Friday, 7 August 2015

Edward Heath: The Stories So Far

Bernard Woolley: [Discussing possible reasons for the Prime Minister's early retirement] Minister, I've heard something quite different.
James Hacker: What?
Bernard Woolley: That there is £1 million worth of diamonds from South Africa in a Downing Street safe, but of course it's only a rumour.
James Hacker: Is that true?
Bernard Woolley: Oh, yes.
James Hacker: So, there ARE all those diamonds in Downing Street!
Bernard Woolley: Are there?
James Hacker: You just said there were.
Bernard Woolley: No, I didn't.
James Hacker: Yes, you did! You said you'd heard this rumour, I said is it true, you said yes!
Bernard Woolley: I said yes, it was true that it was a rumour.
James Hacker: You said you heard it was true!
Bernard Woolley: No, I said it was true that I heard it!
- - Yes Minister, Party Games

Whether or not Edward Heath is proven to be guilty of child abuse or not, it is difficult to tell the provenance of the stories circulating.

For example, the Daily Telegraph says that brothel keeper Myra Forde told him that Edward Heath was one of her clients, but the Telegraph don't contact her directly, and the next thing we know, she is denying the story. It came apparently from Judge Seed, who was reporting what police told him she had said at the time when she was tried, and the Judge doesn't mention who those police are, or whether it had any basis in fact. After all, making a threat to stall a trial and making good that threat are two different things.

There is a degree in which getting hard facts is like trying to pin down jelly, which is why I begin this blog with that exchange in "Yes Minister" which shows how difficult it can be to differentiate between fact and rumour.

I’m not alone in thinking this. Solicitor Alan Collins, who has represented dozens of clients who have suffered child abuse, including investigations linked to Jimmy Savile and linked to Haut de la Garenne, has complained about this: “All I have heard have been innuendos and finger-pointing, but never anything concrete.No one ever said “I know what has happened and this is it”.

Lenny Harper, who was heading up Operation Rectangle into child abuse in Jersey noted that he never received any allegations or statements about Sir Edward during his time with the force. Now Mr Harper was very far from being an establishment figure, and had at least one notable clash with the Attorney General over attempts to control his press releases. He also says he never had Heath’s name mentioned to him by Stuart Syvret.

And yet Stuart Syvret said: “Back in 2008 there were rumours about Heath and nothing more certain than that. 'I was certainly aware of them I’m not sure if the police were.”

But if he was aware of it, he evidently didn’t think the time was right to mention it, as a search of his blog does not reveal Ted Heath’s name anywhere back in 2008 – or in fact until this news story broke nationwide. Why was he silent? Why didn’t he tell Lenny Harper? Goodness knows, he wasn't afraid to name names, so that can't be the reason.

Linda Corby gives more details on her blog: “As I reported to the Police back in the 1970’s seeing 11 children go out from Jersey on the Morning Cloud with Ted Heath, Jimmy Savile and a Jersey States Senator at the time, I was with another Jersey States member Senator Ralph Vibert, he told me later that day that only ten boys came back and I went to the Police with him to report this and ask for the matter to be investigated. Nothing was done Senator Ralph Vibert told me that nothing was being done and we could not take things further on instructions from above,”

One question must be asked: why didn’t this come out earlier? Edward Heath, after all, died in 2005, Saville in 2011, and Vibert in 2008. Why only break silence now? And why provide no explanation of this reticence, when Lenny Harper could have been told?

Now this is extremely specific and checkable. While it is not provable, as Senator Vibert is dead, and cannot corroborate the story, we can at least check the following – was Edward Heath in Jersey at the same time as Jimmy Savile?

We know he was invited to the Island on 20th July 1976 by de Gruchy to promote his book, "Sailing – A Course of My Life". And we know Saville took part in a charity fun slip in April 1976, as the Jersey Care Inquiry has actually seen that document. But did their stay in Jersey overlap? It’s a long time between April and July.

Leah McGrath Goodman meanwhile says: ““Jimmy Savile often stayed in the same hotel as Ted Heath,” McGrath Goodman told the DPA news agency, adding that both men were alleged to have taken children from Haut de la Garenne. It would be useful if she mentioned the hotel in question!

The Voice blog notes that “Heath was a regular visitor to Jersey and guest of former President of Jersey Defence Committee (in charge of the police) Mike Wavell who ran, or owned, the Waters Edge Hotel at Bouley Bay where Heath's yacht would be moored up in the bay”. Was that the hotel Ms Goodman has in mind?

Ms Goodman also told LBC Radio: “Ted Heath was one of the more prominent allegations. He enjoyed using his yacht, and would come to the island frequently. He would take children from care homes for a ride on the yacht and it was reported that some never came back.”

Can we have dates please? Apart from the book signing, there is little documented of Heath’s visits to Jersey, and that is clearly something which is needed – establishing a basic timeline to check allegations against. Why doesn’t she give dates from her research? Could it be that she is reporting third party information rather than investigating it herself?

