I am indebted to Bob Woffinden, in his excellent book ‘The Nicholas Cases‘*, for alerting me to the fact that ‘Nicholas’, before he became the patron saint of small children hoping to accept sweeties from a stranger who comes down the chimney at Christmas time, was better known to the ancient world as the patron saint of the Falsely Accused.
Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Byzantine times, intervened in the execution of three men falsely accused and forced their accuser to repent, saving their lives; he had earlier been falsely accused himself in another matter. Later, another three soldiers successfully prayed to Nicholas when they themselves were falsely accused. It was only when Nicholas anonymously donated bags of gold to a destitute family that he acquired his ‘saintly’ reputation as the generous giver of Yuletide gifts – even the ancient ‘papyrus and lampblack ink’ media were suckers for such a story and preferred to ignore tales of false accusation, it seems.
Back to the inappropriately named ‘Nick’ of Operation Midland. I have always pondered why we never hear of the carpenter’s son, or grocer’s son as a paedophile – paedophilia appears to be an affliction that only comes on a man in later life when he joins the Tory party and acquires a sizeable fortune. Thus it was in the case of Ted Heath. Heath was alleged to be one of the many famous people who had abused the young ‘Nick’.
Back at the beginning of August last year, Superintendent Sean Memory stood in front of the gates outside Heath’s house in Wiltshire and announced:
“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.”
A mere five weeks later, Operation Conifer was established on the 6th September 2015. Appealing for witnesses five weeks before an investigation starts suggests to me that something is amiss – but then again, in this case the information was laid by a retired ‘senior police officer’ who had come forward at the end of 2014 claiming that he ‘had been aware’ that a trial had been ‘stopped’ because the defendant threatened to name Heath in connection with child sexual abuse.
By supreme good fortune for those of us who prefer to take our news from trustworthy sources rather than disgruntled ex-policemen, who have something of a tarnished reputation when it comes to coming home from the pub and phoning up helplines calling for information on child abuse, the Barrister in this allegedly ‘stopped court case’ was none other than Mathew Scott – better known to us as ‘barristerblogger’.
Mathew Scott cheerfully and comprehensively demolished the claims of this ‘senior officer’, showing that the case was stopped because two of the prosecution’s witnesses failed to turn up, and another, already in prison for another offence baulked at the point of going into the witness box. Myra Forde, his client, had never mentioned Ted Heath to him.
In addition, the prosecution barrister, Nigel Seed QC, a judge by the time of this new bout of allegations, further agreed that the prosecution against Myra Forde was stopped because his three witnesses, all sex workers, failed to turn up leaving him with no choice but to offer no evidence.
Within hours, Myra’s Solicitor, Richard Griffiths, had released a statement on behalf of Myra:
“My former client wishes me to make it very clear that at no stage did she state that Ted Heath was a client and at no stage did she threaten to expose him as a client of hers if the prosecution was continued.
For the avoidance of any doubt Myra Forde wishes me to make it clear that she had no involvement with Ted Heath of any kind and has no knowledge of any misconduct on his part.”
So, for the avoidance of doubt. A retired Police Officer makes a claim that a court case was dropped ‘because of the involvement of Ted Heath and child sexual abuse’ – the Prosecuting Barrister and the Defence Barrister, the defendant and the defendant’s Solicitor all come forward and say precisely the same thing – ‘it never happened’; ‘defendant never mentioned Ted Heath’, ‘case was dropped because the only remaining available witness for the prosecution was locked up in jail herself’ – yet five weeks later, Wiltshire Police announce Operation Conifer based on the word of this ‘retired senior police officer’ who is, of course, a far more reliably source than two barristers and a solicitor…or possibly the ‘lady’ brothel owner who was alleged to have made the claim in the first place.
16 Police Officers have laboured away on Operation Conifer for a year. It has cost the Taxpayer £388,000 so far.
You’ll never guess what they have uncovered!
They found the case was halted when witnesses refused to give evidence. It was also deemed unclear whether the comment about Sir Edward had even been made.
It seems that:
The officer making the claims worked undercover to investigate Forde’s brothel in the early 1990s.
He gave evidence to the Independent Police Complaints Commission alleging a solicitor had threatened that, if the case went ahead, Forde would make the allegations against Sir Edward.
The policeman was relatively junior at the time and did not record the incident in his notebook.
He told investigators that during his career the incident had worried him and, having seen a TV programme about Jimmy Savile in 2014, he decided to come forward.
If only to waste another £388,000 of our money. In addition to the £1.8m on Operation Midland based on the wondrous fantasies of ‘Nick’ who has now wandered off into the boondocks and announced that he is no longer ‘co-operating’ with police enquiries.
This is in addition to the 17 investigations announced earlier this year. All relate to allegations about:
- Suppressing evidence;
- Hindering or halting investigations;
- Covering up the offences because of the involvement of members of parliament and police officers
The majority of the investigations stem from allegations made by retired Met officers.
One day we might get an answer to the question – ‘How many ex-police officers came in from the pub half-cut and phoned up to give evidence to these inquiries’? Has ‘Nick’ ever worked for the Police? Then we can work out what the lying sods have cost us.
I do highly recommend Bob Woffinden’s book – I am only halfway through the ten cases diligently deconstructed in layman’s language – having started with the Jonathan King appalling example of moving the goal posts and changing dates after the defence had given their evidence and proved his alibi, and then gone back to the beginning. It is all quite horrifying – and depressing, realising just how low our police and judicial service has sunk.