Wiltshire Police is urging any possible witnesses or victims of child sexual abuse relating to Sir Edward Heath to come forward, as investigations into allegations surrounding the former Prime Minister begin.
Police admitted the former Prime Minister, who had a home in Salisbury, Wiltshire, was the subject of a child sex abuse claim on Monday as the police watchdog announced it is investigating Wilshire Police’s handling of the claim in the 1990s.
Sir Edward, the Conservative Prime Minister who led the country for four years in the 1970s, is the highest profile figure to be named in allegations of historic child sexual abuse.
It has been alleged that “a criminal prosecution was not pursued, when a person threatened to expose that Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children,” the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) stated.
The allegation was made by a retired senior policeman, the watchdog said.
In addition to the IPCC’s investigation into the handling of the claim, it will examine whether Wiltshire Police subsequently took any steps to investigate the claims.
As the police watchdog announced it was investigating whether accusations about him were ignored by detectives, a Labour MP said he had been passed claims about Sir Edward’s alleged activities three years ago.
Tom Watson, who used parliamentary privilege to raise claims of a paedophile ring linked to Downing Street, said: “I received information in 2012 concerning allegations of child abuse carried out by Edward Heath and a separate claim concerning Heath was made to me subsequently.
“I passed them both to the police, who have confirmed to me that at least one of those allegations is being investigated and taken seriously.”
Wiltshire Police is appealing for people to come forward with any relevant information that could assist in the current enquiries, in addition for any possible witnesses or victims to speak to the police.
Edward Heath - Life in pictures
Edward Heath - Life in pictures
1/15 Edward Heath
Leader of the British Conservative Party Edward Heath tours his constituency during the general election campaign, 1966
2/15 Edward Heath
British Conservative Party politician and amateur musician, Edward Heath conducting the annual carol concert at the Grand Ballroom, Broadstairs, Kent, in December 1963
3/15 Edward Heath
Conservative Party leader Mr Edward Heath holds up with pride the new Conservative election manifesto entitled 'A Better Tomorrow' at a press conference in London, 1970
4/15 Edward Heath
British prime minister Edward Heath chatting with US president Richard Nixon at Chequers in Buckinghamshire
5/15 Edward Heath
British Prime Minister Edward Heath, skipper of the British team for the Admiral Cup Series with his team aboard the yacht 'Morning Cloud' at Southsea, Hampshire, 1971
6/15 Edward Heath
In 1974 the Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, left, was ousted from Downing Street when Harold Wilson, right, formed a minority Labour government
7/15 Edward Heath
Ted Heath leaves Downing Street to hand in his resignation, 1974
8/15 Edward Heath
British Prime Minister Edward Heath announces the date of the General Election, 1974
9/15 Edward Heath
Deposed Conservative party leader Edward Heath with his successor Margaret Thatcher, 1975
10/15 Edward Heath
Former Prime Minister Edward Heath at his home in 1975
11/15 Edward Heath
At the Conservative Party Conference (L-R), Mr Edward Heath, MP for Bexley, Mr Francis Pym, Leader of the House of Commons, and Mr William Whitelaw, Home Secretary, applaud a colleague's speech, 1981
12/15 Edward Heath
Edward Heath at his home in Salisbury in 1980s
13/15 Edward Heath
Edward Heath bids farwell to Chia Chia the panda, London Zoo, 1988
14/15 Edward Heath
British prime minister Sir Edward Heath, appearing before the US Senate armed committee on the situation in the Persian Gulf, 1990
15/15 Edward Heath
Sir Edward Heath arrives at No.10 Downing Street for a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Tony Blair in London, 2002
“We take all reports of child abuse, either current or that occurred in the past very seriously. Victims will receive support throughout any investigation and associated judicial process.
“If there is evidence of offences having been committed we will ensure that , if possible, those responsible are held to account through a thorough and detailed investigation. This includes any other parties who are identified as having been involved in child sex abuse.“
Wiltshire Police stressed that it is working with the NSPCC to ensure that any victims are appropriately supported and urged people not to suffer in silence.
After becoming the Conservative Party leader in 1965, Sir Edward faced rumours about his private life, which were fuelled by his bachelor status.
In 2007 Brian Coleman, a senior Tory on the London Assembly, claimed it was common knowledge in party circles that Sir Edward had been warned by police in the 1950s over his “cottaging activities”, although no corroborating evidence was produced to support the allegation.
One biographer, John Campbell, said he uncovered no evidence that he was gay “except for the faintest unsubstantiated rumour of an incident at the beginning of the war”. Another Philip Ziegler, described him as “pretty well sexless”.
The latest claims will also be thrown into question by the fact the former Prime Minister had round-the-clock police protection until his death, making it difficult for him to have become involved in illegal activity.
Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, which runs his former home in Salisbury, said: “We welcome the investigation by Wiltshire Police, which we wholeheartedly believe will clear Sir Edward’s name and we will cooperate fully with the police in their inquiries.”
Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “It is important that people who believe they have been victims of abuse have the confidence to speak out knowing that their voices will be listened to.
“Whether abuse happened in the past, or is occurring today, whether those being accused are authority figures or not, allegations of crimes against children must be investigated thoroughly.Reuse content