She is also reported as saying: “I know the police received reports. I have looked into the records from the home. The children were loaned out. Sometimes they would come back – sometimes they would not.”

Exactly what these records from the home showed, especially as the inquiry found that lots of them seem to have gone missing, is not explained. The suggestion must be that the records she says she saw showed the children being “signed out” or "loaned out". Was that the case? This, at any rate, is checkable.

News 24 is somewhat more circumspect and said simply that was aware of "widespread rumours that Heath, on his yacht Morning Cloud, "would come to the island frequently". Being aware of rumours is very different from fact.

According to the Daily Mail, Ms Goodman says she was kicked out of the UK when she was investigating Heath in Jersey. In which case it must also be asked: why has this fact just surfaced now? Why didn’t she mention Heath before? Her accounts of investigating child abuse in Jersey, until now, had not mentioned Edward Heath. Can it be that she is jumping on the media bandwagon?

She also said to Sky News: "Police officers investigating claims at the children's home) had heard the rumours and I know a few of the senior members of the police believed that (Heath) was at it.”. But Lenny Harper says he had heard of no allegations against Edward Heath:

Robin Whitlock points out some other problems which need to be addressed:

“Anyone who believes the story about the Morning Cloud has to explain where the crew (each of the five boats named Morning Cloud had a crew of between four and seven men, plus Heath himself) were at the time these acts were being committed. The fact that the boats required a crew implies that Heath couldn't, potentially, have sailed the boat into open waters off Jersey on his own.”

"That leaves only two real possibilities. Either one or more of the crew members were observers or otherwise of the said acts while the boat was at sea - which is a pretty serious allegation in itself and no such evidence of that has come to light yet - OR the stories surrounding Heath in the context of Jersey and Haute de la Garenne are complete nonsense. There is a third possibility perhaps, which is the acts were committed on the boat in harbour while the crew were away somewhere else - but given that there would almost certainly be many other boats around, there would have plenty of potential witnesses to something funny going on.”

Solicitor Alan Collins, who represented Haut de la Garenne victims, told The Independent: “There were always hints, suggestions, but I never met anybody who actually said to me 'I was abused by Ted Heath' or 'I know someone who was'.

I have no wish to defend Heath who may well be guilty of crimes in Jersey, and would make the following comments from the viewpoint of someone who is looking at the evidence and rumours as a historian might investigate sources.

A timeline needs to be established for Heath’s visits to Jersey, and where he stayed, where the boat was moored, and who his crew were at the time.

A timeline needs to be established for Saville’s visits to Jersey, and where he stayed. We know he visited Haut de La Garenne from photographic evidence, but did he take children out? What were the procedures? Are there, as Ms Goodman says, records of this?

Without the above, it is impossible to check whether there is an overlap. While an overlap does not prove the stories about Heath and Saville, lack of an overlap would be a falsification of that hypothesis. It’s a basic scientific approach.

The problem raised by Robin Whitlock needs to be addressed – the crew on board Morning Cloud. Who were they? Have they been interviewed.? Why didn’t Linda Corby mention the crew?

The problem that Lenny Harper received no stories about Edward Heath either from survivors or those who said they knew something needs to be addressed. Why didn't Stuart Syvret appraise him of these rumours, and for that matter, blog on the subject? Perhaps he can inform us on a future blog posting.

The problem that the Jersey Care Inquiry to date has not received allegations about Heath either needs also to be taken into consideration.

Why didn't Linda Corby contact Lenny Harper? She seems to have an eyewitness record of 11 children going on to Morning Cloud, and she should certainly notify the police, and the care inquiry and make a statement - and name the Senator who was on board. The name can be redacted but it would be in the record.

It should be noted that her statement about 10 children coming off depends on the accuracy of the report given to her by Ralph Vibert which cannot be so easily checked as he has died. Nevertheless, hers is however the one piece of local testimony which does look fairly solid.

And above all, we need to separate what is rumour, passed round and round on the internet, and what is actually verifiable and sourced fact. framing hypothesis so that they are capable of falsification, checking and cross checking.


Póló said...

This is a very valuable contribution to the debate/inquiry and I hope those whom Tony has addressed take up the challenge and either respond here or reference their responses here.

Póló said...

In the interest of balance, this piece is well worth reading.

While Ruth dismisses the allegations, the main point to come out of the piece for me is that made by Tony in the post above. They should not be given credence without evidence.

In passing, she also deals with the notion that Heath was blackmailed into taking the UK into Europe.

Leah McGrath Goodman said...


You have my email. When you ask open-ended questions addressing me on your blog, without attempting once to contact me with your queries (which you can very well do anytime you like) I have a little trouble believing you are not simply playing devil's advocate for your own amusement. We have discussed this before. If you are truly serious in your questions (and they are serious), then why not directly contact the person you wish to query?

If nothing else, it is wholly more efficient.

Leah Goodman

TonyTheProf said...


I don't have your email. But I would be interested to know your reply to those questions.