In the wake of yesterday’s news about Mike Veale’s resignation as chief constable in Cleveland, we had occasion to browse through some of the older news coverage about Veale and the ill-conceived Project Conifer, conducted while he was chief constable in Wiltshire.
In a Mail on Sunday article on 29 November 2016, Home Affairs editor Martin Beckford dropped a bombshell on Project Conifer. In an interview with leading criminologist Dr Rachel Hoskins, he revealed that Hoskins had “urged detectives not to be taken in by the wild allegations against the late former Prime Minister [Edward Heath], and demanded MPs be alerted to her damning findings”.
Hoskins, who had been involved in confirming ritual practices in the so-called “torso in the Thames”, had been hired in September 2016 to provide an expert opinion on the lurid allegations which were being made about Heath and others, including Leon Brittan, Lord Bramall, Harvey Proctor, and Greville Janner, in both Operations Midland and Conifer.
These allegations had been made by a person named Nick, along with three unnamed women.
‘The evidence overlaps,’ I was reliably informed. Nick had named some of those accused in the Wiltshire-based Conifer inquiry, and the woman behind the Heath accusations (and her associates) had named some of Nick’s Westminster VIPs.
After reviewing the evidence, Hoskins determined that there was no evidence to support any of the allegations. No bodies had been recovered; no children had been reported missing or murdered that matched the accounts; no corroborating evidence had been found; and the stories told by Nick and the three women were lurid in tone but lacked substantiating detail.
In the interview with Beckford, Hoskins said,
[T]he allegations against at least some of the people caught up in Operations Conifer and Midland are based on no more that two uncorroborated witnesses, whose claims of satanic abuse were made under the influence of controversial psychotherapists specialising in ‘recovered memories’.
At least one of these witnesses was under the influence of hypnosis. I am profoundly disturbed. In 15 years of working as an independent police expert, I have never seen anything like it.
Upon analysing the evidence, Hoskins said, it became clear that one of Heath’s key accusers was a woman named Lucy X, who had begun making claims of Satanic abuse in 1989. These claims had originally been ignored, but now were being taken seriously.
The ‘Michelle Remembers’ connection
Lucy X’s psychotherapist, who Hoskins identified as “Fiona”, had studied at the same university as a Canadian psychiatrist, Lawrence Pazder, who had mentored her in the hypnotherapy techniques he had used to elicit “memories” of alleged Satanic ritual abuse from the patient who would make him famous: Michelle Proby.
Pazder, originally from Alberta, and educated there and in Liverpool as well as at Montreal’s McGill University, wound up practising psychiatry in Victoria, British Columbia, where he met and treated Proby. Under hypnotherapy and so-called “age regression”, Proby began to recall highly detailed and improbable memories of sadistic child sexual abuse, carried out by a group of Satanists who somehow managed to escape detection in Victoria, a small city known as an ideal place for elderly Canadians to retire.
Eventually, Proby and Pazder divorced their respective spouses and married. Together they wrote a book about Proby’s alleged memories of Satanic abuse. Michelle Remembers, published in 1980, would become not only a best-seller, but the template for allegations of Satanic ritual abuse.
It’s worth noting that prior to the publication of Michelle Remembers, the term “Satanic ritual abuse” did not exist.
Lucy X’s therapist, Fiona, began using hypnotherapy and “recovered memory therapy” (RMT) on her in 1988; Lucy X made her first allegations to police in 1989. In 2015, she was finally believed—by the investigators of Project Conifer, under the leadership of Mike Veale.
According to Hoskins, both “Nick” and Lucy X stated to police that their psychotherapists had enabled them to recall their past.
The stories that Lucy X began ‘remembering’ took her back to her childhood in Britain and in Africa. At first the detail in her diaries is scant. But Lucy’s descriptions grow ever more detailed under hypnosis: satanic ritual abuse in empty houses, in churches and on Salisbury Plain.
Eventually she ‘remembered’ that members of the paedophile ring had gorged themselves on blood and body parts. They maimed and murdered children in orgiastic sacrifices at the stake or on altars.
Lucy soon spoke with three other women she knew well. They met and swapped fantastical tales.
Earlier this year  they would ‘remember’ that Heath was a prime mover in a network of sadistic paedophile abusers.
Hoskins also demonstrated a number of circumstantial connections between “Nick” and Lucy X:
Lucy X’s father is said to have worked alongside Nick’s dad in the same community, although it is not known if Nick and Lucy X have ever met. There appear to be links, too, in the way their evidence was produced.
Like Lucy X, Nick also told tales of ritual abuse. His early stories related to the same location where Lucy X’s family lived, before moving on to describe a VIP paedophile ring based out of Dolphin Square, London.
Nick recounted stories of ritual murder, including one involving Harvey Proctor. And he, too, named Heath.
Having uncovered unsettling evidence of cross-contamination between the stories of key witnesses, Hoskins attempted to make officers on Project Conifer aware that they were hip-deep in a quagmire of confabulation.
This was not what the police wanted to hear, and Hoskins was invited to resubmit the evidence, presumably in a more palatable form. This did not happen, and eventually the police did accept the report, though Hoskins expressed little confidence that it would be used to exonerate those who had been falsely accused.
Operation Conifer eventually ground to a halt in October 2017, but in its final report no mention was made of Hoskins’ extraordinary findings.
Certainly, little has been made of the connection between this particular set of VIP paedophile allegations and Michelle Remembers, the story which started the 1980s Satanic panic, and whose pernicious claims have continued to ruin lives well into the 21st century.
Updated: In an earlier version of this post we incorrectly stated that Hoskins had ‘identified’ the body in the Thames. In fact, Hoskins was used by the Met to identify ritual practices in that case.