UK

Edward Heath abuse claims: Wiltshire Police to lead investigation

Sir Edward Heath Image copyright PA

Any national investigation into claims of historical child sexual abuse involving former PM Sir Edward Heath is to be led by Wiltshire Police.

At least seven police forces are carrying out investigations linked to abuse claims involving Sir Edward.

Wiltshire Police said having a lead force would ensure a "consistent approach" across the police forces.

The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation said it was confident he would be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Sir Edward lived in Salisbury, Wiltshire, for many years and died at his home there in 2005 aged 89.

Operation Hydrant, a national hub coordinating inquiries into historical abuse, has been liaising with forces which received information concerning Sir Edward.

'Assess new information'

On 3 August the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said it would look at whether officers at Wiltshire Police failed to pursue allegations made against the former prime minister.

A retired detective has alleged that claims were made in the 1990s but not followed up.

Announcing its lead role on Tuesday, a spokesman for Wiltshire Police said it would be working with the respective forces to establish an "appropriate national investigative strategy and supporting structure".

The spokesman said: "Due to the complexities of this task it is anticipated that this will take a number of weeks to finalise.

"One of the first tasks will be to assess the new information that has been received following the appeals for information made last week."

Image copyright Wiltshire Police
Image caption Myra Forde denied claims she had threatened to expose Sir Edward if a prosecution against her was continued

Wiltshire Police is also being investigated by the IPCC over claims it halted an inquiry into former brothel keeper Myra Forde in the 1990s after she said she would expose Sir Edward as being involved in child sexual abuse.

She recently denied the claims and said she had "no knowledge of any misconduct on his part".

The prosecuting barrister at the time, Judge Nigel Seed QC, has since said claims against Sir Edward played no part in the decision to drop the case.

Following the announcement of the IPCC probe, Wiltshire Police immediately appealed for potential victims and others with information to come forward, and later reported it had received a number of calls.

It has since emerged that police in Kent, Jersey, Hampshire, London, Gloucestershire and Thames Valley are also carrying out investigations linked to allegations against Sir Edward.

The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation said: "We welcome the investigation by Wiltshire Police, which we wholeheartedly believe will clear Sir Edward's name and we will co-operate fully with the police in their inquiries."

Sir Edward led the 1970-1974 Conservative government and took Britain into what was then the European Economic Community.

He lost his leadership of the party to Margaret Thatcher in 1975 - something he never forgave her for and he did not serve in her cabinet.

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