath”. In the final report, no references can be found to ritual abuse, Satanic or otherwise.
Wiltshire Police faced heavy criticism for its handling of the case, under Veale’s stewardship.
The mysterious death of a mobile phone
Fast-forward a year, and in September 2018 we find Veale facing the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which stated he “has a case to answer for alleged misconduct for providing and maintaining an inaccurate account of how damage to his work mobile phone was caused”.
While Veale initially claimed that the phone had been damaged when he’d dropped it in a golf club car park and then accidentally run over it, he later admitted to IOPC investigators that he had damaged the phone when he’d swung a club at his golf bag in frustration at a bad shot.
According to the IOPC report,
On 23 November 2017, the IOPC received an anonymous typed letter dated 25 October 2017. This letter alleged that Chief Constable Veale and a Conservative MP had collaborated in leaking information about Operation Conifer, an investigation into alleged child abuse by Sir Edward Heath, in an attempt to boost public opinion of Chief Constable Veale.
The letter alleged that Chief Constable Veale had spoken directly to one journalist on a number of occasions, and had told the MP that “he was going to cover his tracks by destroying his phone so records of contact between him and [name redacted] could not be traced.”
As BarthsNotes pointed out, it seems likely that the journalist in question was Simon Walters of the Mail on Sunday, who ran the first story in which Veale was quoted as saying that the allegations against Heath were “120 per cent” convincing. The MP, as mentioned above, was likely to have been Andrew Bridgen.
The IOPC report states that Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills, who was Veale’s immediate subordinate, recalled his boss’s original version of how the phone was damaged:
…[S]ome time on the morning of 23 September 2017, the force media team made [DCC Mills] aware that there had been a significant leak of information from the Operation Conifer report. He stated that he tried to reach Chief Constable Veale via phone from around lunchtime that day, and throughout the afternoon into the early evening, but he did not answer. He stated that this was out of character for Chief Constable Veale, as he usually came straight back to him. He stated that it was “clearly challenging” not to be able to speak to Chief Constable Veale, as he wanted to discuss the scale, extent and consequences of the leak.
He stated that on the morning of 24 September 2017, he saw that Chief Constable Veale had sent an email from an iPad to the Chief Officer group at 6.05pm on 23 September 2017, explaining that his phone had been “ran over by an unsuspecting vehicle”.
The “significant leak of information” turns out to have been the Sunday Times article which revealed that Veale had been receiving advice regarding the Heath investigation from Robert Green.
Following its investigation, the IOPC concluded that the damage to Veale’s phone had been accidental, but that he had lied about the cause of damage to his phone as he had been embarrassed about losing his temper.
In the wake of Veale’s resignation from the Cleveland Police, we’ve begun to hear rumblings on Twitter that he was forced out due to his “courageous stance” during Operation Conifer.
Cue the inevitable cries of “stitch-up!”