Sir Edward Heath: UK police watchdog probes whether officers failed to pursue child sex abuse allegations against former PM
A former British prime minister has been drawn into the complex web of historic child sex abuse allegations, as the police watchdog announced an investigation involving 1970s leader Sir Edward Heath.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it would investigate a claim from a retired senior policeman that prosecution of a person accused of child sex abuse in the 1990s was dropped when they threatened to expose Sir Edward, who died in 2005.
Police appealed for anyone with information to come forward and noted Sir Edward, who was prime minister from 1970 to 1974, and led Britain into the European Economic Community, was a long-time resident of the English city of Salisbury.
“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,” Superintendent Sean Memory said.
While the IPCC’s investigation is into alleged historic corruption rather than whether Sir Edward committed a crime, it is the first time a senior figure has been named in connection with such claims.
“It is 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,” an IPCC spokesman said.
The IPCC will also investigate whether officers with Wiltshire Police in western England subsequently took any steps to investigate the claims about Sir Edward’s actions.
The probe is separate to a major, judge-led inquiry into child sexual abuse in British institutions such as the BBC, the National Health Service, children’s homes and schools that was opened last month.
The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, to which the former leader of the centre-right Conservatives left his property when he died, said it was certain he would be exonerated.
“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,” the statement said.
There has been a surge of complaints about child sex abuse since BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was exposed after his 2011 death as a prolific and predatory paedophile.
British police said in May they had received allegations of historic child sex abuse against 261 public figures, including 76 politicians.
The inquiry led by a judge into allegations of paedophilia in institutions has cited estimates about one British child in every 20 has been sexually abused.
Sir Edward Heath in British politics
Prime minister of the UK 1970-1974; leader of the Conservative Party 1965-1975
During his term he saw the decimalisation of British coinage and reformed Britain’s local government system
Took Britain into the European Economic Community in 1973
His premiership saw the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland
Two miners’ strikes in 1972, 1974 proved damaging to the government
A hung parliament after the 1974 election saw him resign; Labour’s Harold Wilson became PM
In 1975, Margaret Thatcher challenged and defeated Sir Edward and became party leader; he was a critic of Thatcher’s policies
He retired in 2001.
He was a world-class yachtsman and a musician.
He never married